Jewish Seniors Alliance of Greater Vancouver board and staff 2014-15. Standing, from left: Janet Kolof, Timothy Newman, Marilyn Glazer, Barbara Bronstein, Lyle Pullan, Claire Cohen, Gyda Chud, Ida Gitlina, Rubin Feldman and Binny Goldman. Seated, from left: Karon Shear (staff), Shanie Levin, Ken Levitt, Serge Haber, Marilyn Berger, Milton Adelson and Rita Propp (staff). Missing from the photo are Debbie Cossever, Marie Doduck, Lionel Fishman, Sylvia Gurstein, Sylvia Hill, Pamella Ottem, Rita Roling, Edith Shier and Jackie Weiler, as well as peer support staff Charles Leibovitch and Grace Hann. (photo from JSA)
As the Jewish Seniors Alliance of Greater Vancouver marked its 11th annual general meeting on Sept. 11 at the Sidney and Gertrude Zack Gallery, it was indeed an evening of celebration inspiration and innovation.
JSA past president Serge Haber welcomed a standing-room-only crowd and led them in a minute of silence to honor those who had passed away during the year.
Adolf Zilbershtain, president of the Most Bridge Russian seniors group, brought greetings and extended thanks on behalf of its 150 members for the financial support JSA had given them.
Bernard Jackson, president of Jewish War Veterans Shalom Branch – one of only three branches in Canada – followed and gifted JSA with greetings and a monetary donation.
Treasurer Milton Adelson reported that JSA is in good standing but that adequate funding remains an ongoing challenge and priority.
Attendees learned from Pamella Ottem that JSA’s peer support program is now the largest in the city, and that JSA is looked to for guidance, mentorship and support by many organizations offering similar services. Ottem lauded the peer support leadership of Grace Hann and Charles Leibovitch in building the program, which now serves more than 150 seniors and includes peer counseling, a home visiting program, phone calls to isolated seniors, an information and referral phone line, transport to medical appointments and a new bereavement support group.
Representing the membership committee, Lyle Pullan reported that JSA gained 46 new members this past year. He encouraged attendees to consider themselves as committee members, and to “Sign ’em up!” The goal is 100 new JSA memberships for the next year.
Joining the meeting was Shelley Rivkin, associate executive director of the Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver, who spoke about how much JSA and Haber are valued. She said Haber served as a mentor not only for Federation, but for all who advocate for the well-being of the community’s elders, who number 5,000 and whose numbers are expected to double in the next decade.
As JSA celebrated its 11th year and Haber’s nine as president, his report highlighted JSA’s numerous accomplishments in advocacy, outreach, the Seniors Line Magazine, the Empowerment Series, fall symposium and spring forum, where JSA has achieved a 25 percent increase in attendance. He honored the work of executive coordinator Karon Shear, his “right hand,” for her conscientious hard work and dedication, and the commitment of Rita Propp, office assistant. Together with the 4,000 hours of JSA volunteer activity, this is what makes JSA the “best of the best,” he said.
Ken Levitt, board vice-president paid tribute to Haber. Levitt asked the audience to ponder how many 86-year-olds they know who are such exemplary leaders and contribute with such vitality on a tiny, shoe-string budget. Very few, he suggested. Haber was elected president emeritus in a unanimous vote.
Certificates of merit were presented to “retiring yet always rewiring’’ board members, Pullan presented the nominations slate of returning and new board members and the election included the executive board for 2014-15.
Incoming JSA president Marilyn Berger, in her acceptance speech, concluded the AGM with the message, “Let’s do this together, as JSA continues to grow, flourish and thrive.”
After the meeting, there was dinner in the Wosk Auditorium with entertainment by Tzimmes, after which four honorees were celebrated, each of whom were nominated by their individual organizations for their contribution in service to others and ensuring that they enjoy life to the fullest.
Natasha Likholatnikov, nominated by Chabad of Richmond, has been a volunteer since her arrival in Canada from Ukraine. She volunteers in an ongoing capacity often several times each week. According to Rabbi Yechiel Baitelman, Likholatnikov spends more hours at Chabad than he does. She is involved in the Women’s Art Club, whose participants are from the former Soviet Union, and in Chabad’s Community Kitchen. She cooks for Chabad community activities, helps coordinate volunteers, and much more.
Stacey Kettleman was put forward by Congregation Beth Tikvah. She has been a part of Beth Tikvah for many years, and works hard to help many seniors and people who are isolated and need assistance. She thinks nothing of whipping up a meal, whether it be for Shabbat, a Yom Tov or just a warm dinner, and then delivering it to a senior in need. She also ensures the senior has food in his or her home, getting groceries for them if they do not. If Kettleman hears about a senior perhaps not attending an event, she will make a point of getting that person a ride – trying to make sure the senior is not alone, but part of the community.
As a writer, photographer, tribute-card creator and honorary JSA life member, honoree Binny Goldman brings an enthusiastic and positive presence to the many activities she undertakes for JSA. She rarely misses meetings, voluntarily undertakes assignments with devotion and the results are extraordinary.
Last but not least, Edith Shier created Senior Line Magazine, now published three times each year. To quote Haber, the magazine “is the only written communication to the seniors in the Jewish community and continues to receive rave reviews as the best of the best.”
Concluding the festivities, Haber was presented with a gavel and plaque by Berger for the work he has accomplished, the legacy he leaves and the contribution he will continue to make to JSA. He received a standing ovation. For his outstanding contribution to JSA and in memory and honor of his late wife Elinor, the Serge and Elinor z”l Haber Peer Support Fund has been established.
Haber urged everyone to be here and there with all our heart, and to press governments at all levels to play a much stronger role in the well-being of seniors.
Dinner co-chairs were Bernice Dorfman and Regina Boxer.
Gyda Chud is secretary of the Jewish Seniors Alliance of Greater Vancouver executive and board of directors.