Left to right, Yael Rubanenko Horwitz, Wendi Klein, Debbie Jeroff and Lisa Pullan at Choices on Oct. 30. (photo from Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver)
For the 12th year in a row, hundreds of women of all ages gathered to celebrate the choice they made to strengthen our community through tzedakah at this year’s Choices event. Co-chairs Debbie Jeroff, Wendi Klein and Yael Rubanenko Horwitz and their committee worked for months to make the event a success, and brought the room to life with their chic black-and-white theme.
“Each of us [came] with our own story, history, talents and tragedies,” said Lisa Pullan, chair of women’s philanthropy for the Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver annual campaign, as she addressed the packed ballroom at Congregation Beth Israel on Oct. 30. “But what unites us is the choice that we have made to stand together in support of our Jewish community.”
With more than 400 women in the room, including 36 first-time attendees, Pullan declared that “there is definitely strength in numbers.” Case in point is the more than $2,064,000 that was raised through women’s philanthropy last year, accounting for 25% of the 2015 Federation annual campaign’s record $8.3 million total. “Together,” Pullan remarked, “we are making a lasting impact on the community that we love.”
A highlight of the event every year is the inspirational speaker, and this year’s keynote speaker, Talia Levanon, was no exception. As director of the Israel Trauma Coalition (ITC), she and her team provide trauma care and emergency preparedness and response to affected communities in Israel and around the world. ITC is a global leader in providing aid and support to local professionals working in the field in crisis zones.
“Seeing how the ITC social workers in crisis zones have to work through their own traumas to help others was particularly powerful,“ said Pullan. “Talia showed a video in which one of the ITC workers was talking to a client on the phone and had to talk her through a rocket firing, while simultaneously getting out of her own car, lying on the ground and dealing with it herself. It helped us understand in a visceral way the trauma that Israelis experience.”
Community member Stephanie Mrakovich also spoke at the event, sharing the moving story of how her family discovered their Jewish roots and how she came to find her place as a leader in our community. She shared her personal and touching account of her dying grandmother’s revelation of the family’s Jewish heritage. Her remarks can be found at jewishvancouver.com/stephanie-mrackovich-choices-speech.
Choices is the signature campaign event for women’s philanthropy. While the speakers and the theme change each year, what stays the same is the focus on the great work in the community that is made possible by women’s commitment to the mitzvah of tzedakah. To donate or for more information on the annual campaign and the services and organizations it helps fund, visit jewishvancouver.com.
– From e-Yachad, published by Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver