With regard to the substantive issues that have
been raised about our projects in Israel we wish to reiterate our position.
• JNF has in the past carried out projects
mainly of a charitable nature, such as parks, playgrounds and recreational
facilities on land owned by the Israel Defence Forces. Our charitable funds
never flowed to the IDF. The charitable funds were directed toward the hiring
of indigent labourers to construct these projects. These expenditures represent
under one percent of our expenditures over the past decade.
In your coverage, you suggest that we took
action based upon an alert from the CRA. This, in fact, is not the case.
Rather, it was our legal counsel who advised us several years ago that the
indirect association with the IDF may be misconstrued or criticized by the CRA,
so we ended our participation at that time. We have not for several years
carried out projects located on IDF land, and we continue to operate in
accordance with CRA regulations governing our status as a charitable
organization. We stopped these projects on the advice of counsel well before
this issue was brought to the public’s attention by a group trying to
• With regard to projects located in disputed
territory, JNF is committed to continuing to work with CRA to ensure we are in
• Finally, in terms of governance and
reporting, JNF operates in compliance with the Canada Income Tax Act. We have
Israeli staff on site to direct our projects in Israel and regularly report on
Thank you for highlighting our work and for
acknowledging that “Israel is Israel, is large part, thanks to JNF.” We take
pride in having supported the building of water reservoirs, collaborated with
dozens of educational institutions, built numerous recreational/educational
facilities, planted millions of trees and supported pioneering research in
green technology. Key projects for this year include supporting a trauma centre
in Sderot, a project to feed Israel’s hungry, the rehabilitation of the Be’eri
and Kissufim forests, and more.
JNF’s management and lay leadership are
committed to improving our operations. For the past number of years, we have
been making changes to strengthen our governance and controls. What will not
change, however, is our commitment to helping build the foundations of Israel’s
future. We will always stand shoulder to shoulder with the people of Israel to
benefit the social service and environmental fabric of the state of Israel.
Lance Davis is chief
executive officer of Jewish National Fund Canada.
Ayalon Canada Park in the Ayalon
Valley is one of the projects JNF supports. (photo by Guy Asiag, KKL-JNF
A member of Parliament has agreed to sponsor an
e-petition that calls on the government to revoke the charitable status of the
Jewish National Fund of Canada (JNF).
This is the first time an MP has lent support
to an effort to rescind JNF’s tax-exempt charitable status in Canada and marks
the latest development in a long-running battle by those opposed to the JNF’s
Quebec NDP MP and national revenue critic
Pierre-Luc Dusseault has agreed to sponsor petition E-1999, which, as of this
writing [Jan. 21], had garnered more than 1,400 signatures. It went online on
Jan. 9 and will close for signatures on May 9.
E-petitions are an official system whereby
petitions that are sponsored by an MP and receive 500 signatures will be tabled
in the House of Commons. The government must then respond within 45 days.
It was submitted by Independent Jewish Voices
of Canada (IJV), which is considered an outlier within the Jewish community,
due to its support for the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against
On its website, IJV calls itself “a grassroots
organization grounded in Jewish tradition that opposes all forms of racism and
advocates for justice and peace for all in Israel-Palestine.”
The JNF was recently the subject of a scathing
story by the CBC, which reported that the charity was under a Canada Revenue
Agency audit for using charitable donations to build infrastructure for the
Israel Defence Forces, “in violation of Canada’s tax rules.”
The JNF responded by saying that it stopped
funding projects on Israeli military bases in 2016 and that the projects only
“indirectly” involved the IDF, because they were for children and youth on land
owned by the IDF.
In a subsequent interview with the CJN,
JNF Canada’s chief executive officer, Lance Davis, said the charity is working
with the CRA on its review and issued staunch defences of JNF’s financial
transparency and donor accountability.
The e-petition, which is addressed to the
minister of national revenue, says JNF Canada “engages in discriminatory practices,
as its landholdings are chartered for exclusively Jewish ownership, lease and
benefit, as noted by the United Nations, the U.S. State Department, a former
attorney general of Israel and the JNF itself.”
It says evidence “strongly indicates” that JNF
Canada violates the Income Tax Act, common law and Canada Revenue Agency policy
over its IDF-related projects.
As well, it claims the charity violates
Canadian and international law “by enabling physical changes within occupied
territory, thereby helping Israel effectively annex land within occupied
territory, and, in the case of east Jerusalem, deepen control over land already
“Notably,” it adds, “the JNF Canada-funded
Canada Park was built on the lands of three Palestinian villages destroyed
following the 1967 war in direct violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention.”
It also accuses JNF Canada materials of
depicting “occupied territory as part of Israel, a representation that runs
contrary to Canadian foreign policy and international law.”
It calls on the minister of national revenue to
revoke JNF’s charitable status, if the charity is found to violate the Income
Tax Act, or CRA guidelines and policies.
It was initiated by Rabbi David Mivasair, a
longtime IJV activist now based in Hamilton, Ont. He called the e-petition
“part of an ongoing process” to hold public officials accountable.
“It’s incontrovertibly factual that JNF Canada
is in violation of Canada’s tax laws,” Mivasair claimed. “It has been for
decades. It’s been reported for decades.”
This latest campaign “is not something that I
take any pleasure in doing, but feel is morally necessary to be done,” he
According to guidelines for MPs, no debate is
permitted when a member presents a petition. An MP “may make a brief factual
statement (referring to the petition being duly certified, to its source, to
the subject matter of the petition and its request, and to the number of
signatures it carries), but members are not allowed to read petitions nor are
they to indicate their agreement or disagreement with them.”
In 2017, IJV submitted an 85-page complaint
about JNF Canada to the CRA and the national revenue minister. That followed
many other campaigns designed to pressure federal officials.
This is the first time IJV has submitted a parliamentary petition and it’s “just one way of drawing public attention to this,” said the group’s national coordinator, Corey Balsam. “We’re assuming [officials] will look into it and not much more than that. [But] it’s definitely a big step for our campaign.”
He said Dusseault is “not someone who’s very
engaged [in the issue], but he heard the concerns and saw the evidence.”
Dusseault did not reply to the CJN’s
requests for comment.
In a statement posted to its website, JNF
called the e-petition “as empty and scurrilous as earlier efforts to
delegitimize the outstanding work of the JNF and, by extension, the existence
of the state of Israel.”
JNF said its outreach suggests “that those who
are applying any degree of critical thinking see the petition for what it is
and are dismissing it as not worthy of engagement.”
חברת ואוו אייר האיסלנדית תפעיל לראשונה במהלך
הקיץ הקרוב טיסות ישירות בין ריקאוויק לוונקובר. חברת הלואו-קוסט תפעיל שש טיסות
עונתיות בשבוע בקו ריקאוויק-ונקובר – בין החודשים יוני עד אוקטובר. ישראלים
שמעוניינים להגיע לוונקובר יכולים לטוס בוואו אייר מתל אביב לריקאוויק ומשם להחליף
מטוס שיטוס עד ונקובר. הטיסות של ואוו אייר מתל אביב יפעלו גם כן בחודשים יוני עד
אוקטובר, ארבע פעמים בשבוע (ראשון, רביעי, חמישי ושישי).
ואוו אייר מפעילה כבר טיסות בקו
ריקאוויק-טורונטו ובקו ריקאוויק-מונטריאול. ישראלים יכולים להגיע עם ואוו אייר
לצפון אמריקה (עם עצירה בבירת איסלנד) בין היתר לערים הבאות: ונקובר, טורונטו,
מונטריאול, ניו ג’רסי, וושינגטון די.סי, בוסטון, דטרויט, שיקגו, סן פרנסיסקו, לוס
אנג’לס, דאלס, פיטסבורג, סנט לואיס, סינסינטי, קליבלנד ובולטימור. הם ישלמו לפי
הערכה כאלף ומאתיים דולר. בין יעדי החברה באירופה: ברלין, קופנהגן, ורשה, בריסל,
פריס, אדינבורו, לונדון, דיסלדורף, קורק, טנריף ודבלין.
ואוו אייר פועלת מזה כשמונה שנים והיא מגיעה
לשלושים ושישה יעדים בצפון אמריקה, אירופה ואסיה. החברה הטיסה בתחילת דרכה כארבע
מאות אלף נוסעים בשנה. ואילו כיום היא מטיסה קרוב לארבעה מיליון נוסעים בשנה. בחברה
מועסקים כיום למעלה מאלף עובדים והיא מפעילה ארבעה עשר מטוסים.
קרן הקיימת בקנדה מגיבה לפרשת העברת התרומות
לפרוייקטים צבאיים בישראל
מנכ”ל קרן קיימת קנדה לאנס דיוויס החליט
להגיב על החלטת הארגון להפסיק להעביר תרומות לפרוייקטים צבאיים בישראל, לאור חקירה
של רשות המיסוי הקנדית (סי.אר.איי).
רשות המיסוי הקנדית בודקת מזה מספר שנים את
פעילותה של קרן קיימת קנדה, לאור מידע שהתקבל לידיה כי הארגון עבר על כללי החוק
הקנדי למתן תרומות מצד קרנות צדקה. קרן קיימת קנדה כך התברר תרמה כספים לפרוייקטים
הקשורים לצה”ל בניגוד לכללי המס בקנדה. במקרה כזה קרן קיימת קנדה לא זכאית
לפטור במס. כן גם התורמים שלה עצמם לא זכאים לפטורים במס.
דיוויס אמר לאתר החדשות בנושאי היהודים בקנדה
(סי.ג’י.אן) את הדברים הבאים: “קרן קיימת קנדה תמשיך לעבוד במשותף עם רשות
המיסוי הקנדית לבדיקת כל הפעילויות שלנו. לכן בשלב זה אנו מוגבלים במה שאנחנו
יכולים להגיד בנושא. השליחות של קרן קיימת קנדה היא להטיב את איכות החיים בישראל.
בעבר היינו מעורבים בפעילויות צדקה הקשורות בעקיפין בצה”ל. רבים מהפרוייקטים
היו לטובת בין היתר איכות חיים של ילדים ובני נוער, כמו תרומות למגרשי משחקים
ופארקים. כל הפרוייקטים האלה נמצאים על שטחים השייכים לצה”ל והכסף לא הועבר
לצבא. בסך הכל היקף התרומות הקשורות בפרוייקטים צבאיים נמוך והגיע לכאחוז מסך כל
התרומות שלנו במשך כעשור. אז האמנו שקרן קיימת קנדה עומדת בדרישות החוק הקנדי,
משום שמדובר בתרומות לצדקה שנועדו לעזור בעיקר לילדים. אנו לא ידענו שהפרוייקטים
שלנו יהיו מטרה לחקירה של רשות המיסוי הקנדית, כיוון שהם נמצאים על אדמה בבעלות
צה”ל. מייד שקיבלנו מידע על כך לפני מספר שנים הפסקנו את התמיכה בפרוייקטים
אלה. כאמור מזה מספר שנים אנו לא תורמים יותר כספים לפרוייקטים על אדמת
לפי פרסומי קרן קיימת קנדה הארגון תמך
בפרוייקטים רבים הקשורים בצה”ל. בהם: פיתוח כיתות לימוד, אולמות אירועים, חדרי
הקרנות, מועדוני חיילים, הקמת מגרשי משחקים עבור ילדים (שמתגוררים עם בני
משפחותיהם בבסיס), שידרוג מרכזי מבקרים, שיפוץ כיכרות מרכזיות, הקמת מתקני נוחות
לחיילים, בניית נקודות מפגש לאפשר לחיילים לראות את בני משפחתם וכן תמיכה פרוייקט הגדנ”ע.
In a perfect world, no country would need a
military. Countries and people would live in peace; the kingdom of heaven, as
promised by almost every religion, at last realized.
As ideal as that wish might be for the first
editorial of a new secular year, it remains true that countries need
militaries. Places like Canada, which have not been forced to wage war on home
turf in 205 years, nevertheless maintain a military, with our soldiers serving
various roles around the globe.
In Israel, on the other hand, the military is
the one thing standing between the country’s citizens and oblivion. Like the
militaries of every country, the Israel Defence Forces protects the country’s
borders and citizens from external and internal threats. More controversially,
as a result of Israel’s complicated history, the IDF also controls parts of the
West Bank under a military rule that is the cause of much international
Some of this criticism comes from Canada,
including from a Palestinian-Canadian, Ismail Zayid, who has been complaining
for years to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) over his assertions that the
Jewish National Fund of Canada has been in contravention of Canadian tax law
for providing material support to the IDF.
Well, it’s more than assertions, actually. In
stories splashed across Canadian media last weekend, there is plenty of
evidence that JNF Canada was, until 2016, openly fundraising for projects that
support infrastructure projects on Israeli army, air and naval bases. These
include a “new planned IDF Training Base City in the Negev,” “helping the
development of the Bat Galim training base complex area” and new mess hall-type
facilities at two air bases. Funds raised at Edmonton’s Negev Dinner in 2014
were explicitly and openly allocated to developing parts of the largest
military training facility in Israel.
In October 2017, according to the CBC, Zayid
filed another complaint to CRA “in concert with an Ottawa professor, a
Vancouver rabbi and a retired nurse.” The complaint is that JNF was ignoring
rules that forbid Canadian charities from issuing tax receipts for
contributions that go toward foreign militaries. CRA would not confirm details
of the investigation to the CBC and JNF said only that they are engaged in
confidential negotiations with CRA.
There is nothing stopping any Canadian from
sending a cheque to Israel’s Ministry of Defence, news reports noted, but rules
forbid doing so via a charity that provides tax receipts for it. This is
admirable policy. Even if some Canadians would be perfectly happy seeing our
tax policy support the IDF, would we be as pleased to see tax receipts issued
for funds directed to the militaries of other countries with whom we don’t have
as good a relationship?
Whatever one thinks about the morality of the
IDF or its presence in the West Bank, the JNF appears to have made a naive or
foolish mistake – not once but apparently about a dozen times. The head of JNF
Canada said they stopped funding IDF projects after CRA alerted them to the
issue in 2016. But how could an organization of this calibre have done so for
so long, especially when it knew there were a series of complaints being lodged
regularly around this very topic?
Since 1948, countless Jewish Canadians have
supported Israel, including its military, in myriad ways. For four generations,
young Jewish Canadians have enlisted, even in times of war, to serve in the
IDF. Canadians of all ages have volunteered in the various roles the IDF offers
to overseas friends of Israel. Most Jewish Canadians recognize the
life-and-death necessity of a strong Israel, supported by a strong IDF.
The Jewish National Fund is the reason Israel
is the only country on the planet that ended the 20th century with more trees
than when the century started. Beyond reforestation, the number of
extraordinary initiatives JNF carries out all over Israel makes it an integral
part of the Zionist project. Israel is Israel, in large part, thanks to JNF.
Because of JNF’s critical importance, Canadian
supporters must be confident that our support is going to an organization that
is transparent and scrupulously adhering to relevant regulations. To ensure
that the irreplaceable work the JNF does in Israel does not waver, JNF Canada
must ensure that Canadians trust the decisions and leadership of the national
קרן הקיימת בקנדה הפסיקה להעביר תרומות
לפרוייקטים צבאיים בישראל לאור חקירה מתמשכת של רשות המיסוי הקנדית (סי.אר.איי). זאת
עלי פי תחקיר של רשת השידור הטלוויזיה של קנדה (הסי.בי.סי).
רשות המיסוי הקנדית בודקת מזה מספר שנים את פעילותה
של קרן קיימת קנדה, לאור מידע שהתקבל לידיה כי הארגון עבר על כללי המס הקנדי למתן
תרומות מצד קרנות צדקה. קרן קיימת קנדה כך התברר תרמה כספים לפרוייקטים הקשורים
לצה”ל בניגוד לכללי המס בקנדה. במקרה כזה קרן קיימת קנדה לא זכאית לפטור במס,
וכן גם התורמים שלה עצמם לא זכאים לפטורים במס.
יש לציין כי קרן קייימת קנדה לא העבירה תרומות
לרכישת ציוד צבאי לצה”ל, אלה תמכה בעיקר פרוייקטים ותשתיות צבאיות, לשיפור הביטחון
וחיי הקהילה של החיילים במדים ובני משפחותיהם, אך לפי חוקי המיסוי בקנדה גם זה
אסור. מנכ”ל קרן קיימת קנדה לאנס דיוויס לא ענה על בקשתי באמצעות אימייל, לקבל
את תגובתו בנושא המדובר.
דיוויס כן הודיע לכתב חדשות של רשת השידור
הקנדית כי קרן קיימת קנדה הודיעה לתורמיה, כי היא הפסיקה לתמוך בפרוייקטים צבאיים
בישראל כבר לפני כשנתיים. זאת, לאחר שהתברר לארגון כי הוא נמצא תחת ביקורת של רשות
לפי מסמכים ופרסומים רבים של קרן קיימת קנדה,
הארגון תמך לאורך השנים בפרוייקטים רבים הקשורים בצה”ל וחייליו. ובהם: פיתוח
של בסיס הדרכה בנגב. פיתוח של כיתות לימוד, אולם אירועים וחדר הקרנות בסיס של חיל
הים בבת גלים. שיפוץ והרחבת אולם אירועים ומועדון לחיילים בבסיסי חיל האוויר
בפלמחים ונבטים. הקמת מגרש משחקים עבור ילדים (שמתגוררים עם בני משפחותיהם) בבסיס
חצרים של חיל האוויר. שידרוג מרכז מבקרים, שיפוץ הכיכר המרכזית והמרכז ארצי
לאימונים בבסיס צאלים. הקמת מתקני נוחות לחיילים בשדה תל נוף של חיל האוויר. עזרה
בהקמת כביש ביטחוני בקדש ברנע (ליד הגבול המצרי) לשיפור הנגישות לכוחות הביטחון של
ישראל. עבודות לשיפור כבישים ביטחוניים של כוחות הביטחון באזורי הגבול בנגב
המערבי. בניית נקודות מפגש ירוקות בבסיסים צבאיים לאפשר לחיילים לראות את בני
משפחתם בנוחות. וכן עזרה ותמיכה בצעירים בבתי הספר התיכוניים במסגרת הכשרתם הקדם
צבאית (פרוייקט גדנ”ע).
עוד מתברר שקרן קיימת קנדה תמכה אף בפרוייקטים
ששנמצאים מעבר לקו הירוק. ממשלת קנדה מתנגדת לבנייה ישראלית של התנחלויות כשטחים הכבושים
לדבריה, שהן הפרה של אמנת ג’נבה הרביעית. עוד קובעת ממשלת קנדה כי:
“ההתנחלויות הישראליות בשטחים הן המכשלון חמור להשגת שלום כולל, צודק ובר
קיימא”. בית המשפט בקנדה קבע כי ארגוני צדקה קנדיים לא יכולים לפעול בניגוד
בין פרוייקטים בשטחים שמעבר לקו הירוק שקרן
קיימת קנדה תמכה בהם: פיתוח החפירות הארכיאולוגיות של האולם המרכזי במנהרות הכותל
בירושלים, העברה של תרומות לפני כארבע שנים לרכישת כלים להכנת הקרקע לבניית מאחז בגבעת
עוז, שהוגדר אפילו על ידי ממשלת ישראל כבלתי חוקי. ופיתוח הפרוייקט הגדול ביותר של
הארגון הקנדי בישראל – פארק קנדה ליד לטרון. רופא קנדי (בפנסיה) שנולד באחד הכפרים
הפלסטינים עליו נבנה פארק קנדה, התלוננן פני רשות המיסים הקנדית על תרומות של קרן
קיימת קנדה לפרוייקט.
יצויין כי במאי לפני כשנתיים ביקרה בישראל משלחת
של קרן קיימת קנדה, ברשות דיוויס. חברי המשלחת ביקרו בין היתר בבסיס צה”ל
בצהלים ובבסיס משמר הגבול במכמש, שאליהם הועברו תרומות מהארגון.
Honourary degree recipient Robert Waisman, centre, is congratulated by University of Victoria chancellor Shelagh Rogers as UVic president Jamie Cassels, right, applauds. (photo from UVic Photo Services)
The Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre extends a mazal tov to board director and longtime volunteer Robert (Robbie) Waisman, who received the degree of honourary doctor of laws from the University of Victoria on June 13.
Waisman was one of the “Boys of Buchenwald” before he was liberated from the concentration camp, eventually emigrating to a new life in Canada, where he built a successful career and now dedicates himself to Holocaust education. He is a community leader, a philanthropist, a founder and past president of the VHEC, and an extremely effective educator who promotes social justice and human rights for all by sharing his experience as a child survivor.
Audiences impacted by Waisman’s VHEC outreach activities include thousands of British Columbian students each year, as well as students and community groups throughout Canada and the United States. He has served as a mentor to survivors of the Rwandan genocide who were wanting to share their eyewitness accounts. Also notable, Waisman was inducted by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission as an Honourary Witness in 2011, and has spoken alongside First Nations leaders and survivors of residential schools about reconciliation and healing.
Dedicated teacher, outstanding volunteer, loving daughter, sister and wife, Jewish National Fund of Canada Bernard M. Bloomfield Medal for meritorious service recipient Ilene-Jo Bellas can be called a “Woman for All Seasons.”
A retired high school teacher, Bellas taught English and theatre arts for 32 years in the Delta School District. She directed more than 100 popular plays and musicals at Delta Secondary School in Ladner. Many of her students have graduated to become successful actors, writers, directors and educators, and they keep in touch with their first teacher/director. She was president of the Association of B.C. Drama Educators, and was instrumental in procuring funding for and in the designing of Genesis Theatre, a fully professional theatre in Ladner.
Bellas was born and raised in Vancouver. She attended Sir Winston Churchill High School and Schara Tzedeck Synagogue Religious School. She developed her strong community commitment through youth activities in Young Judaea, Camp Hatikvah, Camp Biluim and working as a camp counselor. In university, she was involved in the Student Zionist Organization and held leadership roles in Hillel. She became a charter member and eventually president of Atid chapter of Hadassah-WIZO Vancouver; she also served as the Vancouver council vice-president.
Since her retirement in 2003, Bellas has used her many talents and skills to serve her community: three years as secretary of the Jewish Seniors Alliance, four years on the board of the Louis Brier Home and Hospital and president of the ladies’ executive of the Richmond Country Club. She also directed musical shows at Vancouver Talmud Torah, produced souvenir books, chaired and worked on dinner committees for Congregation Schara Tzedeck, Vancouver Talmud Torah, Israel Bonds and the JNF. In 2013, Bellas and her husband Joel, z’l, were awarded the Betzalel Award at Schara Tzedeck Synagogue. Most recently, she chaired a very successful fundraising gala for RAPS (Regional Animal Protection Society).
Bellas served as president of JNF Pacific Region from 2012 to 2015. She remains active to this day, continuing as a board member, chairing and co-chairing Negev Dinner committees and producing the souvenir books. Bellas is on the national board of JNF and states that she is very proud to be part of such a proactive organization for the benefit of the state of Israel.
Bellas attributes much of the success of her stellar volunteer career to the loving support and encouragement she received from her beloved husband Joel, z’l.
Hebrew University of Jerusalem is known for innovation. With nine Nobel Prize and Fields Medal winners among its alumni and being ranked 12th in the world for biotechnology patent filings, there is an abundance of creativity and ingenuity emanating from the university. It should come as no surprise then that the Canadian Friends of Hebrew University (CFHU) co-convened a fundraising event honouring cardiologist Dr. Saul Isserow on June 28. Hosted by CFHU and VGH & UBC Hospital Foundation in the Landmark Aviation Hangar at YVR, the casual-chic event – which sold out just weeks after it was announced – hosted a capacity crowd of 500-plus people.
The huge walls of the hangar were draped and a lighting and sound system had been installed along with a cabana that was a full-service bar. There were five food stations, including one serving South African specialties. One wall of the hangar was open to the runway and a private jet was on display to top off the evening’s decor.
Among other things, Isserow is director of the Vancouver General Hospital Centre for Cardiovascular Health, director of cardiology services at University of British Columbia Hospital and medical director of Sports Cardiology B.C.
“It’s not in my nature to be fêted in this way,” said Isserow in his address, stressing that the evening was intended to be a fun night to celebrate the achievements of the cardiac team with whom he works, as well as his heartfelt support and love for the state of Israel.
There were more than three million reasons for celebration by the end of the night – to be exact, $3,046,350 was raised to support two initiatives. The money will be divided between CFHU’s Inspired by Einstein student scholarship program and, locally, Isserow’s Sports Cardiology B.C. program at UBC Hospital. Barbara Grantham, chief executive officer of the VGH & UBC Hospital Foundation expressed her gratitude to Isserow for agreeing to be honoured at this event. She said Isserow is a humble man who works tirelessly for his patients and credits his team for his successes.
A short video tribute to Isserow and his journey from South Africa to Canada revealed that he and his wife, Lindsay, began their lives in Canada in Nipawin, Sask. His journey from rural Saskatchewan to the upper echelon of Vancouver’s cardiology community is a testament to his talent and perseverance.
In addition to Grantham and Isserow, CFHU national board chair Monette Malewski gave brief remarks, which were followed by a performance by the Emily Chambers band while dinner was served. The crowd was treated to a short African drumming performance prior to a brief address by Ambassador Ido Aharoni, who spoke about the strong connection between the principles of Hebrew University founding member Albert Einstein and Hebrew U’s function as a launch pad for creative innovation in all areas. After Isserow addressed the group, the evening was rounded off with a DJ and dancing.
For the past few years, Richmond Jewish Day School’s Student Council committee has been collecting donations to support different charities throughout the Lower Mainland. As part of their ongoing fundraising, the school was able to donate $1,150 to the Variety Club Sunshine Coach program and the school’s name was recently inscribed on the side of a 15-passenger Sunshine Coach, which will be used by Richmond Society for Community Living. The vehicle will transport youth with diverse abilities to various programs throughout the city.
Last month, several Canadians – or former Canadians – attended the 50th anniversary of Hadassim Children and Youth Village in Israel. Reunion organizer Rabbi Shawn Zell and the other attendees were among the first young Diaspora Jews to spend a year in Israel on a sponsored program – in their case, one organized by Canadian Hadassah-WIZO.
Left to right: Ilan Pilo, Michelle Pollock, Dr. Neil Pollock, Wendy Eidinger Spatzner and David Goldman. (photo by Robert Albanese)
Vancouver supporters of the Jewish National Fund (JNF) gathered in their finery at the Four Seasons Hotel Vancouver on June 3 to celebrate Israel’s 70th birthday and pay tribute to philanthropists Neil and Michelle Pollock.
Michelle Pollock is a former lawyer, the immediate past president of the board of the Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver, and has co-chaired the Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver annual campaign’s women’s division for six years, as well as supporting Jewish education, among many other causes. Dr. Neil Pollock is chief surgeon and medical director of Pollock Clinics. He has undertaken teaching missions to Rwanda, Congo and Haiti, as well as being involved in philanthropy at home and abroad.
JNF Pacific Region president David Goldman welcomed the crowd – who had to pass a few dozen protesters on their way into the hotel – and introduced the evening’s emcee, Michael Nemirow, a friend of the Pollocks, who is also involved in various community organizations and activities. “I’ve done the math, and we have around 11 hours of speeches and entertainment for you this evening, but we’ll try to compress it into three,” Nemirow said, eliciting laughter from the crowd.
After Maurice Moses led the audience in O Canada and Hatikvah, B.C. Lt.-Gov. Janet Austin took the stage. She praised JNF for its work in the “restoration and preservation of the Jewish homeland,” which covers everything from ecological to social to security initiatives. Austin also commented about the Pollocks, highlighting Neil Pollock’s work in Rwanda to prevent the spread of HIV.
Galit Baram, consul general of Israel for Toronto and Western Canada, focused her remarks on the 70th anniversary of Israel, “the only democracy in our region, a bastion of democracy.” She described its strengths in the areas of human rights, medicine, multiculturalism and technological innovation. She said Israel is led by people “both on the right and on the left who love their country with all their hearts” in the face of multiple existential threats. “We rely on our friends who share common values, and Canada, our ally, is among them,” she said.
“The success of Israel did not happen in a vacuum,” said Baram, citing JNF as a key organization in supporting the state, one in whose name every Israeli has a tree planted. She also spoke of JNF’s contributions in a multitude of activities, including supporting soldiers with post-traumatic stress disorder and her “personal favourite,” the building of a protected playground in Sderot in an area that has suffered shelling from Hamas and other militant groups. Baram thanked Canadians for the warm welcome and open arms with which Israeli diplomats are welcomed in the country.
After Hamotzi, chanted by the Kollel’s Rabbi Avraham Feigelstock, Ilene-Jo Bellas, former president of the JNF Pacific Region (2012-2015), was presented with the JNF Bloomfield Award by local shaliach Ilan Pilo. He described Bellas as an indefatigable servant for Israel who “bled blue and white,” a portrayal she affirmed as fact after taking the podium.
The video on the work of the JNF was introduced by JNF Canada president Wendy Eidinger Spatzner, who explained that the First Zionist Congress established a fund to purchase land in Israel and that this fund became JNF. She talked about JNF’s extensive work to “build the infrastructure of Israel,” noting that it affects the daily lives of “pretty much every Israeli citizen.”
Rabbi Dan Moskovitz then led everyone in Birkat Hamazon, before Vancouver TheatreSports performed a series of improv skits centred on the Pollocks’ life as a married couple.
The keynote speaker of the dinner was Doron Almog, a former major general in the Israel Defence Forces, who received the Israel Prize for lifetime of achievement. He discussed his role as founder of ALEH, the charity for children with developmental disabilities that the Pollocks chose to support with monies raised from the evening.
Almog spoke on the theme of commitment, as experienced throughout his life and in the work he has done for children. He shared the story of the death of his brother, a tank operator who died after being injured, left behind by his fellow IDF soldiers. Almog subsequently swore to never leave behind an injured soldier.
Almog’s son Eran, who was named after his fallen uncle, was born with a combination of autism and developmental problems, and a psychiatrist told the family that he would probably never speak, remaining at the cognitive age of an infant. “This son became the greatest teacher of my life, he taught me more than anyone about life, about commitment,” said Almog.
After his son died, Almog went to see how children like Eran are treated “in the only Jewish state in the world.” What he saw horrified him: “The first thing you saw is the stink; distorted, terrified faces; shameful things. What the hell are these places, why are they being punished more?”
Almog discovered that such children were objects of shame in Israeli society. Golda Meir, prime minister of Israel from 1969 to 1974, had a granddaughter with Down syndrome who, as an adult, gave interviews to the press, said Almog. In these interviews, he continued, “she said, ‘Golda never visited me, Golda never loved me, Golda told my mom, “Never mention the prime minister of Israel having a retarded granddaughter.”’ Yigal Alon [deputy prime minister of Israel, 1968-1979] had a beautiful child who, at age 5, was taken away from the kibbutz she was born in and sent away to Scotland and he never spoke about her. And inside me I heard my son screaming, ‘My dear father, I will never complain to the media, you can send me away to Scotland and never speak of me, but, if you do that, you do not deserve even the title of “father” or even the title of human. I am the ultimate test of commitment,’ he said to me, the echo box of your bleeding brother.”
After Almog left the military, he established the village of ALEH, “a paradise where the children can have a full life. We broke the walls of stigma and shame and stereotypes.”
ALEH Jerusalem, a multi-service home for children with disabilities, now receives help from more than 450 volunteers from all over the world. Some of them, said Almog, are children of Nazis, who say they are coming as atonement for Hitler’s decision to kill people with disabilities. “The social chain is always measured by its weakest link,” said Almog, receiving a standing ovation.
After a video explaining more about ALEH, there was a video tribute to the Pollocks introduced by their children, Josh, Elliot and Shoshana. The Pollocks said a few words, after which Goldman and Pilo wound up the celebration.
Matthew Gindinis a freelance journalist, writer and lecturer. He is Pacific correspondent for the CJN, writes regularly for the Forward, Tricycle and the Wisdom Daily, and has been published in Sojourners, Religion Dispatches and elsewhere. He can be found on Medium and Twitter.
Isaac Messinger being presented with a certificate of appreciation last year for his contributions to the Jewish National Fund of Canada and Beit Halochem. (photo from JNF Pacific Region)
Isaac Messinger was born in Poland in 1929 and spent some of his early years in Siberia. Although his family tried to flee back to Poland when he was 12 years old, he ended up alone and orphaned in Russia and has spent the years since then living a very colourful life.
Among the notable moments, Messinger worked as a cowboy on horseback, chauffeur to a Polish officer, in a garage, as a prizefighter, a soccer player, a tinsmith and a traveling carnie with a roulette wheel. And he still had time to open a steakhouse and deal in diamonds, while lending money to some of the original landowners along the Las Vegas Strip.
Messinger has long been a strong supporter of Israel and he is currently focused on funding a project of JNF Canada that works with Israeli veterans, a special fitness centre at Beit Halochem Ashdod.
At first glance, the fitness centre at Beit Halochem looks like any other fitness club. There are lots of people working out on the equipment, weight training and stretching. Upon closer examination though, the difference is quite clear. Not only is much of the equipment and machinery slightly different, but the members are as well. Here, veterans young and old, with a wide spectrum of disabilities, come to improve their strength, flexibility and cardiovascular health. They exercise side by side, some on special equipment designed for wheelchair access or amputee-specific machines, and there are trainers on hand to explain and assist the veterans.
The physical rehabilitation aspects of working out in the fitness centre are clear to all. Less obvious is the psychological benefit that the disabled vets get from taking an active role in their rehabilitation.
This year’s Jewish National Fund, Pacific Region, Negev Dinner honourees are Michelle and Neil Pollock. (photo from Pollock family)
For their contributions to a diverse range of philanthropic causes, Neil and Michelle Pollock are being honoured at this year’s Negev Dinner.
“Jewish National Fund of Canada, Pacific Region, is proud to have Dr. Neil and Michelle Pollock as our 2018 Negev Dinner honourees on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the state of Israel,” said Ilan Pilo, shaliach and executive director of JNF Pacific Region. “Their longtime contribution to the community and their leadership are widely recognized, as they are inspirational philanthropists who go above and beyond to involve the community in creative ways to fund critically important projects. We are very pleased they have chosen to work with JNF and ALEH Jerusalem on the Outdoor Terrace Project and the Hydrotherapy Pool, which will benefit seriously disabled children and youth in Israel.”
ALEH Jerusalem provides 82 children and young adults with comprehensive professional care, including special education, as well as medical, supportive and therapeutic care.
“I’m honoured, as I know Michelle is, for us to have been recognized and included in this legacy of community leaders and builders, a few of whom I have been privileged to meet, and who have been mentors and role models for myself and others in our community,” said Neil Pollock. “I look forward to having the opportunity to contribute to the cultivation of future leadership in our community in a similar way.”
The Jewish National Fund is important to the family, said Michelle Pollock, because the projects it supports focus on infrastructure in Israel.
“They’re all reflective of Jewish values and helping with the viability and integrity of the Jewish state,” she said.
Michelle Pollock is a lawyer who practised litigation in Vancouver before devoting herself full-time to their family. She is the immediate past president of the board of the Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver, and has co-chaired the Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver annual campaign’s women’s division Lion of Judah category for six years. She has been involved with Jewish education and a host of other causes.
Dr. Neil Pollock is chief surgeon and medical director of Pollock Clinics. Over more than 20 years, he has developed minimally invasive techniques for vasectomy, circumcision and frenulectomy procedures. The Pollock Technique has a greater than 99.9% success rate and results in decreased risk of post-vasectomy pain. He has undertaken teaching missions to Rwanda, Congo and Haiti, where he trains local doctors in circumcision, and said the work he has done in Africa and Haiti is among the most meaningful contributions he could make to humanity.
“Our team successfully gave our surgical colleagues in those countries the surgical training, as well as the equipment and supplies, to safely carry out surgical procedures that will save, over the years to come, thousands of lives by reducing HIV transmission,” he said. “Circumcision has been scientifically shown to reduce HIV transmission by 60%. It has been equated to providing protection equivalent to a vaccine against the disease. Sharing my technique provided the mechanism to offer in those countries, for the first time, a safe, quick, painless approach for circumcision that families would happily and readily accept. I continue to search out places around the globe where myself and my team could have similar impact for communities at risk. God willing, there will be more surgical missions in our future.”
Pollock has also developed a unique surgical training program for mohelim, who perform brit milot. He is a mohel himself and, in lieu of accepting fees for his work, advises families to donate to the
Pollock Family Philanthropy Fund at the Vancouver Foundation in honour of the lifecycle event and to support those in need in the community. The philanthropy fund supports the surgical teaching missions to the developing world, as well as organizations including the Arthritis Society, B.C. Cancer Foundation, schools, social service and community agencies.
Pollock’s involvement with the Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver includes four years as head of the major gifts division and, in 2015, he served as chair of the general campaign, which raised $8.3 million.
“Michelle and Neil Pollock are among the most committed volunteers in our community,” said Karen James, chair of the board of Jewish Federation. “When asked to help, they step up. The Pollocks have been involved with countless initiatives we’ve undertaken at Jewish Federation to address vital community needs…. In response to his work, Neil has been recognized by Jewish Federation’s board with the Woogman Award, for his consistent and conscientious leadership by example. The Pollocks truly help to make our community stronger.”
In addition to their shared involvement with Jewish Federation, the Pollocks support Jewish Family Services. Neil Pollock has served as a board and executive member and is a Friend for Life, a category of donors with lifetime giving of $100,000 or more. The couple also provide an annual matching gift for the Innovators Lunch to inspire philanthropy; these funds are dedicated to the Jewish Food Bank.
They additionally support the Ohel Ya’akov Community Kollel, where Neil Pollock is a member of the board of governors and of the fundraising and building committee. He described the Kollel as one of the “less visible but most critical, vibrant and productive organizations in our community today, providing inspirational and educational programming through lectures, social events connecting Jewish youth, hosting Shabbat and Jewish holiday celebrations, all in a safe and accepting environment where everyone can feel comfortable – from Reform to Orthodox.
“I personally am deeply grateful to the founder of the Kollel, Rabbi [Avraham] Feigelstock, for the many hours of teaching, counseling and support that he has quietly provided for me and so many others I know,” said Pollock. “He has sought to help us develop the leadership skills and sound judgment, through both his core Jewish teachings and by cultivating menshlichkeit values, that he hopes we can be guided by in our personal, business and community work, in turn, helping us to be better equipped to meaningfully give back to our community for the years to come.”
Rabbi Shmulik Yeshayahu, director of the Kollel, said Michelle and Neil Pollock have truly embraced the concept of tikkun olam.
“They both contribute meaningfully; not only financially, but also give time, expertise and insight,” said Yeshayahu. “Their personal involvement in the Jewish community is priceless. We so appreciate their community involvement and care, vision and leadership, and wish them continued success in all that they undertake.”
“It was through the JNF, in my elementary school years, that I was given my earliest opportunities to participate in and contribute directly to the growth and well-being of the state of Israel,” said Neil Pollock. “This helped me to appreciate the importance for Jews to be interested in and responsible for doing our part for our homeland, which has remained with me to this day. And now, again through the JNF, we have been given this very gratifying opportunity to personally identify and support a phenomenal project – ALEH Jerusalem – to again help the state and its people in need, in a very meaningful way.”
Michelle Pollock’s connection to JNF and Israel stem from her family’s history. Her mother’s father was sent from Poland to Canada, alone, at the age of 14, to make enough money to send for the rest of the family.
“It took him too long,” she said, “and his family was wiped out.”
Pollock’s mother, as a result, was raised in a home clouded by survivor’s guilt and where the past was not discussed. But Zionism was at its core.
“Support and survival of the Jewish state was a complete, tangible imperative because of her father’s experience,” said Pollock. “I see this now, reflecting back.”
The lessons of Jewish statelessness are embedded in her family.
“I can’t separate my Jewish sense of self from my support of Israel,” she said. “It’s all tied together. It’s one and the same.”
Neil Pollock’s philanthropic vision is both local and global.
“I have seen firsthand through my many years of volunteering with Federation, culminating in chairing the 2015 annual campaign, how critical the JFGV is for our community,” he said. “It is so important to have an organization to canvass so effectively the support of our community while carefully researching and assessing the needs of our community and its constituent organizations and thoughtfully allocating our resources in a balanced way, ensuring all facets of our diverse community needs are supported.”
Supporting JFS, and specifically the Jewish Food Bank, he added, “aligns with our core values regarding our responsibility to support those less fortunate and in need of the essentials, like food, shelter, medical care…. There is so much affluence in our community that, in our minds, there cannot and will never be, any justification for leaving anyone, any vulnerable individuals, behind.”
Most of the honourees at the Negev Dinner over the years have been older than the Pollocks, who have three children in high school. Far from approaching the end of their philanthropic endeavours, both talk enthusiastically about future plans.
Michelle Pollock has been very committed to Jewish education, originally when her kids were at Vancouver Talmud Torah and, more recently, supporting King David High School.
“The kids that go there and come out of there are so proud of their cultural heritage,” she said. “It’s an interesting thing to see in teenagers. It moves me greatly.”
Now she is turning more of her focus to Holocaust education and Israel advocacy, which her family history has taught her are closely interrelated. She plans to deepen her involvement with the Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre.
“I think Holocaust education is important. But, at this critical point, where we still have survivors, it’s imperative. Every single non-Jew that you touch with the story of a survivor, that is an invaluable experience. I think we all have a duty to do whatever we can to support Holocaust education.”
“The VHEC … all I can say is wow. For the past few years, I’ve been going to their symposium at UBC. It’s really unbelievable … being at UBC and being in this very secular place and looking at all these kids that have traveled by bus all day from all over the Lower Mainland, and watching them hear the stories of survivors and ask their questions. I think Holocaust education is important,” she said. “But, at this critical point, where we still have survivors, it’s imperative. Every single non-Jew that you touch with the story of a survivor, that is an invaluable experience. I think we all have a duty to do whatever we can to support Holocaust education. And I’m a huge fan of the [Holocaust] centre.”
She also recently joined the Israel and overseas affairs committee of Federation and hopes to advocate for Israel through that and other avenues.
“I see my focus for the next long while in those two areas because I really see them tied together,” she said. “Holocaust education and Israel advocacy. I think it will grow and change. I’ll just keep finding ways to contribute.”
As immediate past president of the JCC, she is continuing a commitment that began 14 years ago, when she first joined the board. Part of her motivation is that, coming originally from Montreal, she finds it can be more difficult to stay Jewishly connected in places like Vancouver, where the community is not as deeply rooted.
“I definitely think it’s easier in some of the older, more established Jewish communities and I think my personal passion is to do whatever we can to make it easier to be Jewish and live Jewish,” she said. “I think the JCC has all the programming and all the events that help you touch on Judaism in your daily life. But, even more than that, just walking in that building makes you smile in a uniquely Jewish way.”
Also from away, in his case, Winnipeg, Neil Pollock said he is grateful for being “so graciously welcomed and accepted in this community, and for the wonderful network of friends that we are lucky enough to be surrounded by.”
He is philosophical about his plans, hoping, he said with a laugh, to get better with age, “like the great wines in my cellar.”
“Every day we wake up, we are slightly different people, remolded and growing with all-new experiences,” he said. “Hopefully, we capture and deploy the insights we gain to allow us to be more mature and effective leaders.”
He continued: “While my kids are young and at home, they will continue to be my top priority. My business has now moved to a global level, so … I am more engaged, involved and excited now about future potential than ever.
“Often, I feel over-committed with my career, family and other things that happen in my life, but, at these moments, I try to remember that I also have a greater purpose and a greater responsibility and that is the one to my community,” he said. “I believe we all have an obligation to care for others and help those who are in need. We also must ensure that our Jewish traditions and values are maintained for generations that will follow, through our support of Jewish education and local Jewish institutions.”
He wants his experience to demonstrate that anyone can have an impact on the community.
“I hope that the great diversity of backgrounds amongst our community leaders serves as an example and inspiration to the many truly talented members of our community who may have ever questioned their ability to get involved and make a difference.”
“Some community members may believe that, in order to be an influential leader and have a meaningful impact, one must come from a family with a strong history of leadership and/or affluence,” he said. “This is not the case in our community. And I hope that the great diversity of backgrounds amongst our community leaders serves as an example and inspiration to the many truly talented members of our community who may have ever questioned their ability to get involved and make a difference.”
He added: “I want to thank all the community organizations that have welcomed us and provided us with the opportunity to become involved and give back.”
Asked about how he would like people to think of him in future, Pollock said, “I would like to be thought of and remembered in a similar way, I’m sure, to [how] most people would: as an individual concerned with things other than those that are immediately self-gratifying, and who is interested and active in doing his small part to ensure that opportunities to help others were not missed, and that meaningful efforts were undertaken to ensure the Jewish community and broader community in which we lived thrived.”
The JNF’s Negev Dinner takes place June 3. Honourary chairs of the event are Alex and Jodi Cristall and Harvey and Jody Dales. For tickets and more information, visit jnf.ca/index.php/vancouver.
Belkin Forest Grove was dedicated in Baal Shem Tov Forest on March 27.(photo by Lilah Weiss)
On March 27, Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael-Jewish National Fund held a special event in memory of JNF Canada friend and philanthropist Elliot Belkin. About 20 family members arrived from Canada for an organized tour of Israel during Passover. As part of their trip, they traveled to the north of Israel for a special ceremony honouring Belkin’s contributions to KKL-JNF.
When Belkin’s father, Morris, also a generous donor, passed away, Belkin created a forest grove in his memory in Biriya Forest, and brought his nephews, Kostia and Aurore Belkin, to Israel together with him. When Belkin passed away, his nephews continued the family tradition by donating a forest grove in his memory in Baal Shem Tov Forest.
“Aurore and I thought that it would make him very happy that there would be a forest grove in Israel in his name, and that’s why we’re here today,” said Kostia Belkin. “This is a modest gesture compared to what he did in his time, but we’re happy to be part of the tradition.”
The Belkin nephews unveiled a plaque honouring their uncle, and were presented a framed KKL-JNF certificate of appreciation. After the ceremony, the group planted cedar trees in the young forest grove.
About half the trees in Baal Shem Tov Forest were damaged in 2013 by a heavy snowstorm. New species of trees are being planted to ensure greater diversity, making the forest more resilient against weather damage.
Referring to the ceremony and tree planting, Belkin’s family said, “This has been one of the high points of our visit. These trees are like the children that Elliot never had.”
Kostia Belkin summed up the visit to Biriya Forest: “This has been an event that we will always remember,” he said. “We want to express our thanks to KKL-JNF for organizing this visit. Through their deeds, Morris and Elliot taught us about love of Israel and its people, and the symbolical meaning of planting trees in this soil.”