Working in community
Sidney Shmilovitch retired this July from Jewish National Fund, Pacific Region, after 19 years. (photo from Sidney Shmilovitch)
Being at the forefront of the baby boom generation, I was born in Vancouver after my father returned from serving overseas. The opportunity of work on Vancouver Island saw our family move and live in the small communities of Maple Bay and Departure Bay for the next 10 years. Moving back to the Lower Mainland, my parents and I settled in West Vancouver, where I graduated from West Vancouver Secondary. I then attended B.C. Institute of Technology and graduated with a diploma in X-ray technology, followed by a two-year stint as a Cuso volunteer working in small hospitals in the north and south of Nigeria.
Upon returning to Canada, and after a number of years working in Toronto, I moved back to the West Coast. Living in Abbotsford, I met and married Dan Shmilovitch, who was heading efforts to form what eventually became known as Ha’Emek Jewish Community. Holiday programming in the community was enhanced by the services of Chabad rabbis from Vancouver. When our children became of school age, we began attending Jewish events in Vancouver. A wise rabbi there told us that if we wanted our children to remain Jewish, we had to move to the city, join a synagogue and put our children in Hebrew school. So we did, in 1987, which marked the beginning of our relationship with the Jewish communities of Richmond and Vancouver.
In 1988, I began my first job in the Jewish community, working in Richmond as part-time secretary for Eitz Chaim Synagogue. This was my first experience working in the Jewish religious world and learning the complexities of growing a young congregation. Two years later, searching for full-time work, I was hired for a joint position with the Canadian Zionist Federation, Camp Miriam and the World Zionist Organization aliya department at their shared office space at the Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver. The five years I spent working with these organizations introduced me to the important work of Jewish professionals, dedicated board members and volunteers.
In 1996, I joined Jewish National Fund, following in the footsteps of Maisie Myerthall, who was retiring after 26 years. And now, after 19 busy years working with JNF, it was my turn to retire this July. I will miss the special working relationships I had with colleagues in JNF offices from Vancouver to Montreal, especially of course, Ilan Pilo, Moran Nir and Liisa King in the Vancouver office – all part of the JNF family. It was a privilege for me to work with six JNF shlichim (emissaries) over the years, all of whom I admired for their humanity, love of life, energy, drive and determination.
As for me, now that I’m retired, I will volunteer with the JNF, and am considering other volunteer opportunities in the community – I’m open to ideas! And we will travel. So far, Dan and my travel plans revolve around visiting our kids and grandchildren on the east and west coasts of the United States.
I have many thanks to send. To my friends at the JCC, some of whom I have known for 25 years – keep up the good work! My sincere appreciation to the staff of communal organizations, synagogues and schools who were so accommodating and helpful to me. My love and thanks to the members of the JNF executive and board for all their support, hard work and devotion to Israel, and for being so enjoyable to work with. A thank you to all the leaders who have built a strong, vibrant and exciting community that will go from strength to strength. And, to the philanthropists, kol hakavod for your vision and inspirational generosity that make it all happen.