(Haber, Hayes and Korsch photos by Lorne Greenberg)
Louis Brier Jewish Aged Foundation’s Eight Over Eighty celebration honors eight individuals/couples who have shown exemplary leadership and vision in the community. Last week, the Independent profiled honorees Dr. Marvin and Rita Weintraub, Rita Akselrod, Dr. Jimmy White and Chaim Kornfeld. This week, the JI features honorees Serge Haber, Dr. Arthur and Arlene Hayes, Stan and Seda Korsch, and Samuel and Frances Belzberg.
Zeal and vision
Serge Haber was born in Romania in 1928. After the war, he spent two years in Cuba, arriving in Montreal in 1949, where he worked in the garment business. Amid growing Quebec nationalism, Serge moved his family to Vancouver in 1978 and bought Kaplan’s delicatessen.
It wasn’t hard to move West, Serge told the JI. And, he said, “It turned out that it was the best move I made because my trade took a terrible nosedive two years later; I would not have been able to remain in business. I got out just in time by sheer luck.”
Telling his wife was another matter. “I came home and my wife almost killed me. ‘What do you know about the restaurant business?’ So, I told her, I said, ‘If I survived for so many years in the textile business with the sharpest Jewish people in the trade, I will in the business of restaurants, and I will do well,’ and I did.” He sold Kaplan’s in 1993.
Serge has been involved in synagogue life since arriving in Montreal, where he helped found a Conservative congregation in Laval and held leadership positions in United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism. In Vancouver, he joined Beth Israel. “It’s not just that I find a cause – I have to love that cause … [and] feel that it’s needed for the community, for the development of my life … and, once I got involved, I embraced it totally, in the sense that I ate, slept and drank the organization that I was working for.”
For 20-plus years, Serge has been leading services at Louis Brier, where he served on the board for 17 years. Serge has also been on the board of Jewish National Fund, Vancouver.
“When I was young, I got involved with B’nai B’rith Hillel Foundation and I became the president … I created an environment in which things can grow and develop from that point on…. It was not a question of being president or anything else. I felt that we can do something good for the community … my intent was to help out as much as I can.”
In “retirement,” Serge co-founded and is president of the Jewish Seniors Alliance of Greater Vancouver. About community work, he said, it “is a question of ideals and what you want to accomplish in life and how do you want to be regarded in the community in which you live.”
He pointed to his parents as role models. His father, in particular worked very hard, said Serge, “so I had a model to look at and I felt that every community embraced me and gave me whatever I needed, nurturing a common sense of family and community, so I should give back whatever I can, and that’s what I did.”
Serge is particularly concerned with the availability of seniors services and programming. He believes that “the need of the Jewish seniors in Greater Vancouver will be tenfold greater than what it is today because … the Jewish seniors community will at least double what it is today.” The time to prepare is now, he said, adding that he would like to see the building of a Jewish seniors centre here like they have in Montreal, Winnipeg and other cities, “a community centre specifically related to seniors.”
About being part of Eight Over Eighty, he said he is “overwhelmed” by the tribute because it was unexpected, and he felt good about his work regardless. “I’m not a person who works for the honoring, that is far removed from my mind … but I think it’s good in the sense that there are many people in the community that are doing phenomenal work and sometimes the community bypasses them and takes it for granted that they are supposed to volunteer and do all kinds of things without being recognized.”
DR. ARTHUR AND ARLENE HAYES
Selflessness, Yiddishkeit, devotion
Art Hayes grew up in rural Alberta. “A few miles away was another small town – Rumsey – and it is in this general area where a group of Jewish farmers, mainly from Russia, settled,” he said. “They built a synagogue, which was in use during Jewish holidays. At one time, they were even able to employ a Jewish teacher.”
He spoke fondly of his childhood, and highlighted the special role his grandparents played. They lived close to the one-room school that was eventually built, “and this was our stopping point on the way home. Here, we were treated with love and kindness, and lavished with special treats.
“After we left the farm, my father was involved in business in small mining towns in Alberta where we were usually the only Jews. I envied the Jewish life my cousins had in Calgary and enjoyed it with them whenever I was able to visit. Fortunately, my grandparents now lived eight miles away and I would spend my weekends with them. I learned about Judaism from my kind zaida, whom I loved dearly. Their love and attention to me was so complete that seemingly I was the centre of their universe.
“I was inspired by both my parents and grandparents – their selflessness, their Yiddishkeit and devotion to family and their love gave me my outlook on life.”
Arriving in Vancouver in 1947 after graduating in dentistry from the University of Alberta, Art pursued specialty training in orthodontics at Columbia University in New York. “When I returned two years later,” he recalled, “I found a community that functioned almost entirely with volunteers. There was respect for those who accepted the responsibility to take on the work and high regard if not reverence for the pioneers of the community.”
Art highlighted two projects undertaken when he was president of Beth Israel. “The first was to raise the funds pay off the $50,000 for our share of one-third ownership with synagogues in Seattle and Portland of Camp Solomon Schechter.” The second was providing their assistant rabbi – who came when their rabbi was on sabbatical – with a residence. “We bought a house in excess off $100,000, which we paid for by fundraising over the next year. This same house was recently sold by Beth Israel for more than $2 million and became the largest single contribution to the fund for the reconstruction of the synagogue.”
Art also co-founded Shaarey Tefilah and has been involved with the Louis Brier, Canadian Friends of Hebrew University locally, Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre, the Jewish Historical Society of British Columbia, Richmond Country Club, Jewish Federation/United Jewish Appeal, among others, and day school education. Noting the many attempts to open a Jewish high school, Art thanked Gordon and Leslie Diamond for their contribution to King David High School, “an outstanding institution,” and shared that some of the remaining assets of Shaarey Tefilah were used to establish an endowment fund for KDHS with Federation “to assist students who are financially unable to pay full tuition. In this way, Shaarey Tefilah will continue to be an influence to further Judaism in this community.”
Leadership “evolves during participation in the work of the community to the best of one’s ability,” Art said. “Anything that is achieved in the community is the result of the efforts of many people working together in harmony. Leadership is historically inherent in Judaism, which emphasizes the need to create a tolerant Jewish society with a very deep concern for all its members, the old and young, the rich and poor, the sick and well.”
“I grew up in a wonderful Jewish community in Regina, Sask. I was very fortunate, indeed,” Arlene Hayes said of her early years. “I had an idyllic childhood filled with a good elementary and secondary education system, a rabbi, a shul and an active Young Judaea movement, which played a huge part in my life. We even had a Young Judaean summer camp for six years in a row. My wonderful parents saw to it that I attended every one. Who could ask for anything more?
“I attended the University of Saskatchewan for three years in Saskatoon, met my husband-to-be on a summer visit to Vancouver, was married six weeks later and, as the saying goes, the rest is history.”
In Vancouver, Arlene worked as a lab technician while Art got established.
Art said of Arlene’s commitment to the community, “At the time, we were just starting out and, with three young children and a household to manage without help, Arlene was on her own many nights of the week. There was never a complaint from her, only encouragement and interest in the work being done. It was Arlene alone that it made it possible for me to participate and she is equally if not more responsible for whatever was accomplished.”
“I think is important to recognize people who have been community leaders for two reasons,” said Arlene. “One, it is the right thing to do. Secondly, one hopes these deeds will motivate others to ‘step up to the plate.’ I hope that, going forward, succeeding generations will learn from the examples of their predecessors. People of Art’s generation, and the preceding generation, have been true ‘chalutzim.’ They have given unstintingly of their time – after a full day’s work – to build their community. They believed in the teachings of Judaism: be generous, be kind, help the disenfranchised, share, build Israel, reinforce Jewish life in our own community.”
Of her hopes for the community, she said, “If successive generations follow in the footsteps of their predecessors, the community will continue to flourish.”
STANFORD AND SEDA KORSCH
From the ground up
While Stan Korsch was born and raised in Vancouver, Seda was born in Winnipeg and raised in Calgary before coming to Vancouver. Stan met Seda at a Beth Israel youth dance and they married in 1948, a week before the synagogue opened at Oak and 27th.
After moving around a bit, they settled back in Vancouver and into the family business, which was real estate. Stan was inducted as a fellow of the Real Estate Institute of Canada in 1958 and, today, is its oldest continuous member.
Seda’s involvement with Hadassah is longstanding and she has held many roles within the organization, including being a founding member and president of Shalom chapter, assisting with the bazaar’s silent auction, and serving as vice-president, card-chair and men’s youth aliyah chair on the council. Her kitchen was the annual headquarters for the baking of kiffles for the bazaar. She was also a member of the Beth Israel Sisterhood.
“I started a chapter of Hadassah in 1947 and we did a lot of money raising,” said Seda, later sharing, “On our first trip to Israel, we toured all the Hadassah projects and I realized that we just had to keep on doing this because there was such need. It was very gratifying to see some of the accomplishments we had done in Israel through our money raising. Hadassah was my main forte.”
Stan’s Jewish community involvement began before the Second World War. Over the years, he has held leadership positions with Young Judaea, Beth Israel Synagogue, the Menorah Society student group at the University of British Columbia, B’nai B’rith Lion’s Gate Lodge, Jewish Community Fund and Council (Federation’s predecessor), Canadian Zionist Federation, Lion’s Gate Building Society, Louis Brier Home and Weinberg Residence. He still is an active member of his synagogue, especially in its daily morning minyan. For his work with the Lion’s Gate Lodge, in 1999, he was awarded a Tikkun Olam Award for exceptional service to the community.
“I had three major influences in my life,” Stan said. “They were all something to do with being Jewish. Israel has always been in my heart, and right from my high school days, before Israel was there. We wanted to provide a homeland for the Jewish people…. We were good at what we did. We had the youth group, which was active and, by that, I mean we also communicated with other Jewish young people in other Canadian cities.
“My goal was always to keep Israel in mind, and the other one was housing. Because I was realtor, I realized there was a need – not cooperative housing – but for housing for those who are financially in need. I’ve always been a part of that in the community here; that’s why I was on the oversight committee and it took a lot of our time and effort those big projects,” including Haro Park, which took some 10 years to come to fruition.
“It was the only time in Canada that three levels of government were able to work together,” Stan said. “It was very difficult because each time the government changed, you had to start again with the new government. It was a miracle that we managed to build Haro Park. And we built some others. That was one of the main parts of my activities. The other one, of course, is the synagogue…. My parents were part of the group that formed the charter members. Right from day one I was involved…. I was there the day they opened, their first installation, back in the old Jewish community centre days, and then we moved onto 27th and Oak and now, today, we are now just completing a new facility on 27th and Oak. It’s quite gratifying.”
Stan said he’s seen many changes in the community over the years, and he is optimistic about its future. Seda is also positive: “I feel that the young people are taking over, which is great,” she said. “I know my daughter is quite active in Hadassah. I’m happy to see that, and it’s time the old people step back and enjoy it!”
Both are honored to be one of the Eight Over Eighty. However, said Stan, “We don’t do these things for kavod. We can see the need and we are not just talk. We see the need and we get out there and do it.
“Seda and I believe that when one joins a society, one should be active in it, and that’s the way we’ve lived our life.”
SAMUEL AND FRANCES BELZBERG
Combining business with philanthropy
International businessman and philanthropist Sam Belzberg was awarded the Order of Canada, as well as an honorary doctorate from Simon Fraser University in 1989. He received the Governor General of Canada Award in 1992 and, in 2002, was promoted to Officer of the Order of Canada. In 2009, he was awarded the Order of British Columbia for his extraordinary philanthropy and community leadership.
Investing leadership, time and resources, Sam helped found the Simon Wiesenthal Centre in Los Angeles in 1977 with a donation of $500,000. He is also the founder of both the Canadian and American Dystonia Medical Research Foundations.
As an Action Canada co-founder and co-chair of the board, Sam is called “one of British Columbia’s most forward-thinking philanthropists” who “specializes in ambitious and innovative solutions to pressing issues, focusing his prodigious efforts on causes that appeal to his deep caring for humanity.” In addition to his many other accomplishments, Sam led and inspired SFU’s first fundraising campaign, which raised $68 million. His company, Gibralt Capital, today owns and manages real estate and capital investments.
Frances Belzberg was raised in Los Angeles. Also involved with Action Canada, Fran is noted for her early involvement with racial issues as well as her early commitment to the state of Israel.
Frances and Sam married in 1950 and settled in Edmonton, where Fran was involved with several charities and became active in amateur theatre. The family moved to Vancouver in 1968 and Frances sat on the boards of Vancouver Art Gallery, Vancouver Playhouse and Vancouver Children’s Hospital. She was awarded the Order of Canada in 1995.
To attend Eight Over Eighty, call 604-261-5550 or visit thelouisbrierfoundation.com. To read about the other four honorees, see “Help celebrate a generation.”