Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver has launched this year’s annual campaign under the leadership of Alex Cristall, general chair. The campaign is the Greater Vancouver Jewish community’s central fundraising initiative and closed last year with a record $8.3 million result. The campaign is one of the primary fundraising opportunities through which Federation will grow the financial resources required to meet the goals outlined in its 2020 Strategic Priorities. These priorities will guide the organization’s work on behalf of the community through the year 2020 and beyond.
“We are very excited that Alex Cristall has taken on the role of chair of this year’s campaign,” said Ezra S. Shanken, Jewish Federation’s chief executive officer. “Alex has a passion for making our community stronger, and he is an extraordinary leader in terms of addressing the goals outlined in our 2020 Strategic Priorities.”
The priorities address five key areas of opportunity:
Affordability: helping community members struggling with the high cost of living in the Lower Mainland.
Accessibility: reaching the nearly half of community members who live in underserved areas.
Seniors: planning for the needs of our growing seniors population.
Engagement: connecting young adults and young families to ensure community continuity.
Security: continuing to address evolving community security needs proactively.
While the campaign benefits all areas of need in the Jewish community, the particular focus of this year’s campaign is security. Jewish Federation is leading the development of a comprehensive, long-term approach to keep the Lower Mainland’s Jewish community ahead of the curve. In recognition of the need for a community-wide strategy, Federation established the community security advisory committee. The committee’s mandate is to provide a leadership role in assessing the risks facing community institutions and to propose and evaluate specific strategies to mitigate these areas of concern.
Growing security needs requires increased financial resources to address them. Federation has worked with a group of donors to create a matching gifts program to jumpstart the funding and create awareness among donors.
“I am very pleased to announce that every new or increased gift will be matched, with the matching amount allocated to local community security initiatives that will benefit every Jewish organization in our community,” said Cristall. “Community security is an issue that affects every single one of us every time we set foot in a Jewish institution, take part in a Jewish program or attend a community event. Through the Federation annual campaign, it is an issue we can all play our part in addressing.”
The annual campaign runs to Nov. 30. For more information on the campaign or the 2020 priorities, visit jewishvancouver.com/2020.
To read more about the Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver’s 2020 Strategic Priorities, visit jewishvancouver.com/2020.
An estimated 50% of Metro Vancouver’s Jewish community lives outside of the city of Vancouver. For young families with at least one Jewish parent, the proportion of Jews living outside of Vancouver jumps above 60%. Like other area residents, they are moving to the suburbs in the elusive search for affordable housing – and that search has taken them far away from the organizational centre of the community, at Oak Street and 41st Avenue.
In setting its 2020 Strategic Priorities, the Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver addresses the challenge of an increasingly dispersed community, as well as that of an aging population. It also considers the fact that, while it is expensive to live in Metro Vancouver, it is even more expensive to be involved Jewishly.
Over the past two years, Federation has surveyed Jews both in Vancouver proper and outside of the city to find out what they consider to be the priorities of the community and where resources should be allocated. The Connect Me In online surveys reached more than 300 people in outlying areas, 200 of whom agreed to further conversations with Federation, according to Federation chief executive officer Ezra Shanken.
“We’ve had hundreds of conversations with groups and individuals,” Shanken told the Independent. “We wanted to know what areas are lacking. We also asked how should Federation feel and how does it feel? We heard that Federation and the Jewish community is not accessible enough.”
A look into the near future, the 2020 document highlights a number of key areas that have been identified for strategic investment. The report’s subtitle gives the clear message for the idea behind the plan: “Moving our Jewish Federation from Strength to Excellence,” and excellence requires more resources.
As the main fundraising organization of the Jewish community, Federation directs support not only to large, high-profile institutions like Jewish Family Service Agency and Vancouver Talmud Torah, but also to many smaller organizations for which it would be impossible to adequately fundraise independently. The dollars raised and then allocated by Federation are meant to ensure that its 40 constituent agencies are able to sustain a diverse, well-rounded Jewish community without the worry of constant fundraising.
With such a large number of organizations and a wide range of needs, every year the allocation process requires Federation to make difficult decisions. The 2020 plan is intended to identify current community needs, predict the amount of money needed to meet those needs and then raise the necessary funds. The identified priorities include both local and international obligations.
Locally, engaging the next generation, addressing new and evolving community needs, investing strategically in the community and closing the funding gap to meet ongoing needs are the priorities. Each area has a number of key issues embedded within it and all of the details are available on the Federation website. The breakdown of needs is laid out to include the current level of funding and what it covers, as well as the projected needs with their accompanying cost.
Federation’s international commitments include supporting a variety of projects in Israel and communities around the world. Shanken said he is often asked about the amount of money that leaves the local community.
“It used to be an 80:20 ratio of money going to Israel – UIA [United Israel Appeal] was set up to build Israel,” he explained. “Now, it’s more like 30:70 because the way we engage with Israel is very different. We have an Israel department here, we bring the Shinshin [Year-of-service] program to Vancouver for Israel engagement with our community and we fund the Gesher [Bridge] program that brings young Israelis here.”
He also noted that Federation facilitates the funding of some special projects in Israel, which are separate from Federation’s budget. The way these funds are directed is a result of the donor’s wish to feel a sense of ownership of their gift. However, cautioned Shanken, “The sense of ownership cannot replace the duty to help all agencies.”
Federation plans to continue strategically funding existing organizations, while putting in place some new programs. The Diamond Foundation recently gave seed money to bring in a part-time community developer to reach out to marginalized communities. Jewish education, services for seniors and other Jewish programming are among the ways Federation plans to “get out there,” according to Shanken. He offered as an example Federation’s PJ Library, which provides books with Jewish content to more than 1,000 Jewish children in the Lower Mainland.
To read more about Federation’s 2020 Strategic Priorities, go to jewishvancouver.com/2020 or join the conversion on social media, #ourcommunity2020.
This year’s annual campaign launches on Sept. 22, 7 p.m., at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre with FEDtalks, featuring author, radio host and founder of Zuckerberg Media, Randi Zuckerberg; Reut think thank founder Gidi Grinstein; One Clip at a Time co-founder Alison Lebovitz; and journalist Terry Glavin. For tickets and more information, visit jewishvancouver.com/fedtalks2016.
Michelle Dodekis a freelance writer living in Vancouver.
Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of United Reform Judaism. (photo by Ian Spanier)
Temple Sholom is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. As part of its continuing celebrations of this milestone, Rabbi Richard Jacobs, president of United Reform Judaism, and Paul Leszner, head of the Canadian Council for Reform Judaism, joined Rabbi Dan Moskovitz and the Vancouver congregation last Shabbat.
Rabbi Rick, as he is fondly known, is entering his third year as president of URJ. Throughout his rabbinate, he has been a social justice activist, whether setting up a homeless shelter in his hometown of New York City, or joining an international humanitarian mission to the Chad-Darfur border. Vibrant, welcoming and warm are some of the words that he uses to describe the movement, and it was not difficult to sense the enthusiasm as he discussed with the Independent his leadership philosophy, as well as the goals of Vision 2020, a URJ campaign to reach and inspire the 900 or so Reform communities across North America.
JI: I read about your personal mission and the fact that you carry around a business card of your grandfather, Theodore Baumritter. What does that say to you?
RJ: My grandfather was a person with such integrity and such goodwill that everywhere he went, people came to know and love him, people he met through business and through Jewish life. He taught me as much about life and Judaism as anyone I have ever met. Generational bonds are very important. To know where you come from and the people that helped you become who you are, they shape one’s character and aspirations.
My other grandmother emigrated from Eastern Europe when she was a teen. She was a seamstress on the Lower East Side and didn’t have the privilege of going to high school until she was a senior citizen. She went back and got her degree. She raised five children.
I feel very blessed to have the grandparents and parents I had, and hope that when we talk about ancestors they are not just vague theoretical people.
JI: What would you like readers, and Jews generally, to know about Reform Judaism?
RJ: Reform Judaism is large, passionate strong, dynamic, welcoming and truly inspirational. It can speak to lifetime congregation members and to those who haven’t tasted any of the rituals of the Jewish traditions. There may be people who at one point lived somewhere in a Jewish community and are open to finding a place for themselves.
JI: What are the specific goals of Vision 2020 and how do you propose to carry them out?
RJ: With guidance and help from rabbis and leaders across the U.S. and Canada, UJR envisions three major strategic priorities.
The first is to strengthen congregations, even congregations that are thriving and growing…. The world in which we live and the Jewish communities in which we find ourselves are having to change at an extraordinary rate. Congregations have to learn about how to engage in learning, spirituality and worship to nourish the soul. How do we ensure the synagogue is not frozen in one moment even though we have been growing steadily? How do we express chesed (loving kindness) in the congregation?
The second priority is called “audacious hospitality.” Audacious hospitality reaches beyond politeness…. Anyone who shows an interest in Judaism should not be turned away. If someone walks into the synagogue for the first time, it’s a very tentative moment. “Will I feel at home? Will I want to explore and get to know people?” Particularly a family with children. We want and need everyone to feel a genuine connection, rather than institutional – seniors, disabled, interfaith families; someone who has no knowledge of their Jewish faith; a traditional person who is now seeking something more contemporary. It’s about inclusion with no barriers. What’s important is building the bridges outside the walls and at the same time paying very close attention to those inside our walls.
JI: Low-income people or families may not have the means to afford membership or event costs. How do you propose to remove that barrier?
RJ: One of the barriers that keeps people outside the synagogue can be a financial barrier. Sometimes it’s a barrier or a priority they choose to avoid. Either way, we want to lower those because it’s not the finances that bind us together. We are bound together because we are part of a people, and we want to reduce ways in which you have to formally affiliate. Although, supporting something you care deeply about is a deeply held Jewish value. But, if someone wants to participate, it cannot be a barrier. Whether it’s participation in summer camp or Jewish day school, we have to remove those barriers.
JI: The third pillar of Vision 2020 is tikkun olam. Could you give me some examples?
RJ: Tikkun olam [perfecting the world] is a very large category to express a fundamental Jewish commitment. In the past 20 years, every study of the Jewish community [asks] … “What is the most compelling way you express your Judaism?” Pew Research [results] said: One, remembering the Holocaust. Two, standing up for equality and social justice. We use [tikkun olam] to actually express a fundamental Jewish commitment. When we pray or celebrate holidays, it is not instead of doing community work for people who have no home or food – tikkun olam is becoming a partner with G-d and making the world as God intended it to be. It’s primary. It is the pillar of Jewish life.
For us, tikkun olam also involves core Jewish values on a local and national level. It’s about helping immigrants, making sure that gun violence is not to the point that it inhibits our society. It also means making sure that public policy is responsible to [people’s] needs, whether it’s health care or caring for seniors. We don’t separate public policy and say, “That’s the government’s job.” We care about them. On a local and a national level, these are core Jewish values.
So, how do we lead and support the things that our Jewish tradition commands us to do? Young people tell us (whether they are involved or not) that, for them, the way that tikkun olam is practised is a serious, ongoing discipline, a way of life and a top priority.
JI: Is that where all the passion is to be found? What happens to the ritual and liturgy? Can these inspire people in these high-tech times?
RJ: Not only can we, but it’s happening. I recently attended a convention in Atlanta, Ga., where 1,000 of our own youth leaders attended, but also youth professionals who lead prayers, study. They [made] sure that we learned about the history of civil rights. Atlanta is where Martin Luther King preached. I use the example of young people because they have the fire burning in them. They speak Hebrew, they know how to pray, chant Torah and they have attended Birthrights. It is one thing to hear it from rabbis and educators. It is another thing to hear it from youth leaders.
We have 15 summer camps. Young people will talk about their expressions of Jewish commitment, such as meditating, praying and singing. They will stand up for Israel in their schools. This is the kind of Jewish engagement we are seeing. But this is also the time to be thinking about the young people who aren’t engaged.
JI: How do you reach them?
RJ: One method, which we can now use, is technology. We have, for instance, a website, reformjudaism.org. Last year, there were two million users on the website looking for Jewish learning and connection. Technology can be a connector but can’t have the same experience as a face-to-face real community, only virtual.
JI: What really excites you about your job?
RJ: I love traveling and getting to know Jewish communities all across North America. From a small little community in Mississippi or a large congregation in Arizona. Or, this weekend, Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton. It’s a privilege getting to know the different communities and bringing a sense that we are part of something larger.
Jenny Wright is a writer, music therapist, children’s musician and recording artist.