Shabbat Message - May 1, 2020


This message has 830 words and will take about 3.5 minutes to read.


Among the many meetings that we have convened during the past few weeks was a session to bring together community leaders from Moishe House, the JCC and Hillel, who are working with the 18 to 25-year-old age group. This group includes many students who have lost summer jobs or research grants, and have little prospect of finding other summer employment. While some have stable housing with their parents or have savings, we were aware that many do not, and we wanted to get a better sense of emerging needs.


A quick survey was designed and sent out. Within 48 hours, 76 people responded. We know that this is just the start. Of those who responded so far, 28% had concerns about paying for groceries and 33% were concerned about paying their rent. Over half were interested in speaking with a counsellor or participating in a support group to help manage the stress and anxiety they were experiencing.


While recognizing that the federal government is releasing funds for university students, there will be a time lag, which is contributing to their overall sense of uncertainty. In response, we have started a fund, thanks to a gift from a generous donor, which will help address this need. Over the next few days, gift cards will be purchased and distributed to those in need of assistance with groceries, and Tikvah Housing has stepped up to assist with short-term rental subsides. In addition, an online forum with clinical psychologist Dr. Karina O’Brien to discuss mental health issues during the time of COVID-19 is scheduled for Thursday, May 7th at 8:00 p.m. on Zoom. Young adults can register here.


Over at UBC, young adults from Hillel joined our advocacy agent, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, in expressing our community’s thanks and support to UBC President Santa Ono for his efforts to connect with Jewish students and the wider community through his Songs of Comfort cello series. Last Saturday, in a wonderful act of solidarity with the Jewish community on campus and beyond, President Ono played a beautiful rendition of Hatikvah on the cello. He posted his performance to social media, and soon became the subject of online harassment. You can show your support for his kind act by sending him a message of thanks.


If you joined us online this week for Yom HaZikaron or Yom Ha’atzmaut presentations, we hope you found both to be memorable experiences. For the first time, we had more Canadians (61%) than Israelis (39%) join us to commemorate Yom HaZikaron, with people participating from as far away as Brazil and Mexico – 338 participants in total. There is still time to light a memorial candle and commemorate your loved ones hereKol hakavod to Geoffrey Druker, chair of our Yom Hazikaron Committee, and Pam Wolfman, chair of our Yom Ha’atzmaut Committee, and everyone they worked with. This year brought particular challenges to their committees, and they persevered to keep our community connected to Israel. We hope that next year we will be back to marking these dates together, in person.


Forty teens from our community were supposed to be in Israel this week for Yom Ha’atzmaut, as part of March of the Living (MOL). We are still engaging with them and have organized several Zoom sessions with Holocaust survivors. They recently heard from Alex Buckman, a child survivor from Belgium who survived the Holocaust in hiding. Today, he is president of the Vancouver Child Survivor Group. Alex has spoken to thousands of students as a VHEC Outreach Speaker. This Sunday, they will hear Angela Orosz-Richt’s story. Angela is the youngest Canadian survivor of Auschwitz. Everyone is welcome; click here to register. Students, including MOL alumni, also took part in a national initiative on social media, where they posted a photo of the person they were marching for, while wearing their blue MOL jackets.


Members of our young adult program, Axis, prepared a sweet video greeting wishing Israel a happy Independence Day, and held a livestream DJ party that included non-stop Israeli music and a lot of dancing from the 40 participating guests in their respective living rooms. Check out their video here.


Axis also organized young adult volunteers to send handwritten letters to Louis Brier residents to lift their spirits. Here is a photo of one of the many letters written by Talia Glassman and Jonathan Lercher, who are members of our Ben Gurion Society for young donors to the Federation Annual Campaign.


Seeing young adults reach out to isolated members of our community makes a big statement about how they value the generations that paved the way for them. We all do. Now is a great time to learn more about our history, because today is the start of Jewish Heritage Month.


You can learn more about the history and contributions of Jewish people in British Columbia through our partner, the Jewish Museum and Archives of BC. Other online resources include The Canadian Jewish ExperienceThe Jewish Virtual Library, and A Brief History of Canadian Jewry. This is also a great time to learn more about yourself and your family’s place in history by exploring your roots. Here is a guide to Canadian Jewish Genealogical Research.


Happy researching, happy learning, and Shabbat shalom.


Ezra S. Shanken
Chief Executive Officer

A handwritten letter from Talia Glassman and Jonathan Lercher.