Four volunteers fêted
Jewish Seniors Alliance’s AGM was held on Oct. 11 at Congregation Beth Israel. (photo from JSA)
The annual general meeting of the Jewish Seniors Alliance was held on Oct. 11 at Congregation Beth Israel. As is customary, the AGM was followed by a gala dinner during which JSA honoured dedicated volunteers from three community organizations for their service to seniors in Vancouver.
The meeting was called to order by JSA president Ken Levitt. He introduced Rabbi Jonathan Infeld of Beth Israel, who gave a short d’var torah on the importance of community actions and involvement with seniors.
Levitt then asked everyone to rise in acknowledgement of JSA members who had passed away over the last year.
Several speakers offered greetings to JSA: Isobel MacKenzie, seniors advocate of British Columbia; Michael Lee, MLA for Vancouver-Langara; Ezra Shanken, chief executive officer of the Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver; and Gudrun Langolf, president of the Council of Senior Citizens’ Organization of British Columbia (COSCO).
Reports were presented by JSA treasurer Larry Meyer; on peer support services by Gyda Chud for Pam Ottem; on membership by Binny Goldman; from Levitt, as president; and from the nomination committee by Marilyn Berger, who was especially emphatic, urging people who receive Senior Line magazine and are not JSA members to sign up.
In his report, Levitt emphasized JSA’s advocacy role and outlined five issues in particular for which JSA is advocating:
- For the B.C. Ministry of Health to provide the 25% more effective flu vaccine free of charge. It presently costs $75 for the high-dose flu shot.
- The implementation of a federal pharmacare program.
- For the City of Vancouver to allow applications for the provincial homeowners grant to be done in person, without use of a computer, as many seniors have difficulty using computers or do not have access to the internet.
- For the B.C. government to initiate a poverty reduction program similar to those that exist in other provinces.
- To reduce the need for food banks – JSA had made a presentation to Federation concerning the Food Security Program.
After the reports were completed, Levitt adjourned the meeting and invited everyone to be seated at the festively decorated tables. About 170 supporters of JSA enjoyed a glass of wine and a salmon or vegetarian lasagna dinner that was followed by the presentation of the awards.
This part of the evening was presented by emcee Ed Gavsie, who called upon Langolf to make the presentation to Sheila Pither. Pither has been active with COSCO for 18 years. For the past 10 years, she has coordinated the organization’s Health and Wellness Institute, promoting its expansion from one workshop topic to more than 40. Pither said she was honoured to have been chosen and was grateful to be at the ceremony with friends and family, at age 86, to accept the award.
The next awards went to Muriel Morris and Gary Zumar of JCC Showtime. Maurice Moses presented to Morris and Arnold Selwyn to Zumar.
Morris has been a volunteer piano accompanist since high school. She has accompanied more than 210 concerts since joining Showtime in 2013 and she noted the pleasure she gets when they perform at seniors facilities and she sees the people come alive to the music and the dancing.
Selwyn recounted how Zumar, with his wide experience in audio-visual technologies, has volunteered his services to many Jewish organizations. Zumar started with Jewish Heritage Players more than 40 years ago and has continued for more than 12 years with Showtime. Selwyn called him a volunteer’s volunteer. Zumar responded by thanking everyone at Showtime for this honour.
Toby Rubin of the Kehila Society then presented the final award to Pat Hoffman. Hoffman became involved with Kehila’s Monday Seniors Luncheon at Beth Tikvah 15 years ago. She has been involved in the working committee as the program has expanded to include activities such as English-as-a-second-language, fitness and entertainment. Rubin described Hoffman as the lifeline of the program, the first to arrive and the last to leave. Hoffman expressed her appreciation for the recognition and said she gets much satisfaction from being a volunteer.
While dessert was served, attendees were entertained by jazz singer Jill Samycia, the door prizes and 50/50 tickets were drawn and, after much shmoozing with old friends and dinner, everyone went home having spent the evening honouring four active seniors and again proving the JSA adage “seniors stronger together.”
Shanie Levin is an executive board member of Jewish Seniors Alliance and on the editorial board of Senior Line magazine.