Omnitsky Kosher on Oak Street, just south of 41st Avenue. (internet photo)
There was a time – at least within the lifetime of older readers – when there seemed to be a kosher butcher on every corner of Winnipeg’s old North End. An exaggeration, maybe, but, in the 1930s, there were enough kosher butchers in Winnipeg to form their own shul. The last kosher butcher in Winnipeg – that would be Omnitsky’s – closed in 2008 and, at about the same time, fresh kosher slaughter also came to an end in the region.
Now, Omnitsky Kosher in Vancouver – the offspring of Omnitsky’s in Winnipeg, and the last kosher butcher in Western Canada – is also facing the prospect that the end is near.
“I love my business and the people I am able to interact with,” said Eppy Rappaport, the long-time owner of Omnitsky, “but I am getting tired. I am 65. I would never want to feel that my business is becoming an anchor pulling me down.”
The son of the late Elaine and Rabbi Shalom Rappaport (who is remembered fondly by two or more generations of Rosh Pina Synagogue families) was in Winnipeg the weekend before last for a family simchah and sat down with this reporter to reminisce about growing up in Winnipeg and his career as a kosher butcher, both in Winnipeg and Vancouver.
The Rappaport family arrived in Winnipeg in January of 1967, when Rabbi Shalom Rappaport began his 20-year tenure at Rosh Pina Synagogue.
“I was 10 years old,” Eppy remembered. “We were coming from San Diego. Morley and Shiffie Fenson met us at the airport with parkas, gloves and toques.
“I had been promised that I would have a lot of fun playing in the snow. I was really eager to build my first snowman – but quickly learned that snow in Winnipeg in January was not the right kind of snow for a snowman.”
The third of four siblings, Eppy, on arrival, was enrolled in Grade 4 at the Talmud Torah on Matheson and continued on to Joseph Wolinsky Collegiate at the same location to graduation in 1975.
Eppy has particularly warm memories growing up with members of the Benarroch family. “My brother, Danny, and I were close to all four of the Benarroch brothers – Yamin, Joseph (Yossi), Michael and Albert. They all felt like brothers to us,” he recalled.
“We grew up with the Benarroch kids,” Eppy said of him and his brothers and sister. “Our two families spent a lot of time together because of our shared religious observance. Every Sunday in the spring and summer, the Benarroch clan would spend the day at Birds Hill Provincial Park and we would always be included.
“Generally,” he continued, “I found the Jewish community in Winnipeg to be warm and loving. Even after having been away for 22 years, the social connections I made here remain strong.”
Eppy was studying sociology at university – working on his master’s at the time – when Bill Omnitsky approached Rabbi Rappaport about wanting to sell his kosher butcher shop. “Dad asked me if I would be interested in going into the business,” Eppy recounted. “I was planning on taking a year off from university in any case and decided to give it a try. I never looked back.”
Eppy joined Bill Omnitsky in business in 1973 and bought the store outright in 1983.
“Bill Goldberg was my first customer,” Eppy recalled. “I still have that first dollar from him.”
While the young kosher butcher may have loved Winnipeg, one feature he didn’t like was winter. Thus, in 1995, he turned Omnitsky’s in Winnipeg over to his older brother, Alan, who had previously joined him in business, and moved to Vancouver, where he opened Omnitsky Kosher, the only kosher butcher shop in the city. (Alan Rappaport subsequently ran into health problems and sold the store in 2002.)
“I was ready for my next challenge,” Eppy said of his decision to open a second Omnitsky in Vancouver. “People in Vancouver were welcoming. Many told me how much they appreciated having access to fresh kosher meat.”
While British Columbia’s Jewish population is around 30,000, the religious community, naturally, is much smaller. “Nonetheless,” he said, “people like quality products. Many of my customers aren’t Jewish. There are a lot of Muslims, for example, who shop at our store.”
In 2015, Eppy relocated, moving Omnitsky Kosher to a larger location in what used to be Kaplan’s Deli, which had closed after 55 years in business. In his new premises, Eppy also opened a deli.
While the government-imposed COVID restrictions of the past two years have been challenging for many small businesses, that has not played a role in Eppy’s desire to sell. “Our business actually thrived over the last two years,” he said.
Eppy doesn’t have a timeline yet. He said he doesn’t want to leave his customers in the lurch (that includes some members of the Winnipeg community who have organized to occasionally bring in by truck large orders from the Vancouver butcher shop). However, if he can’t find a buyer, at some point, he will have no choice but to liquidate the business.
While Eppy is contemplating divesting himself from his own business, he is not yet ready to retire completely. “I would like to keep working in the food business in some capacity,” he said. “I may be able to help other businesses from an operational perspective. That I consider my specialty.”
Incidentally, Eppy and his wife Ellen (the daughter of the late Albert and Sheila Lowe) have two daughters, Aviva and Lauren, who are both pursuing careers in the food sector. Aviva, the proud father reported, is working on a second master’s degree at McGill University in the field of dietetics, while Lauren works as a senior scientist for Starbucks in Seattle.
Myron Love is a freelance writer. This article was originally published in Winnipeg’s Jewish Post & News, jewishpostandnews.ca.
Siblings Becky, left, and Margaux Wosk (photo from We Belong!)
The first-ever We Belong! Festival will take place Aug. 27 in Downtown Vancouver. Organized by siblings Margaux and Becky Wosk, We Belong! is a “one-of-a-kind creative arts market with a focus on giving disabled artists the opportunity to showcase and sell their art.”
Margaux Wosk is a self-taught artist, an activist and a disability rights advocate, fighting for disabled small business owners to get resources. Becky Wosk is an artist, designer, writer and musician; she and Emmalee Watts form the duo Hollow Twin.
Margaux Wosk started their business, Retrophiliac (shopretrophiliac.com), more than 10 years ago. Its focus is on visual art.
“Being an openly autistic person,” said Wosk, “I found that there was a void in the marketplace for the type of items I wanted to see and purchase.
“My business has really ramped up in the last five years,” they continued, “and I focus on autistic, neurodiversity and disability pride items, such as enamel pins, patches and stickers. I design retro-inspired pins, stickers and patches as well. I also have other items I offer and I have over 26 retailers between Canada and the United States.”
Wosk also uses their business “as a way to talk to the government about disabled small business owners” and they have gone to the provincial budget meeting two years in a row “to rally for funding and resources for other people like myself.”
They explained, “Currently, as it stands, we have no resources, and any of the funding that goes to ‘inclusive employment’ only goes to employers that hire disabled people, not disabled people who own their own business.”
Part of the mission of the We Belong! Festival is to raise awareness.
“I have been part of other markets and I do enjoy it, but none of them meet all of my needs,” said Wosk. “I find that sometimes there are financial barriers, sometimes the events are just too long and I find that it can take a toll on my mind and body. I wanted to create something with little barriers for other disabled artists and we were lucky enough to be the recipients of the Downtown Vancouver BIA’s [Public Space] Vibrancy Grant. This way, we won’t have to charge our vendors any costs and we can provide them tables, canopies and chairs. I want people to see what we’re all capable of.”
The Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association helped secure the market’s space at 855 West Hastings St. (Lot 19), and it is being provided free of charge. The location, which is between Burrard and Howe streets, is close to Waterfront Station and other public transit points.
“Once the location and date were confirmed,” said Becky Wosk, “we were able to figure out how many vendors we can accommodate and, from there, we put out a call to artists/makers. We have a specific budget to work with, so we have been able to gather quotes for the supplies we will need to make this event successful.
“When working on an event,” she said, “it’s important to work backwards from the date that you have secured and determine what needs to be ordered/booked in advance of that date – for example, canopies need to be booked 30 days out etc. [There are] lots of small details to be mindful of!”
In addition to the vendors who will be selling their creations, the market will include four nonprofits: Artists Helping Artists, Curiko, the Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver’s Art Hive, which is run by Leamore Cohen, and the BC People First Society, on whose board Margaux Wosk sits, as regional director, Lower Mainland West.
While the deadline to apply as an exhibitor has passed, the Wosks are still looking for volunteers to help with set up and tear down. Anyone interested should email [email protected].
A Caplansky’s Deli fan takes a selfie with the restaurant’s founder, Zane Caplansky. (photo from Zane Caplansky)
As Zane Caplansky describes it, his journey in the world of deli, which ultimately led him from Toronto to Tofino, began on a hot summer night in 2007.
Sitting in a bar on Toronto’s Dupont Street, Caplansky was “hangry” (hungry and angry). He thought to himself, “Why can’t you get a decent smoked meat sandwich in this city? I am going to have to do it myself.” Toronto offered nothing that, to his tastes, compared to Schwartz’s Deli in Montreal.
As a child, whenever grownups would ask what he wanted to do when he was older, he said he wanted to own a restaurant. As an adult, he had worked in restaurants in every capacity, from dishwasher to manager, but not as an owner.
“That night, in a fit of hanger, I had a deli epiphany. Deli is so me. Deli has shtick, deli has chutzpah, deli has flavour. I am not a fine dining or fast food person. I am a deli guy,” he told the Independent. “That night, I resolved that this is what I was going to do.”
He opened Caplansky’s in 2008 in a dive bar in the Little Italy neighbourhood – it began as what many regard as Toronto’s first “pop-up restaurant.”
Shortly thereafter, David Sax, author of the book Save the Deli, wrote a piece for the Globe and Mail about the return of Jewish food to downtown Toronto.
“Every Jew in the city saw that headline and we got slaughtered. Everyone showed up and wanted a sandwich,” said Caplansky.
Following that success, he started what was to be his flagship location, not far from Kensington Market. There is also a Caplansky’s Deli at Toronto’s Pearson Airport in Terminal 3.
After a few years, the stresses of running the downtown business and continued complications with his landlord led him to consider a change.
In December 2017, he had a conversation with his wife, who hails from Tofino. “We were in the guest room of my in-laws when we decided to close the downtown Toronto restaurant and move here,” he said. “Now we are living our dream. The restaurant at the airport has afforded us the financial freedom to do what we have done.”
From 2011 to 2016, Caplansky had a line of mustards. From its earliest days, the restaurant used the mustard on all the food items it sold, and people would send him emails, asking how they could get some for home.
When considering what to do after settling in Tofino in early 2019, Caplansky returned to the idea of mustard. Later in 2019, when he was asked by the Toronto Blue Jays to open a kiosk at Rogers Centre, he saw it as an opportunity to relaunch the product.
“The aura of Major League Baseball is a very special thing. And the mustards were a hit,” he said. “As a Blue Jays fan, it was such a big deal to see fans eating my food in the stands.”
When the pandemic struck in March 2020, Caplansky was prepared. People started ordering products online and, as Caplansky recounts, business boomed. Retailers and distributors, too, were receptive to working with him and his products are now sold in nearly 500 retailers across Canada and the United States. His biggest problem, he said, is keeping up with demand.
“It’s going at a pace I never would have imagined,” he said.
Presently, Caplansky is focusing on four key mustards: ballpark, old fashioned, horseradish and spicy.
“To me, deli is the food you celebrate with. Our mustard connects with people to a degree that I never truly appreciated or anticipated. The secret ingredient of our product is resilience. I think people really identify and connect with it,” he explained.
Caplansky takes pride in creating what he calls a “unique quirk” around his deli. Oftentimes, people would come into the restaurant and tell him that, despite its mere 15-year history, they remember coming into Caplansky’s with their parents and grandparents. Despite this chronological impossibility, he would never correct them.
“It was amazing to us that people thought that it had been around forever. The idea of a deli holds a place in people’s minds,” he mused. “It’s truly a blessing.”
The entrepreneur has appeared on CBC’s Dragons’ Den several times and been a regular on Food Network Canada.
Joseph and Rosalie Segal (seated) and family at the 2016 Summer Garden Party fundraiser for Vancouver Hebrew Academy. (photo by Jocelyne Hallé)
Joseph Segal, an entrepreneur and philanthropist who was recognized by the governments of British Columbia and Canada with the highest civilian honours, a Second World War veteran who helped liberate the Netherlands, a businessman who founded and led iconic companies and a community-builder whose imprint on the Jewish and general communities in Vancouver is indelible, passed away May 31. He was 97 years old and was actively engaged in philanthropy to his final hours.
Segal was born in 1925, in Vegreville, Alta. After the death of his father, when Joe was 14, the family experienced financial hardship and young Joe Segal experienced hard labour while building the Alaska Highway. He fought in the infantry in the Second World War where, with his compatriots in the Calgary Highlanders, he participated in the liberation of the Netherlands.
After the war, he arrived in Vancouver and, with $1,500 in savings, started selling war surplus goods, then founded Fields department stores. Eventually, his business took over the Zellers store chain – which Segal described as “a case of the mouse swallowing the elephant” – and, later, obtained a large share of the venerable Hudson’s Bay Company before he launched Kingswood Capital Corp., which has interests in real estate, manufacturing and finance.
In recent years, while lauded for his business acumen, Segal was most prominent as one of Canada’s leading philanthropists. For his work in both fields, he was a recipient of both an Order of Canada and an Order of British Columbia.
In addition to leaving his mark on a vast number of institutions and causes in the Jewish community, he was a strong supporter of charities such as Variety Club, the United Way, Vancouver General Hospital and B.C. Children’s Hospital.
Among his community roles was serving on the board, and as chancellor, of Simon Fraser University. Perhaps his most visible contribution in Vancouver was his donation to SFU of the historic Bank of Montreal building at 750 Hastings St., creating a home for the Segal Graduate School of Business.
In 2010, Joseph and his wife Rosalie donated $12 million to the VGH and UBC Hospital Foundations to create the Joseph and Rosalie Segal and Family Centre, a 100-private-room acute care centre serving the mental health needs of people in crisis.
Joseph and Rosalie Segal modeled philanthropy for the successive generation of their family, including children Sandra, Tracey, Gary and Lorne, their spouses and, now, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
At Joe Segal’s funeral on June 1, Gary Segal reflected on his parents’ 74 years of marriage, calling it “a love story for the ages.”
“My father worshipped my mother, he relied on her support and wisdom and insights,” he said. “They were true partners in everything they did and accomplished in life.”
Gary Segal called his father “a natural-born philosopher, a generous man, caring. He would never forget anything or anybody. He was passionate about life. He had many dreams – his own and those that inspired others. He had the ability to talk to people and make everybody, no matter what stage in life, feel important, like they mattered, that somebody cared about them.”
Although he knew the impact that his father had had on the world and the people in it, “to see these genuine expressions of sorrow and appreciation for the person my father was has been truly extraordinary for me and for my family.”
He shared three core tenets of his father’s philosophy:
• Don’t worry about what you can’t control, worry about what you can.
• You need to commit to life and you need to commit to happiness.
• Money is only worth something if you do something good with it.
Gary Segal quoted actor John Barrymore, who said, “You’re never old until regrets take the place of dreams.” In that respect, said Segal, although his dad lived to 97, “My father was not old. He never aged. Right up to the last minute, he was young. He was always young at heart, in spirit, and right up to the end, he had his dreams.”
Longtime friend and book collaborator Peter Legge reflected on a half-century of friendship after the pair met when Legge was an adman at radio station CJOR.
“Joe was a man who shared all he could with those who needed help,” said Legge. “Never to lift himself up, but to lift up those who needed help.”
Rabbi Yitzchok Wineberg noted that some people are saying the passing of Joe Segal is the end of an era.
“I beg to differ,” said the city’s longest-serving rabbi and Chabad emissary. “Joe didn’t live his life for himself or for himself and Rose. He lived his life for his children, for his grandchildren, for his great-grandchildren. They were there to observe everything he did and be inspired by it…. This family will continue his legacy. It’s not the end of an era, it’s a milestone. It’s a date that we all know we are going to have to face one day and, especially at such a funeral, we think about our own mortality. But it’s not just what you’ve accomplished in your lifetime. It’s what’s going to be accomplished after you leave this world. For that reason, I feel it’s not the end of an era. It’s just a continuation, and God should help that we should celebrate many happy occasions together in the future and we should be there for one another just as Joe was there for everybody else.”
Rob Schonfeld, a grandson, said that it may sound strange to be shocked that a 97-year-old man has passed away.
“But Grandpa Joe was so larger-than-life and still 100% on his game,” he said. “None of us really internalized that this day was going to come.”
Of Segal’s 11 grandchildren and 18 great-grandchildren, Schonfeld said: “We all had really unique and different relationships with him. None of them was the same and it’s because he always treated us as individuals. He respected us as grown-ups – even when we were little kids. I think that allowed each of us to bond with him in really different ways.”
Schonfeld shared one of his favourite “Joe-isms” – “You can’t ride two horses with one ass” – and said Segal’s secret weapon was “reading everything in sight.”
Rabbi Andrew Rosenblatt of Congregation Schara Tzedeck compared Segal with the biblical Joseph. The moment before the Exodus, the rabbi observed, Moses was looking for the bones of Joseph to carry with the Israelites to the Promised Land.
“He’s fulfilling a promise, granted, but it’s more than that,” said Rosenblatt. “Moses needs a symbol of what it means to succeed materially in this world and to succeed with others. Joseph is that symbol. He is a symbol of somebody who can have material success and can have spiritual success as well. There are two chests that walk with the Jews through the desert. One holds the tablets that Moses brings down from Sinai and the other one carries Joseph. Our Joseph is a little like that, too. He is a lesson, a paragon, a role model, an icon. Just like the biblical Joseph, his personality, his legend, survives even him. Joe Segal will continue to be that for so many in our community.”
The rabbi remarked that he was professionally forbidden from sharing the many stories of individuals who Joseph Segal helped when called on to assist an individual or family in crisis.
Rosenblatt added that Segal specifically asked for donations in his memory to be given to Yaffa House and to the Jewish Food Bank.
The Independent spoke with some of the people who worked with and knew Segal in different capacities.
David Levi served with Segal on the board of the Phyliss and Irving Snider Foundation and is on the board of governors for Camp Miriam, one of the causes Segal championed.
“Over the years, he’s given [Camp] Miriam quite a large amount of money and he was always very supportive of giving money to the camp and the kids. It was a central focus of his,” Levi said, noting that Camp Hatikvah was another cause Segal admired.
“Joe’s view, I think, on camp in general is that it built a connection to Judaism for kids at a young age and he saw camps making that connection to the Jewish community and to Israel. Those were important things for him,” Levi said.
“The thing about Joe was his complete commitment to the community – to the Jewish community and to the larger community.” But Levi stressed that large gifts to major organizations were not the only way the legendary philanthropist operated. Echoing Rabbi Rosenblatt, Levi referred to “Joe’s secret life.”
“He would get calls not only from individuals but from rabbis and other leaders in the community on a very personal level for people who needed a hand up or needed some financial means for a brief period of time,” Levi said. “It was smaller amounts of money, but, in his mind, as important as the organizations that he worked with. People would call and say we have this family and they are really having a tough time and they need an injection of $1,000 or $500 and Joe would quietly do that. He never really talked about it. He certainly never talked about the individuals he supported. But he was always available for those kinds of emergency calls.
“He believed in hard work but he also believed that people who had difficulty in achieving the kinds of things that he would hope everybody would be able to achieve, people who are challenged by mental or physical disabilities, he would help in any way he could,” Levi said.
Bernie Simpson, who is also on the board of Camp Miriam, echoed Levi’s reflections of Segal’s support for Jewish camping.
“For over 50 years, Joe was a strong supporter of Camp Miriam,” said Simpson. “He joined the late [B.C. Supreme Court] Justice Angelo Branca, who was the chair of the finance committee of Miriam in rebuilding the camp in 1970. Fifteen years ago, Joe was responsible for the building of the camp infirmary through the Snider Foundation, honouring Joe and Rosalie Segal’s close friends Mike and Rita Wolochow.… Joe’s support of the camp policy that every child should have a Jewish camping experience, regardless of their financial means, goes back to when he was a youth himself from very humble beginnings. Several years ago, he praised the camp and its leadership for their devotion to the youth whose attendance at camp was possible through the campership fund. He will be sorely missed.”
Simpson said Segal was in frequent contact with his wife, Lee Simpson, when she was president of the board of the Louis Brier Jewish Aged Foundation, to catch up on developments at the Jewish home and hospital.
“I understand, from other organizations, he would constantly keep in touch with what was going on in the community,” said Simpson. “He looked at the big picture.”
In a message to the Independent, Vancouver Hebrew Academy (VHA) said, “Mr. Segal took his responsibility to the Jewish community very seriously and he showed it in many ways. Of course, he was a strong financial supporter of Vancouver Hebrew Academy, as he was for many of our institutions, but his advocacy went further than that. He believed strongly in Torah education and what it means to the future of the Jewish people. In the summer of 2016, Joe and Rosalie were the honourees at VHA’s Summer Garden Party. There, Joe spoke passionately and emotionally of the importance of our mission.”
Rabbi Don Pacht, VHA’s former head of school, remembers fondly the conversations with Joe Segal about the school, the community and his admiration for those who chose to dedicate themselves to building community.
“I often came away from our visits encouraged in the work we were doing,” said Pacht. “Mr. Segal always had words of wisdom to offer … and sometimes a bottle of scotch too!”
Michael Sachs, executive director of Jewish National Fund of Canada, Vancouver branch, reflected on a long relationship.
“He was a titan in the business world and a leading philanthropist to all communities, but most of all he was a family man through and through,” said Sachs. “I have many fond personal memories with Joe from my childhood up until a few weeks ago. He touched everyone in our community and I count myself amongst one of those touched.”
Segal’s legacy was celebrated and remembered outside of the Jewish community, including by many organizations that Segal, wife Rosalie and the family had collectively supported.
“Joe was an enthusiastic champion of the university,” Simon Fraser University said in marking Segal’s passing. “His advice, energy and wisdom supported eight presidents and his business savvy and connections helped SFU to thrive. His commitment to community-building and philanthropy was recognized in 1988 with a doctor of law, honoris causa, from SFU and in 1992 with the President’s Distinguished Community Leadership Award, honouring his innovation, optimism and strong sense of public service to SFU’s community.”
The VGH & UBC Hospital Foundation issued a statement honouring Segal.
“A pledge of $12 million in 2011 to initiate planning of a new purpose-built mental health facility was the largest individual donation to this cause in B.C. at the time. This commitment initiated a $28 million fundraising campaign and the construction of an $85 million purpose-built mental health facility which stands as his legacy: the Joseph & Rosalie Segal & Family Health Centre.”
It continued: “Joe never retired, and his mind and memory were sharper at 97 than many people years his junior. Until very recently, he remained active in business, working from home as was required throughout the pandemic. Similarly, he continued to support the causes he cared about, offering sage advice, wisdom and guidance. He continued to support VGH and UBC Hospital’s most innovative clinician-researchers and surgeons, kicking off a campaign in support of the Vancouver Stroke Program and seed-funding research for innovative medical talents, as well serving as the honourary chair of the Brain Breakthroughs Campaign.”
Coast Mental Health declared Segal “B.C.’s most significant supporter of mental health services.” His devotion to the cause began in 1999, when he first attended the Courage to Come Back Awards, where he heard people share personal stories of living with mental health and emotional challenges. His devotion to the cause was born out of a belief that no one is immune from the detrimental effects that mental illness can have if not properly treated.
Lorne Segal has chaired the Courage to Come Back Awards for the past 17 years, and the family as a whole has championed the cause.
Shirley Broadfoot, the founding chair of Courage to Come Back, recalled meeting Joe Segal for the first time.
“He was inspired by the power of the evening but said, ‘You really don’t know how to fundraise.’ It was true. We didn’t. So his son, Lorne, took on the role of chair for Courage and all that changed. Through Lorne’s leadership, Courage has risen to be the largest event in Vancouver. We could never have imagined that the awards would flourish and go on to give hope to people for 24 years, including through a global pandemic, while raising over $22 million and honouring 139 heroic British Columbians,” she said.
Coast Mental Health chief executive officer Darrell Burnham added: “Joe Segal was an incredible leader who gave so much to the community of Vancouver. I met Joe in the ’90s, and I was so pleased when he chose mental health as one of his philanthropic causes. Joe knew everyone in the city. He also had the charisma to engage other philanthropists in social causes that needed visibility and support. When Coast Mental Health Foundation and the Courage to Come Back Awards took shape, it was Joe Segal and his family who stepped up to provide financial assistance to support Coast Mental Health.”
Ezra Shanken, chief executive officer of Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver, said Segal “was not only a titan in the business and philanthropic worlds, but a genuinely caring and compassionate person – a true mensch. He is among a generation of leaders who helped shape our Jewish community.… Joe was a steadfast supporter of countless worthy causes both within and beyond our Jewish community, including the work of our Federation and our partners. We are deeply grateful to him for his incredible generosity over the decades.”
Martin Thibodeau, RBC’s B.C. region president, will be honoured at the Ben-Gurion University Gala Dinner June 14. (photo from RBC)
On June 9, Ben-Gurion University president Daniel Chamovitz and members of the Canadian Associates of Ben-Gurion University (CABGU) will visit Vancouver to recognize the launch of its new School of Sustainability and Climate Change (SSCC) and the local supporters who have helped make its opening possible. In particular, Royal Bank of Canada and Martin Thibodeau, RBC’s B.C. region president, will be honoured at the event.
SSCC opened last October at BGU’s Be’er Sheva campus, where its growth has been rapid. Seven months old, the school currently offers two undergraduate degrees and four graduate-level environmental science-related degrees. Its two graduate fellowships, which have supported work in renewable energy and smart city design, were funded by RBC.
“The RBC Research Fund at BGU’s School of Sustainability and Climate Change [is] being established in Martin’s honour, [and] will enable undergraduate and graduate students to be trained as, and pursue meaningful careers as, climate change innovators, entrepreneurs and policy experts,” said David Berson, who serves as CABGU’s executive director for the B.C. and Alberta Region. The funding that is raised at the gala will help further SSCC’s research programs.
SSCC’s mandate isn’t just to address environmental concerns at home in Israel, said Chamovitz. It will have a global reach, as well. BGU is currently working to cement research partnerships with universities and countries that have similar interests in addressing climate challenges. Chamovitz said RBC’s investment in its new school will provide a pathway to meeting that global need.
“RBC was one of the early supporters of SSCC, and this support was essential for leveraging subsequent support,” he said. “The Royal Bank of Canada believes in us,” and that support has served as an encouraging model for other companies to invest in BGU’s programs as well, he said.
Lorne Segal, president of Kingswood Properties and director of the Vancouver Board of Trade, who is an honorary co-chair of the June event with his wife, Mélita Segal, said corporate sponsorship is crucial to startup programs like SSCC. He said corporate support is also vital to finding answers to environmental challenges like global warming.
“Sponsorship from leading businesses and industry leaders does provide imaginative solutions to complex issues impacting our people and the planet,” he said. “Without significant and generous sponsorship support, this crucial work, simply put, would not be possible.”
Segal said supporting initiatives that bring about positive change is part of Thibodeau’s nature.
“Martin Thibodeau truly is a lifelong builder of community,” said Segal. “He is deeply praised by Ben-Gurion University for his commitment to the cause of finding solutions to climate change. It is truly remarkable how much he and RBC Royal Bank have done to enhance the capacity of the Ben-Gurion University community programs and agencies, and advance the conversation on Canada’s transition to a net-zero economy.”
Thibodeau’s support of Canadian Jewish communities and of Israel goes back decades. Originally from Quebec, he served as RBC’s regional president in Montreal until he moved to Vancouver. He oversees some of the largest – and smallest – branches and more than 4,000 employees.
In 2015, while working in Montreal, Thibodeau volunteered as a co-chair for Quebec’s largest multi-day walk for women’s cancers, held by Pharmaprix, to raise money for research at the Jewish General Hospital. “I have been involved with the Jewish community for almost my entire RBC career,” he told the Independent.
He is a strong supporter of the Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver and the Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver and their community initiatives, and he has been to Israel several times. It was in 2014, said Thibodeau, that he and his wife, Caroline, visited Be’er Sheva and learned of BGU’s environmental research. “[I was] so inspired by the research [and] the innovation,” he said, noting that it wasn’t hard to get behind the creation of a school that was working to find solutions to climate concerns.
“It’s right there in front of me every day,” he said. “I am a proud father of three children and I believe we have a responsibility to make sure that our climate can continue to thrive, and well beyond my lifetime. It is my personal belief that we need to do that today more than ever.”
Thibodeau said it’s been an interesting journey since that first visit to BGU in 2014. “It’s become such a tough priority for the world,” he said of climate change. In Canada, among other things, he supported RBC’s Blue Water Project, which helped provide clean water access to Canadian communities.
Still, Thibodeau is a reticent honouree. He admits that he is uncomfortable with the idea that he will be the guest of honour at a gala, even if it is for a cause he loves. “I’m very humbled,” he said. “I don’t like to have that kind of spotlight on me.” But, he said, raising money for research that might one day create a safer and better environment, that is something he will gladly get behind.
The gala will also acknowledge Lorne and Mélita Segal, who are well-known for their philanthropy and other work. Both have been recognized by Capilano University with honorary doctor of letters, and Lorne Segal has a doctor of laws (hon.) from the Justice Institute of British Columbia. He was inducted into the Order of British Columbia for his work as founding chair of Free the Children’s WE Day Vancouver and as chair of the Coast Mental Health Courage to Come Back Awards. The Segals regularly open their home to fundraising galas.
“When Lorne and I built our home, we didn’t really do it for ourselves but, rather, to share it with the community,” said Mélita Segal. “Whether it was Dr. Peter AIDS Foundation, Arts Umbrella, Chor Leoni, JNF [Jewish National Fund] or WE Charity … it has been a great joy for us and very fulfilling to give back and share in this way.”
Berson described the Segals as “tireless builders of community, leading by example while creating opportunities for people in the business world to make a difference in the lives of others. Ben-Gurion University, Canada, is genuinely fortunate to have their leadership for this event and for our organization.”
Jan Lee is an award-winning editorial writer whose articles and op-eds have been published in B’nai B’rith Magazine, Voices of Conservative and Masorti Judaism and Baltimore Jewish Times, as well as a number of business, environmental and travel publications. Her blog can be found at multiculturaljew.polestarpassages.com.
בשנתיים האחרונותחוויתי אירועים קשים שכמעטו ולא היו כדוגמתם לאורך כשנות חיי, בישראלועתה בקנדה. כשאני חושב על מה שעבר עלי מאז חודש מרץ לפני שנתיים בדיוק, זה נראה לי הזוי- ממש מדע בדיוני
קודם כל החלה אז במרץ אלפיים ועשרים מגפת הקורונה לצבור תאוצה בכל העולם. תחילה שמענועל כך בסין ולא חשבנו כי המגפה יכולה להתפשט גם למערב ובעצם לכל העולם. אני זוכר היטב אתהנסיעה שלי לישראל לבקר את הורי בתל אביב, בסוף מרץ לפני שנתיים. מצד אחד הם רצו לראותאותי מצד שני חששו שמה אדביק אותם בקוביד, כיוון שטסתי מונקובר, עצרתי למספר ימים בברליןוהמשכתי משם לתל אביב
מאוד שמחתי שהצלחתי לראות את ההורים וכרגיל לשון אצלם בבית. לא שיערתי אז שזו שתהיהבעצם, הפעם האחרונה שאראה אותם פיזית. אבי כבר דעך מכל הבחינות, התקשה ללכת ואףהזיכרון שלו כבר לא היה טוב. לאחר זמן מה הבנו שהוא לקה בדמנציה
באותו שבוע קצר בתל אביב נפגשתי עם מספר חברים טובים עמם אני שומר על קשר שנים רבות, למרות שאני גר בוונקובר כבר שנים רבות. כן הספקתי באותם ימים בתל אביב אף להצביע בבחירותהכלליות בישראל, תוך תקווה להחליף את ראש הממשלה הנצחי של ישראל, בנימין נתניהו. זה לאקרה אז אלא רק לאחר כשנה
הביקור בישראל ישאר בזכרוני לזמן ארוך כי כאמור זו הפעם האחרונה שבה ראיתי את הורי
אני חזרתי לוונקובר בדיוק שבוע לפני שהשמיים נסגרו והופסקו הטיסות למספר חודשים. המגפההחריפה והחיים שלנו השתנו מקצה אל קצה. מי היה מאמין שתופעה מוזרה ולא מוכרת זו תימשךשנתיים תמימות. כל שגרת החיים השתנתה, הפסקנו לצאת למקומות ולצרוך תרבות, נצמדנולטלוויזיה, רכשנו מסכות, חומרי חיטוי לידיים ועוד מוצרים התקפים לעיתות של מגפות
עסקים רבים נפגעו קשות מהמגפה בהם מקום העבודה שלי – חברה המספקת הלוואות למי שלאיכול להשיג אותן באחד הבנקים המסחריים, בשל קרדיט גרוע. בזמן החופשי שנותר בידי והוא היהבשפע התחלתי לצעוד מדי יום שעות ארוכות ברחבי העיר ונקובר והסביבה. מכוני הכושר היוסגורים ולכן החלטתי שאני חייב להיות פעיל כדי לשמור על כושר סביר, וההליכות עשו את שלהן
בתחילה ראיתי איך ונקובר הפכה לעיר מתה, ולאט לאט לקראת הקיץ היא החלה קצת להתעורר, אם כי לא באופן שאני רגילים לו. למזלנו מחוץ בריטיש קולומביה נפגע פחות מהמגפה לעומתאזורים אחרים בקנדה, כך שהצלחנו לשמור על חיים שפויים פחות או יותר
בגלל המצב הקשה של החברה באני אני עובד נאלצנו לפנות לבית המשפט לקראת סוף שנתאלפיים, ולבקש הגנה מפני נושים. אני נרתמתי לעזור להנהלת החברה ושוחחתי ארוכות עם בעליאגרות החוב שלנו, כדי לעודד אותם לחתום על הסכם חדש, שיאפשר את המשך קיום החברה. אכןזה קרה ויצאנו לדרך חדשה, באישור בית המשפט, חברה רזה יותר, עם הרחבה פחות חובותועובדים, ועתיד שנראה טוב יותר
במקביל לקראת סוף אלפיים ועשרים מצבו הבריאותי של אבי הידרדר מיום ליום וחששנו ממהשעתיד לקרות. הוא נפל כל הזמן, הפסיק לקחת כדורים, זכרונו בגד בו, ומצבו החמיר. במהלךחודש בפרואר אלפיים עשרים ואחד הוא נאלץ להתאשפז בבית החולים איכילוב הסמך לביתו. שדםלצערנו נדבק גם בקוביד וידענו שהסיום מתקרב. הוא החזיק מעמד כשבועיים עד שנכנע למגפההקשה הזו. בגיל תשעים וארבעה חודשים הוא נפטר
אני לא הצלחתי להגיע להלוויה בגלל מגבלות הקוביד וראיתי את האירוע הקשה הזה באמצעות זום. לא היה זה פשוט לראות איך קוברים את אבא שלי כל כך מרחוק, באמצעות מסך המחשב
הורי היו נשואים שבעים ואחת שנים והיה מאוד קשה לאמא להתרגל לכך שאבא כבר לא איתנו. למרות החשש הכבד של אחי ושלי, אמא לאט לאט חזרה לעצמה ופיתחה לעצמה שגרת חייםחדשה ללא אבא. כנראה שהרצון האדיר שלה לחיות הוא שהוביל אותה. אמא למרות שמלאו להתשעים ושתיים המשיכה להיות מאוד פעילה מבחינה ספורטיבית, חברתית ותרבותית. האופיהאופטימי שלה עזר לה רבות, להמשיך ולחיות לבד. היא הצליחה לקבל עובדת זרה פיליפיניתשתעזור לה בעבודות הבית, וכדי שלא תרגיש בודדת בלילות. ניהלתי לא מעט שיחות טלפון עםאמא ושמחתי שהיא חוזרת לעצמה, צוחקת, נפגשת עם החברות שלה ועם בני המשפחה השונים. היא בחרה בחיים והחיים והכל נראה מתנהל כשורה
כאן בוונקובר עברנו אשתקד את הקיץ החם ביותר בתולדות בריטיש קולומביה ובעצם בקנדה. החוםהיה בלתי נסבל ולצערנו מאות קשישים וחולים נפטרו. אני לשמחתי יש לי מזגן בבית כך שיכולתילהמשיך בשגרת החיים הרגילה ולעבוד כרגיל. רק בערבים הייתי מוציא את האף החוצה
במהלך חודש נובמבר אשתקד חטפנו כאן מכה נוספת ממזג האוויר: כמות אדירה של שטפונותשגרמו נזק אדיר למחוז, הנאמד בכארבעה מיליארד דולר. כבישים, גשרים, בתים ותשתיות רבותנעקרו ממקום כמו אבנים של דומינו שנופלות אחת אחרי השנייה
אני נערכתי לנסיעה לישראל לבקר את אמי בסוף חודש נובמבר. בגלל תקנות הקוביד הקשות בכלמדינה, הכנתי מסמכים רבים, הצלחתי לקבל את החיסון השלישי של פייזר לפני הזמן ונרשמתילבצע בדיקות קוביד בוונקובר ובתל אביב. שבוע לפני הנסיעה נדהמתי לדעת שווריאנט חדש שלהקוביד – אומיקרון משתלט על העולם. אמי התקשרה אלי בבהלה והציעה לי לבטל את הנסיעה. ואכן זה מה עשיתי כי ידעתי שאחרת אאלץ לשהות בבידוד בחלק גדול של הנסיעה. זה היה מאודמעציב שאינני יכול לטוס ולבקר את אמא שהתאלמנה כתשעה חודשים קודם לכן
בינתיים החורף הגיע גם הגיע לוונקובר ולשם שינוי גם הוא היה קשה ביותר. לא זכור לי כבר הרבהשנים קור נוראי כזה ושלג ללא הפסקה
ואז נחתה עלי מכה נוראית נוספת: בראשית חודש פברואר אחי התקשר אלי בדחיפות והודיע לי כיאמא אושפזה בבית החולים ומצבה חמור ביותר. היא נחנקה מחתיחת תפוח בסלט שאותו היאאכלה. במשך עשרים דקות שהתהה ללא חמצן, כך שהבנו שנגרם למוחה נזק אדיר שאין לא תקנה
יצאתי בטיסת חירום לישראל והספקתי לראות את אמא מחוברת לכל הצינורות שבעולם באיכילוב. למחרת הגעתי לבית החולים מוקדם בבוקר ונתבשר לי שהיא נפטרה. אני זה שנאלצי לבשר לאחילשאר בני המשפחה על מותה של אמא. היה קשה להשתתף בהלוויה ולאחר מכן לשבת שבעהולקבל ניחומים, מבני משפחה, חברים וידידים רבים
אמא ואבא נקברו באותו יום בדיוק הפרש של שנה. בקיצור: איבדתי את הורי בתוך שנה תמימהאחד
לא הספקתי להתאושש ממותה של אמא ואז נחתה על כולנו מכה קשה חדשה: ולדימיר פוטיןהחליט שהוא רוצה לעצמו את אוקראינה ופתח במלחמה נוראית ומיותרת
אני מקווה שאחרי שנתיים הזויות אלה אוכל קצת לזכות בשקט ובשלווה וללא שום אירועים חריגים. זה כבר הספיק לי
Ricci Segal, owner of Perfect Bite Catering Co. (photo from Perfect Bite)
The Perfect Bite Catering Co. works out of Vancouver Talmud Torah’s kosher kitchen. In addition to providing hearty lunches for VTT students, staff and parents of children who attend the school, the company caters events in the Jewish community. As well, since 2019, the Perfect Bite has been catering to many in the larger Metro Vancouver community, through its online store.
Perfect Bite owner Ricci Segal has always known that she wanted to be a chef. Born in South Africa, her family moved to Canada when she was 6 years old. Segal remembers, as a kid in South Africa, cooking with her mom, who was “a fantastic cook.”
In high school, Segal’s first restaurant job was at Coco Pazzo, where she assisted the chefs and ran the dishwashing room. She got her first experience in the catering industry when she worked for two years in Arizona for her aunt’s kosher catering company. It is there that she got her first taste of the business.
“I learned so much from working with my aunt,” said Segal. “She has a staff of 30 and she threw me right into the mix.”
She added, noting her gratitude, “By working there, I picked up all I know of catering and it helped me create my business.”
Before starting her own company, Segal attended culinary school at Vancouver Community College. While a student at VCC, she was asked to be a support member of Culinary Team Canada. The team competes on behalf of Canada for all culinary competitions, including the IKA Culinary Olympics, which takes place every four years. According to Segal, “it was an amazing experience.” The team traveled to Switzerland, Luxembourg, Germany and Chicago to compete and they won several gold medals. Being on Culinary Team Canada allowed Segal “to learn from the best chefs in Canada.”
“It definitely molded me into the chef I am today,” she said.
Segal did her apprenticeship at three top restaurants in Vancouver: the Pear Tree, the Four Seasons Hotel and Le Crocodile. It was in this period that she really honed her skills. The Four Seasons at that time was the top kosher hotel in Vancouver and Segal was able to be a part of some of the most luxurious kosher events.
In 2010, she parlayed her extensive experience into her own business and established the Perfect Bite Catering Co., while also moonlighting as a chef instructor at VCC.
About her decision to open a kosher catering company, she said, “There was a need for a different style of kosher catering food in Vancouver and it happened naturally from there.”
What makes the Perfect Bite unique, Segal said, is that its staff – who were recruited from her stints teaching at VCC or from working with them at various establishments – “are all French-trained chefs who have worked in the best restaurants.
“That is what we bring to the kosher world in Vancouver,” she said.
She noted that her company specializes in gourmet food, “so most of our clients are foodies.”
Segal officially moved into Talmud Torah’s kitchen in September 2019. Prior to that, she had a retail location on Fraser Street and 28th Avenue, which was not kosher, but she would do her kosher catering for Jewish functions out of Congregation Schara Tzedeck’s facilities. When she moved her business to VTT, she made it into a full-service kosher catering company that is supervised under B.C. Kosher.
Like many businesses affected by the pandemic, the Perfect Bite has been forced to adapt to survive. According to Segal, the biggest challenge was the loss of all the events, which made up the majority of the company’s business.
“The silver lining is that it has given us time to create an online store, where we sell fresh and frozen foods to help with everybody’s busy lives,” said Segal. “We have great oven-ready meals and are expanding into some weekly fresh options.”
Some of the items available include power bowl salads, sandwiches, lasagna, butter chicken, sweet-and-sour chicken, caramelized onion brisket and Moroccan chickpea stew, to name a handful. A three-course weekend dinner is also available every other week for pick up on Friday at VTT.
“My long-term goals are to continue servicing the Vancouver kosher market with great healthy ready-to-eat meals, as well as doing full-service catering events like bar and bar mitzvahs and weddings once we are able to do so safely,” said Segal.
David J. Litvakis a prairie refugee from the North End of Winnipeg who is a freelance writer, former Voice of Peace and Co-op Radio broadcaster and an “accidental publicist.” His articles have been published in the Forward, Globe and Mail and Seattle Post-Intelligencer. His website is cascadiapublicity.com.
Michelle Ray’s latest book is Leading in Real Time: How to Drive Success in a Radically Changing World. (photo from espeakers.com)
Michelle Ray was recently inducted into the Canadian Speaking Hall of Fame, which is bestowed, in part, for excellence in “educating others to excel.” Of course, it is awarded to exemplary speakers, but Ray also educates using the written word. Her articles have appeared in various publications and she is now the author of two books: Lead Yourself First! Indispensable Lessons in Business and in Life, which was released in 2014, and Leading in Real Time: How to Drive Success in a Radically Changing World, which just came out in the fall of 2021.
Originally from Australia, Ray started her career in media and advertising while living there. She established her own business – as a professional speaker, leadership educator and consultant – in 1995, after she settled in Vancouver. In the conclusion of her new book, she shares what she learned from her parents, who were Holocaust survivors and faced several other challenges in their lives. Though they passed away many years ago, Ray writes, “the enormity of their respective losses is still with me…. They were truly my greatest mentors, and I believe there will never be another generation like theirs. As leaders, we have much to learn, appreciate and apply from their timeless legacy.”
The three lessons Ray highlights in this chapter are to be prepared for unanticipated events, to be optimistic and resilient in the face of difficulties, and to control what you can: “The now is all we know. It’s what we have. It’s the sum total of present moments and what we choose to do with them that prepares us for the unknown.”
Ray started writing Real Time in 2018, taking notes while traveling for speaking engagements and doing other work. Her schedule got so busy that the book project was set aside until January 2020. “Several months into the process,” she writes, as the pandemic hit, “it occurred to me that my teachings about leaders remaining relevant, flexible and open to new ideas applied to me. Realizing that the world had forever changed, I found myself questioning not only what lay ahead, but my own identity as a leadership expert and whether or not I had the energy to persevere in the face of so much uncertainty. I developed a deeper affinity with the challenges and struggles my clients faced, wanting to explore them further. I became more intrigued by their passion, ongoing success and commitment to the well-being of their workforce during a very difficult period.”
There are eight traits of a “real-time leader,” according to Ray. A real-time leader is transformative, emotionally intelligent, open-minded, humble, exceptional at listening, optimistic, consistent and trustworthy, and authentic. She explains each of these characteristics in more depth and examines the ways in which the workplace, workers and the economy have changed, and continue to change. She offers takeaways at the end of every chapter, as well as some homework, or what she calls real-time action steps. She suggests ways in which leaders having trouble with any aspect of leadership can improve, including hiring a coach or working with a mentor.
It’s not just a matter of personal growth. “There is a high cost to poor leadership choices,” she writes. “Especially when rolling the dice on leaders who are unprepared or who are incapable of immediately assessing real-time situations, including ongoing volatility, pressure from key stakeholders, and shifts in employee expectations.”
And yet, according to Gallup research cited by Ray, “companies in an array of industries put the wrong leaders into the wrong job over 80% of the time” and “65% of managers are not engaged or are actively disengaged. That’s not the workforce,” she writes. “That’s the leadership.”
It might sound obvious that disengagement compromises employee retention but Ray notes how often leaders do not move with the times, and hold on to outdated approaches. She recommends change management education so that leaders can model behaviour for their team regarding adapting to such things as technological innovation, as well as social advances, like women’s equality. Accountability is key and Ray offers readers of her book many ways “to recognize when they have a me problem rather than a we problem.” For example, do you step in to help when needed, are you respectful of others, do you keep your promises?
In the chapter on the human factors at play in running a business, Ray notes that “intelligence and self-awareness are traits that do not always come hand in hand.” But being self-aware and capable of learning – from experiences and from other people, including those working for you – is vital for someone wanting to be a capable leader.
Markus Spodzieja, owner of the Bikery, the first and only certified kosher bakery on Vancouver Island. (photo from the Bikery)
Victoria’s Jewish community and area foodies received welcome news for their taste buds this summer. For the past four months, the Bikery, the first and only certified kosher bakery on Vancouver Island, has been operating at a permanent address, the Victoria Public Market, 1701 Douglas St. Until now, local households that wished to keep kosher would either bake their own breads or order from Vancouver.
As its name implies, the Bikery had, before moving to the market, been selling its goods from a bicycle – a 250-pound mobile vending bicycle to be precise – as part of a pilot project for the City of Victoria’s Mobile Bike Vending Permit. Started in 2017, the program gave local business owners the chance to operate a service via bicycle.
“I figured that the streets of Victoria could use more pretzels, so I rented out some kitchen space and built a box for the back of my bike, becoming a pedal-powered pretzel peddler,” Bikery owner Markus Spodzieja told the Jewish Independent.
In 2020, Spodzieja, along with his business partner Kimanda Jarzebiak, established a connection with Rabbi Meir Kaplan of Chabad of Vancouver Island. Though COVID-19 arrived on the scene shortly thereafter, the positive trajectory of the Bikery was not derailed.
“During the pandemic, as people became isolated at home, I pivoted my roadside-vendor business model to a delivery service and expanded my menu to include breads, buns and, most importantly and coincidentally, challah. After a few months of biking bread around the city, my now-business partner contacted me requesting weekly challah for her community’s Shabbat dinners,” Spodzieja said. “As the weekly orders began to grow, we arranged a meeting to discuss the need for a kosher bakery in Victoria, and spent the following nine months working out of Chabad of Vancouver Island perfecting our new menu.”
Since the Bikery’s pretzel beginning, the choices have expanded. Spodzieja’s selection now includes bagels of all sorts: poppyseed, cinnamon raisin, plain, and everything seasoning.
In addition, the Bikery presently offers classic challah loaves, braided challah, honey-apple challah, mini challahs, pocket pitas, pretzel buns, and hamburger and hot dog buns. It also serves up confections reminiscent of the Old World, such as rugelach filled with a home-made hazelnut spread, lemon poppyseed muffins, linzer cookies, kipferl cookies and a “personal-sized, decadently spiced” honey cake.
And there are still pretzels of all kinds on the menu, from the original “sweet and salty and chewy” to the chocolate drizzle pretzel “dedicated to the sweet tooth in all of us.” There is a roasted garlic and rosemary pretzel, each batch of which contains an entire head of garlic. As well, there is a cinnamon sugar pretzel, which, as the Bikery’s website asks, “Who needs a mini donut when you’ve got a pretzel with an ample dusting of sugar and locally processed cinnamon?” There is even the blending of two baked worlds – a pretzel bagel, which the Bikery touts as offering “the soft chewyness of the bagel combined with the salty flavour of the pretzel.”
The child of a German-Polish household, Spodzieja spent a lot of time in his youth in the kitchen. Both of his parents went to culinary school and his father ran a bakery in Campbell River.
“Little did I know that, growing up, baking would become a sort of unconscious habit. And while now I hold a BFA in acting, it gave me the life skills I needed to turn my baking hobby into something that better benefits my community,” he said.
For the time being, Spodzieja said, his focus is “working to establish ourselves into the Victoria Public Market, work on some new menu additions and [to] ensure the integrity of our products as we continue to grow. Rest assured, we have plenty of ideas coming down the pipe. We’ll just have to wait and see as they arrive.”
The Bikery is certified pareve kosher by BC Kosher Check and supervised by Chabad of Vancouver Island. Besides being kosher, most of the items sold at the Bikery are vegan as well.
The Bikery also strives to be environmentally friendly. Not only is its kitchen 100% electric powered, but all deliveries are made by a combination of bicycle and EV car. Its minimum fee for delivery is $10. Deliveries usually cover a radius of five kilometres, but it has temporarily expanded to 15 kilometres.
Victoria’s Public Market is situated close to City Hall and Centennial Square and is a few blocks away from the Empress Hotel and the Parliament Buildings. It is housed in a building that operated for several decades as a Hudson’s Bay department store. Located toward the back entrance (near free two-hour parking), the Bikery shares the market with, among others, a high-end chocolatier, a vegan butcher shop and an exclusive kitchenware store.
For more information or to place an order, visit thebikery.ca.
Sam Margolishas written for the Globe and Mail, the National Post, UPI and MSNBC.
Brian Jessel has loved cars since he was a kid. (photo by Alfonso Arnold)
Brian Jessel chose one of the most consequential years in Vancouver’s history, 1986, to embark on his self-named BMW dealership. Since Expo 86, both the city and Brian Jessel BMW have changed, but, according to Jessel, one thing remains constant.
“We take a personal approach to the car business. We cherish our relationships with our clients and like to spoil them and treat them as VIPs. This is how I want to be treated, so this is how I grow my business relationships,” Jessel said in a recent interview.
And he also works to grow community. Among the organizations that have benefited from his philanthropy are Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver, Jewish Family Services, Congregation Schara Tzedeck, Lubavitch BC, the Jewish Museum and Archives of British Columbia and the Isaac Waldman Jewish Public Library.
In the general community, Jessel’s Cabriolet Charity Galas, started in 2004, are among the premier philanthropic events of the year in Vancouver. The annual galas, which raise money for pancreatic cancer research, have brought in more than $2 million and have seen the likes of talk show host Jay Leno and blues singer Colin James perform in the past.
Enthusiasm for the automobile runs in Jessel’s family. His father, Bernie, a leading figure the Toronto car market, instilled a fascination with the industry – an excitement that has carried through to future generations.
“I loved cars from the time I was a toddler; it’s probably in my DNA. I now have a 4-year-old grandson who is exactly the same; he sleeps with cars in his bed and won’t let go of the steering wheel if he gets into the driver’s seat. I bought him and his 6-year-old brother cars – yes, real cars. I just need to wait 12 years to give them to them,” he related.
The desire to be in the car business maintained such a strong pull for Jessel that other career possibilities did not stand much of a chance.
“I went to university (in Michigan) but never graduated – I wanted to get to work. I interviewed at a prestigious Bay Street stock firm and was accepted for the position, but I never started. A couple of weeks later, I was selling cars at a classy GM dealership on the west side of Toronto,” he recalled.
Eventually, in 1972, he made it out west, opening his first used car lot with six automobiles on a leased space at Burrard and 1st Avenue. Jessel sensed the appeal of foreign cars, even back in the 1970s, and turned that first car lot into a Fiat dealership – along with selling pre-owned vehicles, specializing in imports.
“These were days when, if a Jag went down the road, people stopped and looked,” said Jessel, who also attributes his success to having the gumption to take a chance when opportunity comes calling.
Before establishing itself at its current location in Vancouver in 2004, Brian Jessel BMW operated out of locations in Langley and Coquitlam. Today, it occupies a 66,000-square-foot new-car facility on Boundary Road, with an additional 36,000 square-foot pre-owned-car space nearby. Brian Jessel BMW sells more than 5,000 cars a year.
Jessel gives much of the credit to his staff for his thriving business. “Our people are knowledgeable but also warm and engaging,” he said. “And we are laser focused on all things BMW. We aren’t using a cookie-cutter format that works for selling everything from Bentley to Hyundai, like large dealership groups need to be. Yet we are the size of five dealerships, so we still have all the economies of scale of the multi-brand.”
When asked about the differences in running a dealership now as opposed to 35 years ago, he said, “As with everything in the world, the computer has changed how cars operate. Twenty years ago, I went to Europe and drove the upcoming BMW 7 Series. It had a dial in the centre console that controlled many of the car’s functions. Auto journalists hated the iDrive System when they first saw it. Now, almost every manufacturer has followed BMW’s lead and has a similar operating system.”
And there is the move to electric vehicles as well.
“The new frontier is the electric car. There is a mystique I like about electric cars,” he said. “They are so quiet and have amazing low-end power. I still love the feeling of an internal combustion engine, however, it is inevitable that electric vehicles will dominate by the end of this decade.”
Brian Jessel BMW has started taking orders for the new BMW iX, as well as the four-door sedan version, the BMW i4 – both of which are fully electric.
Sam Margolishas written for the Globe and Mail, the National Post, UPI and MSNBC.