Jewish Federation at the Heart of the Vancouver Community

Exciting things are happening here on the West Coast at Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver. As Canada’s third largest Jewish community – and the Western Canadian hub of Jewish life – not only are we planning for the future, we’re doing it in a way that gives everyone a voice.

This is a time for listening. I started a year ago as a CEO, and I made a promise in my first year that our Federation would hear our community, and that we would be responsive and evaluative. That’s exactly what we’ve done. We are in the midst of a consultative process to examine our strategic priorities, and we have sought input on all aspects of our work.

Different segments of our diverse community were engaged in conversations about the things they care about and the kind of community we want to build. We heard from a broad range of community stakeholders, including partner agencies, volunteers, donors, and communal professionals. They shared their perspectives on the challenges and opportunities our growing community faces, and how we at Jewish Federation can incorporate their ideas.

Participants provided their ideas and dreams regarding Jewish Federation’s role over the next 10 years. We heard fifty-five suggestions for improving our community and our work. We also heard this: Jewish Federation is still at the heart of our community.

Here is a summary of those conversations, and an outline of the first steps we are taking as we develop a comprehensive strategic plan.


Jewish Federation’s role as a provider of consistent, predictable funding for our partner agencies was acknowledged as vital for our community. Through our conversations we heard that stakeholders want to learn more about the allocations process and how we determine funding priorities. They also want to see more flexibility and more opportunities to access funding outside of the allocations cycle.


  • Deliver an annual report to the community on allocations and funded programs.
  • Initiate a new start-up grant to foster innovation in Jewish education.
  • Provide seed funds to strengthen informal grass roots initiatives that address emerging community needs.


Jewish Federation’s role as facilitator and central planner was recognized. Through our conversations we heard that community stakeholders want more involvement in the planning process and want to ensure that we engage and include a broader range of community members in our planning activities.


  • Convene a task force to develop a viable and sustainable action plan for the regional communities.
  • Coordinate community-wide security and emergency planning initiatives.
  • Continue to proactively seek out diverse representation of community members to participate in our planning processes.


Jewish Federation’s role as our community’s central fundraising organization, with increasingly sophisticated and professional approaches, was affirmed. Our conversations indicated significant interest in building on that strength by further positioning Jewish Federation as the centre for Jewish philanthropy in our community – to create and facilitate opportunities to engage donors, new donors,  and the next generation. Community financial resources should be developed collaboratively with partner agencies, and presented to donors to align their philanthropic interests with clearly identified community priorities.


  • Convene community partners to create a strategic and viable plan that identifies current and future needs and funding priorities.
  • Develop new opportunities to engage donors and community members based on their philanthropic areas of interest.
  • Engage young adult community members in the creation of philanthropic opportunities that reflect their generational values.


Guided by these discoveries, along with the National Household Survey (census) data for the Lower Mainland community and the findings from the Jewish Education Task Force, the Jewish Federation board and senior management team will be finalizing our strategic plan for 2020 and beyond.

We are listening, we are hearing, and now we are acting. Together, we are building the community of our future. We invite you to join the conversation on Twitter using #ourcommunity2020.

About the Author
Ezra S. Shanken is the CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver.
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