ראש ממשלת קנדה, ג’סטין טרודו, שוב הסתבך בשערוריה גדולה שיכולה לאיים על עתידו הפוליטי. זאת דווקא כאשר מניותיו עלו לאחרונה בשל הטיפול הנאות של ממשלתו הליברלית במגפת הקורונה. רבים רבים בקנדה ומחוצה לה מוכירים לו הערכה רבה על מה שעשה עבור אזרחי קנדה בימים קשים אלה.
ממשלת טרודו העניקה תשעה מאות מיליון דולר לעומת הצדקה ווי שמטפלת בסטודנטים, במסגרת חוזה חדש בתקופת הקורונה. העמותה נותנת מענקים לסטודנטים שלא יכולים לעבוד בעת הזו עבור פעיליות התנדבויות שונות. בו בזמן מתברר בימים אלה שהעמותה שילמה כספים רבים למשפחת טרודו. אם כן זו השערוריה השלישית בה מעורב טרודו בשתי הקנדציות שלו בזמן שהוא מכהן ראש ממשלה. הפעם מדובר באירוע החמור ביותר שעדיין לא ברורים ממדיו הקשים. משרד האתיקה מתחיל לחקור את הפרשה המסובכת וזו בעצם כאמור זו הפעם השלישית שמעשי טרודו מגיעים לחקירות כאלה.
מפלגת האופוזיציה השמרנית דורשת מהמשטרה הפדרלית לפתוח בחקירה כדי לגלות אם מדובר בפעילות מושחתת של טרודו, עת העניקה ממשלתו חוזה ממשלתי נחשק בשווי של כתשעה מאות מיליון דולר לעומת הצדקה ווי, בזמן שהאחרונה שילמה לאורך השנים סכומי כסף גדולים לבני משפחתו של טרודו.
עומתת הצדקה ווי זכתה בחודש יוני בחוזה לניהול תוכנית פדרלית לחלק מענקים בגובה של עד חמשת אלפים דולר לסטודנטים, עבור התנדבות בארגונים שפועלים ללא מטרות רווח, במהלך משבר הקורונה. טרודו עצמו היה שותף למו”מ עם העמותה להעברת התקציב הגדול. לאור הביקורת הקשה עמותת ווי הודיעה כי לא תממש את החוזה ותוותר על התקציב הממשלתי.
עמות ווי שילמה בשנים האחרונות כמאתיים וחמישים אלף דולר לאמו של ראש הממשלה, מרגרט טרודו, עבור עשרים ושמונה נאומים שנשאה באירועים שונים. אחיו של ראש הממשלה, אלכסנדר טרודו, קיבל שלושים ושתיים אלף דולר עבור שמונה נאומים באירועים שונים. ואילו אשתו של ראש הממשלה, סופי טרודו, קיבלה אלף וחמש מאות דולר עבור נסיעה מטעם העמותה.
עוד מתברר שבתו של שר האוצר בממשלת טרודו, ביל מורנו, הועסקה בעמותת ווי. מורנו כמו טרודו השתתף בדיונים להעברת התקציב לעמותה.
משרד המבקר של קנדה כבר פתח כאמור בבדיקה בנוגע להתנהלות ראש הממשלה טרודו, בנושא העמותה. חבר הפרלמנט מטעם המפלגה השמרנית, מייקל בארט, טוען כי ידוע שמשפחתו של טרודו הפיקה תועלת כספית משמעותית מהארגון. ולכן ברור לגמרי שיש ראיות מספיקות כדי שהמשטרה תחקור את הפרשה. מפלגת בוק קוויבק קראה לטרודו לפנות את כיסאו עד לסיום החקירה, לטובת סגניתו, כריסטיה פרילנד. זאת בשל האפשרות שתיפתח גם חקירה פלילית.
משרד האתיקה של קנדה פרסם בשנים האחרונות שני דוחות שבהם קבע כי טרודו הפר תקנות הנוגעות לניגוד אינטרסים. הראשון מייד לאחר שטרודו מונה לראש הממשלה בקנדציה הראשונה שלו (באלפיים ושבע עשרה). טרודו יצא לחופשה באי הפרטי של הפילנטרופ וידיד המשפחה שלו אגא חאן, באיי בהאמה. זאת בזמן ששחאן ניהל משא ומתן על מימון פרויקטים ממשלתיים שונים. הדוח השני פורסם לפני כשנה לאחר שטרודו הואשם בניסיון להשפיע על ההליך המשפטי בעניין חברת התשתיות הגדולה מקוויבק אס.אן.סי לוולין. אז דובר כי טרודו ניסה להשפיע על התובעת הכללית ששימשה גם שרת המשפטים שלו, כדי שלא תעמיד לדין את החברה שהואשמה בתקופת ראש הממשלה הקודם, סטיבן הרפר, כי שיחדה בכירים בלוב כדי לזכות בחוזים ממשלתיים גדולים.
My family helped pick a neighbour’s apple tree on Labour Day weekend. It was heavy with fruit. I love this activity, as it connects us viscerally with the changing season. It also connects with the beginning of the Torah portion Ki Tavo (Deuteronomy 26:1-29:8). This portion instructs the Israelites to give some of their first fruits to the priests for the divine altar and, also, to give 10% of their harvest as a tithe, for those who are less fortunate.
Even though we make applesauce, apple chips, apple crisp and eat lots of fresh apples, we always pick more than we can use. It gives us a chance to interact with our neighbours and to help elders who need help cleaning up their yards. It also gives us a way to make a physical donation to those who might need it more than we do.
Each year, we choose places to donate the apples. This year, we made a visit to Chabad and dropped off apples. We know the Torah Tots preschoolers might like apple slices or applesauce. (My kids were once those preschoolers and remember snack very well!)
We also dropped off apples and visited a friend of ours. He works at the Welcome Home, a Ukrainian Catholic mission house in the North End of Winnipeg. Welcome Home works in part as a food pantry, offering weekly hampers and meals to the hungry. It also provides places for kids to play, people to gather and worship, and access other supports. It’s housed in a big old building that used to be a duplex. It was originally built as a rooming house for the new immigrants. The house was quiet on a weekday, only receiving occasional donations when we visited. However, you could almost hear the bustle of a weeknight dinner for the community, or the single immigrants or whole families who lived in these small rooms long ago when they first arrived in Canada.
I’m not mentioning this to boast of our tzedakah (charity) activities. I’m suggesting that, for many working families, donating 10% of their salaries doesn’t seem like a financially realistic goal. What about donating actual produce? That was something we could do. A few hours of apple picking and sorting seems like fun for my household, but the food is also meaningful. If we don’t pick it, in many yards, it’s left to fall and rot on the ground.
Community involvement is a way for us to show our gratitude when we feel blessed and lucky to be alive, but the involvement doesn’t have to be formal. We don’t all have to serve on a committee or make large, tax-deductible donations. It can be simpler than that. This past summer, my kids took swimming lessons at a lake and we often stopped for ice cream on the way home. The place where we bought ice cream had a tin on the counter. They collected change to support the food bank. So, each kid was handed change to donate. You get ice cream after a swimming class and you’re grateful. Give back.
This lesson can be extended further though. Part of the apple-picking exercise, the awkward part, might be knocking on your neighbour’s door. Yet, this is when you might learn your neighbour just had hand surgery, or was now too physically fragile to be able to pick up the fallen apples. It’s a chance to make informal and meaningful connections with others.
No matter how functional (or dysfunctional) our infrastructure is, government financial supports or provincial services don’t always manage to meet essential needs. This is when we can do more by reaching out to others who live nearby.
Rosh Hashanah, our new year, is an opportunity. We think about how we can do better and start anew. In many ways, this yearly “check-in” is our chance to reflect on how we can make more of a difference. Sometimes, if you’re lucky enough to have more than you need, it’s easy and very important to donate money. Perhaps you can sponsor a Jewish activity, a needed renovation in the Jewish community or support a project to increase the capacity of organizations that offer services to those in need.
For many of us, though, our commitment to helping others happens in a more modest way. It might be a dime dropped into the pushke (collection tin) or finding a way to feed others. It might be picking apples or donating an extra can of tuna to the food bank. It could be volunteering to help a new mom so she can take a shower while you watch the baby. It’s offering another working parent a play date so that he or she doesn’t have to pay for child care.
We can all invest more in helping others. Let’s be grateful for what we have by trying to give a bit more of ourselves and our labours to others who might need it this year. It’s the right thing to do.
My family and I wish you a very sweet new year, full of good health and lots of apples and honey.
Joanne Seiffhas written regularly for CBC Manitoba and various Jewish publications. She is the author of three books, including From the Outside In: Jewish Post Columns 2015-2016, a collection of essays available for digital download or as a paperback from Amazon. See more about her at joanneseiff.blogspot.com.
Kids on the Block uses a puppet show to teach kids about juvenile arthritis. (photo from Cassie and Friends)
Juvenile arthritis (JA) affects three in 1,000 kids in Canada, making it one of the most common chronic conditions affecting children today. Yet, JA is still relatively unknown and often misunderstood.
According to Jennifer Wilson, executive director of Cassie and Friends Society for Children with Juvenile Arthritis and other Rheumatic Diseases, “Arthritis has been mislabeled as ‘an old person’s disease,’ leaving kids who suffer from JA misunderstood for their differences and the disease’s complications.”
In 2006, David Porte and Debbie Setton discovered that their then-20-month-old daughter Cassie had JA.
“When Cassie was not quite 2 years old, she woke up one morning and couldn’t walk,” recalled her mom, Debbie. “I took her to the children’s hospital and, after X-rays, blood work and several visits by specialists over the next few weeks, we received the diagnosis of JA, a painful, lifelong autoimmune condition.
“Despite being a physician, I remember feeling very scared and alone, especially as Cassie’s disease progressed to involve more and more joints. Both David and I struggled to find information and support to cope with Cassie’s condition.
“About six months after Cassie was diagnosed,” she said, “David entered the Scotiabank Charity Challenge Run. We were overwhelmed with the support we received from family and friends, raising over $18,000 in a few weeks. We decided to do something long-lasting and create a charity that would help other kids and families like us.”
Debbie and David named the Vancouver-based charity Cassie and Friends, and it has been working to transform the lives of kids and families affected by JA and other rheumatic diseases locally and across Canada.
“Cassie’s disease has followed a pretty typical course of flares and remissions,” said Debbie. “At her worst, she had 16 joints affected (knee, ankles, toes, wrists, fingers). During the flares, she was unable to do the things she loves, like dance. In fact, at times, she found it hard just to walk or hold a pen. Thankfully, she is in a remission phase right now, on two different injectable medications to control the inflammation.”
According to Debbie, Cassie sometimes gets sad or frustrated because of her arthritis or its treatment. But, for the most part, Cassie is exceptionally positive and does not let her arthritis stop her. Further, Cassie’s condition has had an impact on her older brother, Ben, making him a more empathetic person after observing his sister’s struggles, said his mom.
“In the beginning, it was difficult for David and me, not knowing anyone else with a child with JA,” said Debbie. “But, now we feel like we have a whole community around us to share in the ups and downs of Cassie’s disease.”
To help kids learn about JA and other rheumatic diseases, David and Debbie created Kids on the Block (KOB) in 2009. And the KOB puppet show has been traveling, mainly around Metro Vancouver, to raise awareness about childhood arthritis, and to educate students and teachers about the issues these children face.
“The life-sized puppets – decked out in Cassie’s toddler clothes – act like real children,” said Debbie. “They help students understand what it’s like to live with JA and their skits illustrate some of the challenges a classmate with JA (or really any disease or challenge) might be facing: pain, isolation, depression and mobility challenges. Students have the chance to ask the puppets questions at the end of the performance. The puppets also help children feel positive about themselves, accepting individual differences and learning valuable personal skills.”
The first-ever performance of KOB was at Vancouver Talmud Torah, when Cassie was in kindergarten. With Cassie about to graduate from the school, the show was brought back for another performance earlier this year. Cassie suggested it would be more special and have a greater impact if she were to introduce the program with her own story. At the show, there were two other children in the audience with either JA or another rheumatic condition.
“It was my suggestion to bring Kids on the Block back to VTT on Jan. 24, 2018, for the younger kids, including my Grade 1 buddy,” said Cassie. “It was fun to introduce the puppet show to the kids. They all know me and I could explain it to them in an easier way, because I am a kid and they are, too.
“I also really enjoyed watching the show again, because I didn’t remember it from kindergarten. After I had done the introduction, I also got many compliments on it because it was in the weekly email.” (Cassie’s presentation can be seen on YouTube.)
“Arthritis in kids is much more than aches and pains,” said Wilson. “JA is a chronic autoimmune disease characterized by uncontrolled inflammation and pain that can occur in any and often several parts of a child’s body. Children with JA will spend countless hours treating their condition and are often confined to the sidelines in sports, school and even life – especially during painful flares.
“For many children,” she said, “JA will also involve complex medical interventions, such as joint replacements, surgeries and aggressive, immune-suppressing medications, like chemotherapy and biologics. There is no cure and there are few treatments that are safe and specific for a growing child. Sadly, that can lead to feelings of embarrassment, social exclusion and even bullying … for a child who is already dealing with a painful, chronic and sometimes invisible disease.”
KOB is 100% free to schools and is intended for students in kindergarten through Grade 4. The show travels to 40 to 50 schools in British Columbia every year. It is supported in part by the sponsorship of Mardon Insurance and Gore Mutual Insurance Foundation.
According to Wilson, Cassie and Friends is the only charity completely dedicated to kids and families affected by juvenile arthritis and other rheumatic diseases. For more information, visit cassieandfriends.ca or email [email protected].
Several students and a few teachers from Richmond Jewish Day School were invited to appear on Variety’s Show of Hearts telethon. (photo from RJDS)
The Richmond Jewish Day School (RJDS) is a school that loves to donate to charity. The school currently donates to several organizations, including the Regional Animal Protection Society, the Jewish Food Bank and Variety – The Children’s Charity.
A total of $1,150 was raised this school year for Variety, through flower sales, bake sales and non-uniform days (where students donate a dollar for the privilege of not wearing a uniform). As a result, RJDS received an invitation to be on the Variety Show of Hearts telethon on Feb. 11 to formally donate the money that the student council raised. Several students and a few teachers went on TV and everyone was so excited to be part of such a great experience.
For me, the telethon was very inspiring in many ways. There were many people there whose stories were told, and they made me and the rest of student council even more pleased that we could donate. There were many other donations given, as well as ours, that I am sure will make a big difference in some lives. It was amazing to see how much Variety impacts the lives of children and how happy it can make them.
Haylee Toppis a Grade 7 student at Richmond Jewish Day School.
Editor’s note: This year’s Variety Show of Hearts raised almost $5.5 million, which will benefit children with special needs and their families. Also appearing on the telethon was ShowStoppers, a group founded by Perry Ehrlich and Simon Isherwood that started out as Sound Sensation; the group’s first performance was on the telethon 25 years ago. Those who missed this year’s Show of Hearts can still make a donation online at variety.bc.ca, by calling 604-310-KIDS or by texting “KIDS” to 45678 to make an automatic $20 contribution.
More than 70 volunteers came out Feb. 11 to help Rose’s Angels pack care bundles. (photo by Lianne Cohen)
The fifth annual Rose’s Angels was a success by every measure. This year, project co-founders Courtney Cohen and Lynne Fader facilitated multiple donors of goods in-kind and financial, led six months of collecting items and gathered more than 70 volunteers to pack more than 1,100 care bundles, plus additional bulk packages for Richmond-based outreach agencies.
Seventeen Richmond agencies – as well as Jewish Family Services’ Jewish Food Bank and Salvation Army’s Deborah’s Gate, both Vancouver-based programs – received these bundles. Each bag contained warm clothing items, hygiene products and food, among other things, to make a recipient’s day a little easier, and each was created to be specifically for men, women or children. The bags included a special note from the Rose’s Angels family, expressing hope that the items bring some enjoyment and a smile.
Agency recipients also included Touchstone Family Association, Chimo Community Services, Richmond High’s Colt Young Parent Program, Tikva Housing Society’s Storeys residence, Heart of Richmond AIDS Society, Richmond Mental Health, SUCCESS, Richmond Food Bank, Turning Point Recovery Society, Richmond Family Place, Pathways Clubhouse, Chabad Richmond’s Light of Shabbat Meals program and Gilmore Park Community Meal.
Cohen, who sits on the Kehila Society’s board of directors in the outreach position, and Fader, Kehila’s co-executive director, created Rose’s Angels to honour the memories and spirits of Cohen’s grandmothers, Rose Lewin and Babs Cohen. The note included with the bundles, said, “We share with you the long-lasting love and warmth these ladies conveyed.”
For those wishing to make a donation to Rose’s Angels or to get involved with the Kehila Society, contact the society office at 604-241-9270.
The goal of the Richmond Jewish Day School student council committee this year was to help purchase a Sunshine Coach for Variety Club. From left to right are Rachel Marliss, Shai Rubin, teacher Reesa Pawer and Nate Brown. (photo from RJDS)
The Richmond Jewish Day School student council started three years ago. While there used to be elections, as of this year, any Grade 6 or 7 student can join, and we’re now called the student council committee. From its very beginning, the committee has done fundraisers for charities, such as the Richmond Animal Protection Society, the Jewish Food Bank and Variety – The Children’s Charity.
Many of the students at RJDS agree that giving and helping means the world to us, and a lot of students at our school, including members of our committee, have given to various causes.
In past years, we have done bake sales, non-uniform days and flower sales in support of charities. Most recently, we did a highly successful flower sale in front of our school – we sold every single bouquet, and we were interviewed by Global TV. Our goal was to raise $1,049 in support of Variety to help purchase a Sunshine Coach, and the goal was surpassed fairly quickly.
We wanted to raise money for Variety because of what they do for children who are less fortunate and need medical attention. Our fundraising will hopefully make a difference to these kids, and put smiles on the faces of some of those in need.
Shai Rubinis a Grade 7 student at Richmond Jewish Day School. Because of their efforts, RJDS students will appear on the Variety telethon Feb. 11, between 1:30 and 2:30 p.m. The telethon is a daylong broadcast on Global BC.
Thousands and thousands of dollars belonging to Jewish institutions and individuals are sitting unclaimed at the Bank of Canada.
Banks and federally chartered trust and loan companies are required to transfer to the Bank of Canada all unclaimed bank balances maintained in Canada in Canadian currency that have been inactive for a period of 10 years. According to the Bank of Canada’s website (bankofcanada.ca), at the end of December 2016, approximately 1.8 million unclaimed balances, worth some $678 million, were on the bank’s books. More than 93% of unclaimed balances were under $1,000, representing 26% of the total value outstanding. In 2016, the bank paid out $15 million to account holders. The oldest balance dates back to 1900.
At the Bank of Canada, there are many small amounts payable to Jewish organizations, including ones that are currently active. There are also some organizations that may no longer be active, which is why money in their name is languishing at the Bank of Canada. It is unfortunate that money intended to benefit Jewish organizations, charities or other causes, should not be used for the intended purpose, but instead sits unclaimed at the bank. Many of these organizations must have successor organizations or responsible persons that, with a little effort, could prove their right to claim the funds.
To discover whether a group you are now or have previously been associated with has such a balance, you should do the following:
Once you reach the unclaimed balances registry, type one word of the organization name into the search box and scroll through the results.
If you see a name that is familiar, open the link.
If there is a bank account untouched for 10 years, the organization will pop up, along with the name and address of the originating bank. Then you can make a claim for the money through a process set out on the website. You will have to prove that the account was yours, and the website explains how to do that.
You can search by province, or by “all” (of Canada). Each year, on Dec. 31, the Bank of Canada adds another year’s unclaimed bank accounts to the website.
Members of the Canadian Jewish community should try to reclaim funds that were intended for use in the community.
Here are some of the words searched that found unclaimed balances belonging to Jewish groups or institutions: Jewish, Hebrew, tikvah, congregation, Canadian friends, beth, bnai, b’nai, rabbi, synagogue, temple, Torah, Talmud, Israel, Jerusalem, Moshe, Habonim, Zionist, ohel, Na’amat, chevra, camp, JCC, eitz, beit, chaim, kosher, yeshiva, Yiddish.
For example, the Bank of Canada holds $3,311.02 for an organization called Canadian Friends of Tikvah Lay in Ontario. It also holds $256.94 for Yeshiva of the Northwest, whose last transaction date was in 1992 in Vancouver, and $108.69 for the Edmonton Jewish Women’s Baseball League, untouched since 1997.
There may be some hurdles to jump to establish the right to the $953.08 of the Yiddish Drama Company in Toronto, untouched since 1979. However, there are at least a dozen Jewish community centres and congregations in towns across the country that should have very little difficulty in obtaining their unclaimed bank balances.
Few of the amounts found were large – but should any of the money raised or donated for a Jewish cause, charitable or not, be left at the Bank of Canada? Some effort should be made by the community to locate these funds and use them as they were intended.
You should also check your own name and those of family members, especially those family members who died more than 10 years ago, as there are sometimes bank accounts that heirs were unaware of at the time of death and that show up at the Bank of Canada years later. The process for obtaining personal unclaimed funds is also quite simple, and requires establishing your identity and your right to the funds.
Not to be confused with the funds held at the Bank of Canada, the province of British Columbia has its own, government-affiliated B.C. Unclaimed Property Society. It seems to hold more funds for individuals rather than organizations. Its website (unclaimedpropertybc.ca) says:
“Each year, millions of dollars in British Columbia goes unclaimed in dormant credit union accounts, forgotten insurance payments, unclaimed wages, overpayment to debt collectors, as well as unclaimed proceeds from courts, tax offices and unadministered estates and intestates (death without a will and next of kin cannot be notified). The British Columbia Unclaimed Property Society (BCUPS) helps reunite British Columbians with their forgotten or unclaimed assets. We hold unclaimed property as the custodian for rightful owners under the Unclaimed Property Act.”
The BCUPS website also provides an easy way to search, but if you find your name, you will find no further information about the amount of funds or the source of the funds being held for you, until you contact the society. You could think of it as a form of treasure hunt, where you expend no money, but you do expend your time, and maybe there will be a treasure chest or at least a few coins at the end of the hunt.
Felicia Folkis a retired lawyer living in Vancouver.
Little Free Libraries are open 24/7 in cities across Canada. (photo by Josie Tonio McCarthy)
Have you heard of the Little Free Library movement? It’s a way for neighbours to exchange books. Throughout Winnipeg, Vancouver and other cities, there are little freestanding houses, a little bigger than a birdhouse. If you have a book you no longer want, you can leave it. If you’re looking for a book to read? You can take a book whenever you want. These Little Free Libraries are open 24/7.
Walking to our closest Little Free Library has become an important destination for me and my twins. It’s free, good exercise, and encourages our love of reading and learning. My twins often argue over which book to donate. Our house is overflowing with books. In order to take home a new storybook, we have an “even-exchange” policy.
Recently, I read on the National Public Radio (NPR) website about a similar U.S. movement, but, instead of books, the little house is a food pantry for the hungry. One family calls theirs a “blessing box.” Others call it a “little free pantry.” Sometimes, only one family stocks it with food, diapers or toothpaste. Sometimes, a whole neighbourhood takes part. The article mentioned that, in one neighbourhood, most of the food is taken between midnight and 7 a.m.; in another, the food comes and goes continuously. It’s a way of helping others anonymously. You don’t have to face someone at a food bank to admit your family is hungry and cannot afford food.
When I read this, I wanted to build one of these little food pantries right away, but then realized that, in a cold Canadian climate at this time of year, canned food or other stuff won’t do well outdoors. Even if that freestanding unheated food pantry doesn’t work out right away, the concept still made me want to do better than I’d been doing.
I thought about a worksheet I’d used to teach religious school, maybe 20 years ago. I can’t find that piece of paper anymore but I remembered the point. It was about Maimonides’ ladder of tzedakah (justice, or charity). Maimonides (Rambam), a great Jewish scholar and teacher in the 12th century, lived in Spain and Egypt. I borrowed the following summary from the Jewish Teen Funders Network website, to remember the details.
Maimonides believed that tzedakah is like a ladder. It has eight rungs, from bottom to top. Each step you climb brings you closer to heaven.
1. The person who gives reluctantly and with regret.
2. The person who gives graciously, but less than one should.
3. The person who gives what one should, but only after being asked.
4. The person who gives before being asked.
5. The person who gives without knowing to whom he or she gives, although the recipient knows the identity of the donor.
6. The person who gives without making his or her identity known.
7. The person who gives without knowing to whom he or she gives. The recipient does not know from whom he or she receives.
8. The person who helps another to become self-supporting by a gift or a loan or by finding employment for the recipient.
To put this tzedakah approach into practice requires work. Many of us are stuck on the first five rungs of the ladder. I’m going to skip the first two rungs, because, while many of us may have only achieved this level, I’m going to act like we’re better than that. Right?
For instance, our membership dues to a synagogue or other Jewish organizations are acts of tzedakah, but usually of the third-rung kind. (If we could afford to donate more, we sink below No. 3.) We occasionally may get up to No. 7, when donating to a food bank. If you decide to “sponsor” something in the community and your name is pasted all over the event, that’s No. 5. It means, for instance, that while you do not know who ate the kiddush lunch you sponsored, everyone who is there knows your name. So, while some do this to celebrate a special event with their community, others do this named sponsorship because they like the attention. It’s tzedakah, sure, but it’s also about ego.
We could change the way we do our “tzedakah” business. We could push our Jewish community higher up Maimonides’ ladder. Here are some ideas.
Instead of “name in lights” sponsorship, we could donate anonymously to support a community meal, event or service. This could perhaps allow an organization to sponsor a free event. Maybe a congregation could have a nicer kiddush lunch on a Saturday or have an oneg on a more regular basis. It could boost the financial situation of an essential community function, like operational costs (heat, lights, water?), educational events, building renovation or maintenance. It could raise the salary of someone who works for the Jewish community. It could create new employment for someone in our community. It could offer a loan or gift to someone who needs a step-up to begin supporting himself or herself.
Ach! I hear you saying. I’m no moneybags. I can’t pay for someone’s salary. Fine.
If these sound too hard, lower your goals. Could you consistently offer a small amount of money or time when asked to help? Could you pay membership dues early? Could you donate food to the food bank every time you grocery shop? Maybe empty the change from your pockets every Friday afternoon to put in a pushke (collection box)?
Making a difference and working your way up that ladder can start small. It can be as simple as being gracious about donating. What about volunteering time or thanking others who donate? Many of us have the capacity to climb this metaphorical ladder. Shall we ascend those rungs together?
Joanne Seiff, a regular columnist for Winnipeg’s Jewish Post and News, is the author of a new book, From the Outside In: Jewish Post Columns 2015-2016. This collection of essays is now available for digital download, or as a paperback from Amazon. See more about her on joanneseiff.blogspot.com.
Left to right: Ariel Lewinski, Judy Boxer and John Bromley. (photo from Chimp)
When it comes to charitable giving, there’s a widespread feeling of donor fatigue, says Judy Boxer, community engagement manager with Chimp Technology in Vancouver. Chimp is an online giving platform that helps people give to and fundraise for charities that match their values and interest. Focused on charitable impact, the company is determined to counter donor fatigue by making philanthropy a positive, rewarding experience. And it’s set its sights on the Jewish community of Vancouver with a Tzedakah Project targeting Jewish giving.
A Vancouver donor who prefers to remain anonymous gave Chimp $270,000 to jumpstart the Tzedakah Project in mid-November. Boxer and her colleague Ariel Lewinski are tasked with creating the community, helping select a board to run it and then handing it over to the board.
“Ultimately, this initiative is something the Jewish community will take on and run on their own terms,” she said. To add incentive to membership, the Tzedakah Project is starting out by offering an $18 charitable gift to new members “so they can experience the gift of giving to a Jewish charity of their choice,” Boxer explained.
The core of Chimp is the Chimp account, which gives a donor the same benefits as having their own private foundation, but free of charge, said Lewinski, Chimp’s vice-president of partnerships and growth. “It’s like an online bank account for charitable giving. You put any amount of money into the Chimp account and you get your tax receipt at the moment you want it. You can allocate the charitable giving at a later date.”
Chimp membership encourages donors to rethink how they give charitably. Boxer and her team have found that people’s donations are more reactive when they receive calls requesting donations. They don’t necessarily plan their giving to make the biggest impact.
“We’ve found people connect really well to causes,” she reflected. “At Chimp, we’ll help them figure out what causes are important to them and then offer a matching charitable organization so they can allocate their charitable giving. With a Chimp account, you have an opportunity to engage in a conversation about what you care about, what you want to achieve and where you want to make an impact, as opposed to reacting towards people asking for money.”
Chimp Technology is the brainchild of John Bromley, a 38-year-old Vancouverite who started out in corporate finance and then co-founded a law consulting company focused on charity. His clients were high-net-worth donors who needed help structuring their giving and, in the process of working with them, Bromley felt he could help ordinary people structure their charitable giving, too.
“I saw that the only people getting their giving problems resolved were people who had so much money they could create their own private foundation,” he said. “I started Chimp Technology in 2012 to focus on a donor-centred giving experience for everyone else.”
Bromley observed that the main place people learned to give was in religiously oriented families or theologically tied communities. “As there’s been more secularization in North America, we’ve seen a reduction in the number of people that learn how to give,” he noted. “Chimp isn’t religiously motivated, but we understand the theological backgrounds and the very important role those theologies and communities play in the giving economy in Canada.”
While Chimp is theologically neutral, it aims to represent donors and effectively facilitate their philanthropy. “That’s important, because, when you take away all the noise that exists around how to give to charity, you create more time for people to think about how they’ll spend their charitable dollars,” Bromley said. “Chimp is about enabling or empowering donors large and small to give on their own terms to the things that matter to them.”
Boxer said the Tzedakah Project is also trying to empower the younger generation and has partnered with Vancouver Hebrew Academy, Vancouver Talmud Torah, King David High School and Torah High in Vancouver. “We want to start a philanthropic conversation with kids of a certain age about the kind of impact they want to have, to have them think about charity in a new way, and possibly start conversations between them and their families,” she said.
“We’re trying to enable and empower people from different communities by giving them the tools they need to create a giving program around a cause or community,” Bromley added. “We’re not the founders of the idea for the Tzedakah Project – that’s coming out of the Jewish community. But it’s a real pleasure to be doing this with the Jewish community. I’ve learned a heck of a lot about the wealth of engagement with tzedakah and how serious giving values are in the community, and it’s quite inspiring.”
Potential Apparel co-founder Shane Golden. (photo from Shane Golden)
There’s one thing on the mind of Vancouverite Shane Golden, 24, and that’s tikkun olam. The Richmond native is co-founder of Potential Apparel, a sports clothing company that donates a portion of sales from each of its garments to the Make-A-Wish Foundation, and has contributed $20,000 to the charity over the last three years.
“Since my earliest days at Jewish elementary school, even when I was a toddler at Beth Tikvah preschool in Richmond, I was taught the ideology of repairing the world,” Golden told the Independent. “It was reinforced through my family’s actions in the Jewish community. From my earliest memories, I grew up knowing that every action I take has an opposite and equal reaction. I’ve always asked myself, how can I use these physics to help the world around me, to help repair the lives of individuals I’ve never met, and faces I’ll never see?”
Golden and David Dotan founded Potential Apparel three years ago, while Golden was studying engineering at Simon Fraser University. He switched to marketing management at B.C. Institute of Technology but left 18 months ago to work on Potential Apparel full-time. The concept behind the company was Dotan’s, he said. “David used to play professional hockey in the NHL, and we thought we could use his connections and network to start developing the brand.” Those connections include professional athletes Brendan Gallagher, Martin Jones and Ryan Johansen of the Nashville Predators.
“We develop the shirts with them to create a product that they want to wear,” Golden explained. “Sure, they might have deals with Nike to wear clothes, but they’re wearing Potential Apparel when they want to be comfortable – and they’re definitely influencers.”
To date, Potential Apparel has sold more than 200,000 shirts, most of them in Canada. The clothing, which includes hats and hoodies, is made in Burnaby – which costs more, he conceded. “It’s interesting having to spend a bit more money to manufacture locally but we find people really appreciate locally made products,” he said. “Between local manufacturing and donating a portion of sales to charity, our business has been an interesting challenge, but we’ve figured it out, and we’re making money.”
One thing that’s helped is the charitable golf tournament the pair began last summer in Whistler (whistlerinvitational.com). They matched participants with NHL players for a round of golf and raised $16,000 for the Make-A-Wish Foundation. This summer, the tournament will be held Aug. 5-7 in Whistler, hosted by Johansen and fellow NHLer Brenden Dillon of the San Jose Sharks. “This year, we’re hoping to double last year’s donation,” Golden said.
Asked why he and Dotan selected Make-A-Wish as their charity of choice, Golden said, “At one time, I asked Ryan Johansen why he chose to spend so much of his free time working with charities. He told me that were it not for the privileged lifestyle in which he was raised, with parents who could drive him to the rink every morning and buy him new gear every couple of years, he wouldn’t be where he was today. Make-A-Wish grants terminally ill children the ability to achieve their dreams, and that ability to empower a child is what resonates with us. Whether we choose to stay with Make-A-Wish or, down the road, swap over to helping another charitable organization, it will always be to help kids.”
Golden’s hopes are that Potential Apparel will become a household name that makes a statement. “The statement is that you’ve chosen to reach your potential and help others achieve theirs as well,” he said. “Potential Apparel, since day one, has always been more than just clothing. We are a movement empowering people to take a leap of faith and inspire others while doing so.”
Golden said he’s always looked up to entrepreneurs and philanthropists Mark Cuban and Elon Musk, but that it’s his parents and grandparents who have shaped his character. “My grandmother Marie and late grandfather Sidney Doduck created a legacy called the Marsid Family Foundation, which actively contributes to the Jewish community and causes which they deem important,” he said. “I plan on following suit in a similar manner.”
Lauren Kramer, an award-winning writer and editor, lives in Richmond. To read her work online, visit laurenkramer.net.