Shabbat Message - May 28, 2020


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This has been a difficult week for all of us at Jewish Federation. On Monday afternoon, we lost a dear friend and member of our team, Shelley Goldberg z’l. We admired her inner strength, her huge heart, and her seemingly endless reserve of positivity. She had a zest for life that never wavered, and invariably the youngest members of our staff were drawn to her. She was a mother or grandmother figure for each of us and for many of you, and we feel her loss very deeply.
Shelley was famous for her sense of humour and her infectious laugh—even when we were crying, there were moments of laughter as we shared memories of her on a Zoom call with her children, Barry and Linda, and her son-in-law, Aron. At Shavuot, tradition holds that Mount Sinai burst into bloom, and that image is just so Shelley. Her laughter, love, and thoughtfulness of others filled our office and our lives with joy, even in difficult times. Our heartfelt condolences go out to Barry, Linda and Aron, Shelley’s granddaughters Mikayla, Avra and Briah, her siblings Eunice and Alan Rees, and her extended family.
Shelley worked at Jewish Federation for 20 years, and our Israel experience programs held a special place in her heart. After consulting with her children, we have established an endowment fund at the Jewish Community Foundation to provide scholarship support in Shelley’s name for Israel experience programs. Helping young people experience Israel is something we think Shelley would have been very proud of. Click here to contribute to the fund and to send a tribute card to her family.
We weren’t sure whether to leave it there, but we realized that there were actually quite a lot of things that took place this week that Shelley would have loved.
One of those is the call that members of our boards and committees participated in with Isaac ‘Bougie’ Herzog, chair of the executive of our partner, The Jewish Agency for Israel. Bougie was one of our speakers at FEDtalks last year, and Shelley was part of the team that worked with him throughout his time in Vancouver. During the call he spoke about how it’s more important than ever to see ourselves as one global Jewish family as we deal with the challenges brought on by COVID-19 and move toward recovery.
Shelley also would have loved to see that the historic fundraising collaboration between the day schools culminated in a spectacular result for the Day of Giving. All of the schools met or exceeded their goals, for a combined total of $337,000. This is the first time that the schools have come together to fundraise as one, and their groundbreaking partnership is a success in and of itself. Equally impressive is that a significant percentage of donors supported all the schools as a group rather than just one institution. It shows the extent of community support for Jewish day school education – a great predictor of future community health and vibrancy.
For many students, summer break means only one thing – overnight camp. It is often the first fully immersive Jewish experience that children have, and for many of them the memories last a lifetime. Sadly, due to COVID-19, many camps will not be offering sleep-away programs this year. Two camps in Washington State that many children in our community attend announced their closures a few weeks ago. This week, Camp Hatikvah and Camp Miriam announced that they, too, would not open for the season as usual. We are in conversation with all of the camps and some of them are working together to find different options to provide summer programs, if there is sufficient interest. We are very pleased that Camp Miriam and the JCC are looking into new ways to collaborate, and we hope to hear more soon.

COVID-19 has changed many things for faith-based communities. BC Premier Horgan, Health Minister Dix and Dr. Bonnie Henry hosted another very substantive conversation with community leaders across the province this week. Kol hakavod to them for prioritizing this stakeholder group. I inquired about boosting support for police hate crime units across BC, so that law enforcement have the resources they need to combat the increase in hate-related incidents during COVID-19. I also asked them to consider a role for the province to play in encouraging individuals to make philanthropic commitments.
We also want to give kavod to our partner, the Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre, which this week was the recipient of an honourable mention in this year’s BC Multiculturalism and Anti-Racism Awards. We were very proud to nominate them. 
Shavuot is traditionally a time when we come together as a community to study and to celebrate, and thanks to technology, we have found new ways to do that. Shelley got a kick out of how we’ve all been Zooming, and it certainly didn’t stop her from being part of everything, from staff meetings to Yom Ha’atzmaut celebrations. She loved this community and gave so much to it, right until the end.
For all of you who are remembering Shelley and mourning our community’s tremendous loss, we want to leave you with one last thought. If’at Eilon-Heiber, our director of Israel and Overseas Affairs, reminded us of an old saying: “‘When someone you love becomes a memory, that memory becomes a treasure.’ We all have treasures of Shelley that will live with us. She would have wanted us to find a shining memory of her and smile for her.”
Shabbat shalom and chag sameach.


Ezra S. Shanken
Chief Executive Officer

Longtime Jewish Federation colleagues Wendy Finlayson, Shelley Goldberg z'l and Natalie Karsyente