לפני חמש שנים קיבלתי אישור מהמנהלים הבכירים במקום העבודה שלי לעבור לעבוד מהבית. ארזתי את מעט החפצים שלי שהיו במשרד בדאון טאון ונקובר והעברתי אותם לביתי. חברת הובלה העבירה את הכל השאר, כולל: מחשב, שולחן למחשב עם שני מוניטורים, כיסא משרדי, מגירות על גלגלים ועוד.
לראשונה בחיי עבדתי מהבית בקביעות וזה מאוד מאוד מתאים לי. כמבקר החברה אני צריך שקט בסביבה, בזמן שאני עובד ובודק האם הכל נעשה בחברה כשורה. מכל מקום בגלל אופיי אני מעדיף תדיר לעבוד לבד, לא בקבוצות, לא בצוותים ולא עם אחרים. סוף סוף הגשמתי את רצוני ואני עובד מהבית וזאת עוד הרבה לפני מגפת הקוביד.
המשרד של החברה נמצא במרחק של פחות מחמש עשרה דקות הליכה מביתי, כך שאם אני צריך להגיע לפגישה או לדיון כלשהו, זה נמצא ממש קרוב אלי. ובעצם אני יכול ליהנות משני העולמות: לבצע את העבודה יומיומית שלי מהבית ולהגיע למשרד כשצריך.
אחרי הצבא עת גרתי בישראל: התחלתי לעבוד בדרך כלל במקומות עבודה שיותר קרובים לביתי בזמן שגרתי אז בירושלים. הדבר נמשך עת עברתי לתל אביב. גרתי במרכז העיר ומקום עבודתי תמיד היה במרחק הליכה קצר.
כשעברתי לוונקובר לפני שבעה עשרה וחצי שנים, במרבית הזמן אותו נוהג שלי נשמר. אני גר במרכז ומקום העבודה קרוב. במשך עשר השנים הראשונות כאן שכרתי דירה קטנה ברחוב בארקלי בווסט אנד בסמוך לסנטלי פארק. אחרי שבעה חודשים של חיפושים אחרי עבודה התחלתי לעבוד במחסן של חברה לאספקת תכשיטים. כל יום צעדתי למחסן במשך כ-45 דקות. את אותה דרך עשיתי בהליכה בחזרה לבית. לאחר מספר חודשים עברתי לחברה העוסקת בגבייה ותפקידי היה לחפש מידע ובעיקר מספרי טלפון של חייבים. (זאת, עקב התמחותי בחיפוש מידע ולאור העובדה ששימשתי עיתונאי בישראל במשך שנים רבות). כמובן שמיקומה של החברה היה בדאון טאון של ונקובר, ובמרחק של כעשרים דקות מביתי לכל היותר. עבדתי בחברת הגבייה למעלה משבע שנים ורק בשנה האחרונה שלי שם קרה שינוי מהותי. בגלל שינוי בבעלות בקרב בעלי המניות והעליה המהותית בשכר הדירה, החברה עזבה את הדאון טאון ועברה לעיר ברנבי הסמוכה לונקובר. המשרדים החדשים מוקמו בצפון ברנבי בסמוך לברנדווד מול. כיוון שאני לא מחזיק ברכב מאז שעברתי לוונקובר, נאלצתי כל יום לבזבז קרוב לשעה כדי להגיע לעבודה. הייתי נוהג ללכת ברגל עד תחנת הרכבת הקלה של סקייטריין, ברחוב בווררד. ומשם הייתי מגיע לתחנת הרכבת של ברנדווד מול בברנבי, והולך ברגל עוד מספר דקות עד למשרד.
זו הייתה השנה האחרונה שלי בחברת הגבייה. משם עברתי לעבוד בחברה המספקת הלוואות בסב-פריים למי שאינו יכול לקבל הלוואות מהבנק, בשל קרדיט גרוע. בחברה זאת אני עובד במשך למעלה משמונה השנים האחרונות ממש עד היום.
בחצי השנה הראשונה שלי: משרדי החברה היו ממוקמים במערב העיר (במקריות בקרוב למחסן התכשיטים בו עבדתי בעבר). לאחר מכן עברנו לשמחתי לדאון טאון, כך שהייתי צועד כיום יום כחמש עשרה דקות למשרד. לפני כשבע שנים עברתי לדירה משלי בצד השני של רחוב בארקלי, בסמוך לרחוב בווררד. שוב מדובר היה במרחק הליכה קצר של כחמש עשרה דקות מהבית למשרד. ולפיכך העיקרון שלי לעבוד קרוב לבית נמשך כמעט כל חיי בישראל וכן בקנדה.
כאמור לפני חמש שנים ממש שברתי את העיקרון של עצמי והתחלתי לעבוד מהבית. אני מקווה שזה ימשך לעד.
אני כמו רבים אחרים נדבקתי בוירוס הקוביד ואחרי פחות מיומיים חזרתי אל עצמי. אינני יודע איך נדבקתי וממי אך בעצם זה לא משנה. באוקטובר אשתקד קיבלתי את החיסון השלישי של פייזר וידעתי שהוא לא מונע לחלוטין את האופציה להידבק בקוביד. אבל הוא יכול לעזור במניעת אשפוז או במניעת סיבוכים קשים
מכל מקום בשבת בערב עת חזרנו מאירועי פסיבטל הג’אז הבינלאומי של ונקובר הרגשתי עייף. לא הבנתי עדיין מה הבעייה. בראשון הייתה לי אפס אנרגיה ובילית את רוב הזמן במיטה, בניגוד לאופי האנרגטי שלי. הרגשתי גם שיש לי קצת חום. החלטתי לבצע בדיקת קוביד עצמית והיא יצאה שלילית. ביום שני הרגשתי כבר יותר טוב אף הפעם הבדיקה הייתה חיובית – כך שגם אני נדבקתי בוירוס הקוביד
ההרגשה הכללית היא שהקוביד משבש את כל מערכות הגוף. מתקיף בעיקר את כל המקומות הרגישים כמו הגרון ומערכת העיכול, ואת המקומות החלשים אצל כל חולה ובמקרה שלי הגב והרגליים
ביום שלישי הרגשתי כבר מצויין ורק התאבון שלי לא חזר למצבו הטבעי, כך שאני אכלתי פחות בימים האחרונים
אני שומע כמעט כל יום על חברים, מכרים או בני משפחה שנדבקים בקוביד וזה הפך כמעט להרגל בימים אלה
ישראל מתרחקת מקנדה: אל על תפסיק לטוס מתל אביב לטורונטו
חברת התעופה הישראלית אל על החליטה על ביטול שלושה קווים לערים מרכזיות בעולם החל מסוף חודש אוקטובר הקרוב: טורונטו, ורשה ולבריסל. זאת, במסגרת רה-ארגון בחברה והתאמת לוח הטיסות לביקושים שאחרי מגיפת הקוביד. בחברה הגיעו למסקנה שלטורונטו, וורשה ובריסל יש ביקושים נמוכים כך שאין כדאיות כלכלית בהפעלתם. ייתכן שבעתיד הקרוב תבטל חברת אל על קווים נוספים, או שתכריז על שינויים בתדירות של חלק מהקווים הפעילים כיום
ישראלים ויהודים רבים גרים בטורונטו והטיסה הישירה במטוסי בואינג שבע שמונה שבע, הייתה מאוד נוח העבורם. עתה עליהם להסתפק רק בטיסות של חברת התעופה הקנדית אייר קנדה
לפי נתוני רשות שדות התעופה של ישראל (רש”ת) בחודש מאי האחרון, טסו בקו בין תל אביב לטורונטו בטיסות הלוך ושוב עשרים ושלושה אלף נוסעים
באתר של אל על מופיע עדיין מידע בדבר הטיסות לטורונטו, למרות שכאמור החברה הישראלית לא תטוס לשם מנובמבר, במסגרת קמפיין השיווק, “ברוכים הבאים לטורונטו. למרות שאתם בקנדה, בטורונטו תרגישו לגמרי ‘אמריקה’, עם אפשרויות בילוי אינסופיות ואינספור אטרקציות מרתקות לגדולים ולקטנים שלא ישאירו לכם סיכוי לשעמום: פארקי שעשועים, גני חיות, מתחמי מדע ושלל מוזיאונים, קניונים ענקיים, מרכזי מסחר אינסופיים, שווקים ובוטיקים, בתי מלון ברמה הגבוהה ביותר, היצע קולינרי מגוון, המגדל הגבוה בעולם שאם תעלו לפסגתו תוכלו להעיף את החלומות שלכם הכי גבוה שרק אפשר וזוהי רק רשימה חלקית ביותר”
בקהילה היהודית הגדולה בטורונטו מוחים על צעדה זה של אל על. רבים חתמו כבר על פטיציה הקוראת לאל על לחזור בה מהחלטתה, ולא להפסיק את הטיסות הישירות בין תל אביב לטורונטו. שתי הסיבות העיקריות שעולות מן הפטיציה: הרגשה של ביטחון כאשר טסים עם אל על, זה נוח יותר שיש עוד חברה תעופה פעילה בקו תל אביב לטורונטו. גם במשרד התיירות בישראל מוחים על החלטת אל על, ומציינים כי דווקא מדי שנה יש גידול במספר הקנדים שמגיעים לביקור בישראל. לפני פרוץ מגפת הקוביד כמאה אלף קנדים ביקרו בישראל (בשנת אלפיים ותשעה עשרה)
The recently released report, Twice Blessed 2.0: The Jewish LGBTQ2SIA+ Initiative, offers a hint of just how diverse the Metro Vancouver Jewish community is. In that diversity lies challenges and opportunities.
“Embarking on Twice Blessed 2.0: The Jewish LGBTQ2SIA+ Initiative has been an important step in acknowledging our gaps and our commitment to learn and work towards diversity and inclusion in the Jewish community,” write Carmel Tanaka, founder and executive director of JQT Vancouver, and Tanja Demajo, chief executive officer of Jewish Family Services Vancouver, in the final report’s preamble. “It is important to identify the work that has and has not been done. Taking pause and asking ourselves: Where are we today? What prevents us from engaging deeper into these conversations about diversity and inclusion? And where do we want to go?”
“The word diversity is used so often these days, but it is not easy to define what it means on a day-to-day basis in an environment such as JFS,” Demajo told the Independent. “This process started simply by acknowledging ‘we don’t know what we don’t know’ but we are willing to learn. Carmel and I started conversations about the LGBTQ2SIA+ community and how open JFS is to their members. Saying everyone is welcome is not enough, it takes much more commitment and work. There could have been other ways to engage in that conversation, but we started with the training and learning about the work done in 2004.”
“We are honoured to have collaborated with Dr. Jacqueline Walters, who did the 2004 survey that never saw the day of light,” said Tanaka. “It is so rare to be able to include those who have come before us in ways that help with continuity and give the opportunity for healing. A lot has changed since 2004, not just in the Jewish community on LGBTQ2SIA+ inclusion, but also more broadly, especially surrounding language and terminology. So, we paid homage to the 2004 questions and updated how these questions were asked in 2022.”
Developed from the 2004 community needs assessment conducted by JFS, many of the 2022 questions were the same, but others were added or reworded to reflect changing times or for clearer results. The survey was distributed over a two-month period this past spring, and 111 people responded, compared to 56 responses in 2004; there were three people who responded to both surveys.
The majority of respondents to the 2022 survey were in the 30-39 age bracket (or older) and ethnically self-identified as Jewish, in addition to being Canadian and of varying European identities. Of the 111 respondents, 31.8% identified as disabled (mental health, chronic pain, etc.) and 24.1% as neurodivergent (ADHD, autism, anxiety, PTSD). In 2022, half of respondents identified themselves as cultural Jews, with one-third practising other religions or ways of life; 50% were in multi-faith/racial/ethnic/cultural relationships.
These were just some of the findings indicating that there is broad diversity within the Jewish community. The findings, in part, were generated by the open-endedness of many of the questions.
“JQT approached the creation of the 2022 survey with great care and intention – a love letter to the Jewish queer and trans community,” said Tanaka. “It was and remains extremely important to JQT that the experience of filling out this survey was not triggering for those who are on the spectrum of Jewish and LGBTQ2SIA+ identities. All too often, these types of surveys, which ‘study’ our communities, don’t allow for self-identification (are not asking open-ended questions), instead forcing those being surveyed into checking boxes – boxes that either don’t fully encompass who we are and/or other us and/or are hurtful to us.”
When she saw the results, Demajo said, “I had this moment of realization that there is much social justice work that we need to do in order to reach out to those who need the support. One of the questions we ask ourselves often is ‘who are we missing and why?’ This survey and the answers we received made it clear that the community we are supposed to serve is very diverse and requires us to wrestle with questions of gender, race and religion. Some may argue that these are political questions but, for us, these are questions that impact our service delivery. If someone doesn’t feel welcomed in our space, no matter how dire their needs are, they will not accept the support.”
“The finding that most resonated with my personal experience is that, today, so many of us in the JQT community are mixed like me and/or are in mixed relationships like my family – mixed racially, culturally, ethnically, religiously, etc.,” said Tanaka, who self-describes as queer, neurodivergent and Jewpanese. “Growing up in Vancouver’s Jewish community as a mixed kid was pretty isolating. It’s great to see that the future of the Jewish community is mixed!
“The finding that surprised me the most was how many Jewish queer and trans people identify as white or Caucasian when asked about their ethnicity and race,” she added. “It wasn’t too long ago when Jews were not considered white, so it’s sobering to learn of this shift in identity.
“The finding that made me the most sad,” she said, “was how the JQT community, especially our seniors, feel about aging and entering long-term care. Honestly, it’s terrifying.”
Some of the comments made by seniors who responded to the survey were: “As a transgendered Jew long-term care is a frightening prospect as transgendered seniors are often abused in long-term care”; “Worry that my relationship will not be seen as real”; and “I fear that it will be primarily heterosexual and that I will have to go back into the closet.”
Among the 13 calls for actions made in the report are: “Develop inclusive care services for Jewish LGBTQ2SIA+ seniors” and “Ensure that senior care home intake adequately assesses the needs of LGBTQ2SIA+ residents.”
Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver supported the survey, and one of the other recommendations is to allocate some of the annual campaign funds to the “operational costs of providing year-round Jewish LGBTQ2SIA+ programming for all ages and community outreach in both Jewish and LGBTQ2SIA+ communities.” More education is recommended, including diversity, equity, inclusion (DEI) training, and more “open discussion with rabbis, synagogues and boards to adopt an ‘open tent’ policy regarding intermarriage.” To see the full set of recommendations, visit jqtvancouver.ca/twice-blessed-2.
That all four of the 2004 recommendations still apply – more education of community leaders, a larger Jewish presence at LGBT activities, inclusion of LGBT Jewish community members on Jewish committees and boards, and increased LGBT presence at Jewish events – indicates the challenges of change, the report notes. However, Twice Blessed 2.0 also highlights some progress, including JQT’s recent partnering with the Vancouver Jewish Film Festival on a queer Jewish film, with the Zack Gallery on the first Jewish LGBTQ2SIA+ art exhibit and with the Jewish Museum and Archives of British Columbia on the first B.C. Jewish Queer and Trans Oral History.
As for JFS, Demajo said the agency’s priorities for the next year are “allocating funds for further training and awareness building” and to “partner on initiatives with LGBTQ2SIA+ agencies, ensure LGBTQ2SIA+ friendly Jewish mental health support, [and] adjust our policies to include DEI.”
She said, “JFS is in a unique position in the community to touch lives of a diverse community. At the same time, those we support don’t always reach out to us, we need to reach out to them. And, in order to do that, sensitivity, understanding of social justice and intersection of culture, gender, race and religion is essential for our ability to do the work in a sensitive and uplifting way.”
Another of the calls for action is for the adoption of a “Nothing about us without us” approach and Tanaka thanked Demajo and JFS for doing just that.
“Building trust between the JQT community and JFS, learning from one another, is the key to building a healthier Jewish community,” said Tanaka, noting that JQT is a volunteer-run group and “the only homegrown Jewish LGBTQ2SIA+ nonprofit in Canada in operation today,” funded solely by donations and grants.
JQT has presented the findings to the JFS board and in staff training, and would like the opportunity to present them to other local Jewish organizations. However, response to the report has been quiet, said Tanaka, who postulated that there is a “fear of airing dirty laundry.”
“The truth is that we’re not here to point fingers,” she said. “We’re here so that queer and trans Jews – and, in general, marginalized Jews on the periphery of the Jewish community, whether they be Jews of Colour, patrilineal Jews, disabled Jews, queer and/or trans Jews, etc. – can also benefit and have access to the same infrastructure as the mainstream Jewish community.”
Cynthia Ramsay is a member of the JQT Vancouver board.
Day 17: Gary Averbach at Sicamous, a resort town about halfway between Calgary and Vancouver.
At press time, Gary Averbach had reached Kamloops, completing 23 days of his walk to raise money for cancer research, which started in Calgary on June 25. Averbach is doing the fundraising walk in memory of Robert (Bob) Golden, Ronnie Onkin, Darlene Spevakow and Angelita Tica.
In a June email, he wrote, “’Some years ago, as part of my ‘bucket list,’ I decided that, in my 80th year, I was going to walk from Calgary to Vancouver. But, early in 2021, my dear cousin, business partner and lifelong friend, Robert (Bob) Golden, was diagnosed with a rare and almost always fatal bone cancer, chondrosarcoma. On the eve of his passing, on Aug. 26,, 2021, Bob asked that I do my walk in his memory, to raise funds for cancer research, especially the insidious one that was killing him.
“Of course, I couldn’t refuse. And so I changed the focus from just being a personal bucket list item to cross off my list and instead started planning Bob’s Walk for Cancer Research.
“Then, sadly <\a> in the span of a little under seven weeks <\a> starting early in April, I lost two more cousins, Ronnie Onkin and Darlene Spevakow, and a treasured housekeeper, Angelita Tica, to lung, liver and pancreatic cancer, respectively.
“Because of those tragedies, I have since decided to do this walk in memory not just of Bob, but also in memory of Ronnie, Angelita and Darlene.”
At the end of Day 23, Averbach blogged, “So the challenge facing us today and the weeks ahead is not the ‘walk’ but making sure that we achieve our goal of $500,000, hopefully before I end the walk in August but most definitely by my 80th birthday on Oct. 10. My current projections – depending on the size of the outstanding gifts – has me as high as $425,000 to as low as $385,000.”
Candance Kwinter, far right, and other members of a foreign delegation to Ethiopia, take in a synagogue service in Gondar. (photo from Candace Kwinter)
The latest airlift from the Horn of Africa is underway – and a Vancouver community leader was on the plane from Addis Ababa recently with 179 Ethiopian Jews making aliyah.
Candace Kwinter flew to Ethiopia at the end of May, where she met up with three other Canadians, a group from North and South America and a team of Israelis. In addition to being chair of the Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver, Kwinter is on the board of the Jewish Agency for Israel and sits on numerous JAFI committees.
Pnina Tamano-Shata, Israel’s minister of immigrant absorption, who was born in Ethiopia in 1981 and is the first Ethiopian-Israeli cabinet minister, was also on the trip. So was Micah Feldman, author of the book On Wings of Eagles: The Secret Operation of the Ethiopian Exodus, who was able to contextualize what first-timers were witnessing.
A trickle of Jewish refugees has traveled from eastern Africa to Israel (and pre-state Palestine) since the 1930s, at least. From the beginning of the Ethiopian civil war, in 1974, through the catastrophic famine on the Horn of Africa in the early 1980s, rescue missions ramped up. Operation Moses, in 1984/85, brought about 8,000 Ethiopian Jews to Israel, primarily from refugee camps in Sudan. Operation Solomon, in 1991, brought more than 14,000 Ethiopians.
The current airlift, called Operation Tzur Israel (Rock of Israel), is expected to bring more than 2,000 olim over six months. The Ethiopian Airlines flight that Kwinter was on was the first of several. When this mission is complete, there will be an estimated 10,000 Jews left in Ethiopia.
The Jewish identity of the olim is, in some cases, contested. The Ethiopians have included Beta Israel, people who follow Jewish traditions that would be recognizable to most observant Jews worldwide. They also include Falash Mura, members of Beta Israel communities who, since the advent of Christian missionizing in the area, have been converted, sometimes forcibly.
The current project is entirely based on family reunification. Kwinter noted that, since the airlifts began 40 years ago, Ethiopian Jews have migrated primarily from the more rural Gondar area to cities, mostly the capital Addis Ababa. This migration has several corollaries, said Kwinter. Unlike the first olim of decades ago, these new Israelis are familiar with electricity and plumbing, although they may not have access to them at home. They may also have intermarried. So, while siblings who have been separated for decades are reunited, in some cases the nieces and nephews (and the Ethiopian spouses) may not be halachically Jewish. In these cases, they will undergo conversions.
Kwinter and the other foreign representatives flew to Gondar to see how Jews had lived for centuries and where some still reside.
“We went to an ancient synagogue, then we went to an ancient Jewish cemetery,” she said. “It’s very primitive, it’s nothing like we can imagine. It’s like they’re still living the way people did three, four or five hundred years ago.”
The villages, which have typically 100 or 200 Jews, were always located on rivers or streams, Kwinter said, “because they still believed in the mikvah. Women had menstrual tents, like from ancient days. In their time, they had to be put in their tents and they needed the freshwater to provide for these old rituals.”
The synagogue services were, at once, unlike anything Kwinter had seen before and yet entirely familiar. The dirt-floor synagogue was filled with several hundred men and women, sitting separately, the women all in white shawls, men wearing tallit and many laying tefillin.
Kwinter was saying Kaddish for her mother, who passed away just weeks before the trip, and she had no problem following the service.
Next door, a 10-foot-by-10-foot tin shack made up the Talmud Torah, with an open fire pit that served hundreds of meals to children and pregnant women in the community.
Although the transition facing these migrants will certainly not be easy, the latest newcomers have it smoother than some of the earlier ones, who fled during times of war and famine, many losing family members and being terrorized by thugs while walking across mountains to Sudanese refugee camps.
The delegation also met with Israel’s ambassador to Ethiopia, Aleligne Admasu, who was born in Ethiopia and made aliyah in 1983.
The operation will cost about $10 million US and is funded by Jewish federations and JAFI. Once the olim arrive in Israel, they will receive the services offered to immigrants, including Hebrew-language ulpan. Unlike native-born Israelis, most of whom do their military service before university, Ethiopian-Israelis generally complete their schooling first to ensure language proficiency, Kwinter said.
There were 179 Ethiopians on Kwinter’s flight – one was held back after testing positive for COVID. Few Ethiopians have received the COVID vaccine and most of the olim will receive them on arrival, along with the sort of routine vaccines that Israelis and Canadians receive in childhood.
Time flew on the five-hour flight, Kwinter said.
“We had lots of things for the kids to do, like sticker books, candies and all that kind of thing,” she said. “We got to know them all, even though we didn’t speak the same language.”
Ethiopian-born Jewish Agency officials were on board to translate, if necessary, but it wasn’t necessary, Kwinter said.
“You didn’t need to translate,” she said. “The kids were crawling all over us. It was the best plane ride ever. For five hours, it felt like five minutes. I wouldn’t have wanted to be a flight attendant because I don’t know how they got up and down the aisles because it was chaotic. It wasn’t like a regular plane ride.”
When the plane landed, there was a major ceremony marking the beginning of the new operation, with plenty of media coverage. Then the Ethiopians were transported to another part of the airport, where their family members were waiting to be reunited, some of them having not seen one another in decades.
“The very elderly would kiss the ground,” said Kwinter. “Everybody got an Israeli flag, and there was lots of singing and dancing and music.… It was really quite remarkable.”
While the Ethiopians were on a life-altering journey, Kwinter’s travels were hectic in a different way. She was on a plane every day for seven days and, a couple of days after returning home, she tested positive for COVID, as did many of the Americans.
Reflecting on the experience, Kwinter is filled with gratitude.
“Thank God for Israel that we can do this,” she said. “Thank God for world Jewry. Thank God for federations that collect money, and we can save all these lives. I come from a family of survivors and my husband as well. If we didn’t have Israel, we wouldn’t be able to do this and we’d be living another Holocaust again, I believe, all over the world.”
Carmel Tanaka in front of the house on Jackson Street from which National Council of Jewish Women once offered social services. (photo by Ari Fremder)
A series of Vancouver walking tours with a Jewish connection took a queer twist recently. Cross Cultural Walking Tours, which held its first tours in 2019, recently invited participants to explore the multicultural history of the city through an LGBTQ+ lens.
Two Sunday tours took place during June, international Pride Month. These included the exploration of aspects of the city’s ethnic heritages with an added layer of queer and trans history.
Carmel Tanaka is the founder and program coordinator of Cross Cultural Walking Tours (CCWT), as well as founder and executive director of JQT Vancouver, a volunteer-run Jewish queer and trans nonprofit. She is the prime mover behind the walking tours, though she has mobilized more than 40 individuals and organizations to make the series happen, including the Vancouver Heritage Foundation and the Canadian Race Relations Foundation.
“Sharing our history and stories together in one tour in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside offers participants a tangible understanding of the importance of neighbourhood, of diversity, of our similarities and our differences, and how we live together,” Tanaka said. “The tours celebrate our cultures, but do not shy away from difficult social justice issues, and the impact of discriminatory laws at city, provincial and federal levels on our communities.”
For instance, she said, the tours address the ongoing genocide of Indigenous communities by noting the collaboration between government and churches in the residential school system, specifically the eradication of culture and language, which is one of the historical factors affecting the housing crisis in the DTES today and the opioid crisis.
At the beginning of the tour, Tanaka discussed how the Second World War brought more women into the workforce, including as cab drivers, shipbuilders and fireboat workers. A lesbian bar, called the Vanport, popped up at Main and Prior streets and lasted until 1979.
Nearby was Hogan’s Alley, Vancouver’s traditionally Black neighbourhood, which was destroyed to create the Georgia Viaduct in the 1970s. Many of the Black residents were farm labourers who came from Oklahoma via Alberta, while others were railroad porters whose jobs were tied to the nearby railway stations. The community was vibrant for six decades, producing world-class athletes, musicians, entertainers, restaurant and nightclub owners, entrepreneurs, community builders and political activists, Tanaka said.
The tour continued through the Strathcona neighbourhood, the traditional immigrant reception area for the city, and where Black, Jewish and almost every other cultural group at one point was centred. The legendary musician Jimmy Hendrix lived with his grandmother here. In the same area, the National Council of Jewish Women had a house, where they provided English literacy courses and the Well-Baby Clinic.
In the 1920s, Tanaka said, a Jewish gay man known as Uncle Max opened a shoe store on Main at Broadway before moving to South Granville. This was one of the only places in town for drag queens to purchase large-fitting shoes.
Harmony Bongat, a Filipino-Canadian, spoke of a building that housed a group of Filipino women in the early 2000s.
“It was a safe haven, a place where Filipino migrant workers (mostly working as nannies) could come if they were mistreated by their employers,” she said. “It was also a place where us Filipino queers could gather, share stories and enjoy each other’s company. Some of the people I met here would go on to create Pinoy Pride Vancouver.” Pinoy is slang for Filipino. She also discussed the history of LGBTQ+ organizing in the broader Asian-Canadian communities.
The tour included the Vancouver Japanese Language School and Japanese Hall, on Alexander Street.
“The school first opened in 1906 in a wooden building to the left of what is here now,” Tanaka explained. “Initially, the schoolchildren attended school fulltime here, in a Japanese immersion environment. After 1919, this school became an afterschool learning program for Japanese children after they came back from a day at Lord Strathcona elementary. In 1928, funds were raised from Japanese-Canadians from all over British Columbia to build the Japanese Hall, a place for the community and to celebrate Japanese culture.”
In the spring of 1942, the Canadian government forcibly relocated Japanese Canadians at least 100 miles from the coast by enacting the War Measures Act.
“This act uprooted, displaced and dispossessed approximately 22,000 Japanese-Canadians,” said Tanaka. “My great-grandmother and her two sons were interned in Minto, and my great-grandfather, grandmother and grandfather were interned at New Denver, in the Slocan Valley. They all lived in Port Essington, near Prince Rupert, across from Haida Gwaii. Before going to the camps, they were detained in the animal livestock building of Hastings Park, aka the PNE/Playland.”
The Japanese community was able to keep the Powell Street building because it was owned by the Japanese-Canadian community, rather than an individual. The building was leased during the war and the school reopened in 1952. It has been designated heritage status, said Tanaka. “Today, the school operates a childcare centre, continues with language courses, offers rental spaces, and holds Japanese-related programs and events.”
The tour moved on to the Aoki Rooms, which was a tenement house for Japanese workers and is now known as Ross House, a residence for trans and gender-diverse people.
In Gastown, the tour touched upon the history of the Europe Hotel, with presenter Glenn Tkach of Forbidden Vancouver and creator of the Really Gay History Tour.
Tkach explained how the neighbourhood was a magnet for men from all over who were seeking work. But, while Gastown was the hub for employment, the actual work was often far away.
“Men moved from job to job and trade to trade, as fishermen, lumberjacks, sailors, rail workers,” he said. “Thousands of men, living on the road, following the work. Without a lady in sight.”
Men often paired up, in part for safety and in part for companionship, he said.
“Outside the limits of the city, and outside the limits of normal Canadian society, a unique subculture evolved around these pairings,” said Tkach. “It was unlike anything we would recognize as queer culture today.”
The jobs lasted from spring through fall, then places like Gastown’s Europe Hotel would fill with men returning to the city with money to spend and leisure time. A bathhouse in the hotel’s basement was popular.
“City officials did not consider it a priority to police the private habits of these working-class men,” Tkach said. “There was a huge demand for their labour. So it was best for everyone, if their activities just went unnoticed. And, for the most part, they did.”
Nearby, on the Burrard Inlet waterfront, was where a shameful part of Canadian history took place.
Karn Singh Sahota and Viplav Bhaskar from Sher Vancouver, a nonprofit society for LGBTQ+ South Asians, shared the story of the Komagata Maru. In 1914, this ship, carrying 376 passengers from India, was denied disembarkation due to racist immigration policies. After holding the passengers effectively hostage in the inlet for two months, all but 24 were forced to return to India, where 22 of them were killed.
They also shared a story of a case in which two Indo-Canadian men were entrapped by Vancouver police and beaten for alleged “sodomy,” one of many such charges of the time, especially targeting racialized working men.
The tour continued past 63 East Hastings, site of the city’s first real gay bar, the Montreal Club, which ran from the 1950s to 1969.
There is a great deal of hidden history in the city, much of which was unearthed and shared for this tour. Tanaka noted the challenges in telling the stories of marginalized communities, including Black, Indigenous and People of Colour (BIPOC).
“It’s hard enough as it is to amplify the voices of marginalized BIPOC/minority communities, let alone queer and trans voices who also belong to marginalized BIPOC/minority communities,” she said. “Due to the compounded marginalization, it’s not like there are 2SLGBTQIA+ groups for every racial/ethnic/religious minority in town. That requires resources, capacity and support from their respective communities, which not everyone has.”
As a self-described “Jewpanese” person, Tanaka has a unique perspective.
“I often see antisemitism forgotten in the discussion on racism, as it’s not considered a BIPOC issue,” she said. “Not too long ago, Jews were not considered white and, as a Jew of Colour, I’m living proof that not all Jews are white. So, whether it be on the walking tours or on panels, I weave in my family’s lived experiences of antisemitism and anti-Asian racism to raise awareness.”
CCWT is looking for energetic voices from the Jewish community to cover the Jewish portion of their tours. To discuss that or for more information, Tanaka can be reached at [email protected]. The group is on Facebook and Instagram.
Dror Israel representatives Noam Schlanger and Joanna Zeiger-Guerra visited Seattle, Victoria and Vancouver last month. (photos from Dror Israel)
Last month, two representatives of Dror Israel, Noam Schlanger and Joanna Zeiger-Guerra, paid a visit to the region – Seattle, Victoria and Vancouver.
“We are educators at Dror Israel, a grassroots educational organization which works all through Israel,” Schlanger told the Independent. “Our 16 intentional communities of young, trained educators operate a variety of programs, including a network of innovative schools for at-risk youth and Jewish-Arab encounters, which all aim to bring together Israel’s different populations and create a more just and equal society. Our pedagogy focuses on empowerment and community building.”
Comprised of 1,300 people, Dror Israel works in a multitude of fields in Israel and has an impact on the lives of more than 150,000 people each year.
As for their specific involvement in Dror Israel, Schlanger has led a youth centre in Kafr Manda, an Arab town in Lower Galilee, and now works at the community garden in Acre (in northern Israel). Zeiger-Guerra is an educator who is familiar to many young people in southern British Columbia, having worked at Camp Miriam, the Jewish summer camp on Gabriola Island, for several summers. She is also a Habonim Dror alumna.
“I founded and operate a community garden where I work with mainly elderly Russian speakers, and Joanna mentors a cohort of our young educators taking their first steps in a variety of formal and informal educational settings,” explained Schlanger.
During their local visits, Schlanger and Zeiger-Guerra met with a variety of individuals, groups and communities to inform them of their work, specifically Dror Israel’s coexistence programs and ongoing relief efforts with Ukrainian refugee children. These gatherings included talks at Congregation Emanu-El in Victoria and with the Victoria Multifaith Society.
The pair also met with representatives from the Jewish Federation of Victoria and Vancouver Island and the Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver. Those encounters involved “thinking about creative opportunities for programming collaboration,” said Schlanger.
For Schlanger, the message Dror brings – an inclusive vision of Zionism that strives to create a place for everyone, and the dream of a just and equal Israel – is a breath of fresh air amid the polarized discourse about the country.
Dror Israel was started in 2006 by graduates of the Israeli youth movement Hanoar Haoved Vehalomed, who served together in the Israel Defence Forces and shared a belief in the founding principles of Zionism. “Through truly innovative education based on dialogue and understanding, we teach leadership and responsibility for self and community. We promote social activism to drive positive change,” the organization states on its website.
Both Schlanger and Zeiger-Guerra live on urban kibbutzim established by Dror, a recent adaptation of the rural kibbutz. Between 30 to 100 young adults, aged 20 to 40, live on each of Dror’s 16 kibbutzim in Israel and work on the organization’s educational, cultural and social projects. With an emphasis on social justice, members of Dror Israel reside in the neighbuorhoods they serve, seeking to bridge gaps and solve local problems.
Throughout the pandemic, Dror Israel has been engaged in opening daycare centres for the children of doctors, nurses and healthcare workers; delivering groceries and medicines to home-bound seniors and those in need; volunteering on farms; and providing online programming for thousands of teens.
“Our message and the story of our work really resonated with everyone we met and sparked a variety of thoughts about future cooperation between Dror Israel and local organizations,” said Schlanger of his time here. “Our hearts were warmed by people’s decision to support our programs. It really attests to the strong, living connection between the Jewish communities here and Israel.”
After more than two years of being unable to visit or host trips to Israel due to COVID, Schlanger said Dror Israel hopes to reinvigorate connections that began many years ago in the region. Aside from delegations of educators to British Columbia, it looks forward to hosting visits in Israel.
“Joanna and Noam were very well-received,” said Sid Tafler, one of organizers of the emissaries’ stay in Victoria. “Many people were inspired by their message of peace and coexistence in Israel, principles they don’t just espouse but practise and live every day.
“We learned about their compassionate and community-building work with youth-at-risk, isolated older people, members of minority communities – including Druze and Arabs – and integrating new olim recently arrived from war-ravaged Ukraine. We have received guests from Dror before and expect we will welcome them again.”
Tag Meir chair Dr. Gadi Gvaryahu speaks, as moderator Maytal Kowalski and the live and Zoom audience listen. (photo from New Israel Fund of Canada)
Dr. Gadi Gvaryahu, chair of the Israeli anti-racism organization Tag Meir, addressed live and Zoom audiences last month in a talk organized by the New Israel Fund of Canada and hosted by Or Shalom Synagogue.
At the event, titled An Israel at Peace with Itself: Solutions to Racism and Inequality, Gvaryahu described his early efforts in social activism, which began after Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated in 1995. “The fact that a religious person with a kippah on his head decided to get rid of our prime minister was a crucial point for me,” he said.
Gvaryahu established the nonprofit Yod Bet b’Heshvan (12 Heshvan, named for the date of the assassination on the Hebrew calendar) and the Yitzhak Rabin Memorial Synagogue in Rehovot, where he resides.
According to Gvaryahu, the creation of Tag Meir came about in 2009, following an escalation of racist rhetoric and acts on the part of far-right religious groups in Israel. Tag Meir is a play on words in Hebrew related to tag meicher, or “price tag.” Since the early 2010s, a small percentage of extremist settlers has carried out attacks against Arabs, meant to show the Israeli government “the price” of failing to support their cause.
“Tag Meir, on the other hand, means ‘light tag.’ We try to bring light into the world,” Gvaryahu said. “If there is a price tag attack, we want to be with the victims. We don’t distinguish if they are Jewish victims or Muslim victims. It is crucially important to be with them. We tell them they are not alone and support them.”
Gvaryahu gave several examples of Tag Meir’s work. One followed the July 2014 kidnapping and murder of Mohammed Abu Khdeir, a 16-year-old Palestinian. Immediately afterwards, Tag Meir chartered buses from Tel Aviv and Jerusalem to visit those grieving. The large Israeli contingent wished to pay its respects to the Abu Khdeir family, and they were eventually welcomed in the mourners’ tent.
“This family became our friends and every year since then we visit them – usually around Hanukkah. We bring sufganiyot [jelly doughnuts] and they bring oranges from Jericho,” Gvaryahu said, pointing out that this was a good illustration of how, even in the face of terrible tragedy, a victim’s family can be shown how the perpetrators are not representative of a whole people.
Gvaryahu stressed that Tag Meir gives no preferential treatment to Jewish or Muslim victims of terrorism or hate crimes. In instances of Muslim terrorism, Tag Meir delegations, comprised of Jews and Muslims, are also sent out to those grieving.
Tag Meir is a coalition of 48 organizations that works to build tolerance and fight racism in Israel. It is made up of groups from various religious backgrounds – Arab, secular, Reform, Masorti (Conservative), Orthodox – which Gvaryahu views as a key reason for its success. With volunteers located at several places in Israel, Tag Meir is able to dispatch help quickly, supporting victims with emotional, financial and legal assistance.
At its core, Tag Meir sees the battle against racism as a part of a campaign that supports both the democratic and traditional Jewish values of loving one’s neighbours and justice for all. Whatever their politics, the organization argues, the majority of Israelis oppose acts of violence against innocent people who “are being used as pawns in a political fight that has little or nothing to do with them.”
During the violence that erupted in Israel in May 2021, Tag Meir members worked to ease tensions between Jewish and Arab communities. They set up a human chain around the walls of Jerusalem’s Old City, visited areas that had been affected by riots, and handed out flowers in cities with large Arab populations in a gesture of peace.
Each year, Tag Meir orchestrates Flowers for Peace on Jerusalem Day, a time when activists hand out roses to residents of the Old City.
The umbrella group goes beyond responding to Jewish-Muslim attacks. In 2012, following riots against African refugees in South Tel Aviv, the home of some Eritrean refugees in Jerusalem was firebombed. Tag Meir organized a rally in the area and provided the family with material support.
Tag Meir also offers training in Israel, with programs for teachers in the national Orthodox school system and workshops in educational institutions across the country. Among the workshop topics are caring and empathy, open-mindedness and mutual understanding.
Responding to an audience question about the current political situation in Israel, Gvaryahu said, “I have no doubt in my mind that the next coalition will have Arab members and that the party of Mansour Abbas (the United Arab List) will be bigger and stronger,” citing the chance that more Arabs will vote in the next election. “This trend of governments working with Arab parties is good news and hopefully it will continue.”
Gvaryahu’s cross-country speaking tour included stops in Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto. His Vancouver talk on June 20 was moderated by Maytal Kowalski, a local board member of NIF Canada, and opening remarks were given by Ben Murane, executive director of NIFC.
Imam Mohammed Tawhidi once preached hatred, but now is known as “the Imam of Peace.” (photo from imamtawhidi.com)
Imam Mohammad Tawhidi once preached hate towards Jews from the pulpit, and believed the very worst stereotypes about the Jewish people. He was indoctrinated by the Ayatollah’s preachers in Iran. But, today, Tawhidi is known as “the Imam of Peace” for a reason. He’s preaching coexistence and common ground for Jews and Muslims.
In late May, Tawhidi spoke at a United Grassroots Movement event at Beth Emeth Bais Yehuda, a Toronto synagogue, on how people of all backgrounds can – and should – unite against antisemitism and extremism.
An Iranian Muslim of Iraqi origin, Tawhidi sees his former peers actively engaging in hate-filled rhetoric. For example, as in years past, the politics of division and derision were widespread at the Al Quds march in Toronto earlier this year – chants included slurs against Israel and Jews.
Government officials are either incapable of preventing hatred on city streets and property, or unwilling to do so, he said. To answer problems such as these, he encouraged talk attendees to find, and bring together, as many allies as possible, to speak out and even take legal action wherever warranted.
Tawhidi’s change from preaching hatred, to becoming a friend of Israel and the Jews, did not come overnight.
First, he spoke out against ISIS war crimes in the Middle East and Africa. When he was met with condemnation from his peers, he said it opened his eyes to the radical elements that existed within his circle.
“I was still a fundamentalist, an extremist and antisemite,” he said of his views until then. “I thought I was doing this on behalf of God.”
And yet, he began thinking of how he could reconcile the slaughter of innocents in the name of Islam.
The next significant moment for the imam was when he met a Jew. Needing roadside assistance one day in England, it was a visibly Jewish man who helped him.
Later, Tawhidi was invited to a synagogue for an interfaith dialogue. Although he was skeptical, initially, of the people he was communicating with, he left the event feeling a special connection.
His decision to criticize ISIS and radical Islam and preach for peace with Israel and Jewish people was met with a severe backlash.
“I knew I would lose my community, but I also knew I would be welcomed into a new one,” he said.
If he could turn a corner, so can others, Tawhidi maintained. But if they can’t do quite that, then it’s important, he said, to at least defend the truth in public, so that the people who are on the fence or ignorant of the issues can be exposed to all sides.
It’s hopeful for us to note, he said, that the kinds of beliefs he once held are no longer normative in many parts of the Arab world. He highlighted the signatories to the Abraham Accords with Israel, which is breathing new life into modern coexistence, he said.
Further proof of the power of allies, said Tawhidi, is that he received nearly three-quarters of the vote in favour of him winning the position of vice-president of the Global Imams Council, a transnational nongovernmental body of Muslim religious leaders.
Tawhidi stresses that Islam is not a religion that hates Jews, and anything to the contrary is a perversion of the Quran.
To defend against antisemitism, he insisted that Jews and non-Jews must call it out, take legal action when merited, and bring together many communities: “Do not underestimate the power of your allies!” he said.
A staunch supporter of Israel and what he sees as Israel’s right to Judea and Samaria (the West Bank), Tawhidi said, in response to a question from the Jewish Independent, “There can be no circumstances where the Israeli government should give away any land that belongs to the Jewish people. The holy Quran has made it very clear that God, the God of Abraham, wants Jews to live in that region and for Jerusalem to be their capital. That is the teaching of my Quran, and it is clearly stated in Chapter 5, verse 20 onwards.”
As for developing allies out of those who do not support Israel, yet will speak out against antisemitism, Tawhidi said, “You can’t hate a people and you can’t hate a whole country, but I guess they have issues with certain policies of that government, so they need to provide productive and constructive criticism, so that the problems can be solved, and that solutions can be placed forward.”
However, he continued, “a blanket hate on a nation or a people does not come from a person that is worth making a friend, I don’t believe.”
Jon Wasserlaufis a freelance writer, and a political science major and law student based in Montreal.
Leamore Cohen (photo by Efrat Gal-Or Nucleus Photography)
The Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver’s inclusion services program is one of the recipients of the Lieutenant Governor’s Arts and Music Awards, in the category of visual arts. This one-time honour, marking the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, recognizes organizations like the JCC that have excelled in fostering wide community engagement through a robust spectrum of arts and culture programs. Most important: the award emphasizes the JCC’s commitment to diversity and inclusivity.
It all began with a passionate letter of nomination by Chaia Schneid, whose daughter, Sarah Halpern, discovered “a previously untapped creative passion” in the Art Hive and Theatre Lab classes she attended, among other programs run through the JCC’s inclusion services. Writing to the Hon. Janet Austin, lieutenant governor of British Columbia, Schneid stated: “The quality of the arts and culture programs is unlike anything we have found elsewhere. They are professionally delivered and of the highest calibre, and yet individualized to meet the special needs of the diverse participants.” In particular, Schneid praised the JCC’s annual Jewish Disability and Awareness Inclusion Month (JDAIM). Schneid also praised current program director and inclusion services coordinator Leamore Cohen, calling her a “rare individual.”
Shelley Rivkin, vice-president, local and global engagement, at the Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver wrote a letter of support for the nomination. In it, she highlighted several inclusion services arts and social programs, and Cohen’s leadership.
“Leamore Cohen is the driving force behind these programs and her compassion, creativity and commitment to inclusion shine through in all aspects of the program,” wrote Rivkin. “She is always generating new ways and ideas for participants to engage with the arts and to create to the best of their abilities. These programs break new ground by offering meaningful educational and recreational opportunities for people with diverse needs. Having had the opportunity to attend some events, I have seen firsthand the joy that participants feel in being able to express themselves in a variety of mediums and the pride that their parents and family members experience when they see the creativity and talent of their loved ones.”
For a growing number of Vancouverites from all religious and ethnic backgrounds, and across all ages and abilities, the calibre and range of the JCC’s work is well-known. A schedule of performing and fine arts programs coincides with an array of sport, leisure and fitness options inside a facility that houses a theatre, library, gymnasium and pool. The JCC is also widely known for its annual Jewish Book and Chutzpah! festivals – both occupying a key place in the city’s cultural calendar – alongside community services including preschool and toddler daycare.
“While the arts programming is the centrepiece of what is being offered,” wrote Rivkin, “other inclusion programming for adults includes free memberships and access to all the fitness and wellness facilities at the Jewish community centre along with two virtual classes offered five days a week that are designed to be sensitive to the sensory stimulation needs of participants.”
Noting that activities continued throughout the pandemic, Rivkin concluded, “the program demonstrates its dedication to equity and inclusion daily by the range of programs embedded in the arts that have been opened up to this population and, of course, commitment, both on the part of Leamore Cohen, who dedicates so much time and thought to designing these programs, and to the participants themselves, who have remained active and involved despite their personal barriers and the COVID restrictions.”
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On June 18, Annette Whitehead was awarded a Queen’s Platinum Jubilee pin by MP Joyce Murray. Whitehead was nominated for the honour by Kitsilano Community Centre for her outstanding commitment and dedication to her community. She also received a certificate as a sign of gratitude for all the wonderful and hard work she does for her constituency.
June 2022 marked the 70th anniversary of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. To commemorate this milestone, Murray was issued a number of Platinum Jubilee pins, which she decided would be best used to celebrate and thank those who volunteer in Vancouver Quadra. The ceremony took place at Trimble Park.
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On July 7, the National Audubon Society announced the winners of its 13th annual Audubon Photography Awards. This year, judges awarded eight prizes across five divisions from a pool of 2,416 entrants from all 50 states, Washington, D.C., and seven Canadian provinces and territories.
Local Jewish community member Liron Gertsman won three awards:
Professional Award Winner for his photo of a white-tailed ptarmigan,
Professional Honourable Mention for his photo of a sharp-tailed grouse, and
Video Award Winner for his sharp-tailed grouse video.
In a July 7 Facebook post, Gertsman writes about his wins: “Getting a chance to shine some light on these often under-appreciated birds brings a big smile to my face!”
He also writes about the white-tailed ptarmigan:
“Perfectly adapted to harsh alpine conditions, they spend most of their time foraging on small plant matter in the tundra, insulated from the wind and cold by their warm layers of feathers. Ptarmigan are also famous for changing their feathers to match their snowy surroundings in the winter, and their rocky surroundings in the summer. This mastery of camouflage makes them very difficult to find, and I’ve spent countless hikes searching for them, to no avail. On this particular day, after hiking in the alpine for a couple of hours, I stumbled right into my target bird! This individual was part of a small group of ptarmigan that were so well camouflaged, I didn’t notice them until some movement caught my eye just a few yards from where I was standing. Wanting to capture these remarkable birds within the context of their spectacular mountain domain, I put on a wider lens and sat down. The birds continued to forage at close range, and I captured this image as this individual walked over a rock, posing in front of the stunning mountains of Jasper National Park.”
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At the Rockower Awards banquet, held in conjunction with the American Jewish Press Association’s annual conference, June 27, 2022, in Atlanta, Ga., the Jewish Independent received two Simon Rockower Awards for Excellence in Jewish Journalism. These awards honoured achievements in Jewish media published in 2021 and there was a record-breaking 1,100-plus entries from AJPA members.
In the news story category, in the division of weekly and biweekly newspapers, the ˆI took second place for Kevin Keystone’s article “What constitutes recruiting?” The piece explored the allegation by a coalition of foreign policy and Palestinian solidarity organizations that Canadians are being recruited for the Israel Defence Forces.
For excellence in editorial writing, in which all member papers competed, the JI editorial board of Pat Johnson, Basya Laye and Cynthia Ramsay received an honourable mention, or third place. “Strong reasoning and writing, relevant to Jewish audience,” wrote the judges about the trio of articles submitted. The submission included “Ideas worth the fight,” about university campuses and the need to keep “engaging in the battle of ideas, however daunting and hopeless the fight might appear”; “Tragedy and cruelty,” about the response to the catastrophe at Mount Meron on Lag b’Omer in 2021; and “Antisemitism unleashed,” about how the violence in Israel in May 2021 year spilled out into the world with a spike in antisemitic incidents.
Myriam Steinberg’s Catalogue Baby: A Memoir of Infertility, with illustrations by Christache, has won two gold medals for best graphic novel. The first was the Independent Publishers (IPPY) Awards, and the second is the Foreword Indies Award. This is after having won the Vine Award for Canadian Jewish Literature last fall.
“This book was not only a labour of love, but also a call-out to the world to recognize and acknowledge the very real experience of so many people,” wrote Steinberg in an email. “Pregnancy loss and/or infertility touch almost everyone in some way or other. It affects those who are trying to conceive the most, but it also touches (often unbeknownst to them) their children, friends, family and colleagues.”
To celebrate the honours, Steinberg is offering a 20% discount on books bought directly from her (shipping extra). To order, email [email protected].
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The Vancouver Symphony Orchestra (VSO) and the VSO School of Music (VSO SoM) are excited to recognize the appointment of Ben Mink, CM, as a Member of the Order of Canada. On June 29, 2022, Governor General of Canada Mary Simon announced that Ben Mink, who is a member of the board of directors for both the VSO and VSO SoM, has received the distinction “for his sustained contributions to Canadian music as a producer, multi-instrumentalist and writer.”
Mink has amassed a critically acclaimed body of work spanning decades, styles and genres as an international musical force. His influence is tangible and enduring in the widest range of musical styles and directions, and his imprint can be found in countless recordings, film scores and television programs. As a producer, songwriter, and instrumentalist, Mink has brought his signature style and approach to major musical artists and productions. He has an impressive list of recording collaborations that include k.d. lang, Rush, Daniel Lanois, Roy Orbison, Elton John, Alison Krauss, Heart, Feist, the Klezmatics, Wynona Judd, Method Man, James Hetfield (Metallica), and many more.
He has been nominated for nine Grammies, winning twice for his work with k.d. lang. The song “Constant Craving,” which he co-wrote and produced with lang, won her a Grammy for best female pop performance and has been used in several TV shows.
In 2007, he was co-nominated for his work on Feist’s Grammy-nominated “1234,” which gained global popularity in the roll out campaign for the iPod Nano. His recent collaborations with Heart were Billboard hits. Mink’s work helped set new and significant directions in Canadian popular music, and his writing and producing has been recognized with seven Juno nominations (three wins) and the SOCAN Wm. Harold Moon Award for international recognition.
Reesa Steele and family have the absolute pleasure to announce the upcoming marriage of Talia Magder and Weston Steele on Sunday, July 24, 2022, under the chuppah in front of family and friends in Vancouver.
Mazal tov to Nicole and Philip Magder of Montreal and Reesa Steele and David Steele of Vancouver.
Mazal tov to Talia and Weston. May this be the first of many simchas ♥
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Emmy nominee Molly Leikin is the author of Insider Secrets to Hit Songwriting in the Digital Age, published by Permuted Press, a division of Simon & Schuster, in July 2022. It is Molly’s eighth book.