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In last week’s message, we promised you an update from our partnership region of the Upper Galilee Panhandle in Northern Israel. Thanks to Candace Kwinter, chair of Israel and Global Engagement, and the work she and her committee are doing alongside If’at Eilon-Heiber, our director of Israel and Global Engagement, we’re pleased to bring you that today.
Israel has recently seen the number of its COVID-19 cases break records, but in typical Israeli style, life goes on. The Better Together program community hubs, which we support, have been the backbone of the community during the pandemic. Beit Vancouver has moved many of its programs online, and construction will begin on a new art and music area. This project is supported by the Friends of Beit Vancouver, which was started by Arnold and Anita Silber. The Ancie and Arthur Fouks Community Centre is completing a computer room with the generous support of another Federation supporter, Sondi Green and her family. Together, they are continuing her parents’ legacy.
In the Mevot Hahermon Regional Municipality, a campus for individuals with disabilities is in its final stages of development. It includes a daycare, school, hydrotherapy pool, fitness room, and paramedical services; a holistic centre for disabled adults for employment; and a multipurpose building funded through support from the Federation Annual Campaign.
The Partnership2Gether program, supported by the Coast-to-Coast Canadian communities, of which we are a part, facilitated a meeting with elementary school principals. At the principals’ request, a special Zoom meeting took place for all the students’ parents. Led by Professor Mooli Lahad from The International Stress Prevention Centre at Tel-Hai College, a centre that our Federation supports, the call gave parents and students tools and coping strategies for returning to school during the pandemic.
Israel is not the only place where we are helping overseas. Our Federation has been providing life-saving aid to impoverished Jews in the former Soviet Union for over two decades. Their situations are dire, and without our help they would not survive. They continue to need the basics, like food, medicine, and heating oil to keep their homes warm during the harsh winter. The Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), our trusted partner in international rescue and relief, facilitates our work in this area.
Here at home, Rabbi Baitelman spoke to our staff about Rosh Hashanah. He talked about how COVID-19 has been a wake-up call that has shown us what’s really important, like helping those around us through these hard times. He pointed out that there are people who haven’t walked out of their homes for seven months. Soon we will hear another wake-up call—that of the shofar.
These High Holidays will be very different, and our PJ Library program partnered with 11 organizations across the community to provide High Holiday boxes filled with creative projects to help families celebrate at home. Thank you to Beth Israel for going above and beyond by providing the space to pack 600 boxes.
This Rosh Hashanah will be especially hard for those affected by the devastating fires. Southern Oregon alone has lost over 27 Jewish homes. To help, our Board voted to release $2,500 from our Disaster Relief Fund for each of the emergency mailboxes opened by the San Francisco and Portland Federations. As we continue to monitor the impact of the fires and speak to additional communities, we may return to the Board for additional funds.
Following the historic signing of the Abraham Accords, I joined other Canadian Federation leadership for a briefing with Benjamin Gantz, Israel’s Alternate Prime Minister and Minister of Defense. Eric Fingerhut, JFNA’s President and CEO, and Mark Medin, UJA-New York’s Executive Vice President, Financial Resource Development were part of a delegation to the United Arab Emirates to celebrate Rosh Hashanah with the country’s 1,000-person Jewish community. It’s part of a continental Federation commitment to help this community thrive, and testament to Jewish Federations’ powerful work all over the world.
This Rosh Hashanah is a bittersweet one for my family. Thank you very much for the condolences on the passing of my grandfather, Rabbi Sidney Shanken z’l. We are truly touched by this outpouring of support, and feel blessed to be a part of this special community.
My zaida was a practicing pulpit rabbi and an ardent Zionist who lived a life of immense purpose, and was the beginning of three generations of Jewish communal professionals. Among his many great accomplishments, we are particularly proud that he served in combat in WWII, and was a Freedom Rider in the 1960s with Dr. Martin Luther King.
This is what my grandfather would often say: "The greatness of Judaism is not the idea of one G-d, but that that one G-d wants us to be kind. The same force that moved the most distant stars cares about how we treat our neighbors, the orphans, the widows, the strangers, the poor." These words inspired my father’s and my own professional and personal journeys, and one day, G-d willing, may also do the same for my children and their children.
Rachel and I are very proud to announce that we are establishing a scholarship in my grandfather’s memory at Tel-Hai College, to support students with high potential to contribute to civic life. It’s one of the ways we hope to carry on the remarkable legacy he has left for us, as we turn the page on 5780 and prepare for a New Year. If you would like to make a tribute in his memory to our Community Recovery Fund, I know he would be tickled that his values were living on.
Shabbat shalom and shana tova.
Ezra S. Shanken
Chief Executive Officer