Left to right: Debby Altow, NCJW Vancouver past president; Cate Stoller, NCJW Vancouver president; Shelley Rivkin, vice-president, Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver; Kasari Govender, B.C. human rights commissioner; Ezra Shanken, Jewish Federation executive director; and Etti Goldman, Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs. (photo by Rochelle Garfinkel)
Newly installed B.C. Commissioner of Human Rights Kasari Govender spoke to members and guests of the National Council of Jewish Women of Canada on Nov. 21 at the Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver. Govender discussed a wide range of topics, including the connections her office will be making with similar bodies across Canada, her focus on the systemic issues affecting human rights in our province, and her welcoming of ideas for implementing forward-thinking and creative approaches to human rights issues. Govender’s presentation echoed the values and focus of NCJWC Vancouver section, which has a long tradition of innovation and creativity in the sphere of social action. For more information about upcoming events and programs, visit ncjwvancouver.org.
National Council of Jewish Women of Canada, Vancouver section, members. Seated, left to right, are Lisa Boroditsky, Jill Kipnis and Sandi Hazan Switzer. Standing are Heather Sirlin, left, and Jane Stoller. (photo from NCJWC Vancouver)
Members of National Council of Jewish Women of Canada, Vancouver section, have been busy close to home, not only supporting various initiatives for disadvantaged children in local schools – Books for Kids, HIPPY, Operation Dressup, and hygiene and nutrition school programs – but learning more about the Jewish history of the city.
On Sept. 8, more than 25 people participated in a sold-out walk through the “old city” of Vancouver, organized by Lisa Boroditsky, Jane Stoller and Sandi Hazan Switzer. Participants were enthralled by the stories of Harry Hammer, by the geographical and architectural details, to say nothing of the oral history of horse-drawn carts, family stores and tales of running to the bus for cheder.
NCJWC members also worked nationally, supporting successful efforts by CIJA (Center for Israel and Jewish Affairs) to get Parliament to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of antisemitism; and internationally, issuing a call to action to participate in the campaign to free human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh, who has been imprisoned in Iran’s Evin prison since June 2018.
In May of this year, Prof. Irwin Cotler, chair of the Raoul Wallenberg Institute in Montreal, addressed the executive of the International Council of Jewish Women on the issue of human rights. He made a compelling case for participation in the campaign to free Sotoudeh, sentenced to 38 years and 148 lashes in Iran because of her work defending women’s rights. She has been imprisoned four times since 2010.
Freedom of expression and peaceful assembly are integral to ensuring rule of law and the functions of democracy; they are fundamental principles clearly defined in international law and they are the inherent right of all people. These two democratic themes were betrayed in 2018 when, as part of peaceful protests, some women removed their hijabs and waved them like flags and then were prosecuted for this behaviour. For defending these women, Sotoudeh has been unjustly imprisoned.
The International Council of Jewish Women executive voted to support Cotler’s recommendation and Debby Altow, vice-president for Canada on this executive, circulated a backgrounder and sample letter of protest for 33 affiliates worldwide. Both email and postal addresses for United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres and UN Commissioner Michelle Bachelet, were distributed, making such protest letters easier to submit. For more about Sotoudeh and NCJW Vancouver section, visit ncjwvancouver.org.
Left to right, National Council of Jewish Women of Canada Vancouver section’s 2018/19 board of directors Catherine Stoller (president), Linda Arato (secretary), Anne Lerner (social action chair), Rochelle Garfinkel (administration) and Debby Altow (past president) were installed by Shelagh Stoller, who gave a brief bio of each member and presented the traditional red rose. The 94th annual general meeting, which took place Oct. 14, confirmed members’ support of NCJWC’s advocacy at the United Nations, on Canada’s citizenship issues and against antisemitism here and abroad. Catherine Stoller reported on the programming for disadvantaged schools in Vancouver, which receives help from the B.C. Gaming Commission.
Catherine Stoller, president of the Vancouver section of the National Council of Jewish Women of Canada, announces the Shirley and Sol Kort Family Award to HIPPY, which will enable HIPPY home visitors to pursue higher education in an accredited program. The award, $5,000 annually for five years, will be divided between two qualified applicants, to be adjudicated by the HIPPY board of directors.
The HIPPY program, originating in Israel and now operating in many countries around the world, is dedicated to ensuring that immigrant and refugee women can achieve the training and education they need to support their families and create a better future. The Kort family thus continues the dedicated and creative work of Shirley Kort, who was a longtime member of NCJW, and one of the key supporters of establishing HIPPY here in Canada.
Both Shirley and Sol Kort were community activists, focusing largely on the immigrant community. They were equally committed to the role of education as the key to better lives for everyone.
NCJW of Canada will be celebrating its 120th birthday this year – the Vancouver section has a history of 96 years! NCJW’s commitment to education, service and social action is demonstrated locally, nationally and internationally. Its members have worked with immigrant and refugee agencies for decades and NCJW is proud to celebrate the Kort family’s dedication to these issues.