The outdoor fair features live entertainment. (photo by Galit Lewinski)
The Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver invites the entire community to its annual JCC Festival Ha’Rikud. The theme this year is “Seasons of Israel,” with a variety of programs to inspire, inform and entertain visitors. The highlight of the month-long celebration, which runs May 9-26, will be the outdoor community fair.
Beginning at noon on Sunday, May 12, the JCC parking lot will be transformed into an Israeli street fair with food trucks offering shwarma, falafel, vegan Middle Eastern choices and other popular treats; a marketplace (shuk); live music performances; family activities; dancing and more. Admission is free and everyone is welcome.
For Israeli dance lovers, there will be two shows in the Rothstein Theatre, at 1 and 3 p.m., featuring Orr Vancouver dancers and visiting performers from Mexico and Miami. For foodies, there will be a presentation at 5 p.m. by Gil Hovav, a leading Israeli culinary journalist, author, TV personality and speaker.
Other festival events include a group art exhibition in the Zack Gallery, which opens May 9; Israeli recreational dance workshops May 10-12, hosted by the Vancouver Israeli Folk Dance Society; an evening of poetry inspired by the artwork in the gallery, on May 16; and an Israeli song sing-along on May 26. Visit israelifestival.com for the complete schedule.
Xianzhi (Paul) Chen, in the Lakers T-shirt, not only led programming at the Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver, but participated in it. (photo from JCC)
Xianzhi (Paul) Chen came to Canada from China in 2011 with his family. He loves outdoor sports, especially basketball, and has always been community-oriented, including providing care for Chinese seniors at a nursing home. But how did he find his way to the Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver?
Paul is pursuing a recreation and leadership diploma at Langara College. Last year, he approached six organizations for an internship, to apply the training and skills of this program to a real-world environment, but was turned away by all the organizations he approached. When he initially interviewed for a position at the JCC with Lisa Cohen Quay, Adult 55+ program coordinator, she also said no. However, the issue was not whether he could do the work required, but rather that the requirements and expectations of the Langara internship were too much for her department to oversee.
Paul is blind in one eye and has limited vision in the other. He requires accommodations. But accommodations were not the issue either. Lisa’s mom lives with extremely low vision. She knew that, with slight adjustments to the work environment and access to a CCTV machine and specialized software like ZoomText, Paul would be able to meet and even exceed expectations. His disability, as so often is the case, was not the barrier.
Fortunately for the JCC, Paul would not take no for an answer. Without an internship, he would have had to delay the completion of his education. So, he wrote Lisa after that first meeting and asked her for a chance to show his skills. Paul – bright, friendly and tenacious – left a powerful impression. Lisa could not stop thinking about his abilities and the challenges he had faced. Determined to provide him with a meaningful and useful internship, she reached out to me, the coordinator of the JCC’s inclusion department, to see if we could create one between our two departments.
We did just that, agreeing to co-supervise Paul’s internship. We decided to provide him with program planning experience and program support experience, while also allowing him to actively participate in some of the JCC’s inclusion programming. Lisa then reached out to the Langara internship coordinator to negotiate a modified internship for Paul. The school agreed to Paul interning between the two departments at a reduced load over a longer, five-month period.
Paul was very nervous at first. He did not know how to set up for events like mah jongg, poker or bridge, how to manage a budget or how to plan programs. But, he took instruction well, was eager to learn and did his best. He demonstrated care in all his interactions with community members and poured his heart into every project in which he participated.
“I oversaw Dumpling Night at the Community Kitchen to share the Chinese New Year with community members,” said Paul by way of an example of how he incorporated his previous experience into his internship at the JCC, and learned more about leading programming.
“I oversaw all aspects of a balcony beautification project, including [doing] the budget by myself,” he added. “I learned how to use my hands to make art during the Art Hive program.”
Paul tried many new activities during his internship and, as a result, made a lot of friends. He learned quickly that friendships are forged through recreation.
Paul said the highlights of his internship were “making three excellent art pieces,” the beautification project and the “terrific relationships with people that I met in this community.”
“Paul has demonstrated a passion for community development through his internship at the JCC, with a focus on diversity and inclusion,” said Erin Wilkins, department chair, recreation studies, at Langara College. “He has also demonstrated how to provide engaging recreation experiences that support diverse community members and build resilience through empowerment.”
She said the department is “so proud of Paul’s accomplishments at the JCC, and thankful for the support he received throughout his internship, which is the final semester of the recreation leadership diploma.”
The JCC is proud to have been part of Paul’s training and professional development. We are happy to have provided him with a meaningful and diverse introduction to recreational programming, to community building and to leadership development. We are equally grateful for what he has given back to our community and us as professionals, and hope that he will continue to participate in our community and lead programming in the future.
Access to opportunity, we are reminded, requires adjustments and flexibility and is always worth the effort.
Leamore Cohenis inclusion services coordinator at the Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver.
When we hear the word addiction, it often conjures up negative images or stereotypes. We might think someone has made poor choices, is down and out, or weak-willed; we might think that it’s a problem confined to the Downtown Eastside. Rarely do we think of the word disease or think of addiction as a mental health issue.
Jewish Addiction Community Services (JACS) is committed to providing opportunities for the community to learn together and, on April 4, JACS and the Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver youth department are presenting a community forum called The Fentanyl Crisis: How It Affects Our Teens. This free event, geared to parents, teens and youth workers, is designed to help build awareness of illicit drugs, specifically fentanyl, and to teach how these drugs affect the teenage brain, and how to talk to teens about drugs.
According to a B.C. Coroners Services report, which was published last month, 86% of fatal illicit drug overdoses in 2018 occurred inside (i.e. not on the street) – 58% in private residences. The majority of these deaths were men between the ages of 19 and 59.
While the problem of addiction in British Columbia is well known, what is less well known or acknowledged is how our Jewish community is affected. In fact, denial that the problem exists is more the reality. Rabbi Shais Taub, a specialist in addiction and spirituality, who visited Metro Vancouver in 2012, said one in 10 people are touched by addiction – whether directly or through a close family member. It makes sense that those statistics are similar in our community.
Compare the reaction of when you hear about a friend who has recently been diagnosed with cancer, or another debilitating disease. While we may not know how to help, when a loved one is affected with a life-altering illness, we are usually motivated to offer assistance, whether it is making meals, visiting or giving money to a cause. In sharp contrast, addiction tends to push us away and we tend to blame the person who has a substance use disorder, instead of wanting to rally around and help them.
Why does a family feel shame and the need to shield others from knowing their loved one is affected by the disease of addiction? Why does the person themselves feel the need to hide? Clearly, the answers are complex. In a recent visit to an emergency department, a patient pleaded with a nurse that “no one in my community must know I am here.” That person was a member of our Jewish community. Not only are people struggling with an illness, but they often can’t reach out for help or don’t know where to turn.
We must and can work to reduce the stigma of addiction so that both families and people with addiction are supported. It begins with awareness of resources and education, with fostering a culture of being less judgmental, of being curious and open, and being willing to talk about how someone may have found themselves suffering from addiction. We also need to remind ourselves of the Jewish values of teshuvah (repentance), tikkun olam (repair of the world), community and chesed (loving kindness). People knowing that there are resources available, when they are ready, is key to recovery.
The April 4 community forum includes panelists Dr. Alana Hirsh, a physician working in the Downtown Eastside; Lee Gangbar, a registered nurse who works both at St. Paul’s Hospital’s emergency department and as an outreach healthcare nurse; and Anne Andrew, a parenting coach and author. To attend the forum, RSVP at eventbrite.ca (Fentanyl Crisis). For more information on the program or JACS, email [email protected].
Shelley Karrel is the manager of counseling and community education with JACS. She has her master’s in clinical counseling, is a registered clinical counselor and also has a private counseling practice. She can be reached at [email protected].
For the past 24 summers, Gotta Sing! Gotta Dance! has attracted hundreds of enthusiastic and talented participants from throughout Canada, the United States and Israel, many of whom have gone on to successful careers in the performing arts. The deadline is April 1 to apply for this summer’s sessions, which take place at the Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver July 2-25 and Aug. 6-29.
The director and creator of Gotta Sing! Gotta Dance! is Perry Ehrlich, who received an Ovation Award and the Canadian Bar Association’s Community Service Award (acknowledging his dedication to working with children and musical theatre). A composer, pianist, teacher, arranger, producer, adjudicator, writer and talent coordinator, Ehrlich also directs ShowStoppers performance troupe (theimpresario.ca).
Gotta Sing! Gotta Dance! is taught by a faculty of professional instructors, each working in his or her respective field, including musical directors Wendy Bross Stuart and Diane Speirs; director Chris McGregor; choreographers Anna Kuman, Jason Franco, Keri Minty and Meghan Anderssen; acting coach Amanda Testini; and Mariana Munoz and Charlie Weaver, set construction and costume co-ordination.
Peter Birnie, former theatre critic for the Vancouver Sun, commented that the faculty members “are all teaching in a carefully choreographed nesting of studies that takes place all over the JCC and culminates in a big, brassy show. I try to attend every year, and always come away just as thrilled as the parents and families with the level of talent on display. It is about the joy that comes from singing your lungs out and dancing your hooves off.”
This year’s final production in each session – called Shamilton – will take place in the Rothstein Theatre and feature an original script and a broad repertoire of music from Broadway and movie musicals.
The Finishing School will again be offered for serious musical theatre students attending Gotta Sing! Gotta Dance! and it will feature approximately 10 sessions from 3:15 to 5:15 p.m., after the regular program, which will run 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Finishing School students will receive instruction in audition technique, presentation of songs and scene work, and will participate in intensive dance workshops and meet with well-known professionals in the theatre community.
The Boot Camp Dance – for those either new to dance or wanting to refine their skills – will also be offered.
The cost to attend Gotta Sing! Gotta Dance! is $750 for JCCGV members and $850 for non-members. Scholarships are available through the Babe Oreck Memorial Fund, the Phyliss and Irving Snider Foundation, and others for those with financial need.
Recent Empowerment series session featured the screening of the film A Song for Marion (Unfinished Song). (photo from JSA)
On Jan. 16, more than 60 older adults gathered in the auditorium of the Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver to watch the heart-tugging film A Song for Marion (Unfinished Song), starring Vanessa Redgrave and Terrance Stamp. This was the second session of the 2018-19 Empowerment series, and it was co-sponsored with JCC Seniors.
Before the film, attendees were welcomed by the smell of fresh popcorn, provided by Lisa Cohen Quay, coordinator of JCC Seniors program. She introduced the film and welcomed the audience. The JSA’s Gyda Chud gave an introduction describing the alliance and the Empowerment series.
The film portrayed the relationship between an elderly couple, husband and wife, with very different personalities. Marion, who is suffering from terminal cancer, is an outgoing and friendly person who is very involved in a community seniors choir. Arthur, on the other hand, is a grouchy character, who is over-protective of his wife and disdainful of the choir. After Marion’s death, Arthur is lost, but he honours her memory by joining the choir that brought her so much joy. His journey of self-discovery helps him build bridges with his estranged son.
This thought-provoking, beautifully acted movie delivered several messages, one of which is to open yourself up to new experiences and not be afraid to be you; to allow yourself to think beyond the scope of what is, and reach for what could be. It was an empowering experience.
After the movie, there was coffee, pastry and shmoozing. The work of Cohen Quay, Liz Azeroual and Raylene Burke made this event successful.
This year’s Empowerment series is on the theme of renewing and reinventing ourselves as older adults. The first session, The Role of Stories, was held Nov. 30, with the Sholem Aleichem Seniors of the Peretz Centre for Secular Jewish Culture. The next event will take place on March 5, 2:30 p.m., at the Weinberg Centre.
Shanie Levinis an executive board member of Jewish Seniors Alliance and on the editorial board of Senior Line magazine.
Comedian Jacob Samuel headlines A Night of Shticks & Giggles Feb. 21 at the Rothstein Theatre. (photo from JCCGV)
In just one week, I will be standing on stage at one of the most exciting events I have ever been a part of. On Feb. 21, some of the funniest stand-up comedians in Vancouver will join me in the Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver’s Rothstein Theatre, using laughter to raise money for JCC youth sports scholarships.
A Night of Shticks & Giggles is co-produced by the JCC and Rise of the Comics. Headlined by 2017 Yuk Off champion Jacob Samuel – It’s good to finally see a successful Jewish comedian, right!? – it will also feature a performance from Larke Miller, who I remember watching on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, as well as several other local comedic stars.
While the show will be one of those guaranteed good times for the audience, for me, it also represents a unique opportunity to combine two of my great passions.
Passion #1: As the delegation head for the JCC Maccabi Games – an athletics and arts program that provides Jewish teens the opportunity to travel and experience an Olympic-style international event – I have the responsibility and honour of raising scholarship funds to enable as many teens as possible the chance to participate in this life-changing event.
Passion #2: As a stand-up comic still in his rookie season, I get to meet, learn from and share the stage with some of the city’s top comics. Not to mention the opportunity to stand and perform my craft in front of an audience of 200+ in the Rothstein. (Gulp!)
As a producer of the show, the fact that I will be performing my own original set kind of makes me like that kid who got to start on the soccer team because my dad happened to be the head coach. Except, in this case, I also run the soccer team, picked my dad to be the coach and, oh boy, he’s putting me in!
While I might not end up being the funniest comic of the night, I can promise A Night of Shticks & Giggles will deliver the funny in spades.
Among his many local appearances, Samuel has performed on the Rothstein stage before, when the Jewish Independent team held their JI Chai Celebration in December 2017. He followed that up with his Yuk Off championship win, and his career has taken off since.
Harris Anderson, Joey Commisso and Randee Neumeyer have all inspired me with their irreverent, clever and sharp takes on life, as well.
Another one of the comics, Ed Konyha, used to run the award-winning open mic Stand-up and Deliver, the show in which I finally found the courage to perform my very first set as a stand-up comic.
Finally, Scotty Aceman, emcee for the night and producer of Rise of the Comics, has worked with me on a few shows now (this being the largest by far!) and is a huge inspiration for anyone thinking of quitting their day jobs and following their passion – no matter how little money it makes them. Aceman had a career in the cellphone business before giving it all up to bring comedy to Vancouver’s masses. Today, Rise of the Comics showcases Vancouver’s incredible comedy scene, producing and selling out regular live shows while featuring these local talents on their YouTube channel. His latest venture, Rise After Dark, offers people the chance to bring stand-up comedy right into their living room or private event.
Shticks & Giggles is a well-supported community event with a powerhouse of partnerships including the Chutzpah! Festival; Axis, the Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver’s young adult initiative; and, of course, the Jewish Independent.
Tickets for A Night of Shticks & Giggles are $20 and can be bought online at ticketpeak.com/jccgv. Doors open at 7:30 p.m. on Feb. 21, with the show set to begin at 8 p.m.
Kyle Bergeris coordinator, sports department, Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver, and co-producer of A Night of Shticks & Giggles.
The birth of a baby is a milestone and the
Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver acknowledges that this
life-changing event requires validation and support for new parents. Judaism
offers profound teachings about becoming a parent and raising a family.
The JCCGV’s new Shalom Baby group is a free
program for parents and infants 0-18 months. The group provides a place to
learn and grow, connect with other parents, share experiences and hear
professional speakers address relevant subjects, such as feeding, sleeping,
play, development, transition to motherhood and more. Becoming a parent can be
overwhelming, and this program provides respite in a warm environment in which
parents are nurtured, so they can nurture their babies, and help build strong
and healthy family units in our community.
All of the meetings feature guest speakers.
Speakers are community professionals, such as nurses, researchers, doulas,
psychologists and speech and language specialists. And the group is always
looking for accredited experts to contribute.
Shalom Baby meets twice a month on Mondays at
11:30 a.m. at the community centre in Room 102. The group is led and organized
by a Shirly Berelowitz, JCCGV director of children, youth and camps, who
welcomes the participants, books the speakers and sends weekly emails on
The goals of the program are to strengthen
emotional bonds between parents and children; inspire a shared learning
experience to support growth and development during the early childhood years;
provide support services and activities for families to raise healthy and happy
children; and connect unaffiliated Jewish families with young children to the
Jewish community through different programs.
The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA)
has appointed new members to its board of directors, including board co-chairs
Joel Reitman and Jeffrey Rosenthal, succeeding David J. Cape.
Nominations to the CIJA board are guided by an
independent nominating process, which examines the background, skills,
experience and other relevant qualifications of prospective directors. A list
of candidates is produced through consultations with federations and other
stakeholders across the country. The independent nominations committee –
comprised of federation representatives and ad personam members – consider all
of the candidates and recommend a slate of directors to the CIJA membership
(the “shareholders” of the organization). Special attention is given to
achieving balance with respect to regional, gender and demographic attributes,
as well as the qualities that candidates can leverage to advance the mission of
Reitman is the founder and president of Jillcy
Capital ULC, a global investment firm, and is an active volunteer in the Jewish
community and beyond, serving various organizations over the years in different
capacities. Rosenthal is a managing partner of Imperial Capital Group, which he
co-founded in 1989, and has a long history of volunteering and experience on
boards of other organizations.
Isabella: What do you do that makes you very happy?
Connor: I like to play with my mommy.
Isabella: Well, if you find something that makes you happy, that’s what you should do.
(photo by Jocelyne Hallé)
As part of the Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver’s celebration of its 90th birthday, the centre brought together its members who are age 90 and better with children from the Karen and Gary Simkin Family Child Development Centre Preschool.
Preschool director Jennifer Trickett and her staff helped the children create and practise questions that they were curious about to ask the seniors. Questions covered such topics as “What games did you like to play when you were a kid?” and “Do you get hugs from your children?” The children also sang songs.
In addition to being interviewed by the children, the JCC members enjoyed a complementary brunch, and free portraits courtesy of Jocelyne Hallé of Jocelyne Hallé Photography.
The JCC has 25 members who are age 90 and over, most of whom are at the centre multiple times a week to exercise, socialize, learn and play. For more information about special membership pricing for adults age 65-plus, contact membership director Alexis Doctor at 604-257-5111.
Gloria: Where do you live?
Joyce: I live in a condominium.
Gloria: Well, I live in Vancouver.
Joyce: Me, too.
Shiloh: Do you come here in the car?
Joyce: I came in a car today. My daughter drove me.
Shiloh: My mommy drove me!
Asher: Do you live in space?
Joyce: Sometimes I think I do! But, mostly in Vancouver.
(photo by Jocelyne Hallé)
Sam: Do you ever hug your grandchildren?
Danny: Yes, very big ones, they’re even kissing me, too.
(photo by Jocelyne Hallé)
Milo: What did you like to play when you were little?
Selling bagel sandwiches at a Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver Chanukah event, circa 1990. (photo from JWB fonds, JMABC L.18422)
If you know someone in this photo, please help the JI fill the gaps of its predecessor’s (the Jewish Western Bulletin’s) collection at the Jewish Museum and Archives of B.C. by contacting [email protected] or 604-257-5199. To find out who has been identified in the photos, visit jewishmuseum.ca/blog.
On Sept. 5, Vancouver City Council will hold a public hearing to help determine the next steps of the planned redevelopment of the Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver (JCC).
Serving more than 40,000 community members each year, the JCC has been bursting at the seams for years and needs a significant upgrade. “Our community centre, which is Jewish at heart and, therefore, open to and used by everyone, is aging,” said JCC executive director Eldad Goldfarb. “We’re a not-for-profit that’s been serving the Oakridge area and beyond for 60 years and we are determined to continue this tradition.”
The new facility, planned to be built over two phases, will feature expanded aquatic, gymnasium, fitness and studio space, new cultural arts facilities, a theatre, the Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre, office space for more than 15 other nonprofit community organizations, expanded licensed early childhood education facilities and significantly enhanced outdoor spaces.
“We just don’t have enough room for all of our activities, so I would love to see the JCC expand and continue to be inclusive for everyone,” said JCC Seniors committee member Cori Friedman.
The City of Vancouver anticipates the population of the Cambie Corridor will double by 2041.
“With all the growth and changes occurring to the community around our centre, it is important for the JCC to grow and change as well – to be prepared for the future and all that it is bringing to our surroundings,” said JCC board president Salomon Casseres.
When the project is complete, the JCC site will also include 299 family-oriented rental homes. “We are going to put the land into a community land trust, so we can create long-term affordable housing and community amenities,” Goldfarb explained.
The proposal has undergone an extensive rezoning process, including a number of different designs, three community open houses and outreach to partner organizations within the Jewish community. For more information on the project, contact Susan Tonn ([email protected]). For details on how to share your thoughts directly with city council, visit rezoning.vancouver.ca/applications/950w41stave/feedback.htm.