Ben Silverman is the managing director and co-founder of Integral Artists, a talent agency based in Vancouver. He’s also the president of media investment firm Various Things Entertainment and co-founder of James Charles Properties, a real estate development company focused on B.C. holdings. It takes a lot of energy, but Silverman, who was named on Business in Vancouver’s 2019 Forty Under Forty list, has a mind that’s always working.
“Even if I am trying to relax on vacation, my brain doesn’t seem to want to shut off the part which is observing the world around us and processing it in search of new opportunities and/or improvements,” he said. “As a lifelong student of the art of calculated risks and plan execution, I am naturally compelled to the life of an entrepreneur.”
The 39-year-old grew up in a creative environment, enjoying writing and performing.
“Growing up in Richmond, I used to perform in the Prozdor musical theatre productions put on by Joan Cohen at Beth Tikvah,” he recalled. “My entire family would partake – my brothers on stage with me, my dad playing in the live orchestra and my mom helping organize the program. Prozdor was a real contributor to my enjoyment and pursuit of the performing arts.”
While he continued that pursuit, which included obtaining an undergraduate degree in creative writing, his taste for the entrepreneurial was taking shape as well. In 2003, he launched his first formal start-up, Astone Fitness, off the back of an infomercial he produced for a product he trademarked – Ripcords Resistance Bands.
Now, the film and television industry is where he brings his passions together. “Film and TV are commercial art forms which I have always been drawn to as forms of great entertainment and storytelling,” he told the Independent. “There is an inherent overlap and compromise required between the creative and the business side in film and TV.”
This overlap is where he does his best work, he said, harnessing his communication skills and his ability to relate to the needs of his creative clients, as well as his business acumen.
Outside of his work endeavours, Silverman remains active in the Jewish community, and is connected to the Bayit.
“I have tremendous respect for Rabbi Levi Varnai, who is inspiring and doing incredible work galvanizing the community around him and helping people from all walks of life feel like they belong,” Silverman said. “The shul’s [past] president, Mike Sachs, is also one of the hardest working and dedicated individuals I know. Together, their approach is inspiring and makes me feel like my contributions matter, which motivates me to participate however possible, whether financially or with my time.”
Silverman continues to dream big. Last year, Various Things Entertainment acquired feature film distribution company levelFILM, which had seven movies at the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival, including Hope Gap, starring Annette Bening and Bill Nighy, and Ordinary Love, starring Liam Neeson.
As for Integral Artists, which also has offices in Toronto, Silverman said the agency is in “active discussions regarding a further expansion within North America. Our goal is to be the largest talent agency headquartered in Canada.”
Shelley Stein-Wottenis a freelance journalist and comedy writer. She has won awards for her creative non-fiction and screenwriting and enjoys writing about the arts and environmental issues. She is based on Vancouver Island.
Left to right: Councilor Kelly Greene, Councilor Bill McNulty, Bayit past president Michael Sachs, Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie, Bayit president Keith Liedtke, Councilor Chak Au and Councilor Alexa Loo at the Bayit, after the mayor officially proclaims Jan. 27 as International Holocaust Remembrance Day in the city of Richmond. (photo by Cynthia Ramsay)
On Jan. 22, emotions were near the surface in a Holocaust commemoration that included the official proclamation of Jan. 27 as International Holocaust Remembrance Day in the city of Richmond. In a packed sanctuary at the Bayit, a synagogue in the province’s second-largest Jewish community, survivors, rabbis, community leaders and a host of elected officials from all levels of government were on hand to mark what was billed as an historic day.
Writer and teacher Lillian Boraks-Nemetz spoke as a survivor of the Holocaust and shared her first-person account, as well as the moral implications of what happened and the weight of survival.
“Not a day passes when I don’t ask myself why did I survive when six million perished, 1.5 million children and among them my 5-year-old sister,” said Boraks-Nemetz. “And I survived. Why? When every European Jewish child was automatically sentenced to death by Hitler, I won. Was my survival a miracle? A twist of fate? The will of God? Why me?”
She recalled the day everything changed, Sept. 1, 1939.
“I was alone on the porch of my grandfather’s summer home when masses of airplanes passed over my head. I heard shots, explosions, my dad ran to get me and we barely made it to the shelter, where the sight of crying children and frightened people confirmed my own fears,” she said. The Nazis invaded her Polish homeland. Jews lost all human rights, her father lost his right to practise law, her uncle was prevented from practising medicine. Teachers, professors and businesspeople were all kicked out of their positions. Jewish children did not attend schools and they were bullied, a precursor of the much graver fate to come.
Soon the Jews of Warsaw were imprisoned in the ghetto, where a Nazi-created dystopia developed.
“People stole food from each other,” she said. “All morality ceased to exist in an amoral world.”
Young Lillian was smuggled into the factory where her mother was a slave labourer. Lillian’s grandmother had bought a small house in a village and promised it to a man in exchange for posing as her husband, creating a pretext of a non-Jewish Polish family. Lillian was then smuggled from the ghetto through bribery and survived the war with her grandmother and the man.
“What were my chances of surviving? The rate of a child’s surviving the ghetto was seven percent,” she said. “We were liberated in 1945 by the Russians. But liberation isn’t liberating to survivors.”
While adults worked to reestablish their lives in a new country, children were left largely to their own devices to assimilate all that had happened. Psychiatry or any professional help was largely nonexistent.
“I was told to forget and to let go by people who didn’t have a clue what was on my mind or my soul,” she told the audience. “This was not a physical wound that results in a bruise or a scab, which then falls off and mostly disappears. This is a branding on the soul of fire caused by man’s inhumanity to man, woman and child. The enormity of the Holocaust is still largely incomprehensible and still emotionally inaccessible to those who were born here.”
Judy Darcy, British Columbia’s minister of mental health and addictions, shared the story of how her father survived the Holocaust and subsequently hid his Jewish identity to everyone, including his own children, until the last years of his life, when he tried to reconcile his experiences in meetings with the late Toronto rabbi Gunter Plaut. Darcy’s story was featured in the Independent (Feb. 24, 2017, jewishindependent.ca/mlas-father-hid-past).
Rabbi Levi Varnai, spiritual leader of the Bayit, recalled his family’s survival during the Holocaust, and Ezra Shanken, chief executive officer of the Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver, spoke of the human potential for good and evil.
“We must understand that we as human beings have the capacity for immense love but also to create immense pain and it’s only through disciplining ourselves through education and through moments like this that we ensure that the community that I think we all want, which is a community of love, is what will remain,” Shanken said.
Richmond’s Mayor Malcolm Brodie spoke at the event. In an interview with the Independent after, he noted that he often receives requests for proclamations. Recently, the urgency for making a statement and standing with Jewish people was accentuated when a Richmond auction house had to be pressured to cancel the sale of Nazi military memorabilia. Participating in the commemoration with the Jewish community was significant for him, said the mayor, and the past is a lesson for the future.
“I found it quite moving,” said Brodie, noting the remarks by Boraks-Nemetz and Darcy. It is important, he said, “to remind people, and the greater community, to watch out for the signs, because something like this – hopefully never on the scale – but something could happen again.… There have been enough times recently that antisemitism is still a real thing. It is something that we don’t hear too much about but it is something that is very real. In addition to honouring these millions who died, we have to educate young people to make sure that everybody knows the facts and we make sure that it never happens again.”
Michael Sachs, a Jewish community activist and past president of the Bayit, was pivotal in organizing the event – which was co-hosted by the Bayit, Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre, Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, Kehila Society of Richmond and Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver – and ensuring the attendance of the elected officials. Among the attendees were the mayor, most of Richmond’s city councilors, all four of the city’s members in the Legislature, Member of Parliament Alice Wong and former MP Joe Peschisolido, as well as others.
“There were 100 chairs and it was standing room only,” Sachs said afterward. “It’s historic because it’s the first time in Richmond that this proclamation has been made. To have such an outpouring of elected officials, VIPs and all these people coming out – it’s the first in history in Richmond.”
Sachs was effusive in his praise for the mayor for his actions. While many commemorations are taking place because it is the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, that was not a prime motivator of the Richmond event, said Sachs.
“It’s the first step of many that will come,” he said. “It’s the beginning of a real public acknowledgement that will lead to more public education. We had someone who was there, one of the aides of an elected official, and he came up to me afterwards and he said, ‘I didn’t know anything about the Holocaust.’ That’s one person right there,” Sachs said. “And, hopefully, this moment continues to help bring Holocaust education into every classroom in this province.”
Michael Schwartz of the Jewish Museum and Archives of British Columbia accepts the Award of Merit: Excellence in Community Engagement on behalf of all the partner organizations in the Cross Cultural Strathcona Walking Tour. (photo from JMABC)
The 2019 B.C. Museums Association Awards for Outstanding Achievement were handed out on Oct. 2 at the BCMA conference gala at Courtyard by Marriott in Prince George. The awards recognize institutions and individuals who have exemplified excellence in exhibitions, community engagement and innovation within the province’s museums, galleries and cultural heritage community. This year, three Jewish community groups were honoured for their work.
The Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre received the Award of Merit: Excellence in Collections for its collections management system, which provides access to Western Canada’s largest collection of Holocaust-related artifacts, survivor testimonies, archival materials and publications (collections.vhec.org). The award recognizes recent excellence in collections best practices, which may include innovative approaches to collecting, collections management, preservation, repatriation, collections-based research, dissemination and accessibility.
The Jewish Museum and Archives of British Columbia (JMABC), along with 16 partner organizations, including the Jewish Independent, received the Award of Merit: Excellence in Community Engagement for the Cross Cultural Strathcona Walking Tour. The award recognizes a recent outstanding success in community engagement, as demonstrated by ongoing participation of new audiences, new partnerships with community organizations, and supporting needs of the community through innovative programming.
Co-led by Carmel Tanaka and Michael Schwartz (director of community engagement at the JMABC), the walking tour celebrates the history of Vancouver Downtown Eastside neighbourhoods Hogan’s Alley, Jewish Strathcona, Japantown (Powell Street) and Chinatown. The guided walking tour builds awareness of the contributions of early immigrant communities then and now. Originally conceived in celebration of Vancouver Asian Heritage Month and Canada’s Jewish Heritage Month, the first series of tours debuted in May 2019.
With the theme of education, the route began at the oldest elementary school in Vancouver, Lord Strathcona Elementary School, referred to as the “League of Nations” for its multicultural makeup. When the triangle rang at the end of the day, school continued for many children in the form of nearby programs where students learned language and cultural traditions. Tour participants learned how these diverse communities interacted with one another in their common struggles, and how they were impacted by the urban renewal of the area.
The Cross Cultural Strathcona Walking Tour Working Group comprises Association of United Ukrainian Canadians; Benny Foods Italian Market; Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden; Musqueam Elder Larry Grant (honourary advisor to PCHC-MoM and VAHMS); Greater Vancouver Japanese Canadian Citizens Association; Heritage Vancouver Society; Hogan’s Alley Society; Jewish Independent; JMABC; Nikkei National Museum and Cultural Centre; Pacific Canada Heritage Centre Museum of Migration; Vancouver Asian Heritage Month Society’s explorASIAN; Vancouver Heritage Foundation; Vancouver Japanese Language School and Japanese Hall; Vancouver School Board; Vancouver School Board Archives and Heritage Committee; Wongs’ Benevolent Association; and Youth Collaborative for Chinatown.
After leading the Bayit in Richmond for the last five years, Michael Sachs has stepped down as board president, to spend more time with his young family.
Michael’s efforts and dedication have given members of the Bayit much for which to be grateful. During his tenure, Michael had a vision for how he saw the community and, as a man of action, he followed through. With a philosophy of engaging with everyone, he worked together with all of the Jewish organizations in Richmond and beyond, without ever losing focus that he was building a Bayit community.
Michael’s stepping down from the position of president doesn’t mean he won’t continue to be involved in the Bayit. As past president, he will remain on the board of directors and continue to be a part of the Bayit’s future.
Current Bayit board member Keith Liedtke will take over as the Bayit’s interim president. He shares Michael’s vision and sees the need for a strategic plan that will allow the Bayit to continue growing and filling the community’s needs.
The Bayit thanks Michael for his contributions as president and for his decision to stay on as a member of the board.
Earlier this year, the Bayit in Richmond launched Belong. The goal of the program is “to create a community where belonging grows and isolation disappears.”
Belong was developed by a committee of six Bayit members: Mel Bauer, Matti Feigelstock, Shelley Goldberg, Shira Sachs, Dan Shmilovitch and Rabbi Levi Varnai.
“There are people that you know you should be connecting to, [or] they should be connecting to you as an organization, but, for whatever reason, they’re not. So, we started talking about how we could address that issue as the Bayit,” explained Shmilovitch, who has been active in the Jewish community for more than 30 years.
There is never just one reason why people feel isolated, he said. “People are isolated for a whole range of reasons – health issues, economic circumstances, mental health issues, maybe they are recently widowed or divorced.”
It is easy to assume that Jewish communities are inherently so strong as to make isolation impossible, but this is not the case. Shmilovitch spoke of the need for “deepening Jewish connections … because isolation is a huge problem in every community and it affects the Jewish community as well, for all age groups.”
There are challenges in combating isolation. “As a Jewish organization, as a synagogue, you’re always looking to invite people in,” he said. “But, when you have people who are isolated and really disconnected, your approach has to be different to get that connection because that’s not their mindset. At that moment in time, that’s not where they’re at.”
The Belong committee started their planning by examining the obstacles that prevent people from making contact. There is more to being a community member than simply going to shul, explained Sachs, who is a teacher at Vancouver Talmud Torah.
She noted that people can still feel “uncomfortable or isolated” attending social gatherings outside regular services. She talked about how loneliness has a profound effect on a person’s health and can lead to depression. Using her own childhood story as an example, she described arriving in Canada when her mother, now deceased, was pregnant with twins; Sachs is the oldest of four.
“Community became so important to us,” she said. “We didn’t have the language and, within a couple of months, we went from a family of four to a family of six. My mom was a new mother in a new country, with twins.”
Going to shul helped the family make connections, learn about which schools the family wanted for the children. As a parent herself now, Sachs described how this ethos has shaped her own approach to family life. “When we came back from L.A., it was the number one thing to do – find a community and slowly grow with it. Now, how do we do that for others?”
The Belong committee determined multiple strategies for community development, the first of which was through Friday night dinners. The Belong team sought Bayit members who were willing to invite people to meals at home. They also reached out to Jewish Family Services for help locating people in Richmond who needed help.
“If you have a lady who is a single parent, you match them with another single parent,” said Sachs. “If you have a person who is passionate about literature, you sit them with someone who has the same passion. It was all assigned seating.” She added, “It’s comforting to know, ‘I don’t have to worry about that.’ Maybe that anxiety is why people haven’t come to a dinner.”
Belong is also working to offer food deliveries to families in need. “Food security is an issue in the Jewish community,” said Shmilovitch. The program has been running for awhile now but he hopes that deliveries will become more frequent in future.
“There are vulnerable people in the Jewish community – whether they don’t have enough food, feel isolated for a short time or in the longer term. Regardless, it’s hard to come out at the other end. That’s what drives us.”
In addition, Belong has created a support structure for new mothers. Inspired by and in partnership with Mamatefet, a support organization for Hebrew speakers in Vancouver, Mama Belong will work to diminish the feelings of isolation that often follow the birth of a baby. (See jewishindependent.ca/mothers-embrace-mamatefet.) Mama Belong started delivering baskets to Jewish mothers this summer.
The future of Belong came into focus at the May 12 launch. Current members of the Bayit were invited to learn about the new program. Guests were given a card with tear-off tabs that suggested a wide range of ways in which people could contribute, including hosting Friday night dinners, Russian language conversation groups and cash donations, among other ideas. Between 90 and 95% of the attendees folded over a tab.
From Mama Belong to food bank deliveries and Shabbat dinners, the program is striving to create a warm sense of community for those in need. “You never know what’s going to happen at what point in your life,” said Shmilovitch, but “something’s going to happen to connect you.”
Shula Klinger is an author and journalist living in North Vancouver. Find out more at shulaklinger.com.
Bayit Rabbi Levi Varnai, MLA Jas Johal, Chabad of Richmond Rabbi Yechiel Baitelman, Bayit board member Keith Liedtke, Joe Dasilva, Bayit president Michael Sachs, MLA Mike Bernier, MLA Teresa Wat and MLA John Yap. (photo by Lauren Kramer)
On the evening of Oct. 8, the Bayit and Chabad of Richmond hosted a Sukkot carnival called Shakes in the Shack. Scores of Richmond Jewish, and non-Jewish, community members came out and enjoyed the festivities.
The Bayit joined forces with Chabad of Richmond in an emoji-themed Purim celebration held at Richmond’s City Centre Community Centre March 12. Pictured here, left to right, are Chabad of Richmond’s Rabbi Yechiel Baitelman, Bayit president Mike Sachs, Yoav Rokach-Penn and the Bayit’s Rabbi Levi Varnai. (photo by Lauren Kramer)
In every community, and ours is no exception, there are folks who frequently capture the spotlight for their work while others quietly get things done behind the scenes, flying below the media radar. In our new Kibitz & Schmooze profile, we’ll try to highlight members of Greater Vancouver’s Jewish community who are doing outstanding, admirable and mention-worthy work out of view of the general public. If you know of profile subjects who fit this description, please email [email protected]
Kids and anxiety go hand-in-hand, but, when kids’ anxiety gets out of control, many parents turn to Annie Simpson.
The 39-year-old Vancouver Talmud Torah mom boasts a PhD in psychology and 10 years’ experience in pediatric psychology. She founded the Cornerstone Child and Family Psychology Clinic in Vancouver in January, where she works with nine other psychologists. But Simpson’s focus is on young patients with anxiety disorders, including obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder, selective mutism and depression.
Her interest in selective mutism, an impairment defined as an inability to speak in some social situations despite speaking perfectly fine in others, began six years ago. That’s when Simpson started getting referrals of children with the impairment and wanted to gain a better understanding of how to help them. She traveled to New York to confer with world-renowned expert Dr. Steve Kurtz, helped run one of his camps for selectively mute kids and came back enthusiastic about applying his cognitive behavioural therapy methods in Vancouver.
Within two years, Simpson ran the first camp of her own at the Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver and soon started receiving calls from all over North America, from parents who wanted to enrol their children. Just under one percent of kids have selective mutism.
Simpson’s summer clubs are annual now, and in high demand. “I see a wide variety of impairment, from kids who only speak to one parent to kids who cannot speak at school,” she says. “At the camps, we develop a trusting relationship with the children and then expose them gradually to the feared situation, rewarding their success.”
Camp is Simpson’s favourite week of the year because the progress is so rapid. “The children are improving so quickly and they get so excited about their success,” she says. “With the right supports in place back home, the kids continue to thrive after the camp.”
For parents who don’t seek help for selectively mute kids, Simpson warns that the mutism gets more challenging to treat the older a child gets, and is particularly difficult when kids become teens and have had so many years of not talking.
When she’s not counseling patients, you’ll find this enterprising Vancouverite at B.C. Children’s Hospital, where she’s a staff psychologist in the pediatric OCD Program; at Simon Fraser University, where she’s a clinical associate in the department of psychology; or consulting for AnxietyBC.
MLA George Heyman addresses the crowd at the lighting of the Silber Family Agam Menorah (below) on Dec. 25. (photo by Glenn Berlow)
There were many Chanukah celebrations that took place around the Lower Mainland last month. Here are but a sampling of the events that were held to mark the holiday.
Despite the frigid weather, more than 200 people gathered on Dec. 25 for the annual lighting of Canada’s tallest menorah, the Silber Family Agam Menorah.
The menorah is usually placed outside of Vancouver Art Gallery but, due to construction, it was placed outside of the Vancouver Central Library on West Georgia Street this Chanukah. The program included greetings from MLA George Heyman, Rabbi Avraham Feigelstock, Herb Silber and Rabbi Yitzchak Wineberg. B.C. Premier Christy Clark sent her greetings to be read at the event as well.
– Lubavitch BC
* * *
On Dec. 25, the third Iron Chef Chanukah took place, hosted once again by the Centre for Judaism of the Lower Fraser Valley.
“Rabbi and Simie Schtroks really know how to throw a party!” said chef Marat Dreyshner. “This was my third Iron Chef Chanukah competition and it gets better each year. Young and old joined together for an evening of lights, song, great food and amazing fun.”
“It was an evening that warmed my Yiddishe kishke,” one of the guests commented, echoing the sentiments of many.
After the competition, guests sat and shmoozed with Rabbi Falik and Rebbetzin Simie Schtroks into the night. A first-time attendee was overheard saying, “I am so glad that I came. This place really feels like one warm family. It really lifted my spirits.”
– Centre for Judaism
* * *
On Dec. 26, the third night of Chanukah was marked in the plaza of Richmond Public Library and Cultural Centre with a celebration that included the lighting of a 25-foot steel menorah designed by the late Arthur Erickson and fabricated by Ebco Industries Ltd.
MLA Teresa Wat was in attendance and addressed the more than 300 people who braved the difficult weather conditions to come out for the community event, which also featured kids entertainment and Chanukah treats.
Some of the companies and organizations involved were the Bayit synagogue (Rabbi Levi Varnai and president Michael Sachs), Chabad of Richmond, the City of Richmond, Richmond Public Library and Cultural Centre, and Helmet and Hugo Eppich from Ebco Group of Companies. Joe Dasilva was a main organizer.
– The Bayit
* * *
Approximately 120 people attended the annual Centre for Judaism’s public menorah lighting at the Semiahmoo Shopping Centre on Dec. 29.
MLA Marvin Hunt, White Rock Mayor Wayne Baldwin and councilors Dave Woods, Helen Fathers, Mike Starchuk and Rudy Storteboom joined the celebration and brought greetings from their cities and from the government of British Columbia. Rabbi Yitzchak Wineberg, director of Lubavitch BC, and his wife, Rebbetzin Henia Wineberg, also joined the Centre for Judaism’s Rabbi Falik and Rebbetzin Simie Schtroks for the evening.
Although MP Dianne Watts was sick with the flu, she made sure to call Simie Schtroks prior to the event. She also sent a letter of greetings on behalf of the Government of Canada. In the letter, she stated her support for the Jewish people and the state of Israel, especially at this time.
Jason Aginsky was awarded the Centre for Judaism’s Lamplighter Award. Aginsky was the second-youngest participant in the B.C. Ride to Conquer Cancer in August 2016, when he rode the 250 kilometres from Surrey to Seattle over two days. He raised more than $4,000 for the cause.
Cantor Yaakov Orzech lit the menorah and sang Chanukah songs. Musical entertainment, including “The Baal Shem’s Niggun,” was provided by violinist Robert Rozek, one of his students, Rebecca Bukhman, and her mother, musician Rada Bukhman. The talented young harpist Adina Ragetli also entertained the audience with Jewish songs.
Not to be forgotten was a quick game of Let’s Make a Chanukah Deal, as well as doughnuts, chocolate gelt and dreidel glasses.
Michael Sachs, left, and Rabbi Levi Varnai of the Bayit. (photo from Michael Sachs)
The Bayit, a small shul in Richmond, is seeing a resurgence. The increase in attendance and birth of new programming seems to be due to the growth of young Jewish families. Rabbi Levi Varnai, who took his post at the Bayit in July of this year, said their Shabbat morning services are busy and full, and a recent dinner welcomed 80 people to the shul, which only has 42 chairs.
Though Varnai is himself a Chabad rabbi, the shul is not affiliated with any denomination and stresses its inclusivity.
“There is a huge movement of young families into Richmond,” Varnai told the Independent. “We are not here to compete with the existing shuls, which are doing a great job. We are here to make a place for young families who haven’t yet found their place in the Richmond Jewish community.”
Varnai was born in Vancouver, but his family made aliyah in 2000. After yeshivah, he was drafted into the Israel Defence Forces and became an army chaplain, since he had semichah (ordination). In 2011, he married his wife Rivky, the daughter of Rabbi Shaul and Chaya Brocha Leiter, who run Ascent, a hostel in Tzfat known for its classes on Jewish mysticism. The couple moved to Vancouver in 2013 and have three children: Mendel, Shmuli and Chaya.
Children are a very important part of their vision for the synagogue. They have Shabbat programs for kids and are planning an afterschool program which will be a club featuring a number of fun, hands-on activities, like baking and arts and crafts, imbued with Jewish culture. The shul is currently preparing for Rosh Hashanah and, on Sept. 18, gathered to decorate family honey jars. “We aim to make this place a dynamic centre for young families and, so far, there is a lot of energy and interest,” said Varnai.
According to its website, the Bayit has the only kosher mikvah in Richmond.
Michael Sachs is the current president of the synagogue. He and his family moved to Richmond in January 2015, priced out of the Vancouver market, and has since been instrumental in the Bayit’s rebirth.
“My favorite thing is probably our Carlebach-style Friday night services,” said Sachs. “One thing that I really love is the difference we are making in people’s lives, either with help finding housing or support during hard times … we are there, with our local Jewish partners, for the Richmond community.”
Matthew Gindinis a freelance journalist, writer and lecturer. He writes regularly for the Forward and All That Is Interesting, and has been published in Religion Dispatches, Situate Magazine, Tikkun and elsewhere. He can be found on Medium and Twitter.