Shabbat Message - October 16, 2020


This message has 881 words and will take about 4 minutes to read.


The Annual Campaign is still in full swing, and we are gearing up to host the biggest women’s event of the year: Choices.
We are very excited to have as our keynote speaker one of the most vibrant and accomplished young leaders in the Federation system, Michelle Hirsch. After Houston’s Hurricane Harvey, she quickly mobilized her Jewish network, utilizing Amazon Prime to provide an outpouring of generous relief. Michelle also organized a trip to Houston just weeks after the storm to physically help the Jewish community in their time of need. 
The Jewish community of Houston was hit particularly hard by Hurricane Harvey, as those of you who attended FEDtalks last year will remember. If you missed the event, you can catch Rabbi Strauss’ FEDtalks presentation here. Our community and our Jewish Federation were here for them when tragedy struck, just as we are whenever and wherever we are needed. You can hear more from Candace Kwinter, vice chair of our Board and chair of our Israel and Global Engagement Committee.

Our community speaker is Hannah Amar, who will share her powerful and truly inspirational story of community and resilience. Hannah is a remarkable woman who found herself in need of a helping hand, and our community was there for her. But what is really astounding isn’t how partner agencies and community members came together to help–that should be a given–but how she has persevered through the most extraordinary circumstances.
Choices is now in its 16th year, and many of the guests who attend each year have done so from the very beginning. Sue Hector and Shawna Merkur, co-chairs of Women’s Philanthropy, shared their thoughts on the impact women can have on community. Hear what they have to say:

The virtual nature of events these days has opened up some unique opportunities to participate in programs that were not necessarily available to everyone before. One of those is Jewish Federations of North America’s General Assembly, a.k.a. the GA. Usually, this massive gathering of individuals and organizations was held in the US or Israel. It involved considerable travel for those wishing to attend. This year, we can all take part, and I hope you will. Click here to register. I’ll see you there.
I hope you will also take part in the electoral process for the upcoming provincial election. You can help the community by taking an active role,  and it’s never been easier. Beyond voting, there are many ways to have a profound impact. Our friends at the Canadian Jewish Political Affairs Committee (CJPAC) can help. Sign up here to volunteer for the campaign of your choice, or reach out to Mark Waldman to discuss more ways to assist. 

Speaking of political affairs, this week Jewish Federation joined organizations from all across our community at a roundtable discussion with The Honourable Joyce Murray, Minister of Digital Government, The Honourable Carla Qualtrough, Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion, and Randeep Sarai, MP for Surrey Centre. We took this opportunity to continue to voice the need for support of the charitable sector, and to convey the impact of federal programs on the most vulnerable. Organizations in our community benefitted from more than $1.2 million that was distributed through federal and provincial programs. These funds have meant that some organizations were able to weather the storm and fared better than they would have otherwise.

Our advocacy agent, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, collaborated with SUCCESS to host a town hall for the provincial election that featured candidates from the Liberals, the NDP and the Greens. More than 70 people from both the Chinese-Canadian and Jewish communities heard directly from the parties about the issues they care about.
There’s a lot of great work happening right now to make sure we not only meet the needs we expected to have this year, but that we and our partners address the added layer of needs we’re seeing from COVID-19—from families that are choosing between rent and groceries, to seniors who are about to become more isolated than ever as the weather turns colder, to young people struggling with mental health issues. We are meeting with all of our partners every three weeks so we can share information, listen to and learn from them, foster collaboration, and adjust our course as needed. But we can’t do any of this work—and nor can they—without your support.
As you know, many of our leadership and supporters have spoken about the importance of community, of philanthropy, and of our role in recovery. We are incredibly honoured that the incomparable Fran Belzberg is among those who have lent their voices to this project. And we are so pleased to have this opportunity to share her words here with you today. The impact she, her late husband Sam z’l, and their family have made over the decades is immense. Here she is speaking from the heart about the impact of COVID-19 and the role of our Federation:


If you’ve already made your campaign gift and your one-time gift to support community recovery, we are deeply grateful. If you haven’t yet had the opportunity, there’s no better time than now. It’s quick. It’s easy. It’s secure. Just click here.

Todah rabah and Shabbat shalom.


Ezra S. Shanken
Chief Executive Officer