Several hundred people came to the Vancouver Art Gallery Plaza to participate in the annual lighting of the Silber Family Agam Menorah. (photo by Lior Noyman Productions)
In some places in the world, the sun shines on Hanukkah. It’s warm and inviting, and people gather at the lighting of a public menorah. But the real measure of a community is when hundreds turn out despite the cold and snow, to celebrate Hanukkah in a spirit of camaraderie and festivity. Such was on the first night of Hanukkah in Vancouver, when several hundred people came to the Vancouver Art Gallery Plaza to participate in the annual lighting of the Silber Family Agam Menorah.
Members of Parliament, of the legislature and of city council brought greetings from their respective governments. The current patriarch of the Silber family, Arnold Silber, delayed his vacation to warmer climes in order to be at the ceremony. His son, Steven Silber, spoke on behalf of the family, and noted that this year marked exactly 95 years since the family’s former patriarch, the late Fred Silber, landed in Canada from his native Poland, with almost nothing to his name. He built a beautiful family and a legacy to the Jewish and wider community.
Rabbi Yitzchak Wineberg, executive director of Chabad Lubavitch of British Columbia, noted in his short address that the lesson of Hanukkah did not lose its impact on Fred Silber. The Maccabees were very small in number, against a mighty army of the Assyrian Greeks, who were well versed in the art of war. Hanukkah teaches us never to be deterred by challenges. Fred Silber may have arrived here with little but he left this world having left much for future generations.
Rabbi Dovid Rosenfeld read a letter from the Lubavitch Rebbe (Menachem Mendel Schneerson) z”l that explains the importance and value of public menorah displays, and the attendees enjoyed a choir performed by students of the B.C. Regional Hebrew Schools, of which Rosenfeld is a co-director with his wife, Chaya Rosenfeld.
Chabad Lubavitch BC gratefully acknowledged the support of Arnold Silber in making this event possible.
The Arnold and Anita Silber Theatre at Tel-Hai College officially opened last month. (photo from Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver)
Last month, Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver chief executive officer Ezra Shanken, as well as board members Karen James, Alex Cristall and Candace Kwinter, and Jewish Community Foundation executive director Marcie Flom were in Israel for the official opening of the Arnold and Anita Silber Theatre at Tel-Hai College. This new 1,200-seat outdoor theatre will be a hub of activity for the university and surrounding area. The theatre is located at the centre of the Tel-Hai campus, and is a key component in the college’s long-term development plan.
The Silbers have long supported Federation’s partnership region of the Galilee Panhandle, and its work there. They have supported a number of projects and established the Friends of Beit Vancouver, a donor-recognition program for supporters of Beit Vancouver. Anita Silber serves on Federation’s Israel and overseas affairs committee, and has for several years. Recognizing that Tel-Hai is a significant economic driver in the region led the Silbers to fund this legacy project and lend their name to it.
The official opening of the theatre began with a welcome reception with Tel-Hai’s board of trustees, followed by a ribbon cutting. The Silbers were joined by their granddaughter, Samantha Addison, and family members from Israel. In reply to the address honouring them that was delivered by Tel-Hai’s president, Prof. Yossi Mekori, Arnold Silber stressed that the students were the primary motivation for this investment. They are the ones to whom the future of the region is entrusted, and it is they who will take it to the next level.
A number of families and individuals from our community agree, and they are funding scholarships, which were awarded to students at the ceremony by James and Cristall: the Coleman Family Scholarships, the Krell Family Scholarships, the Evelynne Loomer z”l Scholarships, the Bernard Lotzkar Scholarships and the Zalkow Family Scholarships.
* * *
Over the course of the 2018/2019 school year, the Student Council Committee of Richmond Jewish Day School took it upon themselves to raise money for the Shalva Centre Hydrotherapy Program in Israel.
With the support of families, the school raised $1,000, which was generously matched by Lola Pawer. Pawer and Leslie Diamond, who is a board member of the Shalva Centre, came to RJDS to teach students about the work Shalva provides for children with disabilities.
The students presented a cheque to Diamond in the amount of $2,000. For anyone wanting to learn more about Shalva or make a donation, visit shalva.org.
* * *
Brett and Caro Rudolph have fun at their wedding in Syracuse, Sicily. Brett is the son of Les and Anita Rudolph of Vancouver (previously from South Africa) and Caro is the daughter of André and Svetli Wanne of Vienna. The wedding was officiated by Rabbi Paul Chaim Eisenberg of Vienna and was thoroughly enjoyed by family and friends. Brett and Caro live in Israel.
* * *
On May 25, 2019, Samantha Pawer was conferred the degree of bachelor of science honours in integrated sciences with distinction from the University of British Columbia. Samantha is an alumna of Richmond Jewish Day School and Hugh Boyd Secondary School. Proud are parents Jeff Pawer and Beverly Pawer and big brother Brayden Pawer.
* * *
Moshe Baitelman decided to become a doctor when he took his first biology class in high school. On May 26, 2019, the Vancouverite graduated as valedictorian at Touro’s Lander College of Arts and Sciences in Flatbush, Brooklyn, N.Y. He will begin medical school in the fall.
Baitelman chose Touro because it offered a strong Jewish environment as well as academic rigour. He majored in honours biology and minored in computer science. Along the way, he built strong relationships with his professors. “They all pushed me to be my best,” he said.
Living in Brooklyn, Baitelman found support for his career goals via the Gedaliah Society, a local network of Chabad men and women in the healthcare profession who offered advice and shared their own experiences in preparing for medical school. He also served as executive editor of Touro’s science journal and president of the Touro Science Society.
“Moshe has distinguished himself as a gifted, multitalented student with outstanding leadership skills. We are confident that he will become a respected physician, who will create a Kiddush Hashem in all his patient and professional interactions,” said Dr. Robert Goldschmidt, vice-president and executive dean of the Lander College.
Prior to Touro, Baitelman attended Vancouver Hebrew Academy for elementary and then the Pacific Torah Institute. Both schools imparted a strong Torah education with Jewish morals and values, and a first-class education. Baitelman’s education in Vancouver was the solid foundation for a life of strong Jewish identity and commitment to Jewish observance and learning, as well as enabling him to pursue further career education.
Baitelman credits his parents for his drive; they instilled a strong work ethic and have continued to encourage him. He offers similar advice to students getting ready to start college: “Be proactive. It will be the difference between just passing through and actually gaining from college. Find activities that will be conducive to your professional and educational growth – use your network of professors, advisors and other students.”
Fifth- and sixth-generation descendants prepare to enter the gates of the newly restored Jewish Cemetery at Mountain View. (photo by Robert Albanese Photography)
Several generations of Jewish life in Vancouver were represented Sunday afternoon at the rededication of the Jewish cemetery section at Mountain View Cemetery.
The historic burial site was first consecrated in 1892. In recent years, the site had deteriorated. There were more than 150 unmarked graves, many neglected headstones, pathways had eroded, hedges overgrown and the entryway had deteriorated.
Under cloudless skies, young children, all born more than a century after the first burial in the Jewish cemetery, assembled at the new entryway, joined by other generations of families with ancestors buried there, to officially open the gates of the rededicated cemetery.
The project, which took less than three years, was undertaken by a team of volunteers led by Shirley Barnett and assisted by the civic officials who run the cemetery, including cemetery manager Glen Hodges, with the support of the city, which owns Mountain View Cemetery.
Jack Kowarsky, chair of the Schara Tzedeck Cemetery board, noted that the City of Vancouver had given the Jewish community this parcel of land 123 years ago, before which Jewish bodies had been shipped to the nearest consecrated Jewish cemetery, which was across the water in Victoria.
The 450 Jews interred at Mountain View, Kowarsky said, represent the forefathers of the current community.
Raymond Louie, Vancouver city councilor and acting mayor, called the rededication an important day for the Jewish community but also for the City of Vancouver. He credited Barnett, Arnold Silber and Herb Silber for the progress made during two and a half years of work, and he reflected on Mayor David Oppenheimer, the city’s first Jewish mayor, who was pivotal to the creation of the Jewish part of Mountain View.
Louie said the day was an opportunity for Vancouverites to remember ancestors and celebrate our multicultural heritage.
Barnett, who was presented with a book documenting the work that took place, deflected attention to others in the audience, noting that a single individual – Cyril Leonoff – led the community’s fight in the late 1960s, when the city attempted to remove all upright headstones and replace them with flat ones to make maintenance easier.
Barnett expressed gratitude for the happy coincidence that both Bill Pechet, a world leader in cemetery design, and Cornelia Hahn Oberlander, a globally recognized landscape architect, are both Vancouverites.
J.B. Newall Memorials, a memorial and monument company that is also a preeminent headstone restoration company, Barnett said, generously donated a headstone for the previously unmarked 1892 gravesite of the first interment in the cemetery, as well as refurbishing many headstones.
Arnold Silber brought laughs to the audience when he referenced Barnett’s reputation for getting things done. He reflected on the phone call from Barnett three years earlier asking him what should be done about the poor state of the cemetery where her grandfather is buried.
Silber told Barnett that “we would do everything she wanted – as long as she would be in charge.”
Turning to Barnett, Silber said: “Your dreams always become a reality.”
Silber stressed that the Jewish cemetery at Mountain View has an inclusive mandate that “any Jew, regardless of their affiliation, can be buried here at Mountain View.” He added that, now that the renovation and rededication have taken place, funds are being raised for perpetual maintenance and protection of the site.
“All generations to come will understand the value of this great Jewish cemetery,” he said.
With the renovation, several new plots have become available.
Rabbi Andrew Rosenblatt and Cantor Yaacov Orzech provided an indication of what the original dedication ceremony might have been like in 1892. At the time, the rabbi said, those assembled would have proceeded seven times around the cemetery as part of the consecration process but, he noted, the size of the assembled people Sunday did not permit such a procession.
The cantor offered some of the prayers that would have been included in that ceremony 123 years ago, including the prayer accompanying a casket to the gravesite.
Rosenblatt noted that the rededication was taking place on Pesach Sheini, a day specifically created, according to rabbinical interpretation, so that those who contract ritual impurity by caring for the deceased should be able to nevertheless celebrate the joy of Passover.
Rev. Joseph Marciano offered the prayer traditionally spoken when leaving a cemetery.
After the generations of descendants of those interred in the burial ground passed through the gates, followed by scores of rabbis, cantors, city councilors, an MP and community leaders, two headstone unveilings took place, one for “Baby Girl Zlotnick,” who died in 1920, and another for Otto Bond, the previously unmarked grave of the first individual interred there.