Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver has launched this year’s annual campaign under the leadership of Alex Cristall, general chair. The campaign is the Greater Vancouver Jewish community’s central fundraising initiative and closed last year with a record $8.3 million result. The campaign is one of the primary fundraising opportunities through which Federation will grow the financial resources required to meet the goals outlined in its 2020 Strategic Priorities. These priorities will guide the organization’s work on behalf of the community through the year 2020 and beyond.
“We are very excited that Alex Cristall has taken on the role of chair of this year’s campaign,” said Ezra S. Shanken, Jewish Federation’s chief executive officer. “Alex has a passion for making our community stronger, and he is an extraordinary leader in terms of addressing the goals outlined in our 2020 Strategic Priorities.”
The priorities address five key areas of opportunity:
Affordability: helping community members struggling with the high cost of living in the Lower Mainland.
Accessibility: reaching the nearly half of community members who live in underserved areas.
Seniors: planning for the needs of our growing seniors population.
Engagement: connecting young adults and young families to ensure community continuity.
Security: continuing to address evolving community security needs proactively.
While the campaign benefits all areas of need in the Jewish community, the particular focus of this year’s campaign is security. Jewish Federation is leading the development of a comprehensive, long-term approach to keep the Lower Mainland’s Jewish community ahead of the curve. In recognition of the need for a community-wide strategy, Federation established the community security advisory committee. The committee’s mandate is to provide a leadership role in assessing the risks facing community institutions and to propose and evaluate specific strategies to mitigate these areas of concern.
Growing security needs requires increased financial resources to address them. Federation has worked with a group of donors to create a matching gifts program to jumpstart the funding and create awareness among donors.
“I am very pleased to announce that every new or increased gift will be matched, with the matching amount allocated to local community security initiatives that will benefit every Jewish organization in our community,” said Cristall. “Community security is an issue that affects every single one of us every time we set foot in a Jewish institution, take part in a Jewish program or attend a community event. Through the Federation annual campaign, it is an issue we can all play our part in addressing.”
The annual campaign runs to Nov. 30. For more information on the campaign or the 2020 priorities, visit jewishvancouver.com/2020.
To read more about the Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver’s 2020 Strategic Priorities, visit jewishvancouver.com/2020.
An estimated 50% of Metro Vancouver’s Jewish community lives outside of the city of Vancouver. For young families with at least one Jewish parent, the proportion of Jews living outside of Vancouver jumps above 60%. Like other area residents, they are moving to the suburbs in the elusive search for affordable housing – and that search has taken them far away from the organizational centre of the community, at Oak Street and 41st Avenue.
In setting its 2020 Strategic Priorities, the Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver addresses the challenge of an increasingly dispersed community, as well as that of an aging population. It also considers the fact that, while it is expensive to live in Metro Vancouver, it is even more expensive to be involved Jewishly.
Over the past two years, Federation has surveyed Jews both in Vancouver proper and outside of the city to find out what they consider to be the priorities of the community and where resources should be allocated. The Connect Me In online surveys reached more than 300 people in outlying areas, 200 of whom agreed to further conversations with Federation, according to Federation chief executive officer Ezra Shanken.
“We’ve had hundreds of conversations with groups and individuals,” Shanken told the Independent. “We wanted to know what areas are lacking. We also asked how should Federation feel and how does it feel? We heard that Federation and the Jewish community is not accessible enough.”
A look into the near future, the 2020 document highlights a number of key areas that have been identified for strategic investment. The report’s subtitle gives the clear message for the idea behind the plan: “Moving our Jewish Federation from Strength to Excellence,” and excellence requires more resources.
As the main fundraising organization of the Jewish community, Federation directs support not only to large, high-profile institutions like Jewish Family Service Agency and Vancouver Talmud Torah, but also to many smaller organizations for which it would be impossible to adequately fundraise independently. The dollars raised and then allocated by Federation are meant to ensure that its 40 constituent agencies are able to sustain a diverse, well-rounded Jewish community without the worry of constant fundraising.
With such a large number of organizations and a wide range of needs, every year the allocation process requires Federation to make difficult decisions. The 2020 plan is intended to identify current community needs, predict the amount of money needed to meet those needs and then raise the necessary funds. The identified priorities include both local and international obligations.
Locally, engaging the next generation, addressing new and evolving community needs, investing strategically in the community and closing the funding gap to meet ongoing needs are the priorities. Each area has a number of key issues embedded within it and all of the details are available on the Federation website. The breakdown of needs is laid out to include the current level of funding and what it covers, as well as the projected needs with their accompanying cost.
Federation’s international commitments include supporting a variety of projects in Israel and communities around the world. Shanken said he is often asked about the amount of money that leaves the local community.
“It used to be an 80:20 ratio of money going to Israel – UIA [United Israel Appeal] was set up to build Israel,” he explained. “Now, it’s more like 30:70 because the way we engage with Israel is very different. We have an Israel department here, we bring the Shinshin [Year-of-service] program to Vancouver for Israel engagement with our community and we fund the Gesher [Bridge] program that brings young Israelis here.”
He also noted that Federation facilitates the funding of some special projects in Israel, which are separate from Federation’s budget. The way these funds are directed is a result of the donor’s wish to feel a sense of ownership of their gift. However, cautioned Shanken, “The sense of ownership cannot replace the duty to help all agencies.”
Federation plans to continue strategically funding existing organizations, while putting in place some new programs. The Diamond Foundation recently gave seed money to bring in a part-time community developer to reach out to marginalized communities. Jewish education, services for seniors and other Jewish programming are among the ways Federation plans to “get out there,” according to Shanken. He offered as an example Federation’s PJ Library, which provides books with Jewish content to more than 1,000 Jewish children in the Lower Mainland.
To read more about Federation’s 2020 Strategic Priorities, go to jewishvancouver.com/2020 or join the conversion on social media, #ourcommunity2020.
This year’s annual campaign launches on Sept. 22, 7 p.m., at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre with FEDtalks, featuring author, radio host and founder of Zuckerberg Media, Randi Zuckerberg; Reut think thank founder Gidi Grinstein; One Clip at a Time co-founder Alison Lebovitz; and journalist Terry Glavin. For tickets and more information, visit jewishvancouver.com/fedtalks2016.
Michelle Dodekis a freelance writer living in Vancouver.
The upcoming show at the Sidney and Gertrude Zack Gallery, which features 45 community artists who have donated their work, is a fundraiser for the gallery.
“The idea for the show belongs to Shirley Barnett,” said gallery director Linda Lando in an interview with the Independent. “We wanted to showcase the works of the people who do art for the joy of it, not professional artists. Shirley also made a donation towards the show.”
Lando explained the process leading to the exhibit, which opens Aug. 31.
“I purchased 45 11-by-14-inch wood panels and sent a group email to the gallery email list. The artists got the panels for free and, if their art sells, they will get a tax receipt. The price for every piece is the same, $125, and the proceeds of all sales will go to the gallery. The theme of this art show is ‘Renewal.’ It’s a very broad theme that allows for many interpretations.”
Lando doesn’t think that the universal size and shape of the panels limits artists’ creativity. “Just the opposite: it’s a challenge.”
The response to the email was overwhelming. Lando had to turn away people who wanted to participate. The demographics of the show’s contributors are broad.
“A lot of word of mouth helped spread the news about the show,” she said. “Among our participants are people who are involved with the gallery, some who exhibited with us before, while others haven’t. There are several poets from the Pandora Collective, members and non-members of the JCC and some mother-daughter duos. Most of them are not professional artists, but the works that have already started to arrive are amazing and very diverse. I hope we sell most of them.”
The Independent spoke with a few of the exhibit’s artists.
“I have always been interested in arts: painting, poetry, etc.,” said Carl Rothschild, a child psychiatrist with more than 40 years of experience, who is about to retire. “I published two books of my poetry and visual arts.”
Rothschild considers himself an amateur artist but he has already participated in several shows at the Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver and sold a few paintings. When Lando asked him to participate in the fundraiser, he was thrilled. His piece is already at the gallery.
“I decided to participate in this show because I am always painting and because Linda asked me,” he said. “My small piece is called ‘The Backyard Garden in a Box.’ I am endlessly fascinated by the little landscapes around me. My small garden, with crocosmia flowers, attracts a hummingbird each summer. Sometimes, the bird comes with his mate and, on this occasion, as I stood motionless and watched, he came over and hovered for a few seconds about a foot from my head before passing me as safe.”
Another participant, Liz Koerner, retired a few years ago from working in a law office. “I am a professional artist in the sense that I get paid for some of my work, but I started down this path as a hobby,” she said. “Over the past 15 years, I have done dozens of commissions.”
Like the other contributors, Koerner learned about the show from Lando’s email. “I met Linda years ago, when I would take my mother into her gallery, and they always had lively discussions about the paintings and the artists. My mother has since passed on and, at her request, we gave Linda a number of art books from her collection.”
When Koerner decided to participate in Renewal, she chose the theme of spring. “Spring is a wonderful time of renewal and rebirth in nature,” she explained. “My painting is almost done. I needed to leave it while I complete a rush commission, then I will get back to it and finish it soon.”
Sandi Bojm’s piece is also a work in progress. She works part-time as a speech language pathologist and as a therapist, which allows her the time to explore her other interests, including art and writing. “I don’t consider myself an amateur artist; nor am I a professional,” she said. “Perhaps chronically ‘emerging.’”
Over the years, Bojm has taken art classes at Langara College and with private mentors. She met Lando through the Zack Gallery.
“I support the gallery and participated in last year’s community show/fundraiser,” she said. “Linda and I have shared ideas this past year for the next upcoming show, regarding community engagement and participation, and, at the same time, offering a fundraising opportunity for the gallery. It is exciting that it is now coming to fruition.”
Her own piece will be an amalgam of abstract and landscape. “I have just completed an intensive painting workshop on abstraction of the landscape and decided to expand on that,” said Bojm. “I have been intrigued in the past, in my walks through the woods, with the presence of logs and stumps that have nurtured new growth; nursing logs, I believe they are called. This is the image I am exploring in its relationship to renewal.”
A show as a gallery fundraiser is not a new concept. The Federation of Canadian Artists, for example, holds their fundraiser, Paintings by Numbers, annually, but their event is much more expensive for art lovers, and they feature well-known and established artists in their galas.
“Giving the local community artists the opportunity to shine, and making all the paintings affordable to everyone might be unique in Canada,” said Lando. “The idea was not only to engage the community artists but to bring in their families and friends to the gallery, to show them that it is their gallery, too.”
Renewal will run to Sept. 11. There is a free reception at the Zack, with the artists in attendance, on Sept. 8, starting at 7 p.m.
Olga Livshinis a Vancouver freelance writer. She can be reached at [email protected].
From left to right: Murray Palay, Canadian Friends of the Hebrew University national chair; Israel Defence Forces Unit 669 reserve combat soldiers Leehou Porat and Gai Ben Dor; Prof. Yaacov Nahmias, director of the Alexander Grass Centre for Bioengineering at Hebrew U; 669 reserve combat soldiers Bar Reuven and Dotan Braun; CFHU Vancouver chapter president Randy Milner; and CFHU national vice-chair Phil Switzer. (photo from CFHU Vancouver)
Dina Wachtel, executive director of Canadian Friends of the Hebrew University’s Western region, describes the recent fundraising event that attracted more than 300 people to Congregation Beth Israel on July 17 as “a wonderful success.”
The sold-out event raised scholarship funds for outstanding student-soldiers. These individuals are pursuing degrees at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, as well as performing their miluim, or reserve duty, in the Israel Defence Forces’ elite airborne rescue and evacuation unit known as “669.” The Vancouver event drew a diverse and engaged crowd from the community and included academics and members of local search and rescue groups.
Prof. Yaakov Nahmias, director of the Alexander Grass Centre for Bioengineering at the Hebrew University, kicked off the formal part of the evening’s program with an overview of Hebrew U’s history and accomplishments. Founded in 1918 – 30 years before the establishment of the state of Israel – by illustrious historical figures, such as Albert Einstein, Sigmund Freud and Chaim Weizmann, Hebrew U ranks as one of the world’s leading universities and boasts seven Nobel Prize laureates. According to Nahmias, “when Hebrew U calls, you answer!”
The Grass Centre was established in 2010. Nahmias, who was at Harvard University before returning to Israel, has won several academic awards for his work in liver research and he is particularly proud of the centre’s successes in “educat[ing] a new generation of multidisciplinary innovators and entrepreneurs at the cutting edge of biotechnology and medical science.” He noted that the centre’s 44 affiliated faculty members undertake research that winds up in the world’s leading scientific journals; interest-catching pursuits such as building a liver outside of a body, predicting in vitro fertilization pregnancy rates, and determining “idiosyncratic drug toxicity” (hitherto unexpected adverse reactions to drugs).
Nahmias also outlined the “startup” element of the centre’s work – an aspect that appeals to students with academic ambitions, as well as giving them market experience and engendering an entrepreneurial spirit. The Israeli government has invested $20 million US in BioJerusalem, or “Silicon Wadi,” to support technological innovation. The outcome? Israel is a global leader in medical devices and pharmaceuticals, he said, and this attracts intellectually curious science students who are also seeking opportunities in business, medicine and engineering. The biodesign program feeds directly into Israel’s economic success and reputation as a technological powerhouse. Remarkable and revolutionary projects to date, he said, include the creation of a specialized infrared gun to facilitate intravenous insertions; digitally made dentures that are inexpensive and quick to produce; and a new 60-second life-saving procedure that improves stabbing victims’ chances of survival by preventing suffocation caused by collapsed lungs.
Nahmias concluded his presentation by highlighting bioengineering as “one of the most fascinating areas, especially for the future of Jerusalem as a city and Hebrew University as the leading university in Israel.” He announced that plans are underway to build a large, new institute on the Givat Ram campus to house the biodesign program.
The evening’s lecture was punctuated with a musical interlude from Vancouver-based Israeli composer and guitarist Itamar Erez. Recipient of the Landau Prize in 2014, as well as the ACUM Prize for special achievement in jazz, Erez’s musical talents blend jazz, flamenco and the sounds of the Middle East.
Following Erez’s performance, four extraordinary young Israelis took centre stage. They detailed their personal experiences serving in the IDF’s 669 and how the service has impacted their lives.
The unit, which accepts only 50 recruits each year out of 10,000 applicants, was established in 1974 following the Yom Kippur War. It is referred to as the “guardian angel of the Jewish people” because it rescues soldiers and civilians alike, both within and beyond Israel’s borders. The unit’s motto is, “Thou didst call in trouble and I rescued thee” and, in the last 40 years, the unit has rescued more than 10,000 injured and saved thousands of lives. Rescue operations are generally extremely difficult and dangerous.
Bar Reuven, Leehou Porat, Dotan Braun and Gai Ben Dor impressed upon the crowd the unique and challenging lifestyle of a Unit 669 reservist, who is “on-call 24/7” and serves an average of 30 to 45 days a year “in peacetime.” When summoned, a civilian university student is instantly transformed into an elite reservist on a mission that can be anywhere in the world. All personal commitments are immediately set aside.
According to Reuven, 27, who served as an officer in 669 and founded an alumni association designed to provide much-needed support to discharged soldiers from 669 transitioning to civilian life, you “can go from eating shakshuka [in Tel Aviv] to Gaza in 30 minutes.”
Thirty-year-old Braun, a fifth-year medical student at Hebrew U and a reserve combat soldier and paramedic in 669, recounted walking to class in July 2012, when he received a command to present himself on base within the next 30 minutes. He soon learned that he would be traveling to Burgas, Bulgaria, to treat and evacuate some 42 Israeli tourists who had been targeted in a bus bombing. (Tragically, five Israelis and a Bulgarian bus driver were murdered in that terror attack.)
Serving in the 669 instils Braun with a profound sense of pride in Israel, as “there is no other country that cares about the security of all its citizens and at all times,” he said. He – like others in 669 – is also called upon to come to the aid of non-citizens in life-threatening situations, including rescuing sailors in the Mediterranean or treating casualties of natural disasters in far-flung corners of the world.
Braun emphasized that life for 669 reservists, in particular, “is never routine.” Porat, 28, who is both a reserve combat soldier in Unit 669 and a student at Hebrew U, underscored this fact by recounting – with the aid of select video footage – a harrowing evening of back-to-back rescue missions that included evacuating an Israeli soldier from Gaza who had been gravely wounded in an axe attack; responding to a serious car accident that caused seven fatalities; assisting a pregnant Bedouin woman in the advanced stages of labor and whose house had just been washed away by floods; and rescuing a number of individuals trapped in or on cars swirling in raging floodwaters and high winds.
Despite the challenges of balancing the responsibilities of school, work, family, volunteerism and reserve duty, Reuven, Porat, Braun and Ben Dor were all steadfast in their commitment to their unit, and to serving their country and fellow citizens in times of crisis.
It was evident that these four speakers have indeed internalized the core values of the unit, described by Reuven as assisting those in need, social responsibility, and helping make Israel and her people stronger. He engages these values to guide him in managing his Cat 669 Alumni Association, a group that provides emotional, psychological and financial guidance, career mentoring and other material support to fellow unit members transitioning – sometimes with great difficulty – to civilian life. This group also draws upon its superior skill set to “pay it forward” in local communities by, for example, teaching emergency first aid.
Thirty-two-year-old Ben Dor is an accountant and lawyer at KPMG in Israel. As part of 669, he is another example of the positive contributions that 669 reservists make to Israeli society. An avid long-distance runner in his teens, Ben Dor responded to an online ad seeking “a runner with soul.” Beza, a blind Ethiopian immigrant wanted to take up running, and Ben Dor (and his father, also a runner) coached Beza over the next several years. Beza competed in a number of international marathons, and ultimately qualified to compete at the Beijing Paralympics, representingIsrael. Ben Dor, his father and Beza have since climbed to Everest Base Camp together and Ben Dor has established an Israeli not-for-profit organization called 180 Degrees, which hosts running groups for people with physical or cognitive disabilities.
Listening to these four young Israelis who are serving their country in truly meaningful ways and learning about the cutting-edge research taking place at the Hebrew University, it is not surprising that the evening’s fundraising event – to support the reserve soldiers in Unit 669 studying at Hebrew U by relieving them of financial worries – was a “wonderful success.”
Vancouver Hebrew Academy head of school Rabbi Don Pacht, right, presents Joseph and Rosalie Segal with a Stanley Cup-inspired Kiddush cup. (photo by Jocelyne Hallé)
Vancouver Hebrew Academy has outgrown its current facility and is looking to build a new school. It’s in the early stages of a capital campaign to raise $18 million, of which almost 15% has been pledged to date. Its annual Summer Garden Party added to those funds – and it also celebrated the school’s impact, the broader community, and Joseph and Rosalie Segal for their “lifetime of commitment to our Jewish future.”
The party was held on July 21 at the home of Lorne and Mélita Segal. The other event ambassadors were their siblings: Norman and Sandra Miller, Dr. Mark and Tracey Schonfeld, and Gary and Nanci Segal. The night was emceed by Howard Blank and catered by Chef Menachem.
The evening’s program noted that VHA’s facility, which it rents from the Vancouver School Board, “doesn’t provide the space and the tools for modern education,” and doesn’t allow for growth. “The main building was built in the 1940s. Three portables have been added. The current 12,000-square-foot space is insufficient and well below the area standards recommended by the Ministry of Education for elementary schools.” VHA’s vision? “A new home for Torah education.”
Starting off the formal portion of the evening, Elizabeth Nider, co-chair of the VHA board of directors, thanked Joe and Rosalie Segal, “not just for being our honorees, but for providing an inspiration and example to our community of what it means to give.” She said this is a value that the teachers and staff of VHA are effectively imparting to students.
By way of example, Nider related the story of what happened three years ago, when her father-in-law, Marvin Nider, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Her son, Yosef, who was 6 at the time, asked her and her husband what he could do to help. Over the course of a few weeks, Yosef planned and held a violin concert, raising more than $10,000 for the B.C. Cancer Foundation, “knowing that this money might not help his grandfather, but would maybe help others with cancer in the future.”
The most meaningful part for the family, she said, was that her father-in-law could watch the concert on Facetime from his hospital bed. “To us, giving back means giving and not expecting anything back. It means giving because you know it’s the right thing to do. And I thank Vancouver Hebrew Academy for teaching our children the importance of giving, and I also thank Joe and Rosalie for leading by example.”
In his dvar Torah, Rabbi Don Pacht, VHA head of school, gave a brief lesson on the mitzvah of charity, “the commandment to give and to offer assistance.” One of the most known lessons is that of the half-shekel, he said. “Everyone in the community was invited to participate and the funds raised would be incorporated into the treasury of the Temple and would benefit the entire community equally.”
“Charity is a two-way street,” he added, talking not only about those who give – making special mention of the evening’s honorees – but the receivers. “For those of us who do receive, it creates an obligation, wherever possible, for us to give back. And that is the value we try to impart at the Hebrew Academy for our families, for our students.”
VHA class of 2008 alumna Kira Smordin said, “VHA gave me the values and the skills of a Torah education, a love for my Jewish heritage, the ability to navigate across the broad spectrum of the Jewish world and the tools to engage and thrive in the secular one.”
Smordin spoke of a couple of teachers in particular who inspired and encouraged her to become a teacher herself.
“This past April,” she said, “I finished my second year of a five-year dual degree arts and education program at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont.”
As part of the curriculum, she has to do an annual teaching practicum and, this year, she chose VHA. “My teaching practicum was the perfect opportunity for me to give back to a school and a community that has given so much to me,” she said, adding that the most important lessons she learned at VHA were about chesed (compassion) and tzedakah (charity), and that the Segals “are those lessons come to life for me…. You demonstrate by example what it means to give back. You set the bar high and challenge all of us to reach for it.”
Judy Boxer-Zack, VHA class of 1996, added her reflections.
She compared a community to an orchestra, in which everyone has a part to play. She then shared why VHA is close to her heart, and a bit about Chimp (Charitable Impact), the organization for which she works.
At VHA, she said, students were taught to treat everyone with respect, dignity and a sense of inclusiveness. “What naturally flowed from this for us was a distinctive sense that we had a responsibility for our local and broader communities. This was one of the many ways that VHA was setting the stage to inspire the next generation of Jewish leaders.”
And it specifically inspired Boxer-Zack in her career path. She has worked for a variety of nonprofits, leading up to her job at Chimp, and she was visibly proud to introduce Ariel Lewinski, vice-president of Chimp, who was the next speaker.
Recently, Lewinski and his wife, Rachael, had met with Joe Segal, learning a bit about Segal’s life and business endeavors. “What struck me,” said Lewinski, “is how Mr. Segal was so proud to mention that his children and grandchildren have carried on in this tradition of giving back, and thus creating a family legacy of giving.”
Lewinski noted, “We are all here tonight, in some capacity, because we value the importance of Torah education and recognize that, regardless of how each of us chooses to raise our children, a Torah education and an institution that serves that purpose is at the foundation of any vibrant and diverse Jewish community.”
Lewinski’s wife is a VHA alumna and currently sits on the executive board; his mother-in-law, Ruth Erlichman, was the board’s first president and currently sits on the board of governors; and his son, Yaakov, will be starting school at VHA in September. He said that he and his family are such strong supporters of VHA because not only does it provide a strong Torah education but also an excellent secular education.
Lewinski spoke about Chimp, and its objective of reversing the trend of declining charitable giving in Canada by creating and nurturing “a culture of giving by making charity accessible and an everyday part of life.” Everyone at the garden party was given a $100 gift from Chimp to give to any charity, or charities. During the proceedings that followed, Hodi Kahn challenged attendees to give to VHA, saying that the Kahn Family Foundation would match all donations, up to $10,000. As of Tuesday, with 15 days left in the fundraiser, more than $17,000 of the $20,000 goal had been donated.
Another type of donation was also presented during the evening, with Dr. Peter Legge and his wife, Kay, providing a copy to every family in attendance of his book Lunch with Joe, which features a biography of Joe Segal, shares some of Segal’s philosophies on business and life, and includes the stories of more than 90 people who have had the chance to lunch with Segal at the Four Seasons Vancouver.
Addressing the honorees, Erlichman said she has had many meetings with Joe Segal over the last 18 or so years. “I always came away not only with material support, but practical suggestions to move the needs of our school forward,” she said. “You and Rosalie have been and continue to be incredible mentors – so many of us have benefited from your leadership and generosity of spirit.”
Pacht then presented the Segals with a Stanley Cup-shaped Kiddush cup. Just as the blessing over the wine helps us transition into Shabbat, said the rabbi, “you have also taught us how to take the mundane and to elevate it to the spiritual. The way that your family supports the community is exceptional in every way. It’s inspiring for every one of us here, and countless generations of children and families at the Vancouver Hebrew Academy have felt and will always feel the impact of your family.”
The inscription on the cup recognizes the Segals’ “lifetime of commitment to our Jewish future.”
When Joe Segal spoke, he acknowledged that, while he and his wife had received many accolades during the night, they were not the only ones deserving. “Everybody in this room, I’m sure, has had a special affinity,” he said, “something that was important to them [to support]…. The important thing in life is to do what you can. And the measurement is not how you do it or how big you do it, but doing it the right way.”
Segal described VHA as a “very worthy institution” because it is a “nurturing breeding ground of understanding and of belonging and of responsibility.”
He added – sharing part of a conversation from earlier that day – that Jews comprise such a small percentage of the world’s population. And so, he said, holding back emotion, “This is directed to you, Rabbi Pacht, because what you’re doing is so important – you’re planting the seeds for the evolution and the continuation of the race. Thank you.”
The author and her youngest son, Joel, enjoy Purim at the Louis Brier Home and Hospital. Her eldest son, Benjamin, was the photographer. (all photos by Benjamin Harrington)
When the Hebrew Men’s Cultural Club met in 1945 to talk about starting a home for the elderly, their project began with 14 men, with $5 each. The first home opened in 1946 with 13 residents. Now home to more than 200 seniors, the Dr. Irving and Phyliss Snider Campus for Jewish Seniors includes the Louis Brier Home and Hospital, and the Weinberg Residence. With many new programs and services, the campus has formed powerful bonds with the surrounding community.
This spring sees the launch of a new fundraising campaign by the Louis Brier Jewish Aged Foundation, which provides financial support to the campus. To interview members of the foundation board and staff about the campaign, I made my visit to the Louis Brier Home with both of my children during their spring break. Benjamin, 8, and Joel, 5, are used to volunteering in a seniors home, and are quite comfortable coming to work with me. Without grandparents in the area, it was a blessing for us all to be able to visit the home.
Before even shaking any hands, the first thing we noticed was the art. There is art everywhere, and not mass-produced art but carefully curated, vibrant images, full of life, movement and different textures. According to foundation president Harry Lipetz, this is thanks to the organization’s art committee. Every piece is a donation.
We met first with Dr. Judith Globerman, interim chief executive officer of the Snider Campus. Asked to point to some of the home’s distinguishing features, she described an atmosphere that is “more personal than institutional. Our staff feels it’s their home, too, and they tend to stay with us a long time.”
Residents also have a sense of agency, so, for example, if the seniors want to suggest changes – even to the art hanging outside their room – these changes can be made quickly.
Describing her place of work, Globerman spoke about energy, love and understanding. “The energy is warm, celebrating life; people’s faces here light up, there’s always life going on around you, even if you’re not moving yourself.”
Lipetz joined the Brier Foundation for this very reason. “It is a happy place,” he said. “I saw the level of caring, from custodial staff right through to top management.”
Bernard Pinsky, chair of the current fundraising campaign, can attest to the heimish (comfortable, homey) quality of the Louis Brier Home.
“Both of my parents lived there, as well as my uncles and aunt,” he said. “For a period of 21 years, at least one of my relatives lived there. My mom was at Louis Brier for 13 years. I was there a lot and saw for myself the warmth, the quality of the care. The program director goes into residents’ rooms personally to check in, to encourage seniors to join activities. It makes such a difference to be invited personally, to keep you connected to community life.”
The Louis Brier is the only Jewish home for seniors in the province. As such, it carries a certain responsibility, said Pinsky. He speaks of the community’s pride in being able to offer a life with dignity in a warm and stimulating environment to our seniors.
“Donors’ contributions make it a Jewish home,” he said. “They allow us to offer the special things that help people to live more fulfilling lives: kosher food, a weekly minyan, festivities for every Jewish holiday.”
That said, nothing prepared us for our visit at Purim, where we were greeted by staff wearing rainbow tutus, feather boas, glittery glasses and spotted mouse ears. As we stood in the entrance hall among the balloons, an elderly resident wearing googly-eye glasses strolled through with some friends waving groggers. Needless to say, this was a little different from my sons’ previous experiences of seniors facilities.
When I spoke with Pinsky, he talked at length about the Louis Brier’s music therapy program. Offered by a team of professionals, it is based on research that shows how music calls on a different part of the brain than speech. Pinsky observed, “People can sing songs they knew 60 or 70 years ago, when they can’t even speak.”
He added, “We have the best seniors music therapy in the province. There’s music every single day.”
The March calendar includes weekly Shabbat music, ukelele sing-alongs and jam sessions, as well as a concert of Russian music and a piano recital. We caught a flavor of this during our visit when music therapist Megan Goudreau played her guitar and sang one of the residents’ favorite songs, “Kol Ha’olam Kulo.”
The home was a hive of activity when we visited, with youngsters volunteering, residents – and a couple of friendly dogs! – milling about. Costumed kids came by with their families and sang on both floors of the home. Nothing beats the sight of a mini race-car driver delivering a “Chag Purim!” message with a huge smile to delighted seniors.
“The three things that concern residents the most – beyond housing – are food, music and companionship. The foundation provides that. It’s beyond public funding,” said Lipetz.
The seniors “are not coming here to be housed,” he added, “they are coming here to live.”
Pinsky agreed. “It’s amazing what we’re able to do. Loneliness is one of the biggest problems for seniors, so seniors with families who live out of town can be visited by special companions.”
Louis Brier residents have access to their own rabbi, Hillel Brody, spiritual leader of the Chava and Abrasha Wosk Synagogue. Located within the home, the synagogue is funded solely by the foundation. In other words, like the music, the companions and occupational therapy, it is a gift from the community.
The new campaign is a quest to raise $1 million. Pledges are for two years, so a $5,000 donation would be given in two portions of $2,500 each.
“These funds are essential to maintain continuity in the programming,” said Pinsky. “The home needs to budget 12 months ahead, for the next fiscal year. If we fall into deficit, these life-improving programs need to be cut.”
Added Lipetz, “For many residents, this is their last home. We want to make it their best home.”
Shula Klingeris an author, illustrator and journalist living in North Vancouver.
Twenty Orthodox Jewish outreach groups to fundraise together.
The Association for Jewish Outreach Professionals (AJOP) has issued a challenge to North American Orthodox Jewish outreach organizations to raise $1 million in one day collaboratively. And it’s all or nothing.
Each of 20 outreach organizations will have 24 hours to raise approximately $50,000 or more, each using the crowdfunding platform charidy.com:
All donations pledged online on Feb. 17 will be matched by three donors, quadrupling each gift.
If the organizations do not meet their online goals within 24 hours, none of the pledges will be processed or collected for any of the organizations.
Rabbi Yitzchok Lowenbraun, national director of AJOP, explained, “This ambitious event is designed to increase support for the participating organizations, allowing them to spend more of their time on outreach, and less time on fundraising. At the same time, we hope to give hundreds of people who would give a gift to kiruv [bringing secular Jews closer to Orthodox Judaism] a chance to show their support, as well as encourage new donors who have an affinity for kiruv and would give $10, $18 or $100 if they had an easy way to do it. At the end of the day, donors at all levels will see how significant their support is and that they are partners in a much bigger picture – their donation to a local organization will help leverage $1 million for the klal [whole].”
Participating organizations include UJCEEA (United Jewish Communities of Eastern Europe and Asia), Judaic Heritage (University of Maryland, Baltimore), Meor NYU (New York University), Aish Israeli, Aish Jerusalem, OU (Orthodox Union) NextGen and NCSY (National Conference of Synagogue Youth) alumni program.
Digital Shmita is one of four projects that received 2015 Natan Grants for ROI Entrepreneurs.
A digital Shmita project, Israel’s version of the radio show This American Life, a global initiative promoting tourism to Jewish communities and a foundation supporting Israel Defence Forces soldiers who served in the Yahalom unit were all awarded 2015 Natan Grants for ROI Entrepreneurs.
In late January, the Natan Fund, a giving circle for young professionals, issued its third annual round of dedicated grants for ROI Entrepreneurs, totaling $40,000, to four ROI (“return on investment”) Community members from the United States, Israel and Latin America. These grants will kickstart projects that invite young Jews and the broader community to explore and experience diverse and creative ways of bringing Jewish values and culture into their lives.
The partnership between Natan and ROI Community was formed to connect Natan Fund’s young philanthropists with ROI members who have developed cutting-edge projects to deepen global Jewish engagement. The recipients of the 2015 Natan Grants for ROI Entrepreneurs are:
Digital Shmita (Israel): Digital Shmita is taking the idea of Shmita (Fallow) to the internet. Digital Shmita works in collaboration with Labshul’s FallowLab and the Print Screen Festival for digital culture in Israel. Its ultimate goal is to produce free solutions that will allow everyone to experience Shmita in their daily connected lives. fallowlab.com/digitalshmita.
Israel Story/Sippur Israeli (United States and Israel): Israel Story is a new radio program dedicated to telling the story of a different, diverse Israel. Modeled after National Public Radio’s This American Life, this show seeks to portray the intricacies of Israeli society and showcase its plurality. It seeks to amplify and humanize voices that are rarely heard on the airwaves; to tell long-form, non-fiction tales by, and about, regular Israelis. israelstory.org.
Judaic Tourism (Latin America): Judaic Tourism is a project that works to strengthen Jewish identity through the preservation and enhancement of Jewish heritage. It connects people with history, culture and Jewish life in cities around the world, promoting tourism to Jewish sites and communities and connecting visitors to local Jewish culture. turismojudaico.com.
Yahalom Foundation (Israel): The Yahalom Foundation will be the first nonprofit organization benefiting current and former soldiers of Yahalom, a special forces combat engineering unit in the IDF. The foundation is dedicated to supporting Yahalom commandos during their active-duty service and afterwards, during their reserve duty. amplifiergiving.org/organization/131/yahalom-foundation.
The work of these ROI activists and entrepreneurs dovetails with the Natan Fund’s mission (natan.org) to provide early-stage funding for creative approaches that seek to address some of the central challenges facing the Jewish people and Israel. Among Natan’s goals is to create new access points to Jewish life, especially for younger Jews who are less engaged with existing communal organizations. Its members pool their charitable contributions, set the philanthropic strategy and agenda for the foundation, and allocate funds to organizations that are building new visions for the Jewish people and the state of Israel.
Founded in 2006, ROI Community (roicommunity.org) is part of the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, a global organization that encourages young people to create positive change for themselves, the Jewish community and the broader world. ROI Community members channel a diversity of perspectives, skills and interests toward a shared passion for advancing ideas and partnerships that will strengthen Jewish communities and improve society.