Shabbat Message - May 22, 2020


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Last Friday, our young adults program, Axis, held a Shabbat dinner in appreciation of their Steering Committee. They met over Zoom to thank their volunteers for their leadership and all that they do for the young adults in our community.
Lianna Philipp, chair of the Axis Steering Committee, and Anna Labadze, our manager of young adult initiatives, delivered Shabbat in box packages to each committee member, including a challah (provided by the COVID Free Challah Delivery Program that we support through our Connect Me In outreach initiative), a kosher meal, some Shabbat candles, and a handwritten thank you card.
The role for young adults is not going to look quite as it did, at least in the immediate future, and it is great to see them starting to think about how and where they can refocus their efforts and serve the community.
I was honoured to join them to provide an overview of all the work that the Jewish Federation and our partners have been doing since the pandemic began. The first impact reports are coming in from our partners, and we want to share with you a few highlights of some of the key areas where our targeted emergency funding is making a difference.
Jewish Family Services (JFS) is one of our key partners in delivering the critical social services upon which community members depend. Demand went through the roof as soon as COVID-19 hit, and we worked with them to launch the Community Care Hotline. More than 380 community members have now been served through the hotline, with more than 50% of the calls coming from older adults. In addition, JFS is providing food to more than 900 people. If you need help and haven’t yet reached out, your community is here for you. Call 604-558-5719, email or visit Seniors can also contact the Jewish Seniors Alliance, which we fund to provide support to seniors.
For the past two months, we have seconded one of our staff on a full-time basis and a second staff member half-time to work with the JFS team to coordinate volunteers. We are very happy to hear that more than 250 people have volunteered to help JFS meet increased community needs. They are doing everything from delivering groceries to providing counselling services (professional designation required, of course).
One of the most innovative pivots we’ve heard about to date is how the JCC has redeployed their lifeguards to provide tech support, primarily but not exclusively for seniors, so they can access the JCC’s online programs and stay connected to community. Each week, the JCC has close to 300 seniors who attend bridge games, canasta, and  mah jongg; chair yoga; The Circle of Friends; the Senior Men’s Discussion Group; and other programs that play an essential role in connecting them with their peers and combating the isolation that might otherwise take over.
The JCC serves over 40 adults with diverse needs, and their staff have been keeping them connected by making weekly calls to offer support and ongoing friendly contact. JCC staff are currently assessing outreach options, so they can engage with those who have computer access as well as with those who only have phones.
The JCC also serves youth and teens with diverse abilities through their Gesher program. They’ve been Zooming on a weekly basis to talk about COVID-19 and offer coping strategies, and to have some fun together, while playing games that challenge their cognitive skills.
Then there is the JCC daycare, the reopening of which has meant that many parents have been able to get back to work. Yet, many of these families are experiencing financial hardship due to job loss or reduced working hours as a result of COVID-19. They need full or partial subsidies in order to keep their children in care, and either find new work or return to their jobs and support their families. We are very proud to support these subsidies and much more.
In Richmond, Chabad and the Kehila Society have teamed up to deliver over 700 Shabbat and Passover meals to date, with many more delivered by Beth Tikvah. It’s a testament to the power of collaboration and cooperation.
As more impact reports are submitted to us, we will share the results with you. And while this is all positive news, this impact is the result of emergency funds intended to address short term needs only. The reality is that every corner of our community is going to be feeling the effect of COVID-19 well into next year. It is likely that our community simply will not look the same when we come out of this. Community recovery will take time, it will take resources, and, as we have said many times, it will take each of us to do our part. 

Shabbat shalom.


Ezra S. Shanken
Chief Executive Officer

Staff deliver "Shabbat in a box" to members of the Axis Steering Committee

JFS's first shipment of food supplies for the Jewish Food Bank at the Peretz Centre