Temple Sholom treasurer Daniel Gumprich, left, president Melody Robens-Paradise and Rabbi Dan Moskovitz. (photo from JCF)
Temple Sholom has a new $1 million endowment fund that will provide the congregation with stable, long-term income for the synagogue in perpetuity.
“We chose to establish this fund at the Jewish Community Foundation because we know that they will manage it carefully and expertly. We are thrilled that Temple Sholom will be able to rely on income from the fund to meet its needs for generations to come,” said the family who seeded the fund.
It was important to the family that they be able to leverage their giving to inspire others. So, in addition to seeding the fund, they established a program to match contributions, which not only maximized their own impact but that of every donor who joined them in giving.
“The foundation supported our staff and leadership to confidently approach congregants about contributing to the fund,” said Cathy Lowenstein, director of congregational engagement at Temple Sholom. “We were able to give everyone the opportunity to participate, which created the momentum necessary to reach our goal.”
“The endowment will ensure our ability to serve every facet of our congregation through dynamic programming, strong leadership and robust outreach for generations to come,” said Temple Sholom’s Rabbi Dan Moskovitz. “It also means we can undertake a long-term approach to planning, because we have the financial strength to adapt to the changing needs of our congregation.”
Many local Jewish agencies, congregations and other organizations have endowment funds at the Jewish Community Foundation, including the Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver, Jewish Family Services Vancouver, the Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre, and others. In addition, individual fund holders often choose to support an organization through their own donor-advised or -designated funds.
Diane Switzer, chair of the foundation’s board of governors, said, “We are very proud to manage endowment funds on behalf of so many crucial organizations across our community, and we take our responsibility to manage these investments prudently extremely seriously. This is how we carry out the important work of building and enriching our community.”
People can make a contribution to the Temple Sholom Endowment Fund via jewishcommunityfoundation.com. They can also establish a fund for an organization or an area of need about which they care by contacting JCF executive director Marcie Flom at 604-257-5100.
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Alex Leslie’s Vancouver for Beginners was one of the works shortlisted for the 2020/2021 City of Vancouver Book Award. The honour recognizes authors of excellence of any genre who contribute to the appreciation and understanding of Vancouver’s diversity, history, unique character, or the achievements of its residents.
In the poetry collection, “[n]ostalgia of place is dissected through the mapping of a city where Leslie leads readers past surrealist development proposals, post-apocalyptic postcards, childhood landmarks long gone and a developer who paces at the city’s edge, shoring it up with aquariums.”
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Prairie Sonata by Sandy Shefrin Rabin was named one of the best books of 2021 by Kirkus Reviews. The novel tells the story of Mira Adler, a teenage girl growing up on the Prairies after the Second World War, and what she learns about life and love from her Yiddish and violin teacher, Chaver B, a recent immigrant from Prague. Kirkus called it “a compelling work with a wistful longing for days of childhood innocence. A poignant and eloquent reflection on tradition, family, friendship, and tragedy.”
Winner of the Independent Press Award, and named a 2021 New York City Big Book Award Distinguished Favourite in the young adult fiction category, Prairie Sonata has been introduced into high school curricula.
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The Canada Council for the Arts’ 2021 Governor General’s Literary Awards winners include, in the drama category, Sexual Misconduct of the Middle Classes by Hannah Moscovitch.
“Hannah Moscovitch’s play is an articulate, poetic, beautifully written play with characters who are complex and complicated,” noted the peer assessment committee. “A superb piece of writing that shines as a play, as a living piece of theatre and, no doubt, literature that will endure.”
In the drama, “[t]he archetypal student-teacher romance is cleverly turned on its head for the post-#metoo era…. Jon, a star professor and author, is racked with self-loathing after his third marriage crumbles around him when he finds himself admiring a student – a girl in a red coat. The girl, 19-year-old Annie, is a big fan of his work and also happens to live down the street. From their doorways to his office to hotel rooms, their mutual admiration and sexual tension escalates under Jon’s control to a surprising conclusion that will leave you wanting to go back and question your perceptions of power as soon as you finish.”
Rabbi Dr. Yosef Wosk speaks at a Vancouver Public Library event in 2017. (photo by Cynthia Ramsay)
The Order of Canada is one of our country’s highest civilian honours. Its companions, officers and members take to heart the motto of the order: “Desiderantes meliorem patriam” (“They desire a better country”).
Created in 1967, the Order of Canada recognizes outstanding achievement, dedication to the community and service to the nation. Appointments are made by the governor general on the recommendation of the Advisory Council for the Order of Canada. This year, among the 114 new appointees, are Vancouver Jewish community members Dr. Carol Herbert and Rabbi Dr. Yosef Wosk. Each recipient will be invited to accept their insignia at a ceremony to be held at a later date.
Herbert was appointed a Member of the Order of Canada for her contributions to the fields of clinical and academic medicine, as a family physician, medical educator, researcher and administrator. She and three colleagues were appointed.
“The appointment of Drs. B. Lynn Beattie, Joseph Connors, Carol Herbert and Roger Wong to the Order of Canada is a demonstration of their incredible commitment to the health and well-being of all Canadians,” said Dr. Dermot Kelleher, dean of the University of British Columbia’s faculty of medicine and vice-president, health, at UBC, said in a press release. “We are very proud of each of their contributions, and deeply moved by their passion for improving the lives of patients and families here in B.C., and across the nation.”
Herbert, an adjunct professor in the School of Population and Public Health, “is internationally known for her leadership in primary care research, and for her work in clinical health promotion, patient-physician decision-making, and participatory action research with Indigenous communities, focused on diabetes and on environmental effects on human health,” notes the UBC release. “She was formerly head of the department of family practice, founding head of the division of behavioural medicine and a founder of the UBC Institute of Health Promotion Research.”
This only touches on Herbert’s extensive experience. She also was dean of medicine and dentistry at Western University in London, Ont., from 1999 to 2010, was a practising family physician from 1970 to 2013, and has been involved in medical education since 1971.
Yosef Wosk, PhD, was appointed Officer of the Order of Canada for his far-reaching contributions to his community as a scholar, educator and writer, and for his generous philanthropy. BC Booklook (bcbooklook.com/2020/11/27/41941) cites the governor general: “Yosef Wosk is a Renaissance man of the 21st century. A rabbi, scholar, businessman and art collector, he is a revered educator and community activist who inspired many to become engaged in global issues and local challenges. Former director of interdisciplinary programs in continuing studies at Simon Fraser University, he founded the Philosophers’ Café and the Canadian Academy of Independent Scholars. A poet, explorer and dedicated philanthropist involved with museums, the arts, social services, publishing, nature and heritage conservation, he has endowed hundreds of libraries worldwide.”
Wosk has established more than 400 libraries, including 20 libraries in remote Himalayan villages and 37 in Jewish communities throughout the world. (See jewishindependent.ca/many-milestones-for-wosk-in-2019.) He has supported a range of local building preservation, public garden and other civic enhancement projects. He has helped fund the production of more than 250 books and videos, and has written numerous works, most recently Memories of Jewish Poland: The 1932 Photographs of Nachum Tim Gidal and the forthcoming GIDAL: The Letters of Tim Gidal and Yosef Wosk (Douglas & McIntyre, 2021). He supports several literature, writing, poetry, art and design initiatives, and is founding benefactor of the Dance Centre.
In addition to other honours, Wosk has received the Queen’s Golden and Diamond Jubilee Medals and a Mayor’s Arts Award, as well as the Order of British Columbia.
As part of its belief in and commitment to supporting emerging architecture practitioners, the Arthur Erickson Foundation and the Yosef Wosk Family Foundation recently announced a $110,000 donation to Indspire – Canada’s national, award-winning Indigenous registered charity – in support of Indigenous youth in Canada. The donation will fund an awards program focused on increasing Indigenous student success by growing the number of Indigenous architects and landscape architects in Canada.
Central to Arthur Erickson’s work as an architect and theorist was his belief in and commitment to education and research. Having served on the faculties of architecture at the University of Oregon and the University of British Columbia, Erickson understood the need of each generation to contribute to the training of the next. One of the ways the foundation honours Erickson’s belief is by working with donors to develop prizes and scholarships intended to reward and assist students studying architecture and landscape architecture.
“The Arthur Erickson Foundation and Yosef Wosk Family Foundation, along with Indspire, are pleased to announce the establishment of an awards program supporting Indigenous education in architecture and landscape architecture,” said Michael Prokopow, vice-president (East) Arthur Erickson Foundation. “The organizations recognize the profound importance of the shared work of decolonization and reconciliation in Canada for the transformation of society. These awards recognize the deep power of Indigenous thinking and wisdom around the making of habitation and space for well-being across generations and the vitally important stewardship of the natural world.”
Mike DeGagné, president and chief executive officer of Indspire, stated, “This new investment is a significant step in supporting First Nations, Inuit and Métis architecture and landscape architecture students to achieve their potential through education and training. They can in turn enrich their communities and create positive change in Canada. We are grateful for the support of the Arthur Erickson Foundation and the Yosef Wosk Family Foundation for investing in Indigenous achievement and education.”
Simon Fraser University Gerontology Research Centre (GRC) founder Dr. Gloria Gutman and her team – Avantika Vashisht, Taranjot Kaur, Mojgan Karbakhsh, Ryan Churchill and Amir Moztarzadeh – received the Best Paper Award at the International Conference on Gerontechnology, held Nov. 25-27. SFUGero tweeted the news Dec. 1, noting that the paper was a “[f]easibility study of a digital screen-based calming device for managing BPSD [behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia] during bathing in a long-term care setting.”
A brief biography for Gutman, PhD, appears on the conference website. She is president of the North American chapter of the International Society for Gerontechnology, vice-president of the International Longevity Centre-Canada, past-president of the Canadian Association on Gerontology and the International Association of Gerontology and Geriatrics. She is co-editor (with Andrew Sixsmith) of Technologies for Active Aging (Springer, 2013) and has published widely on seniors housing, long-term care, health promotion, prevention of elder abuse, and seniors and disasters. She is on the advisory of MindfulGarden Digital Health and is the principal investigator on the first feasibility clinical studies for MindfulGarden, which is a digital treatment of hyperactive dementia in long-term care setting. She established the GRC and department of gerontology at SFU and is recipient of many awards and honours, including the Order of Canada.
The third edition of the Western Canada Jewish Book Awards, presented by the Cherie Smith JCC Jewish Book Festival in Vancouver, took place Dec. 6. Daniella Givon, chair of the awards committee, opened the evening on Zoom and the five honours were awarded by five different presenters.
Winning the Nancy Richler Memorial Prize for Fiction was Rhea Tregebov for Rue des Rosiers, in which a young Canadian woman’s search for her own identity brings her to Paris in 1982, and face-to-face with the terror of an age-old enemy. Tregebov (Vancouver) is the author of fiction, poetry and children’s picture books. She is associate professor emerita in the University of British Columbia creative writing program.
The Pinsky Givon Family Prize for nonfiction went to Naomi K. Lewis for Tiny Lights for Travellers. When her marriage suddenly ends, and a diary documenting her beloved Opa’s escape from Nazi-occupied Netherlands in the summer of 1942 is discovered, Lewis decides to retrace his journey to freedom. Lewis (Calgary) is the author of the novel Cricket in a Fist and the short story collection I Know Who You Remind Me Of.
Ellen Schwartz was awarded the Diamond Foundation Prize for children’s and youth literature for The Princess Dolls, a story about friendship between a Jewish girl and a Japanese girl, set against the backdrop of 1942 Vancouver. Schwartz (Burnaby) is the author of 17 children’s books, including Abby’s Birds and Mr. Belinsky’s Bagels.
The Lohn Foundation Prize for poetry was given to Alex Leslie for Vancouver for Beginners. In this collection, the nostalgia of place is dissected through the mapping of a city, where readers are led past surrealist development proposals, post-apocalyptic postcards and childhood landmarks long gone. Leslie (Vancouver) is the author of two short story collections and the winner of the 2015 Dayne Ogilvie Prize for LGBTQ Emerging Writers.
The Kahn Family Foundation Prize for writing about the Holocaust was given to Olga Campbell for A Whisper Across Time, a personal and moving story of her family’s experience of the Holocaust through prose, art and poetry, creating a multi-dimensional snapshot of losses and intergenerational trauma. Campbell is a visual artist whose media include photography, sculpture, mixed media painting and digital photo collage.
The jury for the 2020 Western Canada Jewish Book Awards comprised Shula Banchik, arts and culture manager of the Calgary JCC; Judy Kornfeld, former librarian at Langara College; Els Kushner, author and librarian; Norman Ravvin, writer, critic and Concordia University professor; and Laurie Ricou, professor emeritus of English at UBC.
After short acceptance speeches and readings from the authors, Dana Camil Hewitt, director of the JCC Jewish Book Festival, concluded the evening thanking the sponsors, the judges, the awards committee and the extended virtual audience, and inviting everyone to purchase and enjoy the books.
Bonnie Nish, executive director of Word Vancouver. (photo by Andrew Bagoly)
“We believe that Word Vancouver is a vehicle for community connection. It is important on so many levels right now to provide a space for collaboration, discourse, and a safe and accessible platform for people to share their stories,” festival executive director Bonnie Nish told the Independent.
Normally, the annual event takes place in Downtown Vancouver and people drop in to see author talks and participate in other activities. This year’s festival will be online, running Sept. 19-27.
“Like most organizations, we knew we had to either cancel or pivot by late March,” explained Nish about the impact of COVID-19. “Our festival takes place in September, so we had more time than others to make this decision.
“Word Vancouver’s mission,” she said, “is to bring readers and writers together to celebrate literary arts. The question was could we make the change from an in-person festival to an online festival and still serve this mission. We decided that, yes, we could, and, in doing so, we might even extend our reach with the in-person barrier removed. We could now seamlessly collaborate with national partners like Word On the Street Toronto and authors who were not physically in Vancouver, while keeping our main focus on local authors.”
Several changes had to be made.
“We needed to get prepared for the new online delivery format,” said Nish. “With the live in-person festival, we would not have any pre-registrations, as people would just walk into the events as they happened at the Vancouver Public Library. Now, we have a complex communications plan, along with a registration system, so our audience can secure their place and be given step-by-step instructions on how and when to participate.”
On the down side, she said, “We were working with a great site management team last year and we are sad we aren’t able to have them on our team for this festival.”
There have been other challenges, as well.
“We have had to prepare for the decrease of revenue from the exhibitor booths by reducing our staffing substantially,” said Nish. “Our board is very supportive of our new situation but they are also very risk averse, as they should be. We have found the most amazing volunteers and, for that, we are truly grateful. Programming is reduced somewhat, but we still have managed to book 140 authors and schedule over 50 events. Our community collaborations are stronger than ever. We have reinvented the exhibitor platform and now offer online exposure both on our website and during the events. It is a hard sell to some, but we honestly think the reach and return for exhibitors will be close to on par with the in-person version.”
Of the 140 authors participating this year, many are members of the Jewish community, and the Independent was able to speak with two of them – Alex Leslie and Rhea Tregebov – in advance of the festival.
Leslie writes poetry and short fiction, but is working on her first novel. Her latest collection is Vancouver for Beginners (Book*hug, 2019), and its poems are filled with powerful imagery and strong views about her beloved city, where she was born and raised. Leslie’s unique use of language, infused with obvious passion for her subject matter, is energizing to read. Every one of these poems is political in that they call on readers to think about the way in which they inhabit the world, how they think of ownership, place, community and many other concepts. Most of the entries are short narratives (or microfictions) that, in a page, encapsulate the feeling of being in a certain neighbourhood; what we lose when we normalize poverty alongside great wealth; the opportunities we miss when we forget our past, or the misery in our present.
JI: Could you share a bit about your background, both as it pertains to writing, and to your involvement with the Jewish community?
AL: I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was a very young child. In my early 20s, I started taking short fiction more seriously as a writer and trying to publish in literary journals. It took awhile to place my first story, through a long period of reading, frustration, rejection and editing. From there, I published stories until I had enough to put together a manuscript, and that book, People Who Disappear, came out in my late 20s. I’ve essentially continued in the same way – working on material for long periods of time, attending readings, drilling away at projects around the time I spend on my paid work in the mental health field. I’ve always been a wanderer between fiction and poetry communities.
I’m a member of Or Shalom synagogue in Vancouver and co-curate a storytelling series there…. The Jewish side of my family is originally Ashkenazi, from shtetls in Ukraine, in the regions around Lvov and Odessa (when they immigrated they wrote down they were “Russian”). We’re what is called diasporic, as the communities we came from were lost to the Shoah (Holocaust).
JI: Jewish characters have appeared in your writings. What are some of the ways in which our Jewishness informs your political, cultural or other views/actions?
AL: Yes, my book of stories that came out in 2018, We All Need to Eat, centred around a young Jewish woman named Soma, and Jewish identity is a backbone of that book, as she processes the current rise of the alt-right and her family history that’s bound up in fleeing persecution in Eastern Europe.
For me, a core Jewish value is tikkun olam, which translates roughly to “repair of the world/universe.” Tikkun olam influences my work in the mental health field, as there is the prerogative there of contribution and not turning away from difficult areas of the mind and the concept that energy and goodness can be found in dark places. Persistence and dark humour – humour where others may not find humour! – are practices I’ve taken from Jewishness as well.
JI: Do you still co-curate Koreh at Or Shalom? Why is it important for people to have a platform to publicly read their work?
AL: Yes! Our next Koreh is on Saturday, Sept. 12, for Selichot. We have 10 readers! I curate this with Or Shalom’s Rabbi Hannah Dresner. This Koreh is centred on the idea of the pandemic as a crossing or transformation and everyone is welcome to be part of our audience. Here is the link with the Zoom information: orshalom.ca/event/leil-selichot-a-koreh-event-with-high-holiday-melodies.
This is our third year of curating Koreh. I feel it’s a special space for people who may not consider themselves “writers” to share stories, poems and reflections on their experiences and how they relate to the world. We’ve had Korehs focused on the natural world, on repose/restoration, on sanctuary. Rabbi Hannah asked me to co-curate it with her when we started it up. It was really her concept in the beginning and it’s been a pleasure to get to know so many writers and listeners adjacent to Koreh.
JI: What compels you to write and publish?
AL: My love of writing coincided with my love of reading. I’ve honestly wanted to be a writer since kindergarten. I remember writing stories about our neighbours, and my mother copying them out again in her handwriting. As I got older and wrote more and more, publishing emerged as a natural goal.
I read constantly and loved that I could see the world precisely from another person’s emotional perspective. I suppose that I wanted to replicate that experience, and share in it. Also, for me, it was about language, and using and manipulating language as a medium. Selecting, ordering and controlling words is a fascination for me, the way I suppose a mathematician may feel about algebra, or an investor might feel about predicting stocks. It’s a system.
JI: What is the importance to you of words?
AL: I think that words can put you in another person’s mind, so the power here would be empathy, radical transportation. Words also have a power of deep-layered description – so the power would be complex evocation, mixing emotional and physical parts of reality, making something 2-D into something 3-D, like a life-giving power.
Words can also move us to action. During the pandemic, I have been reading a lot. Endless online stuff is tiring and alienating after a long period of time. I’ve read a few extraordinary novels during this time – two are Breasts and Eggs by Mieko Kawakami and Lost Children Archive by Valeria Luiselli. I also read Norman Doidge’s two books about neuroplasticity. I’m grateful for how these books moved me and took me out of this moment and showed me something I couldn’t have imagined on my own.
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Born in Saskatoon and raised in Winnipeg, Tregebov moved to Vancouver from Toronto in 2004 to teach in the creative writing program at the University of British Columbia. Though she retired in 2017, she holds the position of associate professor emerita and continues to teach a bit. She has written several children’s books and is working on her eighth collection of poetry. Rue des Rosiers (Wolsak & Wynn, 2019) is her second novel.
Based on events leading to the 1982 terrorist attack in Paris on Goldenberg’s Deli, which killed six people and injured many more, Rue des Rosiers is a poignant and lyrical story about two women with vastly different backgrounds but both trying to figure out who they are and their place in the world. Canadian Sarah Levine makes decisions by flipping a penny that she carries with her and, at 25, she is decidedly lost, for a number of reasons. When she has a chance to go to Paris, she does and, while there, her story crosses over with that of Laila, an Arab immigrant living in one of the city’s slum neighbourhoods. In the author’s notes, Tregebov writes that she hopes her novel will “act as a memorial to the six people who died in the attack.” It does that, and more.
JI: Rue des Rosiers has so many layers and motifs, tightly woven, not a phrase seems superfluous. Can you share some of your creative process, from the idea of the novel to its publication last year?
RT: The novel began with two impulses: to explore the relationships among sisters and to understand the impact of terrorism on perpetrators as well as victims. Both are rooted in personal experience. I am one of three sisters, and I was living in Paris in 1982 very near where the attack on Rue des Rosiers occurred. Working through these issues was a long, sometimes joyous, sometimes exhausting process.
JI: Could you speak a bit about how Judaism or Jewish community infuse your work and/or life?
RT: I grew up in the shadow of the Holocaust and the moral issues the Holocaust raises are core. I also grew up in a vital Winnipeg community that modeled ethical commitment and progressive values that I still find of immense value.
JI: Coteau Books, which initially published your novel, has closed. What are some of your thoughts on the future of publishing?
RT: Small presses like Wolsak & Wynn (who, happily, have picked up the novel) are a mainstay of literary publishing. We still have an infrastructure of support that allows these smaller presses. I’m concerned that the consolidation that characterizes the larger presses may contribute to a narrowing of available voices and perspectives.
JI: In an interview, you say, “I’ve said that the book is trying to ascertain the humanity in inhumanity.” Are there any risks in doing this, in finding the humanity in inhumanity?
RT: It can be difficult to attempt to empathically understand behaviour that is anathema to one’s own moral schema. I didn’t want to justify or validate acts or attitudes that dehumanize the Other. But, as one of the characters in the book says, “I’m interested in goodness, the mystery of goodness.” And, to examine goodness, one has to examine evil as its corollary.
JI: In another interview, you mention being “intrigued by the problem-solving involved in writing a novel.” Can you flesh out that idea?
RT: These large projects are so complex and absorbing. In the early stages, you have to hold a world that isn’t yet fully formed in your head. I’ve joked that it felt like wearing a giant hat! I (mostly) love the cut and paste and revision aspects of writing, how solving one small element sometimes acts to realign the entire book in a positive way.
JI: I’m always intrigued by imagery that enriches the storytelling, but is not technically needed for the story to be told. In Rue des Rosiers, you write sentences like, “A scraggly American elm sapling is handcuffed to a post as if it’s committed some crime”; “A gardener in blue coveralls sweeps the sand path, wiping away the traces of pigeon footprints”; “Light is a wave and a particle and so are the bees.” When or how do these types of flourishes enter your writing process?
RT: I think they’re a natural product of my life as a poet. Much of my writing is about looking, and I process looking through words. So having imagery present in the narrative is integral in world-building.
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Word Vancouver is completely free and some events are already full, so visit wordvancouver.ca sooner than later. The festival is welcoming financial support via donations, its Adopt an Author and silent auction programs, information about which also can be found on their website.