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Security tops Vancouver federation planning priorities

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Schara Tzedeck Synagogue
Vancouver's Schara Tzedeck Synagogue

Security is one of the top five priorities for the Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver as it plans its work between now and 2020.

While there have been no serious threats to the Jewish community in British Columbia’s Lower Mainland, federation is dedicated to a proactive, long-term approach that will require a fundraising boost to increase its annual security budget allocation from $100,000 to $300,000 over the next four years.

“Our security committee is helping us to better understand how we can become more aware, educated and safe as a community, so we can all feel collectively safer and have peace of mind when we use the facilities that are our hallmark,” said Ezra Shanken, CEO.

“With the increased funding, we’ll bring on a professional to work collaboratively on security projects, educate the community on being more aware of security issues and continue to grant money to our institutions to help upgrade their security infrastructure.”

Federation has been analyzing the safety strategies of Jewish communities worldwide. One of its inspirations is the community in London, England, where a cohort of volunteers supplements security at large community events.

“We’re looking at creating a similar cohort of volunteers to augment what we’re doing right now,” Shanken said.

Alex Cristall, general chair of federation’s annual campaign this year, said a matching gifts program will jumpstart the security funding and create awareness among donors.

With Vancouver’s high cost of living, affordability issues represent another key priority for the annual campaign.

When it comes to Jewish education, the organization is hoping to raise its allocation to day schools from $860,000 annually to $1.1 million by 2020, in order to provide an additional 50 subsidies at the six schools it supports.

The scholarship need has increased significantly over the last few years as middle-income families seek assistance, Shanken said.

“It’s not unique to us. There are a lot of day schools wrestling with this. But the cost of housing in our community has had a negative effect on disposable income to address needs like education, and more people are coming forward [for subsidies] as a result. We want to ensure that every child that wants to grow Jewishly has the opportunity to do so and isn’t being turned away based on costs.”

Infrastructure needs of partner agencies will require $150,000 more annually by 2020, while special projects that sustain existing programs or pilot new ones will require a total of $2 million in new funding annually by 2020.

The overall fundraising goal for federation’s annual campaign is being increased from $8.3 million in 2015 to around $10 million by 2020. If that goal is achieved, the organization hopes that its overseas allocation will increase by $700,000 and its local allocations will increase by about $1.3 million.

Federation also hopes to grow the assets of the Jewish Community Foundation from $46 million in March 2016 to $60 million by 2020.

“So far we’ve had great support from our donors,” Shanken said.

“People really appreciate that we have a game plan for the next four to five years, and the feedback I’ve had has been very favourable. I’ve been very heartened by the positive support received across this community.”