The Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver (JCC) announced it will be receiving $25 million in federal funding from the Department of Canadian Heritage, the largest investment from the Government of Canada in a Jewish communal project in history, according to Ezra Shanken, CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver.
This contribution will add to the $75 million already raised as part of a capital campaign.
Gordon and Leslie Diamond’s Diamond Foundation in December announced that it would contribute $25 million to the campaign to fund the redevelopment if the Jewish community could match that donation, JWest Capital Campaign chairman Alex Cristall told BIV.
In October, large contributions from 24 families matched the Diamond Foundation’s $25 million gift, unlocking that capital for the project. This adds to the $25 million in funding provided in 2021 by the B.C. government.
“These are incredibly expensive projects. Now more than ever with inflationary forces, we need all the help we can get to make really transformative projects happen. The investment by the federal government through the heritage ministry is bold and an incredible vote of confidence for the work that we're doing here,” Shanken said.
The funds will be used for the redevelopment of the 3.3-acre site at West 41st and Oak Street in Vancouver, B.C. The goal is to transform the JCC into a state-of-the-art multigenerational community hub in the Oakridge area with more childcare spaces, expanded seniors programs, arts and cultural spaces and an expanded Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre, said the JCC in a press release.
Amenities like the childcare centre will fill gaps for community members and parents who may be struggling to find secure family services, Shanken said. He also noted that ressources like the Holocaust Education Centre that is part of the JCC will be able to continue to educate the public in a time where there have been surges in anti-semitism.
“That's going to be over double the size of what it is today in the building and prominently featured, so that it can continue to do the important work that it's doing in teaching thousands upon thousands of young people a year about the lessons that are learned by the period when the shoah of the Holocaust happened, and how we can learn about building a better society here in Canada, from learning from the mistakes of other societies and the pain that it’s caused so many,” he said.
Not only will the redevelopment work to revamp the JCC provide more amenities for community members, it will also launch the construction of permanent homes for more than 20 nonprofit community organizations and two residential towers that will provide mixed-use rental housing, a portion of which will be below-market rates, said the JCC.
Shanken says that this decision was borne out of the want to have maximum impact in the city of Vancouver and benefit from the site as a whole.
“This is a beautiful community investment in the city as a whole. We have a housing challenge in the Jewish community, and we know that so many people have housing challenges across all of their communities. Building residential housing gives us the opportunity to address that housing challenge,” he said.
Not only will it provide a way for the JCC to help mitigate the housing and affordability crisis, but it will also provide a source of revenue that will represent an important investment in community life, according to Shanken.
The total funding for the project is now at $100 million thanks to the federal government's contribution. Cristall’s plan is to seek a second $100 million from small donations through a campaign where many thousands of people give what they can to help make the dream of an improved community centre and a hub, dubbed JWest, a reality.
With files from Glen Korstrom