Eyal Yifrach, Gilad Sha’er and Naftali Fraenkel z”l (photo from mfa.gov.il)
On Monday, June 30, the bodies of Eyal Yifrach, 19, Gilad Shaar, 16, Naftali Fraenkel, 16, who were kidnapped June 12, were found northwest of Hebron. The sad discovery was the result of an extensive search effort led by the Israel Defence Forces, the Israel Security Agency and the Israel Police. A joint funeral was held July 1. Jewish groups and others around the world join in mourning.
In Vancouver, there will be a community memorial service, coordinated by the Rabbinical Association of Vancouver and led by Rabbi Berger, Rabbi Moskovitz and Cantor Szenes-Strauss, on Thursday, July 3, at the Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver at 7:30 p.m.
As well, to share your thoughts and express your condolences to the families of the boys, visit the Jewish Federations of North America’s “Remember Our Boys” page.
Sara Dent of Young Agrarians, which hosts farm tours, potlucks, workshops and a website with networking tools like connecting retiring farmers with land to young farmers seeking it. (photo from Sara Dent)
Whether it’s visiting a farmers market, signing up for a CSA (community-supported agriculture) box or just paying attention to where the produce in the grocery store was grown, local and sustainable eating has been in the zeitgeist for nearly a decade and it shows no signs of flagging. For many North Americans, food has proven an accessible entry point into issues of consumption, environment, community and health. All this, of course, doesn’t happen by itself.
Meet Sara Dent, one of British Columbia’s behind-the-scenes farm organizers. Dent is the co-founder of Young Agrarians, a network and community that supports young farmers as they attempt to start and develop farming businesses. She is also starting to do farm business development consulting, and teaches workshops in permaculture, a design philosophy focused on long-term sustainability. On top of that, she maintains a photography blog, mainly documenting the farmers with whom she visits and works.
As anyone who speaks to Dent will soon realize, the vibrancy and growth of Young Agrarians can be largely attributed to her specific abilities: as a fundraiser, organizer and speaker. Dent is perhaps predisposed to seek respite from some of the harsher aspects of urbanization. Her parents relocated to Vancouver in the 1970s, seeking a healthier, less crowded environment.
In her twenties, Dent did administrative work for nongovernmental organizations around youth, social change and community building. But, in 2006, she said she was broke and decided to take a break from the city, volunteering on three farms over four months. That summer, a light bulb turned on. Since then, Dent has photographed and volunteered on dozens of farms, completed the Linnaea Ecological Garden Program on Cortes Island and become a certified permaculture design teacher. All through this period, she continued to do contract fundraising work.
“We want to look at agriculture as a dynamic entrepreneurial sector where people have many on-ramps to farming.… New farmers need to marry business skills with production skills. People are starting their farming careers in all different stages on the spectrum, with different levels of experience.”
But all this was just a warm-up to co-founding Young Agrarians, which was dreamed up in 2011. The group – which is a partnership with the Vancouver nonprofit Farm Folk City Folk – has turned into a vibrant community with regular activities for both farmers and for the interested public. The main target, however, remains building capacity with young farmers. Dent explained, “We want to look at agriculture as a dynamic entrepreneurial sector where people have many on-ramps to farming.… New farmers need to marry business skills with production skills. People are starting their farming careers in all different stages on the spectrum, with different levels of experience.”
Young Agrarians hosts farm tours, potlucks, workshops and a website with networking tools like connecting retiring farmers with land to young farmers seeking it. The next big project is building a program to offer business coaching for farmers and startups. That program will provide 20-50 hours of human resource support essentially free, or on a sliding scale.
In order to do this, and to expand Young Agrarians beyond its current B.C. focus, Dent is trying to broaden her funding base beyond goal-oriented grants from foundations that require specific program deliverables. According to Dent, a challenge for many NGOs is to raise enough funding for general operations. Eventually, she hopes, Young Agrarians will increase donations from individuals and through public events, which can more easily provide operating funds.
When asked whether starting her own farming business is in her future, Dent matter-of-factly said, “I have no equity. You can get 10 acres outside of Montreal for $100,000-$200,000. Those 10 acres cost one million in the Lower Mainland.”
Aside from the financial reality of buying land, Dent said that the farmers she works with don’t want her to stop being an organizer. As a person with a background in fundraising, and general macher qualities, the value she provides as a consultant and community builder may well exceed that of starting her own farm. And this is where she sees her future: Dent said that, in her 40s and 50s, she would like to make her primary living from consulting.
The term permaculture was coined in 1978 by Australian Bill Mollison as a contraction of “permanent agriculture.” The term has since expanded into a set of principles for all aspects of human planning, design and engineering, which emphasize long-term sustainability through modeling human systems on natural ecosystems. A common theme of permaculture designs are concentric zones around the home from the most frequently used herb and vegetable beds, to main cropping areas, to perennials, to the semi-wild and wild. Permaculture principles are applicable on multiple scales, from small gardens that only contain one or two zones to larger farms that contain all zones. Permaculture emphasizes maximum collection and storage of abundant resources (energy, water, calories) in order to be financially viable and sustain a year-round system.
Critics of permaculture contend that the concept has devolved into quaint urban gardens with herb spirals and flowers, instead of modeling economically viable production systems that grow food for the masses. Dent didn’t disagree, but emphasized that the incorporation of permaculture concepts into agriculture is fairly new territory, and can create success. “Things can get lost in the conceptual realm if people are trained in permaculture, but have no agricultural training,” she explained. “But the people that are hybridizing those models are having a lot of success…. Joel Salatin, a permaculture agriculturalist, is very much modeling that out on the ground.”
“On any sustainable organic farm, you’re going to want to have both annual and perennial systems running at the same time.”
An example of holistic management using a permaculture approach is to look at perennial plants as a savings account (longer maturity, high-value yield) and your annual plants as a chequing account (for cash flow in the early years of the business). “Farms right now can have really interesting diversified revenue streams, like cut flowers, edible flowers, herbs,” she said. “On any sustainable organic farm, you’re going to want to have both annual and perennial systems running at the same time. These are new territories in terms of practitioners being able to adapt and use the ideas together and in different combinations.”
Other permaculture concepts are on their way to becoming mainstream, said Dent. As concentrated areas of food production like the central valley of California face severe drought and uncertain climate changes, land contouring techniques like keylining and swales, which capture rainwater and soak it into the soil instead of allowing it to flow over the surface, will be essential, and will be incorporated widely, she said.
As for her Jewish heritage, Dent said that she does the work that she does because of the work that her grandmother did and that which her father did. “I very much come from an activist, Yiddish, left-wing, socialist family tradition. Those values, of culture, unions, education, affordable university, all of those things were things that my family fought for … my grandmother was a union organizer and was a member of the communist party.” Her family history, “from poverty to solidarity,” is a source of pride for Dent.
There are a handful of other Jewish food organizers that she gets to work with from time to time, as well. “As someone who very much grew up in a non-Jewish society, it’s nice to work with other people that have that shared cultural background,” she said.
Terra Breads’ Granville Island Market location is one of four in Vancouver. (photo by Joanne Leung)
When the first Terra Breads opened in Kitsilano 20 years ago, owner Michael Lansky would probably not have expected to be part of a food tour that includes truffle salt, fireweed honey or slices of Rathtrevor cheese. But Terra Breads’ Granville Island location is one of the culinary stops on the Granville Island Market Tour – billed as a combined “food tasting and educational walking excursion.”
Presented by Vancouver Foodie Tours and Edible Canada, the tour has been recognized by the Canadian Tourism Commission as a unique Canadian experience. It was one of the first such activities to be inducted into the Canadian Signature Experiences collection in 2011. Edible Canada supports local and Canadian food producers, and the tour reflects this commitment.
You may have visited Granville Island Market with limited time and/or an agenda to pick up a specific item, so you’ve bypassed various market stalls because their products weren’t on your list. This tour will give you pause to spend a little more time getting to know the local food that’s available. Whether you decide to go back and purchase what you’ve tasted is up to you but, at the least, you’ll have more options the next time you want to impress visitors with exceptional cuisine that’s farmed or made here, or close by.
Meeting at the Edible Canada retail store and restaurant on Johnston Street, we were treated to our first tasting on the tour and given some history of the island and the market.
On the menu for the nosh were fish cakes, salad, wine and flavored sea salt. The local ingredients in the meal were Pemberton-grown potatoes. Of particular interest was Amola flavored sea salt, which Edible Canada sells in small packets with flavors such as black truffle and cabernet sauvignon.
On the menu for the history was a discussion of the creation of Granville Island and the market. The size of 22 soccer fields, the island was originally dredged out of False Creek in the early 20th century. The reclamation project was to establish an industrial park. Saw mills, steelworks and cement plants went through booms and busts in the area. In the 1970s, the island was redeveloped by the federal government to create the cultural and business destination it is today. The cement factory that still exists on the island is the last heavy-industrial business.
In 1972, the administration, management and control of the revitalization of Granville Island were transferred to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. According to CMHC, the island is now home to approximately 275 businesses that generate more than $130 million annually.
Granville Island Public Market opened in 1979. They offered Sunday shopping as a way to draw people to the location. The structure that houses the market is the old B.C. Equipment Ltd. building, a wood-framed machine shop. The market has 50 permanent vendors and a rotating roster of approximately 40 farmers and culinary artisans.
After our first taste and chat, we were off to JJ Bean, a local roaster since 1945. Along with our medium roast, we were given some education on coffee, such as the drawback of “aggressive blooming.” (Hint: If you buy freshly roasted coffee, let it sit for a couple of days before putting them through a French press.)
Then, it was over to Terra Breads, where we were treated to olive/rosemary bread and pecan fruit crisps. Considered Vancouver’s first artisan bakery, the two-decade-old institution first opened on 4th Avenue in Kitsilano and now has two other locations – on 5th Avenue near Ontario and in the Village in False Creek. (Hang on to a crisp or two, so that you can eat it with foods later in the tour.)
Next stop was Oyama Sausage, where the charcuterie is infused with Okanagan red wine or sake made around the corner on Railspur Avenue.
For cheese aficionados, a six-year-old cheddar from Armstrong and a Swiss-like Rathtrevor from Little Qualicum on Vancouver Island were very well received by our tour group. These were presented by Benton Brothers Fine Cheese.
Apples and cherries from #1 Orchards in the Okanagan were used to cleanse our palate before heading over to Granville Island Tea Co. They have created a smooth chai that comes in a two-package mix you can make yourself easily at home. (Ask them what the secret ingredient is. You’ll be surprised at the answer.)
In a far corner of the market, Chilliwack Honey offers a tasting of fireweed honey, named for the flowering plants that grow in areas ravaged by forest fires. The B.C. company has been raising bees in the valley for more than 35 years.
After the smorgasbord of gastronomic glee, you might not think you’d have any room for dessert. But one whiff of the heavenly scent at Lee’s Donuts will have you thinking twice. Go before 2 p.m. for hot old-fashioned glazed doughnuts. The melt-in-your-mouth decadence is a perfect end to the “class.”
In addition to the market tour, other offerings are the World’s Best Food Truck tour and the Guilty Pleasures Gourmet tour. Visit ediblecanada.com.
Baila Lazarus is a freelance writer, painter and photographer. Her work can be seen at orchiddesigns.net.
Left to right are Shoshana Burton, Fred Miller and Jessie Claudio. (photo by Shula Klinger)
School curriculum can seem abstract, separate from the “real” world for which it is intended to prepare our children. What can a teacher do to bring the world into her classroom? She can take the classroom into the world.
This is what teacher Shoshana Burton, now of Richmond Jewish Day School, has been doing for many years. Random Acts of Kindness, or RAC (Random Acts of Chesed), week began at King David High School after the sudden death in 2010 of alumna Gabrielle Isserow z’l. Known for her tremendous kindness, it was an apt way to ease the students’ grief. Explained Burton, “RAC week transformed the students’ overwhelming sense of loss into a creative expression of chesed. It revealed a yearning for a network of support and action.”
The project gained momentum and the weeklong celebration of kindness has become “a yearlong process that grows every year, involving students, families and the wider Jewish community.”
Working at RJDS for the 2013-14 academic year, Burton wanted to add a new dimension to the project. She approached Richmond’s nearby Az-Zahraa Islamic Academy. It was a perfect match, as their principal explains on the school’s website, “Education goes well beyond the classroom door.”
Az-Zahraa teacher Jessie Claudio came on board with no hesitation and, over the last few months, the students have formed some powerful new connections. According to Burton, “We had to pull RJDS and AZIA students away from each other when it was time to go back to school!”
The new program was named Abraham’s Tent because the prophet Abraham – revered in both Islam and Judaism – was known for his generous hospitality.
In February of this year, Burton and Claudio took their students on an unusual field trip: to the centre of the Downtown Eastside, to Main and Hastings. There, they spent five days delivering sandwiches they had made, with food donated by Save-On-Foods at Ironwood, Richmond. They also handed out warm clothes.
According to RJDS parent Kathy Rabinovitch-Marliss, this trip challenged the students to leave their comfort zone and set aside any apprehensions or thoughts of judgment. She counseled her daughter, Hannah, to remember that every homeless man is “someone’s father, or someone’s son.”
Among the recipients of the group’s kindness was Fred Miller, 58, caught by a CBC camera as he observed, “If Muslim and Jewish kids can live together, why can’t the rest of the world live together?”
These words inspired the RAC students to find out more. With the help of CBC, they managed to find Miller downtown. They invited him to speak at RJDS, which ended with a massive group hug. On the RJDS blog, principal Abba Brodt describes Miller’s “unflinching” honesty as he answered the students’ questions with stories from his life. Having struggled with addiction for many years, Miller’s experiences made a change from the usual Grade 7 fare, such as The Outsiders. Brodt said the discussion covered, “spiritual strength, faith, addiction, poverty, broken family bonds and deep loneliness.” The students were “spellbound,” he added.
Abraham’s Tent gained recognition with a $3,000 award in a worldwide competition hosted by Random Acts, a nonprofit whose goal is to inspire acts of kindness. But it’s not just about the prize, of course. Claudio and Burton agree that the learning outcomes here go far beyond the regular curriculum. Said Claudio, it has been an excellent opportunity to “bring the textbook to life.” The best way to learn something, she said, is through the emotions.
And, when the students start to form their own opinions about the Jewish-Muslim conflict, Burton hopes that these friendships will remind them to be “tolerant and open-minded.”
Rather than keeping the $3,000 award for their own schools, the RJDS and Az-Zahraa students chose to give the money to Covenant House in Vancouver, a shelter for at-risk youth.
Mohamed A. Dewji, vice-president of the Az-Zahraa Islamic Centre, challenged British Columbia’s Shia Muslim community to match the $3,000 award – and they came through. Dewji hopes to spur other communities into action. “We’re challenging every church, every mosque, every temple to join us,” he said.
On Friday, June 7, the student group delivered both $3,000 cheques to Covenant House. They also brought boxes of shoes for the residents. George Clarke, manager of Save-On-Foods at Ironwood, Richmond, brought a gift basket packed with necessities for Miller. The atmosphere was jubilant. Jessica Harman, development officer at Covenant House, described her contact with the RAC students as “marvelous.” She added that their donations “are providing love and support to one youth in the crisis shelter for the entire month of June.”
A soft-spoken and articulate man, Miller told the Independent, “It doesn’t end here. I want to work with youth now.” Having already published a set of his stories, he is honing his craft in a journalism class.
Ruby Ravvin, a Grade 7 RJDS student, described Miller as “awesome!” He then ruffled her hair.
The students have created a binder full of cards to help brighten Miller’s day when he feels lonely. In a letter, Breanne Miller (RJDS, Grade 7, no relation to Fred Miller) speaks of inspiration, wisdom and not taking the good things in life for granted. “You have opened my eyes,” she wrote. “You inspired all of us.”
Prior to her involvement in RAC, student Hannah Marliss had never had a conversation with a homeless person, nor did she have any close Muslim friends. Now, she said, “We’re hoping to invite the Az-Zahraa students to our grad. We’ve started something together!”
She described the change she has experienced in her own life. “Life’s not about technology, iPads and iPhones. They’re just things,” she said. “It’s about family, people you have connections with.”
On a scale of one to 10, the RAC experience was “definitely a 10,” said Hannah. Her mother agreed: “This was the highlight of Hannah’s elementary school life. It has changed all of our lives,” said Rabinovitch-Marliss.
Omid Gha, a counselor at Az-Zahraa, summed up the experience with a quote from Aristotle: “Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.”
Shula Klinger is a freelance writer living in North Vancouver.
Rabbi Philip Bregman is a longstanding leader in the Jewish community. He served as senior rabbi at Temple Sholom for 33 years and is still connected with the congregation as rabbi emeritus. He is co-founder of the Rabbinical Association of Vancouver, maintains an active role on the University of British Columbia chaplaincy and serves as co-chair for Vancouver’s Jewish-Christian Dialogue group. He joined Vancouver Hillel Foundation during its transition period and is now the executive director of the organization, which officially became Hillel BC Society last month.
Hillel has been a centre for Jewish life on campus at UBC since 1947. Bregman would like to expand on its foundation, diversifying the programming and making it more available to young Jewish adults throughout the Lower Mainland.
The purpose of Hillel BC Society, explained Bregman, “is to help facilitate the growth of young Jewish souls and minds, socially, mentally, gastronomically, intellectually, politically. To understand what does it mean for you to be a Jew in the world today…. We are trying to grow young Jewish adults and start from wherever they are starting and give them a sense that this is a home, this is a safe space and, for some, a continuation of their Jewish journey and, for others, a beginning of their Jewish journey.”
As in most Jewish homes, food plays an integral role at Hillel BC. Noting that Hillel provides “some of the best food in the city in terms of good, nutritional, tasty, delicious food, kosher food,” Bregman said, “A lot of our programs operate around food as a way of getting individuals into the building. Then, once we have them in the building, we have other programs to offer them as well. For example, a barbeque may very well be the thing that brings the individual into the building, but we also may happen to have a faculty member here from Jewish studies who will be teaching Talmud” or, “on Friday mornings, come for the most phenomenal shakshuka, but what comes with the shakshuka is also a discussion about Israel, social, political, religious discussions.”
Hillel BC’s reach extends beyond the Jewish community of UBC. “We do a lot of collaboration,” said Bregman. “We have done collaboration with the synagogues, we have done collaboration with the Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre, we do collaborations with CIJA, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, and so we are giving educational opportunities…. We teach Hebrew, we have Judaism 101 courses, and we have the opportunity to engage in dialogue programs with different Muslim student associations, with the Pakistani student association … aboriginal student organizations on campus and various Christian groups, as well.”
Hillel offers many students leadership opportunities because a lot of programming comes “from a collaboration between the programs’ staff and the Hillelniks, so some things are initiated by us and some things are initiated by the students themselves.”
Young Jewish adults at Hillel BC have the opportunity to get “involved in tikkun olam, in helping to repair the world…. We make peanut butter and jam [sandwiches] with the Ismaili Students’ Association. The sandwiches get taken down to the Downtown Eastside.” There are also various clothing drives or food bank drives, he said. Additionally, Hillel offers many students leadership opportunities because a lot of programming comes “from a collaboration between the programs’ staff and the Hillelniks, so some things are initiated by us and some things are initiated by the students themselves.”
Bregman is moving Hillel towards more diverse programming and events, “so a person can come into this building and see we are involved with a multiplicity of ideas.” This approach is reflected in the organization’s recent rebranding. “We are no longer Vancouver Hillel Foundation, we are Hillel BC Society and this came from the staff,” Bregman explained. “The idea of being Vancouver Hillel was too centrist and too isolating…. [It] makes no sense when one of our places we are dealing with is Burnaby or one of the places we are dealing with is Victoria and wherever else that I hope to open up in the next little while.”
Hillel BC is working to engage young Jewish adults in new ways because “the old paradigm of how to deal with things doesn’t hold anymore … you cannot depend on Jewish identity if you are only planting two trees, [focusing only on] Israel and [the] Holocaust. Are they important? Of course, they are. But so is social integration and Jewish identity in terms of what it means today, and so is asking, ‘How do I live in this world?’… So, the challenges are to provide the opportunities to individuals to see Hillel as a springboard for many other things.”
“Our major issue is around funding, it is around finance. There is a statement in the Talmud, ‘Ein kemach, ein Torah.’ Without wheat, referring to the substance, the money, if there is no money, there is no Torah and, if there is no Torah, there is no money….”
Bregman said, “Our challenges are not in the areas of programming, and I’m pleased to say not in the areas of staffing. I have an absolutely magnificent staff.” He said, “Our major issue is around funding, it is around finance. There is a statement in the Talmud, ‘Ein kemach, ein Torah.’ Without wheat, referring to the substance, the money, if there is no money, there is no Torah and, if there is no Torah, there is no money…. We are providing the Torah, the programming,” but “what we need, of course, is the financial means to continue this and that’s the greatest challenge.”
Bregman is positive about the future of Hillel BC Society. “This year, my first year, I came in and we were serving three campuses. We now serve five because I opened up Langara and I opened up Emily Carr,” he said. “Now, I’m looking to see what else needs to be opened up in the Lower Mainland, where we think there is some type of Jewish presence, because what has happened at Langara and Emily Carr has been tremendously successful.”
He emphasized, “I want Hillel there as a torchbearer and as an or l’goyim, a light unto the nations, to let people know that when you come into Hillel, you have a multiplicity of opportunities to meet all sorts of individuals, politicians, social activists, philosophers, individuals with unbelievably great hearts and souls.”
Zach Sagorin is a Vancouver freelance writer. He is on the board of the Jewish Students’ Association.
The Frank family on the Merwedeplein, May 1941. (photo from AFF BASEL, CH / AFS AMSTERDAM, NL)
Since her diary was first published in 1947, Anne Frank’s story has reached many millions of readers. Her precocious wisdom, her courage and her unswerving faith in the goodness of humanity are humbling. Many young readers encounter Anne’s work at school, as an introduction to their study of the Holocaust. Readers find a focus for their curiosity, grief and raw outrage in the fate of Anne and her family. But how do we ensure that this history truly is for “today”? And how do we help them make sense of a troubled world that has descended into horrifying chaos? These harsh lessons are currently being explored through Anne Frank – A History for Today, currently housed at the Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre.
According to Nina Krieger, VHEC’s executive director, this exhibit has seen “unprecedented numbers” of visitors – of all ages and ethnic backgrounds – at the centre’s Sunday openings. There are visitors during the week, of course, as well as school groups who tour the exhibit under the guidance of the centre’s docents. In addition to the training docents receive from VHEC education director Adara Goldberg, this exhibit has been guided by the exhibit’s Amsterdam staff, who traveled to Vancouver to offer their support.
On May 29, the JI accompanied Grade 6 and 7 students from King’s School in Langley as they toured the exhibit with docent Lise Kirchner. Described by their teacher Peter Langbroek as “cogent, clear and informative,” Kirchner moved swiftly between the display boards. Pausing frequently to ask questions, she encouraged the students at every step, reinforcing and building on their answers. What are these children wearing? asked Kirchner, referring to an image of Hitler Youth in uniform. Why did the children have to join this organization? One student replied astutely, “Because they are the next generation.”
The class group also included school parents, who were clearly invested in the day’s lessons. The presence of parents is extremely important, Langbroek explained, because students often need to talk through their reactions later on, not just in class or during the ride home. “It helps to have a facilitator at the dinner table,” he said. This was evident in the comments heard around the display cases, as mothers discussed their own questions. “Would you put your own family at risk?” one mom asked.
In line with the policy of Holocaust education centres worldwide, VHEC recommends their exhibits for children of 10 and up. According to Krieger, “Grade 5 is standard practice for Yad Vashem and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Centre; our community bases its offerings on best pedagogical practice and current research.”
When asked about his reasons for bringing his students to the exhibition, Langbroek explained that this is his 27th year in the classroom, and his reasons for doing so were spiritual – his is a Christian school – and personal, as well as professional.
“There are so many life lessons taught in this history,” he said. “By informing youth of this history and showing how bullying is a small-scale version of state-sponsored brutality, we can help train them in God’s righteousness.”
Raised by Dutch parents, Langbroek’s mother saw Jews being arrested and taken away in trucks; two of his uncles took Jews into their homes. An avid reader of Chaim Potok’s work, Langbroek has long been fascinated by “the pockmarked history of pogroms, exiles and forced conversions that took place in the Christian era.” He said he struggles with the atrocities committed in the name of a savior who set himself “the highest moral standard.” He added, “To me, it would only be natural for a Christian to risk his life to hide Jews.”
As well as the photographs and information on the boards, the exhibition room at the VHEC includes a 3-D model of the building and annex where the Franks were hidden. The students were clearly interested in the model and there was much crowding around, leaning in and craning of necks. Here, Kirchner honed in on the Franks’ living conditions, supported by a few trusted friends with shared food rations and occasional treats, like magazines. How do you occupy yourself when you are stuck inside for two years? she asked the students to consider. What about during the Allied bombing raids? Everyone else was hiding underground, in shelters, while Anne was in an attic at the top of a tall building. She couldn’t go down and risk being caught, noted Kirchner, but there were bombs landing all around them.
The exhibition also includes five glass cases housing original artifacts, saved by local Holocaust survivors. These items are particularly valuable, said Krieger. “A document is an eyewitness to the time.”
In a recent article for VHEC’s newsletter, Zachor, Kirchner talks about these donations from local survivors. She says that they help students to develop a personal relationship with Holocaust history. For example, in one case, students are able to see the yellow star worn by Inge Manes before she was hidden in a convent and confirmed as a Catholic. In another case, there is a medal showing that her rescuer was honored by Yad Vashem for bravery. The personal connections formed during these visits are an education that lasts a lifetime. Krieger refers to this as an “ongoing resonance.”
The King’s School students clearly appreciated the artifacts. They were given copies of an identity document belonging to Regina Bulvik. Asked to interpret the information it carried, they learned that she was the sole survivor of the Holocaust in her family, and had traveled to Canada alone, with no papers. At that time, she was still a teenager and was required to have a Jewish sponsor family here before being allowed to immigrate. The students pored over this document, scrutinizing it carefully as they responded to Kirchner’s questions.
On returning to school, the students’ comments about the exhibit were telling. They spoke about justice, love and kindness. They showed gratitude for their freedoms and their desire to live well with God.
Vanessa contemplated the inner life of the Franks, who “probably felt guilty because their Jewish friends and family were sent to concentration camps while they were hiding and getting help.”
Added Hannah, “I would always wonder, Are my Jewish friends in a labor camp right now or even dead? And what would it be like if I was not a Jew and just a regular German?”
Caleb imagined being in the annex, being afraid to “step on a creaky floor board.” Megan said she’d miss “feeling the sunlight on my back.”
For these students, the exhibition is about prejudice and intolerance. It’s about standing up for – rather than judging or bullying – those we perceive to be different than ourselves. It’s about suffering through harsh lessons and still making dignified, compassionate choices.
Debbie Rootman, community developer and program coordinator for the Jewish Food Bank.
On Sunday, June 1, from 1-4 p.m., the Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver will be the site of Project Sustenance, a major food drive in support of the Jewish Food Bank. Community members, who are encouraged to bring non-perishable food items to donate, will be treated to live entertainment, a kosher barbecue and a kids-oriented crafts table hosted by Vancouver Talmud Torah. The drive is organized in partnership between the Jewish Family Service Agency (JFSA), Beth Tikvah Synagogue, Jewish Women International (JWI) and the JCCGV.
The idea for the drive came from Beth Tikvah’s Francie Steen and Shelley Ail, who is the lead food bank volunteer, said Debbie Rootman, community developer and program coordinator for the Jewish Food Bank. Steen and Ail are event co-chairs.
This is the first year of Project Sustenance, but JFSA “hopes to have it annually, because hunger is 365 days a year,” Rootman told the Independent. In an average month, she said, the Jewish Food Bank provides meals for 250 people, 65 of whom are children. “On top of helping so many people in the community,” Rootman said, “on special times of the year, like Passover and Rosh Hashanah, we distribute hampers to another 170 clients of Jewish Family Service Agency.”
Project Sustenance is meant to be the second food drive of the year for the Jewish Food Bank, which organizes Project Isaiah each High Holiday season with the help of local synagogues. Rootman and her colleagues had “always talked about doing another one in the spring, but haven’t had the time or volunteer power to do it,” she said. In fact, by about January every year, the food bank has usually run out of the goods donated in the fall. Typically, after January, the food bank has had to largely rely on cash donations, “so that way we can buy food, which we do bi-weekly for fresh vegetables and fresh bread and other things that we need,” she added.
“It was started as a temporary measure, but we’ve still got it today. So, it has grown. Many of the reasons [for that growth] are because Vancouver is very expensive, so some of the people we see are working poor … disabled people, elderly people, people on fixed incomes we are helping, as well as people going through tough times … everybody has challenges in their life, so we are here to help for those times.”
The Jewish Food Bank “was started 33 years ago by two women,” Rootman said. “It was started as a temporary measure, but we’ve still got it today. So, it has grown. Many of the reasons [for that growth] are because Vancouver is very expensive, so some of the people we see are working poor … disabled people, elderly people, people on fixed incomes we are helping, as well as people going through tough times.” She added, “everybody has challenges in their life, so we are here to help for those times.” Her personal philosophy, she said, is that “charity begins at home.”
The Jewish Food Bank operates out of the Peretz Centre for Secular Jewish Culture every other Thursday and is organized and staffed by volunteers. Elaborating on the scope and value of those contributions, Rootman said, “The Jewish Food Bank could not operate without the many volunteers.” She said there is always a need for volunteers to drive goods to clients who lack mobility, to organize food at the bi-weekly food banks and to sort Project Isaiah food donations in the fall. Right now, they are hoping that more volunteers will step forward to help with “set up and take down on June 1, as well as sorting” the donations.
The Jewish Food Bank is a community-wide effort, and Project Sustenance is no different. Aside from Steen and Ail, JWI’s Sara Ciacci has been involved in Project Sustenance through “major fundraising for the Jewish Food Bank,” said Rootman, and the JCCGV has donated the space for the June 1 drive. Some of the other major sponsors include Broadway Moving, which has donated a truck to transport the donated food, Omnitsky’s Kosher, which is providing kosher hot dogs, and Signarama Richmond.
Project Sustenance follows Beth Tikvah Synagogue’s presentation of A Place at the Table, a film that screened on May 13 to raise awareness about hunger in the community. The documentary explores the various issues surrounding hunger and the means to solving this serious problem. The screening was followed by a panel discussion, which included Rootman, who said she found the film to be “very powerful,” and Alex Nixon from the Richmond Food Bank. The panelists connected the information in A Place at the Table to Canada and the local Jewish community.
For those who are unable to attend on June 1, “food donations can be dropped off at any synagogue, Jewish school, the JFSA office or the JCC,” Rootman said. Community members can also make a cash or credit card donation by calling JFSA at 604-257-5151.
Linda Cohen, author of 1,000 Mitzvahs, spoke at King David High School’s Teaching for Tomorrow earlier this month.
Imagine channeling your grief at the loss of a loved one into something exceptionally positive and using that something to honor their memory.
That’s what Linda Cohen, 45, set out to do two years ago when she undertook the lofty goal of doing 1,000 mitzvot in honor of her late father. “My goal was to heal from the grief I was feeling,” said the Portland, Ore., mother of two. “The idea of doing 1,000 mitzvahs came to me in the night, during a dream. When I woke up and told my husband about it, he wondered how I might keep track of my mitzvahs, which is why I started a blog. But I never expected people would actually read the blog!” she admitted. “It was just a place to track what I was doing.”
The blog evolved into a book, 1,000 Mitzvahs, published in 2011 by Seal Press. The book contains stories about those mitzvot, why they matter and what readers might glean from each one. Each mitzvah is described in a page or two with another paragraph on why it is important and what readers might do to implement something similar in their own lives. Last week, Cohen flew into Vancouver as the guest speaker at King David High School’s Teaching for Tomorrow annual lecture program and fundraiser, to discuss her mitzvah project. The Teaching for Tomorrow event supports the school’s chesed programming.
The word mitzvah literally means commandment, but Cohen defined her mitzvahs as good deeds and acts of loving kindness. The mitzvot she documents in her book range from fundraising for important causes to giving someone else’s kid a ride home, from volunteering on a committee to giving someone a cake. She said none of the mitzvot she took on was life-changing or particularly huge but they did change her life. “It made me more aware of opportunities to do good things, more attuned to what other people were doing,” she reflected. “Though my mitzvah project ended two-and-a-half years ago, I think I’m still as aware today of the importance of doing mitzvahs.”
The mitzvah that stands out most in her mind was a visit to her rabbi, Rabbi Yonah Geller, when he was on his deathbed. She had been conflicted about visiting during his short illness but, in the end, felt she had to be there. “My five minutes with him made me so happy,” she recalled. “For me, that was the most significant mitzvah.”
On a personal level, focusing her energies on mitzvot helped Cohen heal from the loss of her father in December 2006, a man with whom she admittedly had a troubled relationship for many years. “My dad was an amazing man and though our personal relationship was challenging, I feel gifted by the fact that we knew he was dying and had a year to put our affairs in order,” she said. “But I do feel sad that we wasted some of our years together struggling.” In her book, she writes of her grief and describes feeling very connected to her father. “Whenever I need him and am unsure of anything, he’s right near me, holding my hand and helping me get through the experience,” she said. “I feel like he visits me as a black crow.”
Lauren Kramer, an award-winning writer and editor, lives in Richmond, B.C. To read her work online, visit laurenkramer.net.
(Haber, Hayes and Korsch photos by Lorne Greenberg)
Louis Brier Jewish Aged Foundation’s Eight Over Eighty celebration honors eight individuals/couples who have shown exemplary leadership and vision in the community. Last week, the Independent profiled honorees Dr. Marvin and Rita Weintraub, Rita Akselrod, Dr. Jimmy White and Chaim Kornfeld. This week, the JI features honorees Serge Haber, Dr. Arthur and Arlene Hayes, Stan and Seda Korsch, and Samuel and Frances Belzberg.
SERGE HABER Zeal and vision
Serge Haber was born in Romania in 1928. After the war, he spent two years in Cuba, arriving in Montreal in 1949, where he worked in the garment business. Amid growing Quebec nationalism, Serge moved his family to Vancouver in 1978 and bought Kaplan’s delicatessen.
It wasn’t hard to move West, Serge told the JI. And, he said, “It turned out that it was the best move I made because my trade took a terrible nosedive two years later; I would not have been able to remain in business. I got out just in time by sheer luck.”
Telling his wife was another matter. “I came home and my wife almost killed me. ‘What do you know about the restaurant business?’ So, I told her, I said, ‘If I survived for so many years in the textile business with the sharpest Jewish people in the trade, I will in the business of restaurants, and I will do well,’ and I did.” He sold Kaplan’s in 1993.
Serge has been involved in synagogue life since arriving in Montreal, where he helped found a Conservative congregation in Laval and held leadership positions in United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism. In Vancouver, he joined Beth Israel. “It’s not just that I find a cause – I have to love that cause … [and] feel that it’s needed for the community, for the development of my life … and, once I got involved, I embraced it totally, in the sense that I ate, slept and drank the organization that I was working for.”
For 20-plus years, Serge has been leading services at Louis Brier, where he served on the board for 17 years. Serge has also been on the board of Jewish National Fund, Vancouver.
“When I was young, I got involved with B’nai B’rith Hillel Foundation and I became the president … I created an environment in which things can grow and develop from that point on…. It was not a question of being president or anything else. I felt that we can do something good for the community … my intent was to help out as much as I can.”
In “retirement,” Serge co-founded and is president of the Jewish Seniors Alliance of Greater Vancouver. About community work, he said, it “is a question of ideals and what you want to accomplish in life and how do you want to be regarded in the community in which you live.”
He pointed to his parents as role models. His father, in particular worked very hard, said Serge, “so I had a model to look at and I felt that every community embraced me and gave me whatever I needed, nurturing a common sense of family and community, so I should give back whatever I can, and that’s what I did.”
Serge is particularly concerned with the availability of seniors services and programming. He believes that “the need of the Jewish seniors in Greater Vancouver will be tenfold greater than what it is today because … the Jewish seniors community will at least double what it is today.” The time to prepare is now, he said, adding that he would like to see the building of a Jewish seniors centre here like they have in Montreal, Winnipeg and other cities, “a community centre specifically related to seniors.”
About being part of Eight Over Eighty, he said he is “overwhelmed” by the tribute because it was unexpected, and he felt good about his work regardless. “I’m not a person who works for the honoring, that is far removed from my mind … but I think it’s good in the sense that there are many people in the community that are doing phenomenal work and sometimes the community bypasses them and takes it for granted that they are supposed to volunteer and do all kinds of things without being recognized.”
DR. ARTHUR AND ARLENE HAYES Selflessness, Yiddishkeit, devotion
Art Hayes grew up in rural Alberta. “A few miles away was another small town – Rumsey – and it is in this general area where a group of Jewish farmers, mainly from Russia, settled,” he said. “They built a synagogue, which was in use during Jewish holidays. At one time, they were even able to employ a Jewish teacher.”
He spoke fondly of his childhood, and highlighted the special role his grandparents played. They lived close to the one-room school that was eventually built, “and this was our stopping point on the way home. Here, we were treated with love and kindness, and lavished with special treats.
“After we left the farm, my father was involved in business in small mining towns in Alberta where we were usually the only Jews. I envied the Jewish life my cousins had in Calgary and enjoyed it with them whenever I was able to visit. Fortunately, my grandparents now lived eight miles away and I would spend my weekends with them. I learned about Judaism from my kind zaida, whom I loved dearly. Their love and attention to me was so complete that seemingly I was the centre of their universe.
“I was inspired by both my parents and grandparents – their selflessness, their Yiddishkeit and devotion to family and their love gave me my outlook on life.”
Arriving in Vancouver in 1947 after graduating in dentistry from the University of Alberta, Art pursued specialty training in orthodontics at Columbia University in New York. “When I returned two years later,” he recalled, “I found a community that functioned almost entirely with volunteers. There was respect for those who accepted the responsibility to take on the work and high regard if not reverence for the pioneers of the community.”
Art highlighted two projects undertaken when he was president of Beth Israel. “The first was to raise the funds pay off the $50,000 for our share of one-third ownership with synagogues in Seattle and Portland of Camp Solomon Schechter.” The second was providing their assistant rabbi – who came when their rabbi was on sabbatical – with a residence. “We bought a house in excess off $100,000, which we paid for by fundraising over the next year. This same house was recently sold by Beth Israel for more than $2 million and became the largest single contribution to the fund for the reconstruction of the synagogue.”
Art also co-founded Shaarey Tefilah and has been involved with the Louis Brier, Canadian Friends of Hebrew University locally, Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre, the Jewish Historical Society of British Columbia, Richmond Country Club, Jewish Federation/United Jewish Appeal, among others, and day school education. Noting the many attempts to open a Jewish high school, Art thanked Gordon and Leslie Diamond for their contribution to King David High School, “an outstanding institution,” and shared that some of the remaining assets of Shaarey Tefilah were used to establish an endowment fund for KDHS with Federation “to assist students who are financially unable to pay full tuition. In this way, Shaarey Tefilah will continue to be an influence to further Judaism in this community.”
Leadership “evolves during participation in the work of the community to the best of one’s ability,” Art said. “Anything that is achieved in the community is the result of the efforts of many people working together in harmony. Leadership is historically inherent in Judaism, which emphasizes the need to create a tolerant Jewish society with a very deep concern for all its members, the old and young, the rich and poor, the sick and well.”
“I grew up in a wonderful Jewish community in Regina, Sask. I was very fortunate, indeed,” Arlene Hayes said of her early years. “I had an idyllic childhood filled with a good elementary and secondary education system, a rabbi, a shul and an active Young Judaea movement, which played a huge part in my life. We even had a Young Judaean summer camp for six years in a row. My wonderful parents saw to it that I attended every one. Who could ask for anything more?
“I attended the University of Saskatchewan for three years in Saskatoon, met my husband-to-be on a summer visit to Vancouver, was married six weeks later and, as the saying goes, the rest is history.”
In Vancouver, Arlene worked as a lab technician while Art got established.
Art said of Arlene’s commitment to the community, “At the time, we were just starting out and, with three young children and a household to manage without help, Arlene was on her own many nights of the week. There was never a complaint from her, only encouragement and interest in the work being done. It was Arlene alone that it made it possible for me to participate and she is equally if not more responsible for whatever was accomplished.”
“I think is important to recognize people who have been community leaders for two reasons,” said Arlene. “One, it is the right thing to do. Secondly, one hopes these deeds will motivate others to ‘step up to the plate.’ I hope that, going forward, succeeding generations will learn from the examples of their predecessors. People of Art’s generation, and the preceding generation, have been true ‘chalutzim.’ They have given unstintingly of their time – after a full day’s work – to build their community. They believed in the teachings of Judaism: be generous, be kind, help the disenfranchised, share, build Israel, reinforce Jewish life in our own community.”
Of her hopes for the community, she said, “If successive generations follow in the footsteps of their predecessors, the community will continue to flourish.”
STANFORD AND SEDA KORSCH From the ground up
While Stan Korsch was born and raised in Vancouver, Seda was born in Winnipeg and raised in Calgary before coming to Vancouver. Stan met Seda at a Beth Israel youth dance and they married in 1948, a week before the synagogue opened at Oak and 27th.
After moving around a bit, they settled back in Vancouver and into the family business, which was real estate. Stan was inducted as a fellow of the Real Estate Institute of Canada in 1958 and, today, is its oldest continuous member.
Seda’s involvement with Hadassah is longstanding and she has held many roles within the organization, including being a founding member and president of Shalom chapter, assisting with the bazaar’s silent auction, and serving as vice-president, card-chair and men’s youth aliyah chair on the council. Her kitchen was the annual headquarters for the baking of kiffles for the bazaar. She was also a member of the Beth Israel Sisterhood.
“I started a chapter of Hadassah in 1947 and we did a lot of money raising,” said Seda, later sharing, “On our first trip to Israel, we toured all the Hadassah projects and I realized that we just had to keep on doing this because there was such need. It was very gratifying to see some of the accomplishments we had done in Israel through our money raising. Hadassah was my main forte.”
Stan’s Jewish community involvement began before the Second World War. Over the years, he has held leadership positions with Young Judaea, Beth Israel Synagogue, the Menorah Society student group at the University of British Columbia, B’nai B’rith Lion’s Gate Lodge, Jewish Community Fund and Council (Federation’s predecessor), Canadian Zionist Federation, Lion’s Gate Building Society, Louis Brier Home and Weinberg Residence. He still is an active member of his synagogue, especially in its daily morning minyan. For his work with the Lion’s Gate Lodge, in 1999, he was awarded a Tikkun Olam Award for exceptional service to the community.
“I had three major influences in my life,” Stan said. “They were all something to do with being Jewish. Israel has always been in my heart, and right from my high school days, before Israel was there. We wanted to provide a homeland for the Jewish people…. We were good at what we did. We had the youth group, which was active and, by that, I mean we also communicated with other Jewish young people in other Canadian cities.
“My goal was always to keep Israel in mind, and the other one was housing. Because I was realtor, I realized there was a need – not cooperative housing – but for housing for those who are financially in need. I’ve always been a part of that in the community here; that’s why I was on the oversight committee and it took a lot of our time and effort those big projects,” including Haro Park, which took some 10 years to come to fruition.
“It was the only time in Canada that three levels of government were able to work together,” Stan said. “It was very difficult because each time the government changed, you had to start again with the new government. It was a miracle that we managed to build Haro Park. And we built some others. That was one of the main parts of my activities. The other one, of course, is the synagogue…. My parents were part of the group that formed the charter members. Right from day one I was involved…. I was there the day they opened, their first installation, back in the old Jewish community centre days, and then we moved onto 27th and Oak and now, today, we are now just completing a new facility on 27th and Oak. It’s quite gratifying.”
Stan said he’s seen many changes in the community over the years, and he is optimistic about its future. Seda is also positive: “I feel that the young people are taking over, which is great,” she said. “I know my daughter is quite active in Hadassah. I’m happy to see that, and it’s time the old people step back and enjoy it!”
Both are honored to be one of the Eight Over Eighty. However, said Stan, “We don’t do these things for kavod. We can see the need and we are not just talk. We see the need and we get out there and do it.
“Seda and I believe that when one joins a society, one should be active in it, and that’s the way we’ve lived our life.”
SAMUEL AND FRANCES BELZBERG Combining business with philanthropy
International businessman and philanthropist Sam Belzberg was awarded the Order of Canada, as well as an honorary doctorate from Simon Fraser University in 1989. He received the Governor General of Canada Award in 1992 and, in 2002, was promoted to Officer of the Order of Canada. In 2009, he was awarded the Order of British Columbia for his extraordinary philanthropy and community leadership.
Investing leadership, time and resources, Sam helped found the Simon Wiesenthal Centre in Los Angeles in 1977 with a donation of $500,000. He is also the founder of both the Canadian and American Dystonia Medical Research Foundations.
As an Action Canada co-founder and co-chair of the board, Sam is called “one of British Columbia’s most forward-thinking philanthropists” who “specializes in ambitious and innovative solutions to pressing issues, focusing his prodigious efforts on causes that appeal to his deep caring for humanity.” In addition to his many other accomplishments, Sam led and inspired SFU’s first fundraising campaign, which raised $68 million. His company, Gibralt Capital, today owns and manages real estate and capital investments.
Frances Belzberg was raised in Los Angeles. Also involved with Action Canada, Fran is noted for her early involvement with racial issues as well as her early commitment to the state of Israel.
Frances and Sam married in 1950 and settled in Edmonton, where Fran was involved with several charities and became active in amateur theatre. The family moved to Vancouver in 1968 and Frances sat on the boards of Vancouver Art Gallery, Vancouver Playhouse and Vancouver Children’s Hospital. She was awarded the Order of Canada in 1995.
For 25-year-old Israeli Anton Soloviov, the dream of working in Canada turned into a nightmare. Brought into the country as a temporary foreign worker seven months ago, he and others in the same situation allegedly worked without pay for their former employers, who are accused of using the threat of deportation to keep their employees in line.
Last fall, while still in Israel, Soloviov said he saw an online advertisement for work abroad that promised earnings of up to $5,000 a month. Though his best friend warned him it looked too good to be true, it was an opportunity Soloviov couldn’t pass up. He applied online, interviewed with Canadian business owner and former Israeli Dor Mordechai over the phone and flew into Vancouver in October 2013. Mordechai and his wife Anna Lepski hired Soloviov as a foreign worker for their company, 0860005 B.C. Ltd., which operates kiosks in British Columbia malls, both in the Lower Mainland and on Vancouver Island. Soloviov, 25, said he met two fellow workers, also Israelis, on the ferry to the island and worked with them at Nanaimo’s Woodgrove Centre, at kiosks selling the Pinook Massage device and cosmetics, among other products. Soloviov said Mordechai and Lepski arranged housing for him and his fellow workers in a sparsely furnished house in Nanaimo, charging them $450 per month each in rent.
At first things were OK. “The first few weeks were wonderful, they showed us around and took us to Service Canada to get our SIN numbers,” Soloviov recalled in an interview. Left with $300 after paying for his $1,900 airfare to Vancouver – a fee that is supposed to be paid by the employer of a temporary foreign worker – Soloviov managed to pay for food for the first month. But payday offered the first indication, he said, that the work was far from kosher.
“Instead of paying us for a month’s work, our supervisor, Azi Qizel, also an Israeli, announced that we were working on commission so, after rent deductions and paying him $500 for our work permits, we didn’t actually earn anything,” Soloviov claimed. When he objected, Soloviov alleges that Qizel informed him that if he didn’t want to work, his work permit could be canceled and he would be deported by Immigration Canada.
By December 2013, Soloviov said he had worked hundreds of hours and made a total of $300 after the fines for which he claimed he and his fellow workers were penalized. “I was fined for everything you can imagine,” he alleged. “Qizel would come up to the kiosk, see something missing and fine everyone who worked that day $100. If we were seen on our phones, we’d be fined. If we were caught talking to each other, we were fined $100.”
Over the course of those months, Soloviov said he did some research and contacted a lawyer. He said he approached his then employers and asked to be paid what he was owed, “or else I’d file a complaint with Employment Standards.” That’s when Soloviov said that he and his family were threatened, though he was less worried about himself than his family. “I’m ex-military, I can take care of myself. But the threat to my family was a blow. I was afraid for my mother, who lives with my baby sister. She didn’t do anything wrong.”
A few days before New Year’s, Soloviov went to the Nanaimo RCMP with his story, and then to the Salvation Army Emergency Shelter, since he had no money or accommodation. What’s more, he was unemployable, since his temporary foreign worker permit allowed him to work only for Mordechai’s company.
Today, thanks to the intervention of the Central Vancouver Island Multicultural Society, which helped Soloviov find an immigration lawyer, he now has an open work permit and has found employment at a fast-food outlet in Nanaimo. A friend has offered him a place to stay for the time being. But Soloviov’s future still feels uncertain.
“I want to stay on in Canada but I’m not going back to that mall because I know they’re still there,” he said, referring to his former employers. “My friend still gets approached by people asking where I am and I don’t want to have to look over my shoulder all the time.”
Immigration officials say that Soloviov fits in the category of a “victim of trafficking in persons.” He has filed a complaint against Mordechai and Lepski with Employment Standards and the RCMP are investigating the death-threat complaint against Qizel.
Some of Mordechai and Lepski’s mall kiosks are still operating today. The pair are now being formally investigated, according to the office of Jason Kenney, Canada’s minister of employment. Since the case deals with potential human trafficking, it is being handled by the Ministry of Public Safety.
Citizenship and Immigration spokesperson Rémi Larivière said the Government of Canada takes the issue of exploitation and mistreatment of temporary foreign workers (TFWs) very seriously and that improvements to the program took effect on Dec. 31, 2013. These include allowing Citizenship and Immigration and Employment and Social Development Canada officials to conduct inspections of employers who hire TFWs to ensure that they’re meeting the conditions of employment. Service Canada has also made some changes, launching a public tip line to encourage Canadians who have any complaints, to share them with the agency’s Integrity Services.
Lauren Kramer, an award-winning writer and editor, lives in Richmond, B.C. To read her work online, visit laurenkramer.net.