Sarah Haniford’s granddaughter, Alice Campbell, with Schara Tzedeck Synagogue Rabbi Andrew Rosenblatt at the unveiling of Sarah’s headstone. (photo from Jewish Cemetery at Mountain View Restoration Project)
“You live as long as you are remembered.” – Russian Proverb
Fifty people gathered together on Aug. 3 to remember and honor the life of Sarah Goldberg-Haniford at the Jewish Cemetery at Mountain View. As Alice Campbell, Sarah’s granddaughter, said in her opening remarks to the family and friends there for the unveiling of the headstone, “a bridge to the past is a pathway to the future.”
Campbell shared some of the highlights of her grandmother’s life, which began with her birth in 1878 in Glasgow, subsequent marriage in 1890 to Louis Haniford (Ljeb Hanoft) from Poland, journey to Winnipeg in 1902, then to a farm near Hanna, Alta., in 1907.
Life was very hard for Sarah and Louis, with the harsh climate and work on the farm, to which they were far from accustomed, having been in the watch-making business up until the move. In 1922, Sarah, who had by then given birth to nine children, was in very poor health, and Louis, not knowing what else to do to help her, sent her to St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver. Unfortunately, her health deteriorated and she passed away here, all alone, on Oct. 6, 1922.
As Jewish custom dictated, Sarah was buried in the Jewish Cemetery at Mountain View. After her death, according to Sarah’s wishes, Louis moved his family of the seven surviving children away from the farm, to the town of Hanna. With Sarah’s passing, Judaism disappeared from the Haniford family until October 2012, 90 years later, when Campbell discovered through genealogical research that Sarah was buried at Mountain View Cemetery. Beryl and Christi Cooke, Sarah’s granddaughter who lives in Kelowna and great-granddaughter who lives in Vancouver, went to the cemetery for the first time.
The timing couldn’t have been more perfect. Shirley Barnett had just embarked on her project to restore the Jewish Cemetery at Mountain View and their paths collided. In October 2013, along with 146 other unmarked burials, Sarah’s life and death were recognized, with the placing of a temporary marker as the first step in restoring the Jewish cemetery to its former significance in the community. With this mitzvah, the plan to place a permanent monument was born.
Among those attending the Aug. 3 ceremony were 25 family members, including grandchildren and great-grandchildren, none of whom had ever known Sarah – and many of whom had not seen each other in at least 15 years. Rabbi Andrew Rosenblatt and Rev. Joseph Marciano, along with members of the Vancouver Jewish community, were witness to the unveiling of Sarah’s headstone. Sarah brought everyone together and, in doing so, helped rekindle her family’s connections to each other and to Judaism.
A group of Herzliya Science Centre students working on Duchifat 1 in the clean room with Dr. Ana Heller. (photo from Herzliya Science Centre)
In Israel, high school students helped launch a satellite into space – something typically reserved for university students.
“The Herzliya Science Centre (HSC) is the science campus for Herzliya’s middle and high schools,” explained Dr. Meir Ariel, the director general of the centre, which opened in 2007.
Some 1,500 students attend HSC advanced labs, studying and experimenting in physics, chemistry, electronics, biotechnology, computer science and robotics. “The jewel of the crown is our space and satellite lab, the only lab in Israel where high school students can design and build satellites and send them into space,” said Ariel.
This lab is attended by 40-50 of the brightest, most dedicated students from various schools in Herzliya and beyond.
“Duchifat 1, the first Israeli nano-satellite, weighing less than one kilogram, required multidisciplinary knowledge – from electronics to software, communications, thermodynamics and astrophysics – to construct,” he said.
Students wanting to participate began in Grade 9, with a two-year training period that provided the basic scientific knowledge needed to become candidates for membership in the space and satellite lab.
“Teenagers aren’t intimidated by technology and have little fear of failure,” said Ariel. “The success of the team relies on the ability of its members to be creative, innovative, disciplined and, most importantly, highly motivated.”
Collaboration with the Israel Aerospace Industry was crucial for the project’s success. Each team was led by an experienced engineer. Students not only learned from their mentors, but they were also exposed to state-of-the-art technology, tools and developmental procedures.
“Duchifat 1 served as a pedagogical platform, allowing high school kids from all over Israel to communicate, send commands, receive telemetry and experiment with a real satellite,” said Ariel. “Its other mission was search and rescue from space via its APRS transponder.”
Duchifat 1 was successfully launched into space aboard the Dnepr launcher a couple of months ago, on June 19.
“To reduce costs, Duchifat 1 was actually a ‘hitchhiker’ aboard a rocket that carried bigger satellites into the same orbit,” said Ariel. “Since then, Duchifat 1 has been orbiting around earth and is being tracked from the ground station at HSC by the same high school students who built it.”
Shenhav Lazarovich, 19, was one of the students who helped build Duchifat 1. She heard about the opportunity during an open day at Handasaim Herzliya High School, when learning about HSC.
“The first meeting with Dr. Anna Heller was something I won’t forget,” said Lazarovich. “She entered the room and said she’s leading a project with a goal to build a Pico satellite that will be totally designed and programmed by high school students. In that moment, I decided I want to be one of the team.”
Lazarovich had two major responsibilities in building Duchifat 1 – buying and upgrading the lab equipment (including satellite parts) and serving as the programming team’s EPS (electronic power system) programmer.
The other student on Lazarovich’s team was Ori Opher, who was responsible for finding solutions to various battery-related problems, like low battery discharge time and battery thermal issues.
“The battery is the heart of the satellite and needs to work at its best to fulfil the main goal of the satellite – saving lives (as an SOS signal transmitter),” said Lazarovich.
The satellite was launched by Dnepr 1, a Russian missile converted for space launching use. At this launch, it had 37 satellites from countries around the world.
“It was an amazing experience,” said Lazarovich. “We gathered around with 37 teams all over the world and watched how our ‘baby’ made its way to fulfil its destiny. Anna [Dr. Heller] has been working on this project for more than 10 years and I was there for the last four.
“When we got signals from space, all of us started crying and laughing. We’re one of the first teams to receive satellites signals from space, not to mention the youngest team in the launching program. The excitement, the energy, is something I can’t describe with words.”
Yarden Carmel, 17, decided to take part in the Duchifat 1 project about three years ago, after switching to a different high school, where one of the mandatory classes was Satellites and Space.
“We were having our guided tour and, in one of the stops, they had Dr. Anna Heller, the project lead, talking about the project,” said Carmel. “She said something I’ll always remember, that she ‘isn’t looking for mathematicians or science geniuses, but for students with fire in their eyes.’”
Carmel and his team worked on the memory management of the satellite. “Duchifat 1 got some kilobytes flash memory, like those used in the portable flash drives, but with much less memory capacity,” he said. “Our mission was to find an algorithm that would hold the information the satellites generate (like life status) and receive (like stress signals from earth) for the longest time without being overwritten by new information.
“It had to be enough time for it to be able to fly above our ground station in Israel, so we could download all the data. It might sound easy, but remember we’re dealing with much less memory capacity than in a normal PC or a Mac. We have less than one megabyte to work with and it took us a few times to get the best algorithm.”
Carmel, who also will help build Duchifat 2, still recalls being rendered speechless when seeing the live footage of the missile going up. “It even rocked the HQ building we were in,” he said. “We were all either crying with happiness, staying stressed and silent, or just repeating, ‘Here’s Duchifat!’ and ‘We made history!’”
Duchifat 2 is one of a network of 50 miniature satellites built by university teams all over the world. “The satellites will be launched in 2016, with a mission to perform atmospheric research within the lower atmosphere (between 200 and 380 kilometres altitude), which is the least explored layer of the atmosphere,” said Ariel. “Duchifat 2 is the only satellite in this network built by high school students. All [the] other 49 satellites were built by universities.”
“During these difficult times in Israel,” said Lazarovich. “I’ve wanted to say that the key for a better future is science and education. Combining these on both sides will result only in good to the whole region and the entire world. Science is an endless source for development and making the world a better place.
“When adults are asked to do a big task, they always think about why it’s not possible to do [so].… When children [are] asked to do a big task, they just do it. They don’t see the limits that adults do. And, even if they do, they are not afraid to just try it anyway.”
The launch video, and other Duchifat 1 videos, can be seen on YouTube.
On a hot Sunday in June, a grandmother climbs up to a backless seat in the bleachers of a high school gym whose air-conditioning has conked out. Students are handing out water bottles to the sweating crowd. She fans herself with a sun hat and listens to the principal testing the mic. The graduates in their caps and gowns have lined up in the corridor.
The band begins to play and the smiling graduates march in. The grandmother knows that most of them are wearing sneakers or flip-flops (except for a few girls who have saved up to buy Jimmy Choos or Manolo Blahniks). Under their robes, many wear shorts and T-shirts, not the fancy clothes she would have expected.
As the speeches begin, she waves to her grandson, who tips his cap to her. Her daughter and son-in-law hold hands as they watch the ceremony. The grandmother shifts in her uncomfortable seat and remembers the growing-up years of the young man whose achievement she has traveled 1,200 miles to celebrate.
He was such a tiny baby that the rabbi and mohel who officiated at his bris insisted on consulting a pediatrician before going ahead with the event. Now he is six feet tall. He was a friendly child who introduced himself to other kids easily at the playground when he was three or four. On holidays, he loved to lay out cookies on a platter in her kitchen but his nose barely reached the table top. Somebody had to put him on a chair to do the job.
His family moved around a lot and somehow he did not get into a Hebrew school at the right time. His great-grandfather saw to it that he was enrolled in a special program for kids who fell through the cracks and might not otherwise have received a Hebrew education. His bar mitzvah was a gala event and the grandmother remembers unexpectedly weeping with joy.
In high school, this child blossomed like a flower. His grades were excellent and he began to read voraciously, both assigned books and those she often fed him. His grandfather discussed science, astronomy, astrophysics and current events with him. His friends were children of many cultures, races and religions. He got involved in politics when the mother of a friend ran for local office and he volunteered to work on the campaign.
In the summer following his junior year, he won a scholarship to study globalization in the 21st century at Brown University. Now, he knows the facts about the issues of the day and is familiar with the problems affecting other countries. He speaks Spanish and French and is teaching himself Chinese. On a televised program with New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, he asked questions that prompted compliments by the governor. On his feet, the boy thinks fast and is comfortable at a lectern addressing school assemblies of 500 people.
Now, as she watches him stand with his fellow graduates and toss his cap into the air, the grandmother knows that it’s only a few months until he is gone – off to college to study international relations – probably leading to a life among people of other cultures with whom he is already quite comfortable. Undoubtedly, he will do something to make a difference in the world – something meaningful. She is proud of him. Yet, she is concerned about the economy and the job situation he will face. She worries about outside influences in the freedom of a college campus for a child who has never been on his own before. She prays that he will be safe.
Already the grandmother misses him but she has been through this leave-taking with her own three children. She missed her artistically inclined boy who drew pictures on his bedroom wall. She remembers her other little boy who stood on his bed and insisted that he saw elephants when he had a high fever. She thinks of the lovely girl who baked hamantashen from scratch in her kitchen. All three of them are married now and have children of their own, but the grandmother has not forgotten the feelings she had when they went away to college.
She remembers mailing packages of salamis, bagels and cookies. They lived in expensive dorms with cockroaches and bees. She visited them at college in sloppy rooms with all their clothing strewn across futons on the floor.
“How do you know which stuff is clean and which is dirty?” she asked. “Easy,” the boy said. “You pick it up and smell it!” He was straight-faced and serious. Yuck!
Sometimes they came home for holidays. Other times they went on trips or partied in some exotic locale that hosted spring break for young people. The grandmother had gone to college, too, but she had traveled by subway and had worked after school. At that age, she had never been anywhere but the Catskill Mountains.
Now, she looks at her daughter and son-in-law, remembering how it feels when the last child, like her grandson, goes away. There is no point in telling them that, after the child leaves, an emptiness settles on the house. The clock ticks louder. The silence in the mornings and at mealtimes is deafening. You close the door to the child’s room and do not go into it for weeks, even to clean up the mess left behind. You’re all choked up when you finally do it.
The grandmother will not tell her daughter and son-in-law that the hardest part of raising a child is the letting go.
Toby J. Rosenstrauchis an award-winning columnist and a resident of Florida. Her first novel, Knifepoint, was recently published.
The start of a new school year used to just mean dealing with the end-of-summer blues, figuring out which classes to take and which books to buy, and making sure you had a first-day-of-school outfit. For today’s kids, however, there’s another real challenge: keeping pace with all the other kids your age, from brand-name clothing to expensive gadgets.
Consider this: about one quarter of children aged 12 to 15 in the United Kingdom have their own tablet while, on this side of the pond, there’s been a five-fold increase in tablet ownership among kids. Couple those statistics with other trends, such as the percentage of children and teenagers who have mobile phones (78 percent) and toddlers who have used mobile devices (38 percent), and it’s evident that children growing up today want and have more technological gadgets than ever before – and that comes with a hefty price tag for their parents.
The struggle to keep up – to give your child what “every other” child seems to have, for fear of making them feel left out – can be daunting for parents. After all, buying your child a $100 mobile phone may not seem like much, until you factor in the cost of the monthly plan. The same goes for gaming systems like PS3 and Xbox, for which a couple hundred dollars now may not break the bank but, before you know it, the next version will come out and you’ll be shelling out more cash.
So, how can parents keep up with the demand, provide their children with some fancy gadgets, without breaking the bank and without spoiling their children?
Back to school: lessons at home
In the back-to-school rush, you may be focused on all the new things your child will learn at school this year, but it’s a great time to think about the lessons you can teach your child at home, with the first one being the value of a dollar (or two). If your child sees you spend hundreds on new smartphones and tablets every two years, they get the message that it’s a normal expense and nothing out of the ordinary, like your yearly taxes or other such payments, when these devices are luxuries, not essentials (although that could be debated).
Instead, you want to show your child that you’re happy to provide them with some of the latest trends but not all of them, all the time. Consider saving the bigger-ticket items for special occasions or milestones you want to celebrate. As well, involve your child in the discussion: how much is too much for a kid’s first phone? How long do they think it takes for you to work to earn the price of that phone?
According to Kevin Sylvester, co-author of Follow Your Money: Who Gets It? Who Spends It? Where Does It Go?, parents can and should explain the value of money to children with practical examples. For example, say your son wants the new iPhone. You buy it, but explain that the purchase means no movie tickets or outings for him for the next six months, until he’s helped pay for it. One of the reasons this can be difficult for kids to understand today is because of how little they actually see real, physical money.
“Money has moved away from the physical to the abstract. [Before] kids were forced to deal with the reality of how much something cost (they had to count coins, for example) when we needed actual money to buy things,” he writes. “But with credit cards, debit cards and automatic e-transactions, that tangible relationship with money is almost gone. So, [kids] need to know the underlying ideas about ‘value,’ ‘cost’ and so on to understand what they are spending.”
To do this, he encourages parents to give kids ownership over how much they’re spending and what they’re buying, as well as discussing why saving is important – even if it means waiting until the iPhone 15 comes out.
Quiz time: self-evaluation
Dr. Jim Taylor, author of Raising Generation Tech, reminds readers that kids pick up what they see their parents doing. The average child spends more than seven hours in front of a screen per day. If you think that’s much too high, then it’s time for a back-to-school quiz: are you any better? If you’re spending hours on your phone, computer or tablet – whether it’s watching TV, working or playing games – your child learns it’s OK to spend your day in front of a screen. However, childhood should be a time to explore, imagine and wonder, which gets lost if a child has a computer doing it for them.
“How did your children develop their relationship with technology? In all likelihood, from your relationship with technology. You influence your children’s exposure to technology in two ways,” says Taylor in a blog post about creating a healthy relationship with technology. “First, whether consciously or otherwise, you determine the technology to which your children are exposed and the frequency of its use. You buy it for them, give them permission to use it, and provide them with the time and space for its use.
“Second, and perhaps more importantly, you model the presence and use of technology in your own life. In doing so, you’re constantly sending your children messages about the role that it should play in their lives. Think about how often you, for example, watch television, play video games, surf the internet or check your email, and you’ll probably see the kind of relationship that your children have or will develop with technology.”
It’s too early to tell what impact technology will ultimately have on children who don’t know life without it, but Taylor’s points remain true nonetheless: too often we think of technology as an end itself, a way to pass time, a chance to get the kids to quiet down while we finish our day’s work, but it developed as a means to an end – a way to enhance the quality of life and do more with less.
By reminding your kids and yourself of these origins, you can instil in them the value that technology can bring – efficiency, independence, ingenuity and, perhaps, a better quality of life – while showing that they don’t have to have everything at once. And that there are other ways to work and play.
Vicky Tobianahis a freelance writer and editor based in Toronto. Connect with her on Twitter, @vicktob, or at [email protected].
Last Sunday, I took my two daughters to the Vancouver Pride Parade.
Though I was certain my four- and seven-year-olds would enjoy every ounce of the many colors and sounds, and the energy of the parade itself (few events produce the same level of spirit as a Pride Parade) a day of fun wasn’t my prime motivator.
I had seen a posting on Facebook from Yad b’Yad, a community-based group that rallies local members of all sexual preferences each year to represent the Jews of Vancouver in the parade.
I decided that with everything going on in Israel at the time, combined with the dramatic presence of antisemitism spreading across the globe, never was there a better time for me to teach my children about tolerance, acceptance, diversity and pride.
Yes, there were a few questions I had to be prepared to answer – like when one of the participants handing out freebies to the crowd placed a couple packs of Trojans in my seven-year-old’s hands. I responded to the expected, “What’s this, Daddy?” with an abbreviated version of how she wouldn’t be enjoying this parade if Daddy had those eight years ago. A quick shrug of the shoulders and she was back to watching “princesses” roller skate down the street to roaring cheers.
The value gained in that experience, led by the conversations I had explaining the importance of the parade, was what made me most proud. That’s because one of the scariest things I see when I look closely at Israel’s Middle East problem is the amount of education-themed hatred being passed on to children in the region. Cartoon characters who preach killing Jews and manipulated curricula that offer false truths about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict all but guarantee this crisis is not likely to end until well beyond my days.
Outside of the Middle East, the Hamas propaganda machine – which has clearly become their most powerful weapon – has helped spread hatred and bigotry around the world and, in some cases, just down the street from our own homes.
Like many other people I know, I have found myself walking around my country, my city, wondering how many people around me would like to shame me and my family because of something they once saw on TV or read on Facebook.
I’ll always do all that I can debating with and educating folks via various social media outlets. But the most important thing I can do for the future is teach my kids. Teach them to love. Teach them to accept. Teach them to continuously open their minds to the many choices free people have in this world.
It’s entirely possible that watching half-naked men and women prancing up Robson Street is not for everyone (say, what!?). But I encourage parents, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends everywhere to do something unique, outside of the box, and, especially, meaningful to provide your youth every chance to identify the difference between right and wrong. They will see it all on Facebook one day. Better they are prepared to figure it out for themselves when they do.
Gaza, July 28, 2014: An Israel Defence Forces soldier examines a newly revealed tunnel in the Gaza strip. (photo by IDF via Ashernet)
It’s been awhile since I’ve written. There’s a story I’ve been meaning to share but, unfortunately, circumstances have led me to write a different story entirely, about “the matzav.”
“The matzav” means, literally, “the situation,” but it’s used to refer euphemistically to a current bad security situation in Israel. You say it in a half whisper, the way our parents used to say, “cancer.”
“How’s business going now, with – the matzav?”
“We’re going up north for a few days because of – the matzav.”
“My mother-in-law has been with us for two weeks, thanks to – the matzav.”
It’s definitely not an easy time to be in Israel, though now, more than ever, there is no place I would rather be.
I didn’t grow up in a particularly Zionist household. Most of what I know about Judaism and Israel I learned in college. People used to say to me that being in Israel is like being with family, and making aliyah is like coming home. My family never shoved in front of me to get on buses or overcharged me for souvenirs, so I guess I just couldn’t relate.
I got a little taste of the family thing when I was visiting Israel 12 years ago on a mission during the Second Intifada, when tourism was at an all-time low. I went to the falafel stand in the Old City by the Cardo with my 10-month-old son. There were no other tourists to be found. The owner, who was usually just interested in taking orders and keeping the line moving, insisted on holding the baby while I ate. This was like my family – not always warm and fuzzy, but there for you in hard times.
These are hard times. There’s been a constant barrage of rockets in southern Israel for weeks, keeping the population within 15 seconds of a bomb shelter. As I wrote these words, four people were killed by a rocket fired from a playground in Gaza. This morning, a man on the radio was saying that he’s terrified to shower or even go to the bathroom for fear a siren will go off.
Another woman was asleep and didn’t hear a siren. She only heard the rocket hit her house. She is being treated in the hospital for wounds to the head, legs and knees, but no treatment will cure the fear you can hear in her voice, unable to speak in full sentences.
On the other side of the border, the suffering in indescribable and the media images haunting. I feel torn apart by my pain for the Palestinian losses on the one hand and the need for us to defend ourselves on the other. Then there’s the sadness for the soldiers who are trained to minimize civilian casualties, but who find themselves hurting innocent civilians, behind whom the cowardly terrorists hide.
Our “adopted” lone soldier Danna tells us stories of what her friends see who are serving in Gaza – hospitals and UN schools hiding weapons and terrorists; gunmen literally hiding behind families; terrorists shooting with a gun in one hand and a baby in the other.
As Golda Meir said to Anwar Sadat just before the peace talks with Egypt, “We can forgive you for killing our sons. But we will never forgive you for making us kill yours.”
Before the war started, I got a call one Friday afternoon.
“Hi, Emily. We’re thinking of cancelling the partnership minyan this week, but I just want to check with you, because I know you worked hard on your speech.”
“Oh, well, sure … but why?”
“We just thought it would be better for the whole community to pray together tonight because of, you know – the matzav.” (Pause) “Did you not here what happened?”
That’s how I heard about the three kidnapped soldiers.
You would think all three of them were from our kibbutz, the way people spoke of them and cried and prayed for them and organized around helping their families. The whole country was suddenly one big family. One big, sad family.
At school, the teachers held special meetings with their pupils to help them digest the news and share their feelings. They had a meeting in the evening to help parents with how to talk to their kids. All this despite the fact that the three boys were from a different part of the country and not at all connected to our school or our region, except that here everyone is connected. At these times, we’re all cousins, brothers, sons.
The news a few weeks later – that the boys were killed – hit hard. I was out for the day to Beit Shean with my son Abaye to get braces on his teeth. Abaye is very sensitive to “the matzav” and I try to keep him away from the news most of the time so we can share things with him in our own way, but there was no escape. The news was on in the dentist’s office, and staff and patients were openly crying. Afterwards, we went for ice cream and the ice cream shop was playing the tape over and over again. Everyone’s eyes were glued to the screen.
“You’re an ice cream shop!” I wanted to yell at them, but it wouldn’t have mattered. The whole country was in mourning.
Then the rockets started in the south. Everyone’s hearts turned to the families under fire. Our kibbutz Google group filled up with suggestions of where you could bring food and supplies, requests to run programs, and even invitations to drive down south into the fire to help entertain kids in bomb shelters. There were so many projects being run out of so many places that volunteers had to quickly set up a committee to manage them all.
Our area happens to be one of the safest parts of the country. We haven’t heard any sirens. We haven’t even unlocked our bomb shelters. So, everyone is opening their homes.
Several families have come to our kibbutz for a break, and our youth group organized a camp for a week with peers from a kibbutz in the south. I heard on the radio about a resort nearby that has opened its doors to another kibbutz (200 people!), feeding and housing them and running programs for the kids. And these are just a few tiny examples. Every community is doing something.
Then there are the troops fighting in Gaza.
Soldiers were sent to the border to defend our country from rocket attacks. Prime Minister Netanyahu tried to stave off a ground incursion, but the rockets kept falling and, it seems, there was work that could only be done on the ground.
When the army finally went in, they discovered a complex underground tunnel network that Hamas had built to infiltrate Israel. It seems they were planning a massive operation for the upcoming Rosh Hashanah – hundreds of terrorists were scheduled to appear from nowhere in kibbutzim and villages across the south, dressed in Israeli uniforms, for a mega terrorist attack. It’s chilling to think about what they might have done.
Several of the fatalities of this war, including the three kidnapped boys, have resulted from terrorists coming through these tunnels. They lead from private homes in Gaza right into Israeli neighborhoods, one ending directly beneath the dining hall of a kibbutz. It was reported that children on the kibbutz had been complaining they could hear someone digging under them, but adults hadn’t taken them seriously, because how could that possibly be?
So, now we are at war in Gaza until we get rid of the tunnels, of which 30 have been discovered so far, and many destroyed. Meanwhile, the number of fallen and wounded soldiers continues to rise, as well as, of course, the massive toll on both terrorist and innocent Gazans.
But I wanted to tell you about the efforts to support our troops.
Being the army of the Jewish people, the aid started with, of course, food. Fresh meals, cakes and treats – you name them. A renowned chef opened shop to provide gourmet cuisine for the soldiers.
At one point, we got the message that it’s enough food, and now could we please send personal hygiene products (soaps, deodorants, etc.) and “fresh towels with the scent of home”? In addition, children sent so many letters of love and support that the soldiers use them to wallpaper their tanks and living spaces. At the camp for Adin, my nine-year-old son, they changed the program this week so that every day was a different activity to support the soldiers – making gifts, preparing food and raising money.
And, of course, it’s difficult for soldiers to communicate with their families, so the radio has taken to running extra programs in which they can send personal messages.
“Hi Mom, Dad and, of course, my girlfriend Tal. I’m here to protect you and I’m fine, so you can sleep without worrying. I love you.”
And I’m sure Mom, Dad, Tal and half the country are crying with me.
Among the first losses of the war, we heard about the falling of two lone soldiers – people like our “adopted” daughter, who moved to Israel voluntarily to protect our country, who are here with no family. It made me sad to think these people would be buried alone, but what could anyone do? Their whole family is overseas.
A photo of one of these fallen boys, Sean Carmeli from Texas, appeared on the news in a Maccabee-Haifa soccer T-shirt. They were his favorite team. The team apparently shared my concern and made an appeal for people to attend his funeral. Twenty thousand people showed up!
You could call it a social media ploy, but I don’t think so. The next day, there was a funeral for the other lone soldier, Max Steinberg from California. I was afraid his funeral would pale in comparison to Sean’s, seeing as he wasn’t a major sports fan. But my fear was baseless. Thirty thousand people were in attendance. Those who were interviewed about why they came simply said that he made the ultimate sacrifice for them when he didn’t need to, and it was the least they could do.
Max’s family had never been to Israel before. I thought about my own mother, who did not want us to make aliyah, and who would never forgive me if, God forbid, anything happened to any of my kids. Max’s parents and siblings were overwhelmed by the turnout.
His mother Evie told the mourners, “We now know why Max fell in love with Israel. It was all because of its people. He was embraced with open arms and treated like family,” she said, “and, for that, we are eternally grateful.”
When his sister began, “We come from a very small family,” I held my breath expecting to hear her anger or sadness at having lost her brother. Instead, she continued, “But that seemed to quickly change after meeting people in Israel, who made it feel like one big family.”
This morning, I was out walking in the forest around the kibbutz when a new song came on the radio by Ariel Horowitz, son of one of Israel’s greatest singers, Naomi Shemer. The song is about the lone soldier Sean Carmeli. The writer had attended the funeral and was deeply moved. The chorus goes something like this:
20,000 people and you’re at the front. 20,00 people are behind you, Sean. Marching in silence with flowers, Two sisters and 20,000 brothers.
Sgt. Nissim Sean Carmeli and Sgt. Max Steinberg, and all our fallen soldiers will never be forgotten, because we don’t forget family.
Emily Singeris a teacher, social worker and freelance writer. Singer and her husband, Ross, were rebbetzin and rabbi of Vancouver’s Shaarey Tefilah congregation until 2004. The Singers spent two years in Jerusalem and then moved to Baltimore, Md., where Ross was rabbi at Congregation Beth Tfiloh and Emily taught Judaic studies at Beth Tfiloh High School, until they moved to Israel in 2010. They have four children, and live on Kibbutz Maale Gilboa.
My new friends! A mixed group of Arab and Jewish kids playing hockey together in Israel.
I have to admit that it has been tough to concentrate on much these days with everything going on in Israel this month.
The country and people that I love – along with every Jew around the world – has been fighting a war of epic proportions. Both in Gaza and in the media.
As I have struggled to come to terms with the reality of how deeply rooted antisemitism currently is around the world and how gleefully willing many people are to remain ignorant and naive, I consider what I can do to contribute.
Sure, there are rallies and gatherings to attend, letters to be written to MPs, Facebook posts to share, all with hopes of spreading intelligent information and support for Israel. But I feel myself needing something more tangible to contribute to.
Those feelings and thoughts almost always take me to a program – or mission – I have already embraced the past few years I have visited Israel.
In the very northern tip of Israel, in Etzpah Hagalil – Vancouver’s P2G Partnership region, there is the lone full-sized (actually, Olympic-sized) hockey rink at Mercaz Canada (Canada Centre) in Metula. I have visited it the past three years to participate in the Israel Recreational Hockey Association Tournament (amazing event!) along with several local friends.
In 2013, while visiting, an Israeli friend told me about a new, growing program at the Canada Centre called the Canada-Israel Hockey School (CIHS). Merely 3 years old, CIHS already featured approximately 400 Israeli kids of all ages, wearing a mish-mosh of donated gear and Jerseys, learning to play Canada’s game.
Just watching these kids had already blown my mind. I was beyond enlightened when Coach Mike Mazeika, a non-Jewish Torontonian who has embraced Israeli culture in more ways than one, informed me that among those skaters was a complete mix of Jewish and Arab children. Hockey had brought Jewish teens who had never once spoken to an Arab teen, and vice-versa, together as teammates. Line mates. Eternal friends. And it was working!
Adding to that, I took a look around the stands and saw the parents of all these children cheering together. Ignoring, at least within this small group, decades of religious and political conflict since Israel had been born.
Hockey, Canada’s game, was doing this!
As I watched in awe I declared, “Someone has to document this!” To which Mazeika replied, “Actually, TSN was here a couple of weeks ago.” (see link below)
I was invited to come back and skate with the school before leaving Israel – an opportunity I called the coolest thing I had done on the ice. I returned home from that trip with a few new friends (Jewish, Christian and Druze) and a new commitment to use my role as the JCCGV’s sports coordinator to develop our community’s connection with the Canada-Israel Hockey School.
Team Vancouver returned this past February to an even larger hockey school as founder Levav Weinberg told me of their plans to reach out to even more communities around Israel.
We are currently working with Weinberg on plans to bring a group from CIHS on a Canadian tour with a key stop in Vancouver in the spring of 2015.
In the mean time, I will be returning in February, with whoever wants to join me, to represent Team Vancouver in the tournament (amazing experience as well!) and continue to develop our relationship with CIHS.
If you are hockey inclined and would like to join us to be part of something truly special in such a desperate time, there are always spots on our team!
Kibbutz Magen member Shunit Dekel speaks via Skype to the almost 800 people who came out to Temple Sholom to show support for Israel. Dina Wachtel, executive director, Western Region, Canadian Friends of the Hebrew University, is at the podium. (photo from JFGV)
Close to 800 people gathered at Temple Sholom the night of July 27 to show solidarity between Canadians and the state of Israel.
Temple Sholom Rabbi Dan Moskovitz started the evening by leading the crowd in “Am Yisrael Chai,” and Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver chair Diane Switzer read aloud a letter of support from Premier Christy Clark who wrote, “The current conflict in Israel and Gaza is of great concern to anyone who believes in democracy and human rights…. At this difficult time, let us remember the values we share with Israel: a vibrant, culturally rich, democratic nation committed to maintaining the rights of its citizens, regardless of gender or religion. Israel is an example not only to the region, but the world.”
The event featured a number of guest speakers, including Shunit Dekel, a member of Kibbutz Magen, and Farid Rohani, a businessman, social activist and a board member of the Laurier Institution. Dekel spoke via Skype from her home 4.3 kilometres outside of Gaza. Her kibbutz was forced into lockdown three times last week, because of the danger posed by the underground tunnels connecting it with Gaza. Rohani addressed the issue of antisemitism in recent social media. Through his own analysis of Twitter, he concluded that the coverage is remarkably lopsided and that “remaining quiet is a disservice not only to the values that we share as Canadians, but to order and what is right.”
The event was a collaborative effort between several local organizations: Canadian Friends of Ben Gurion University, Canadian Friends of Hebrew University, Canadian Jewish Political Affairs Committee, Magen David Adom, Congregation Beit Hamidrash, Congregation Beth Israel, Congregation Temple Sholom, Congregation Schara Tzedeck, Hillel BC, Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver, Jewish National Fund, Or Shalom, State of Israel Bonds and the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, Pacific Region.
At the end of the night, community member Bill Levine remarked, “The tone of the evening was respectful, and stressed our desire for a peaceful resolution. It was good to see the community react in the spirit of coming together.”
Rally in support of Israel drew a few hundred people to the Vancouver Art Gallery on Sunday afternoon. (photo by Shahar Ben Halevi)
Nearly 300 people gathered around the Vancouver Art Gallery on Sunday, July 27, at noon, to show support for the state of Israel and for peace in the Middle East.
The rally – organized by a Facebook group of Israelis in Vancouver – went peacefully, and there were no apparent counter protests in the area. The supporters carried signs calling for an end to the conflict, and emphasizing that Israel is fighting terrorists and not the people of Gaza.
The rally was covered by several local media representatives, but there were no speeches. The crowd sang together a few traditional Jewish songs and ended the event with Hatikvah, the Israeli national anthem.
The PNE is hosting a celebration of the 20th anniversary of Gotta Sing! Gotta Dance! and, on Aug. 24, 4:30 p.m., there will be a show featuring 2014 participants in the program, Perry Ehrlich’s ShowStoppers and Sound Sensation troupes, as well as some past participants in these programs. (photo from Perry Ehrlich)
There are several anniversaries in Vancouver’s arts scene this year. It’s the 50th for the Arts Club and the 25th for Bard on the Beach, for example, but the one that hits closest to home is the 20th for the Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver’s resident summer musical theatre program, Gotta Sing! Gotta Dance! (GSGD).
The brainchild of local lawyer Perry Ehrlich, this program grew from a relatively inauspicious start to become one of the premier children’s musical programs in the Lower Mainland. In an interview with the Independent, Ehrlich noted that it all started when he tried to enrol his daughter, Lisa, in musical theatre classes.
“I realized that when I was looking around at the various offerings that I could do a better job and, if I participated with Lisa, it would be an outlet for my creativity and a playground for my daughter and myself. I thought when my kids were finished, that would be the end of it. I never thought it would last for more than five or six years – but I fell in love with the kids and the process and here we are 20 years later!”
Ehrlich, a pianist, has a strong musical background. While at law school at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon, he played for dinner theatre at a downtown hotel and was the musical director of the faculty’s annual Legal Follies. He also was co-director of Sound Sensation, which rehearsed in Richmond. GSGD owes its name to that group: when Ehrlich was looking for new members for the group, he put an ad in the Vancouver Sun setting out the required qualifications, “Gotta sing, gotta dance.” When searching for a name for his “baby,” he was reminded of that ad and the rest is history.
Over the years, hundreds of youngsters from 9-19 have come to the JCCGV every summer from all over British Columbia, the United States, Europe and Israel to participate in one of the two three-week sessions. Each session culminates in a public performance at the Rothstein Theatre with a bespoke Broadway-like production penned by Ehrlich.
“By writing my own show, we get to do not 10 but 30 songs, all choreographed, so everyone of the kids gets to do something. My philosophy is to teach the kids to get along with each other and to work as a team to develop both personally and artistically – the younger ones work with the older ones and we are like a family.”
Ehrlich treats participants like adults and the program is set up like a school, six hours a day, and the kids are expected to behave responsibly and with respect towards their fellow students and the teachers. Ehrlich has high expectations for his charges and pushes the kids to their limits.
“I don’t want them to be second rate,” he said. “Mediocrity is not an option. With only 13 days from start to end of rehearsal and then three days of performance, this is a pretty intense experience.”
The teachers are a world-class staff with the likes of choreographer Lisa Stevens, actor Josh Epstein and musician Wendy Bross-Stuart. Noting that one of the dance teachers choreographed the Olympic opening ceremonies, Ehrlich said, “The kids are exposed to that message of excellence.”
His three keys to success? “To stand up, speak up and know when to shut up.”
In addition to the base program, Ehrlich runs a finishing school for two hours after each day of GSGD for serious students who get instruction in auditioning techniques from local professionals.
Ehrlich takes the crème de la crème from his annual programs and invites them to participate in a year-round group appropriately named – from what this writer observed while sitting in a rehearsal – ShowStoppers. This mix of energetic, talented young teens performs together up to 20 times a year at such events as the BMO Vancouver Marathon, the Santa Claus and Canada Day parades and the opening ceremonies of the Special Olympics. On Aug. 24, 4:30 p.m., there will be a 20th-anniversary performance at the PNE.
Andrew Cohen, who recently emceed Louis Brier Jewish Aged Foundation’s Eight Over Eighty event, is an alumnus, one of the founding members of ShowStoppers and now a faculty member of the program. “I remember looking forward to summer vacation every year knowing that I would be going to GSGD,” he told the JI. “It grounded me and taught me respect and the work ethic you need to succeed in the industry. It gave me an edge over other kids when it came time to audition for parts. Theatre is an incredible outlet for growing kids. It teaches them the necessary social skills, to have confidence and speak out and up for themselves.” As to the success of the program, Cohen said, “I would say that GSGD is synonymous with children’s talent in Vancouver.”
Parent Mark Rozenberg was effusive in his praise of GSGD, in which two of his children participated. “It allows kids with a passion for singing, acting and dancing to learn and to practise their passion. It is the most amazing program with some of the best instructors. When I sent my children off to the JCC every day in the summer, I knew they were in good hands.”
Nathan Sartore, a current ShowStoppers participant, could not contain his enthusiasm for the program. “It is such an important part of my life and means everything to me,” he said. “I can’t imagine my life without it.”
“I watch these kids coming in as shy, quiet youngsters and see them leave as confident performers…. I teach and expect the kids to make a full-out commitment but also to have fun and laugh.”
Ehrlich said that he was bullied as a child and feels that many young people involved in musical theatre have faced some sort of bullying for their artistic passions. “I see my job as providing a safe, happy, nurturing, learning space where all the kids can develop confidence and self-esteem,” he explained. “I watch these kids coming in as shy, quiet youngsters and see them leave as confident performers. They get the opportunity to work as a team and make lifelong friends in an environment where people are loving and caring. I teach and expect the kids to make a full-out commitment but also to have fun and laugh.”
Ehrlich is grateful to the community for its financial support of GSGD through scholarship funds like the Babe Oreck Memorial Fund and the Phyllis and Irving Snider Foundation, so that no child is turned away from the program for financial reasons.
“I am no different than any father who coaches basketball or baseball,” said Ehrlich. “I am doing exactly what they are doing, creating teams, teaching excellence, building confidence and skills. All of us, in our own way, are giving these kids something productive to do, not just hanging around the local 7-Eleven.”
Productivity aside, walk by the Rothstein Theatre on any given summer weekday and you will hear the sounds of joy coming through the doors. You gotta love it.
Tova Kornfeldis a Vancouver freelance writer and lawyer.