Karon Shear was one of the volunteers honoured at the Jewish Seniors Alliance AGM on Sept. 14. (photo by Alan Katowitz courtesy of Jewish Seniors Alliance)
The annual meeting of the Jewish Seniors Alliance was held on Sept. 14 at Congregation Beth Israel. The business meeting was followed by a dinner and awards ceremony.
The business portion of the evening was called to order by JSA president Ken Levitt. Prior to the presentation of committee reports, a number of organizations offered greetings. A d’var Torah was delivered by Beth Israel’s Rabbi Jonathan Infeld, who emphasized that, according to Jewish law, we are not to cast aside seniors as they are at the heart of the community. And both Ezra Shanken, chief executive officer of the Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver, and Gudrun Langolf, acting president of the B.C. Council of Senior Citizen Organizations (COSCO), also said a few words.
Following the approval of the agenda and the minutes of last year’s AGM, Larry Meyer delivered the treasurer’s report. He outlined the various funding sources of JSA – government, corporate and private grants, as well as the $18 annual fee from members/supporters. He also listed the programs this money supports, such as peer counseling, Senior Line magazine, the fall symposium, the spring forum and the Empowerment Series, as well as the website, jsalliance.org.
Pamela Ottem, chair of the Peer Support Program, outlined the various aspects of the service. Peer counselors are required to take 55 hours of training prior to being assigned a client. They are given ongoing support in their work by Grace Hann, who is also the trainer, and Charles Leibovitch, who is a social worker. It takes 15 hours of training to become a Friendly Visitor. These volunteers visit shut-ins and lonely seniors; another part of the program is friendly phone calls and service information and referral. The peer support program has 56 trained volunteers serving 70 seniors.
The JSA’s Ambassador Program, whose goal is to raise awareness of elder abuse, started with a one-year grant and has been incorporated into the other offerings. Hann, Leibovitch and some of the volunteers make presentations to other seniors groups about their activities.
Binny Goldman reported that JSA has 596 members/supporters, of whom 320 are individual members, 150 are members of the Most Russian Bridge group and 21 are from affiliate organizations.
In Levitt’s president’s report, he briefly reviewed the activities of the JSA, emphasizing that the organization would not exist if it were not for the active involvement of its volunteers. He pointed out that the peer support program alone, if it were carried out by paid staff, would cost much more than JSA’s total budget. He thanked everyone, both staff and volunteers, who have worked so hard and contributed so much over the past year.
Marilyn Berger presented the report of the nominations committee. She read out the slate for the coming year and moved for acceptance. Two former board members were mentioned, Edith Shier, who has passed away and was the previous editor of Senior Line, and Milton Adelman, who has retired from the board but was for many years the treasurer of JSA. Levitt then called for the adjournment of the business part of the evening and everyone was invited to move to the tables for dinner, volunteer recognition and musical entertainment.
Jazz singer Jill Samycia entertained the approximately 150 dinner guests, after which came the awards presentations to volunteers. As has become JSA’s custom, several organizations were asked to nominate senior volunteers who have spent time and energy enhancing the goals of their organizations.
Karon Shear, who was coordinator and administrator of JSA from 2005-16, was nominated by JSA. Her service to seniors, and enthusiastic marketing, played a vital role in the development and growth of the organization. In presenting her with the award, Serge Haber described her as the heart and soul of JSA. He spoke of the countless hours she spent, off the clock, on weekends, working at home; how she produced the Senior Line magazine basically on her own for a time.
Sylvia Yasin was nominated by the Jewish Family Service Agency. Yasin has volunteered for many years with the Jewish Food Bank and was instrumental in creating relationships with various groups and individuals and obtaining ongoing donations of supplies for school-aged children. She was presented with her award by Debbie Rozenberg, who noted that Yasin began volunteering while still working full time. Yasin has been involved with the Terry Fox Run and with ORT. Among other things, she organized the gift wrapping in shopping malls that raised funds for ORT. She also helps set up and clear for the seniors lunches at the Kehila Society and is still involved with the Jewish Food Bank.
Nassa and Arnold Selwyn were nominated as a couple for their longtime volunteerism at Congregation Beth Israel. Infeld talked about Arnold’s singing for the congregation and Nassa’s beautiful sewing of the parochet (ark curtain) and the siddur covers. Together they bring holiness into the world, said the rabbi. Both of them act as greeters and have been part of many other committees. They are also active in the general community and are part of Showtime, an entertainment group of seniors.
All of the honourees expressed their thanks and appreciation to JSA and the nominating organizations. The message to all was, volunteer whenever you can and wherever you can – it will bring you feelings of fulfilment and joy.
Samycia performed again, during dessert, and a number of the guests got up and danced to the music. The evening ended with a draw for door prizes.
Barbara Bronstein and Larry Shapiro were co-chairs of the event.
Tamara Frankel is a member of the board of Jewish Seniors Alliance. Shanie Levin, MSW, worked for many years in the field of child welfare. During that time, she was active in the union. As well, she participated in amateur dramatics. She has served on the board of the Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver and is presently on the executive of JSA and a member of the editorial committee.