Temple Sholom Sisterhood Choir under the direction of Joyce Cherry with pianist Kathy Bjorseth performed an afternoon concert of Jewish music at the Weinberg Residence on Jan. 13. Featured were three works by Joan Beckow, a resident of the Louis Brier Hospital and a Temple Sholom member. Beckow was an active composer and music director in Los Angeles and, for a time, was Carol Burnett’s music director. The 23-voice Sisterhood Choir has sung for the annual Sisterhood Service for a number of years, but the recent concert at the Weinberg was a first for them outside of Temple Sholom.
Some of the artists on opening night of the group show Community Longing and Belonging, Jan. 15 at the Zack Gallery. The exhibit marked Jewish Disability Awareness and Inclusion Month and ran until Jan. 27.
Eurovision 2018 winner Netta Barzilai, right, performed at the Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver on Jan. 26 to help celebrate the 18th anniversary of Birthright Israel. Here, she is pictured with Carmel Tanaka, emcee of the night with IQ 2000 Trivia. The dance party was presented by the Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver in partnership with Axis Vancouver, Hillel BC and the JCCGV.
Left to right, Nicole Encarnacion, Rebecca Fernandez and Jennifer Belen were among those fêted at Louis Brier Home and Hospital on May 9 during Nursing Week. (photo by Dolores Luber)
“I think one’s feelings waste themselves in words; they ought all to be distilled into actions which bring results.” – Florence Nightingale
The Dr. Irving and Phyliss Snider Campus for Jewish Seniors – the Louis Brier Home and Hospital and the Weinberg Residence – held a party on May 9 to celebrate National Nursing Week.
Louis Brier chief executive officer David Keselman, at the helm for nine months now, initiated the celebration – the first time in its history that Louis Brier has marked the occasion. There are plenty of reasons to celebrate the profession daily, but National Nursing Week presents the chance to give back to these integral members of society. International Nursing Day, May 12, is the anniversary of the birth of Florence Nightingale, who is widely considered the founder of modern nursing.
In coordination with Angela Millar, executive leader, resident care services, at Louis Brier, the festivities honoured and expressed appreciation and affection for the nurses who support and care for the home’s 215 residents. The continuum of care includes assisted living and multi-level care. Louis Brier provides 24-hour nursing services for residents who require personal assistance or full nursing support, and also has a separate unit for those residents living with moderate to severe dementia.
Louis Brier’s goal is “excellence in geriatric nursing care.” As a teaching facility, Louis Brier regularly hosts students from accredited nursing schools, which helps them keep on top of current best practices.
Nicole Encarnacion, clinical care coordinator and educator, was my guide to the festivities, to the nurses, staff and residents. The Nursing Week event on May 9 had the theme of “This is Nursing: Unexpected Places, Real Impact.”
The home’s commitment to resident and family-centred care was evident throughout the facility. The entry hall was splendid with posters and banners created by residents and staff. The nurses were dressed in their formal white uniforms, with black, navy blue or green stripes on their caps. They were excited and pleased to be singled out, paid attention to and appreciated for their service. Millar gave out 30 certificates honouring their years of nursing, the longest being 39 years of service. Three nurses were given special consideration with a bouquet of flowers. In every corner, there were expressions of affection, cooperation and goodwill, hugs, smiles and group photos.
Dolores Luber, a retired psychotherapist and psychology teacher, is editor of Jewish Seniors Alliance’s Senior Line magazine and website (jsalliance.org). She blogs for yossilinks.com and writes movie reviews for the Isaac Waldman Jewish Public Library website.
Community leaders are looking to the future of the Dr. Irving and Phyliss Snider Campus for Jewish Seniors – the Louis Brier Home and Hospital and the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Residence – with the realization that the aging buildings no longer support current standards and processes for delivery of health-care practices, technology and equipment. It’s been two years since the planning began, and the redevelopment committee is considering two options for the makeup of a new campus.
The first and preferred option involves relocating from the current four-acre property to the site of a new Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver. By developing a mixed-use centre, its recreational and cultural programs and services would enhance healthcare and long-term care for seniors. It would also mean shared construction and operating costs.
The second option is to build stand-alone facilities for the seniors campus on a site close to the JCCGV. This would be smaller in size and design and entail a potentially shorter time frame for rebuilding, while maintaining proximity to the JCCGV for collaborative, intergenerational planning.
At the helm of the seniors campus is chief executive officer David Keselman. “Redevelopment is important because we are reaching the end of our ability – both [in terms of] infrastructure and operationally – to deliver care that is consistent with current and future healthcare delivery trends,” he said.
“There’s a push to keep seniors at home longer today, which means that, when they eventually require long-term services, they will be more fragile and require a higher intensity of services,” he continued. “But, whenever they need that care, this is the only Jewish healthcare delivery organization in B.C. and there’s nothing else unless you want to cross the U.S. border. It’s extremely important that the community supports this and that the government realizes that, for Jewish people, there’s nowhere else to go if they want to preserve their culture, customs and way of living.”
Rozanne Kipnes, a real estate development consultant with Tamarix Developments, was on the board of the Louis Brier for years and has been contracted to help secure a site, its legal structure and some financing opportunities. The big difference between the campus being planned and the current model, she said, is that the older model is based on a tendency to isolate seniors.
“The way we deliver care today is not the way it’s delivered in other countries around the world,” she explained. “We want to reengage and integrate seniors with the community, not isolate them. The government has seen this model tested in other communities and other countries and they’ve noted that when seniors’ long-term care is handled this way – with an integration of health and social needs – there’s a better quality of life for everybody and less burden on families.”
Kipnes noted that the Jewish community’s founding families “blessed” today’s community with land assets that can be leveraged “to support the redevelopment of an urban seniors care, health, wellness and cultural hub within the historical precinct of the Jewish community. We are hopeful it will also provide legacy operating and capital fund replacement to support collaborations going forward.”
Neither Kipnes nor Keselman would comment on the value of the land or the estimated costs of constructing a new campus. Kipnes said that how the land gets “leveraged” is all part of the discussion, and pivotal to that discussion will be how the City of Vancouver zones the land – for low-, medium- or high-density residential construction.
Right now, the volunteer redevelopment board is engaged in discussions, focus groups, market analyses and donor outreach. A study is underway to explore the number of units that will be required for residents of the campus, the current and future health services models of care and the facilities needed to support them. The study’s completion is expected by next month.
Whatever option is chosen, Kipnes said a new campus is at least eight years from reality. “If we’re successful in this endeavour as a community, it will be the largest community endeavour we’ve ever undertaken,” she said. “It’s well worth the collaboration and patience this project requires because the end will very much justify the means. On a new campus, we envision families from across the community reengaged and reunited. We see children with their grandparents engaging in activities between the JCC and the Louis Brier, combined with a host of other Jewish community agencies. A mixed-use project like this is very complicated and requires much more collaboration at all levels of the Jewish community. But it’s very doable.”
Lauren Kramer, an award-winning writer and editor, lives in Richmond. To read her work online, visit laurenkramer.net. This article was originally published by CJN.
After an extensive search, the Dr. Irving and Phyliss Snider Campus for Jewish Seniors, comprised of the Louis Brier Home and Hospital and the Weinberg Residence, have appointed David Keselman chief executive officer.
“David is the ideal candidate at this time for the organization,” said Louis Brier board chair Arnold Abramson in a press release. “David’s experience will benefit Louis Brier directly in our commitment to providing quality patient care for residents. We feel that his innovative approach, enthusiasm and leadership style will enable Louis Brier as it moves forward with both our clinical operations and our upcoming site redevelopment.”
Sandra Bressler, chair of the Weinberg Residence, echoed Abramson’s endorsement.
“I plan first to get to know and understand the environment, both clinical, social and political in the organization and in B.C. in general,” Keselman told the Independent. “The relationships with stakeholders (both internal and external) are important, as well as familiarizing myself with the Jewish community and finding opportunities for integration as appropriate.”
Born in Lvov, Keselman was raised north of Haifa, in Kiriyat Yam, and served three years in the Israel Defence Forces. At 21, he followed his high school sweetheart to Toronto and began working at Baycrest, Toronto’s major Jewish home for the elderly. He has a doctorate of health administration from Central Michigan University, and a master’s of nursing and a bachelor of science in nursing from the University of Toronto, and he worked in acute care for many years.
In Toronto, the couple had two children, now aged 20 and 17, both of whom attended Jewish day school. They live with their mother but are following in their father’s footsteps – his son is enrolled in the nursing program at Ryerson University and his daughter plans to become a nurse as well.
Coming with his partner to Vancouver from Yellowknife – where he was vice-president of patient services at Stanton Territorial Health Authority – Keselman is looking forward to getting back to a place with a Jewish community. While he admits that he does not connect with the synagogue experience, he feels connected to many aspects of the Jewish community.
“As I get older,” he said, “the affinity and need to get closer to my roots becomes more important. Seeing that I grew up in Israel, keeping our community strong and active is imperative on many levels, not only to ensure that our tradition and culture continue to exist, but also because a strong community here ensures the strength of Israel and its ability to cope with the many adversities it is facing.”
Keselman comes to the campus in the 70th anniversary year of the Louis Brier.
“I am excited about the renewal plans,” he said, “and look forward to a future design that integrates culture, tradition, values with evidence-based and best practices to create a dynamic environment that provides a holistic continuum for patients/residents of the Louis Brier and their families, with an aim of creating a centre of excellence in geriatric care anchored in the philosophy of client- and family-centred care.”
Keselman has a five-year history of involvement with Accreditation Canada, the organization that certifies health-care facilities, where he has gained considerable knowledge in the area of quality improvement and risk reduction. He has held a wide range of executive roles in Ontario and the Northwest Territories, and is an associate instructor at both the Ryerson University School of Nursing and Athabasca University.
“I believe my experiences to date culminate in a progressive, open-minded, transformational leadership style that will support the team, stakeholders and, of course, the residents of the Louis Brier in achieving quality outcomes and satisfaction from the environment and the services delivered in the organization,” he said.
Sounding like a West Coaster already, Keselman said he is looking forward to a very different lifestyle in Vancouver than he had in Yellowknife. Jewish community is a big bonus, he said, but so is the increased opportunity for fitness – Keselman has taught aqua fitness and spin classes for almost 20 years. According to Abramson, Keselman is expected to be on-site at the Louis Brier on Sept. 14.
Michelle Dodekis a freelance writer living in Vancouver.
Executive chef Steven Boudreau heads Weinberg Residence kitchen. (photo from Weinberg Residence)
The Weinberg Residence recently hired executive chef Steven Boudreau, whose extensive culinary experience includes stints at Cioppino’s (under chef Pino Posterero) and Il Giardino (under Umberto Menghi). How did such a talented chef come to work at the Weinberg Residence? For Boudreau, the reasons lay in his desire to find a more balanced, happier work life.
“After 18 years working in a high-pressure restaurant environment, I wanted a chance to spend more time with family. Here at the Weinberg, it’s refreshing to be able to relax into the cooking a little more,” he explained. “Above all, I took this position because of the wonderful people here. The residents are great to be around and I come to work happy and smiling.”
Born and raised in Cape Breton, N.S., Boudreau attended the Culinary Institute of Canada in Prince Edward Island. After graduation, he was selected with four other students to work on Nantucket Island. He worked there for two seasons and then made his way out west, where he landed in Vancouver and worked for Cioppino’s and Il Giardino.
Boudreau left Vancouver to work two seasons at Painter’s Lodge on Vancouver Island and April Point on Quadra Island as executive sous chef. He then spent the winter traveling and exploring such countries as Vietnam, Cambodia, Argentina, Peru, Uruguay, France, Germany and beyond, gaining inspiration and knowledge of diverse culinary traditions from around the world. Next, he spent a year in Montreal, running a bistro and catering company.
Longing for the West Coast, he returned to British Columbia to become the executive chef of Poets Cove Resort and Spa on Pender Island for the next five years. Finally, he spent two seasons working for the Restaurant at Painted Boat on the Sunshine Coast before moving to Vancouver to work at the Weinberg Residence.
As for his philosophy on cooking, Boudreau stresses the importance of keeping things simple.
“I have a real passion for creating tasty and healthy meals to inspire people. For me, it’s all about keeping the process as simple as possible, while creating delicious food that the residents will love,” he said.
The residents are already raving about Boudreau’s culinary contributions. “The food is great and there’s a lot of variety. His fish is the best I’ve ever tasted,” said resident Dr. Jimmy White. “The soups are outstanding and the theme meals are fabulous,” added resident Frieda Brown.
To share the news with the community, if you, your spouse or family member is considering assisted living or multi-level care, the Weinberg Residence is currently offering complimentary lunch when you take a tour. Call Vanessa Trester at 604-267-4722 for more information and to book a no-obligation tour.
The author and her youngest son, Joel, enjoy Purim at the Louis Brier Home and Hospital. Her eldest son, Benjamin, was the photographer. (all photos by Benjamin Harrington)
When the Hebrew Men’s Cultural Club met in 1945 to talk about starting a home for the elderly, their project began with 14 men, with $5 each. The first home opened in 1946 with 13 residents. Now home to more than 200 seniors, the Dr. Irving and Phyliss Snider Campus for Jewish Seniors includes the Louis Brier Home and Hospital, and the Weinberg Residence. With many new programs and services, the campus has formed powerful bonds with the surrounding community.
This spring sees the launch of a new fundraising campaign by the Louis Brier Jewish Aged Foundation, which provides financial support to the campus. To interview members of the foundation board and staff about the campaign, I made my visit to the Louis Brier Home with both of my children during their spring break. Benjamin, 8, and Joel, 5, are used to volunteering in a seniors home, and are quite comfortable coming to work with me. Without grandparents in the area, it was a blessing for us all to be able to visit the home.
Before even shaking any hands, the first thing we noticed was the art. There is art everywhere, and not mass-produced art but carefully curated, vibrant images, full of life, movement and different textures. According to foundation president Harry Lipetz, this is thanks to the organization’s art committee. Every piece is a donation.
We met first with Dr. Judith Globerman, interim chief executive officer of the Snider Campus. Asked to point to some of the home’s distinguishing features, she described an atmosphere that is “more personal than institutional. Our staff feels it’s their home, too, and they tend to stay with us a long time.”
Residents also have a sense of agency, so, for example, if the seniors want to suggest changes – even to the art hanging outside their room – these changes can be made quickly.
Describing her place of work, Globerman spoke about energy, love and understanding. “The energy is warm, celebrating life; people’s faces here light up, there’s always life going on around you, even if you’re not moving yourself.”
Lipetz joined the Brier Foundation for this very reason. “It is a happy place,” he said. “I saw the level of caring, from custodial staff right through to top management.”
Bernard Pinsky, chair of the current fundraising campaign, can attest to the heimish (comfortable, homey) quality of the Louis Brier Home.
“Both of my parents lived there, as well as my uncles and aunt,” he said. “For a period of 21 years, at least one of my relatives lived there. My mom was at Louis Brier for 13 years. I was there a lot and saw for myself the warmth, the quality of the care. The program director goes into residents’ rooms personally to check in, to encourage seniors to join activities. It makes such a difference to be invited personally, to keep you connected to community life.”
The Louis Brier is the only Jewish home for seniors in the province. As such, it carries a certain responsibility, said Pinsky. He speaks of the community’s pride in being able to offer a life with dignity in a warm and stimulating environment to our seniors.
“Donors’ contributions make it a Jewish home,” he said. “They allow us to offer the special things that help people to live more fulfilling lives: kosher food, a weekly minyan, festivities for every Jewish holiday.”
That said, nothing prepared us for our visit at Purim, where we were greeted by staff wearing rainbow tutus, feather boas, glittery glasses and spotted mouse ears. As we stood in the entrance hall among the balloons, an elderly resident wearing googly-eye glasses strolled through with some friends waving groggers. Needless to say, this was a little different from my sons’ previous experiences of seniors facilities.
When I spoke with Pinsky, he talked at length about the Louis Brier’s music therapy program. Offered by a team of professionals, it is based on research that shows how music calls on a different part of the brain than speech. Pinsky observed, “People can sing songs they knew 60 or 70 years ago, when they can’t even speak.”
He added, “We have the best seniors music therapy in the province. There’s music every single day.”
The March calendar includes weekly Shabbat music, ukelele sing-alongs and jam sessions, as well as a concert of Russian music and a piano recital. We caught a flavor of this during our visit when music therapist Megan Goudreau played her guitar and sang one of the residents’ favorite songs, “Kol Ha’olam Kulo.”
The home was a hive of activity when we visited, with youngsters volunteering, residents – and a couple of friendly dogs! – milling about. Costumed kids came by with their families and sang on both floors of the home. Nothing beats the sight of a mini race-car driver delivering a “Chag Purim!” message with a huge smile to delighted seniors.
“The three things that concern residents the most – beyond housing – are food, music and companionship. The foundation provides that. It’s beyond public funding,” said Lipetz.
The seniors “are not coming here to be housed,” he added, “they are coming here to live.”
Pinsky agreed. “It’s amazing what we’re able to do. Loneliness is one of the biggest problems for seniors, so seniors with families who live out of town can be visited by special companions.”
Louis Brier residents have access to their own rabbi, Hillel Brody, spiritual leader of the Chava and Abrasha Wosk Synagogue. Located within the home, the synagogue is funded solely by the foundation. In other words, like the music, the companions and occupational therapy, it is a gift from the community.
The new campaign is a quest to raise $1 million. Pledges are for two years, so a $5,000 donation would be given in two portions of $2,500 each.
“These funds are essential to maintain continuity in the programming,” said Pinsky. “The home needs to budget 12 months ahead, for the next fiscal year. If we fall into deficit, these life-improving programs need to be cut.”
Added Lipetz, “For many residents, this is their last home. We want to make it their best home.”
Shula Klingeris an author, illustrator and journalist living in North Vancouver.
Shane McNeil, formerly of Bridges Restaurant, is the new executive chef at Weinberg Residence. (photo from Weinberg Residence)
For the Weinberg Residence’s recently hired executive chef Shane McNeil, formerly of Bridges Restaurant, his new job is about more than just cooking great-tasting kosher food.
“What I love about cooking is that it puts a smile on people’s faces, which gives me a lot of satisfaction. My philosophy on cooking is simple: use the freshest ingredients possible, local when available, and let the ingredients speak for themselves. I tend to use a nice light seasoning or sauce, so the quality of the ingredients really stands out,” explained McNeil, who began at the Jewish seniors home in September 2015. “I also like to check in with the residents pretty much every day. Getting that regular feedback from them is really important, as it helps me become a better chef and gives me the pleasure of knowing that I’m a bright spot in their day.”
McNeil’s lifelong passion for cooking began as a young man in Toronto, where he attended George Brown College’s Chef School, which counts several internationally recognized chefs among its graduates. He then relocated to Vancouver, where he excelled under the tutelage of local talents, chefs Scott Kidd and Chef Dino Gazzola of Raincity Grill and Bridges Restaurant.
McNeil’s culinary acumen has already begun to have a considerable impact at the Weinberg Residence. His roasted sablefish with orange-ginger glaze and green-beans almondine, his Italian beef stew with garlic mashed potatoes and roasted corn and his sockeye salmon farfale with ratatouille are all garnering praise. His incorporation of classic French culinary techniques with contemporary flair showcases the fresh, local and seasonal ingredients of the West Coast.
“The food is absolutely delicious. He’s an excellent chef who’s open to suggestions. He made a polenta lasagna the other night that was absolutely wonderful and he makes the best cheese sandwiches I’ve ever tasted!” said resident Sheila Cantor.
The residence executive is also pleased. “We are extremely grateful and very excited to have such an exceptional chef on our team and we look forward to this exciting enhancement to our hospitality offering,” said Vanessa Trester, gerontologist and leader of the Weinberg.
To share the good news with the community about the new dishes being served at the Weinberg Residence, if you, your spouse or family member is considering assisted living or multi-level care, the Weinberg is currently offering a complimentary lunch when you book a tour. To make a reservation, call Trester at 604-267-4722.
On June 14, the board and staff members of all the Jewish housing societies met to discuss the progress they have made, the issues they are facing both collectively and individually, and how they can work together to solve them. Attendees included members from societies for seniors (Louis Brier Home and Hospital and Weinberg Residence, Vancouver Jewish Building Society and Haro Park Centre), singles and families (Tikva Housing Society) and people suffering from mental illness (Vancouver Yaffa Housing). Though there have been discussions in the past, this Jewish Housing Forum was the first outlet that provided all the housing societies a medium to come together and voice their opinions, concerns and future goals.
There has been strong support from the housing societies, donors and the Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver for the societies to initiate an open dialogue and find a way to amalgamate all of their strengths to provide the best support possible for those who need it most.
“The forum was a successful, and necessary stepping stone for the future of housing in the Jewish community,” said Susana Cogan, Tikva Housing Society’s development director. “Based on the feedback we’ve received, the overall consensus is that it was very productive and we’re looking forward to meeting in the near future to exchange developments prompted by this forum.”
Some of the issues discussed included communication among housing organizations, issues residents are facing (i.e., transition from independent living to supported living), lack of awareness of the societies’ services in the community, and donor funding. Upon breaking into groups to discuss these issues, participants agreed on a number of suggested solutions, such as more communication among societies, holding regular meetings to exchange information, the sharing of resources, the need to access more units for community members and working together when dealing with acquisitions.
All of these housing societies are continuing to excel independently, so exploring the ways they can work together demonstrated how they can better serve and help support the community.
Hannah Konyvesis a volunteer with Tikva Housing Society.
Attendees at the Nov. 16 event at the Louis Brier Home and Hospital check out the Gallery of Donors Wall. (photo from Louis Brier Jewish Aged Foundation)
On Nov. 16, the Louis Brier Jewish Aged Foundation honored donors on its Gallery of Donors Wall, located in the walkway linking the Louis Brier Home and Hospital and the Weinberg Residence. The afternoon celebration, which was attended by more than 100 people, was led by event chair Lisa Sirlin, who introduced foundation president Harry Lipetz.
Lipetz spoke of the importance of donors to the vitality of both the Louis Brier and the Weinberg. He also thanked Dvori Balshine, who retired last month from the foundation after 12 years as its director of development.
Louis Brier board chair Arny Abramson thanked all of the donors as well for their continued support and chief executive officer Bob Breen detailed how the funding from the foundation is being used. Breen emphasized that the Louis Brier is the only home in the Lower Mainland that staffs several full-time occupational therapists and physiotherapists, as well as a full-time music therapist.
The Sunday afternoon event hosted donors, friends, family and residents, who enjoyed performances by the JCC Or Chadash dancers, musical interludes from Annette Wertman on piano, and the jazz duo Dave Ivaz and Julie Boton. The audience was in full spirits as they moved from the social hall to the boardroom, where the Zalkow family were honored for their donation towards its renovation and a plaque was unveiled, honoring the Edith Lando Charitable Foundation for its donation of audiovisual equipment.
Attendees then moved on to the Gallery of Donors Wall, where Rabbi Yitzchak Wineberg was on hand to say Shehecheyanu, as guests enjoyed a l’chaim. The wall was marked with green, yellow and purple bows, delineating donors who participated in the Maintain, Sustain and Enhance 2014-2016 campaign, plaques moving to a higher category and new donors on the wall. Final words were given by Balshine, who conveyed her appreciation to all the donors, emphasizing that their support is vital to the Brier and the Weinberg Residence.
A reception at the Weinberg, hosted by Chabad Catering with music by Wertman, Ivaz and Boton, concluded with another performance by the Or Chadash dancers. Guests went home with a chocolate confection donated by Chabad Catering.
Dvori Balshine has served the Vancouver Jewish community, in one capacity or another, for 45 years. She is retiring in November from her latest post – director of development at Louis Brier Jewish Aged Foundation – and she talked to the Independent about her life and work.
“We came to Vancouver from Israel in 1969,” she said. As an educator who studied at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, she found a job right away. She taught Hebrew and Jewish history until she fell into fundraising, almost by accident.
“I was hired by the JCC as a cultural director around 1980,” she recalled. “I wanted to start an art gallery and a Jewish authors festival, wanted to do events, but there was never enough money. So, I met with the community members and asked for their support. Our biggest fundraiser was held at the Oakridge movie theatre. They had a movie theatre at the time. It was the opening night of Chorus Line, and it was unbelievably successful.”
With the funds raised by this and similar events on behalf of the Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver, Balshine was at the root of the Sidney and Gertrude Zack Gallery and one of the founders, together with Cherie Smith, of the JCCGV Jewish Book Festival. When Hebrew University asked her, as one of its alumni, to head their Western Canada division, she agreed. For 17 years, she served as the executive director in Western Canada.
“I raised lots of money for them, sent many students to study abroad, organized other specific projects. But then I thought: I should work for my own community.” In 2003, she came to the Louis Brier Jewish Aged Foundation.
In the 12 years she has worked at the foundation, she has led many campaigns, and established endowment funds and awards. As well, more than 600 art pieces were acquired as donations from local Jewish artists. These works hang on the walls of Louis Brier Home and Hospital and of the Weinberg Residence, making the rooms and corridors more like those of a home, less institutional. A bus and a piano, a dental clinic and a garden sculpture, multiple renovations around the home and the Gallery of Donors Wall – they all owe their existence to Balshine and her crew, to their continuous efforts to improve the quality of life of the residents. She was also active in community outreach programs, including, but not limited to, numerous musical events and lecture series, book launches and octogenarians’ celebrations.
“My dream was to leave the organization with $10 million, and we are at $8.5 million,” she wrote in her reflections of her most important activities at Louis Brier. “It is not that we didn’t raise it, we raised more, however, the demand from the home and Weinberg annually has been so great that we have only been able to invest and grow to this amount.”
She sounded modest, as if raising almost a million a year is a trifle, but for anyone else, it would be a major accomplishment, even the achievement of a lifetime.
“I believe in the mission of the organization I work for,” she said. “I do it with all my heart, my mind and my might. Of course, there are multiple challenges. One of them is that there are many Jewish organizations in B.C., and everybody needs a piece of the pie. The need is great, but there are not many industries here.”
She also encountered another challenge. “I found that it’s easier to raise money for the young, for schools and universities, than for the elderly. How do I deal with this? With a smile and an explanation. We organize events and introduce potential donors to the organization. We honor our donors.”
Her conviction that everyone should share his/her wealth comes from her family background. Both her father and grandmother were involved in their local communities on various levels, and Balshine has continued the tradition. “Some people in the community are doing extremely well. They have a responsibility to share. I learned that at home.”
Her approach to finding new benefactors is personal. “I meet with everyone I’m going to ask for donations. If I don’t know them, I look for someone who can introduce us. We have coffee together and talk. I try to share with everyone the importance of Louis Brier for our community. People give to people, not organizations. Of course, you need people skills to do this kind of work. You need to be kind, to smile, to have charm. You have to feel it, to be willing to give from yourself; otherwise, you can’t do a good job.”
With such a personal fundraising strategy, she knows many members of the Jewish community in Vancouver. “I’ll tell you an anecdote,” she said with a smile. “I love opera. Recently, I took my granddaughter, who is 12, to the opera Carmen at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre. I introduced her to my friends. When we came home, her parents asked her how she liked it. She said that, of course, the music was great and the show. She also said, ‘There were like 3,000 people in the audience, and my grandma knows half of them.’”
Olga Livshinis a Vancouver freelance writer. She can be reached at [email protected].