At the recent Jewish Seniors Alliance annual general meeting, three volunteers were honored: Ralph Jackson, left, Bill Gruenthal, centre, and Milt Adelson. (photo by Binny Goldman)
The word used in praising or thanking someone in Hebrew is hodaya. Our foremother Leah said, “I will praise,” after the birth of her son and names him Judah (Yehuda), and todah comes from the same verb. On Sept. 15, the Jewish
Seniors Alliance of Greater Vancouver held its annual general meeting to say todah to its members and the community for helping it achieve its goals for the past year.
JSA president Marilyn Berger, along with Marshall Berger, opened the meeting, which took place at Congregation Beth Israel, with O Canada and Hatikvah, followed by a minute of silence for those members who died during the year.
Ezra Shanken, chief executive officer of the Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver, spoke of connecting Greater Vancouver’s Jewish communities with organizations like JSA, which is playing a vital role in seeing that seniors can stay in their homes, and can live well into their “golden” years without fear of neglect.
Dan Ruimy, member of Parliament for Pitt Meadows-Maple Ridge, said that his trip to Israel reinforced his desire to get in touch with his Jewish roots. He said we need to work together to support Israel as well as our own local communities.
Adolf Zilbershtein, head of Most-Bridge Russian Jewish Seniors, works at connecting his 60 members to their Jewish roots, and integrating them into the larger Jewish community. He thanked JSA for the $1,500 grant Most-Bridge received and wished everyone a healthy 5777.
JSA treasurer Larry Meyer explained it is an ongoing effort to keep the books balanced, as grants are not constant, but that JSA maximizes the use of federal, provincial, municipal and private donations so that its programs, such as peer-support services, can continue to flourish.
Pam Ottem, chair of JSA’s peer support and senior counseling program, reported that the program is so well-known that there is a waiting list of people wanting to avail themselves of the vital service and those who wish to take the counseling course, which is offered at no cost. Thanks were expressed to Grace Hann and Charles Leibovitch who lead the program.
Lyle Pullan, membership chair, shared that there were 36 new members, 48 life members, 439 individuals, 128 Most-Bridge members and 20 affiliates. He encouraged attendees to pay their $18 membership fee and search out new members.
In her final report, Berger acknowledged the accolades she had received and the assistance of her “troika,” as she handed the gavel over to Ken Levitt. Bev Cooper was presented with a certificate in appreciation of her outstanding work.
Serge Haber, head of the nominating committee, read the slate of incoming board members and then welcomed Levitt as incoming president.
Levitt, in saying farewell to Berger, lauded her, stating that she had brought the care and concern of the needs of the community to each meeting, and that she will be a great role model for him to follow. Noting that Berger demonstrated every day her commitment to Yiddishkeit, Levitt presented her with a gift from JSA.
The dinner reception, which 185 people attended in the synagogue’s ballroom, was convened by Larry Shapiro and Barbara Bronstein and emceed by Jack Altman, who proved once more to be a master of wit and words, able to ad lib at will.
Three volunteers were honored for their time and service to others.
The first volunteer was Ralph Jackson, nominated by Royal Canadian Legion Shalom Branch 178. Jackson had served in many capacities and has now assumed the presidency. His twin granddaughters, in introducing the man they love as their grandfather, proudly announced that, although he turned 90 in August, Jackson still loves to dance and enjoy life.
He actually texts them on his iPhone and, occasionally, they even respond. Being of service to others has been a major part of Jackson’s life, including being president of the War Vets for many years – he can often be spotted selling poppies in November. Jackson said he truly appreciated the honor and sincerely thanked the legion and JSA for the evening.
Bill Gruenthal, nominated by the Jewish Museum and Archives of British Columbia, was introduced by Prof. Chris Friedrichs, who said seniors don’t suddenly wake up overnight and find themselves to be seniors but that they are part of a growing and giving community maturing along the way. Gruenthal was treasurer of Temple Sholom, where he also formed a 60-plus club. Born in Netanya and a staunch supporter of Israel, anyone traveling the forests of Israel will see the trees planted by Jewish National Fund because of Gruenthal. In thanking everyone for the honor given him, Gruenthal said he was especially glad that family had flown in from out of province for the AGM, making it a family reunion.
Before Levitt introduced the honoree nominated by JSA, Milt Adelson, who was treasurer of JSA for eight years, Beth Israel Rabbi Jonathan Infeld encouraged and praised JSA for doing all that it does for the Jewish community, and he encouraged everyone to heed the call to help when hearing the sound of the shofar this year.
In speaking of Adelson, Levitt said that stepping down from being JSA treasurer has allowed Adelson to take the many steps he takes daily, walking 8.5 miles a day – he counts his steps in miles and not kilometres. One of Adelson’s lesser-known feats is holding the record for the most French fries consumed at the Aristocratic restaurant. Adelson was also treasurer for L’Chaim Adult Day Centre and proudly advocates for people to “walk the talk,” and walk it with vigor. Saying that he is a doer, Adelson thanked JSA for honoring him, adding that no one can say no to Haber, a statement to which many can attest.
Because some of the dinner crowd had not been present at the AGM, Levitt again made a presentation to Berger for her dedication and service to JSA. He presented her with a collage of photos taken during her tenure as president – called “The Many Faces of Marilyn” – which was put together by Karon Shear and Jennifer Propp.
The salmon dinner was catered by Susie Siegel of Nava Creative Kosher Cuisine. Then, as part of the entertainment, Jackson serenaded his wife of 62 years with “Because of You,” which melted the hearts of the many romantics in the room. Lorraine Smith further tugged at people’s heartstrings by playing and singing special Jewish favorites.
The evening ended with wishes for a peaceful, productive and prosperous year ahead, and thanks to the conveners of the dinner, Shapiro and Bronstein, and to the office staff. The work of the many volunteers behind the scenes was also acknowledged. The video of the event, taken by Stan Shear, can be seen at jsalliance.org.
If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes community commitment and support to make sure that the world in which the child lives is secure and safe into its senior years.
Binny Goldman is a member of the Jewish Seniors Alliance of Greater Vancouver board.