Hanging out at the Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver – a tradition for more than 90 years. (photo from JCCGV)
For more than 90 years, the Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver (JCC) has been a centre of communal life, working to foster positive identification with Jewish culture, embracing diversity with the evolving demographics of the neighbourhood and beyond, and providing programs and services for individuals and families of all ages. The JCC welcomes more than 300,000 visitors a year.
As you step into the JCC’s lobby, you enter a microcosm of the Jewish community itself. From infants to seniors, secular to ultra-Orthodox, and everyone in between, the centre embodies the essence of community. However, the JCC’s commitment to accessibility, excellence and inclusivity requires support beyond membership fees and program registrations. Fortunately, community members, through initiatives like the JCC annual campaign, fill this gap by supporting the JCC’s mission and the work it does.
At the core of the JCC’s mission lies the commitment to provide high-quality programs and services that empower individuals, children and families. Yet, it is often described as a best kept secret. Perhaps the way to learn about the JCC is to learn about what happens during a typical weekday or weekend there.
The JCC comes to life in the morning with group fitness classes or friendly matches of racquetball. Meanwhile, parents drop off their little ones at the licensed daycare. As the day progresses, the JCC transforms into a bubbling mix of families, children and individuals seeking connection, knowledge, fun and exercise. Seniors gather to engage in games of mahjong, bridge or poker, sharing stories. At the same time, people with diverse needs participate in art and cooking programs specially designed to promote inclusivity and empowerment. The sound of snapping flip-flops follows children and adults on their way to the aquatics centre to take swim classes or do laps. Lunchtime brings students from King David High School streaming into Nava Kosher Café.
On special occasions and some Fridays for Shabbat, the JCC atrium echoes with songs and dances, as toddlers from the daycare and preschool come together to celebrate. Families with children of all ages come in to visit the Isaac Waldman Jewish Public Library, to swim, to attend kids programs or to head to the gym for playtime. Holidays such as Hanukkah, Purim and Family Day are filled with activities and laughter.
The JCC’s Sidney and Gertrude Zack Gallery and Norman & Annette Rothstein Theatre serve as cultural havens, showcasing music, theatre and art from both Jewish and non-Jewish artists. These spaces promote dialogue, understanding and appreciation of diverse artistic expressions, enriching the community as a whole.
From early childhood education and day camps to diverse needs and seniors programs to fitness initiatives, the JCC tries to meet the needs and interests of every generation. While membership and program fees partially cover operational costs, inflationary pressures, compounded by the challenges of the past three years of the pandemic, necessitate additional financial resources. These funds are crucial for maintaining a safe, comfortable and welcoming environment at the JCC. They support staffing, security, maintenance, and allow for the provision of scholarships and subsidies to ensure that no one is left behind due to financial constraints.
The JCC’s annual campaign serves as a lifeline for the organization. It aims to raise $100,000 to meet the growing financial demands and maintain the JCC’s programming standards. Donations from community members, along with a $20,000 matching funds program generously donated by Barry and Lauri Glotman, bring the centre closer to that goal.
Donations can be made online at jccgv.com/donate, at the JCC (950 West 41st Ave.) or by calling 604-257-5111. For further information, email Betty Hum, director of development, at [email protected].
– Courtesy Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver
World Elder Abuse Awareness Day will be marked with a community-wide event hosted by Jewish Family Services, in partnership with many other agencies. (photo from nvrc.ca)
According to a World Health Organization study, half the world’s population bears a prejudice against the elderly. Jewish Family Services in Vancouver, which shares that statistic on its website, notes that roughly 17% of people over the age of 60 worldwide are victims of elder abuse. The agency also notes that about 20% of Canadians believe older people are a burden on society, and that approximately 80% of Canadian seniors report discrimination in health care.
On June 15, at 10 a.m., JFS will host a free community-wide event in recognition of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD) in the Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver’s Wosk Auditorium. Rights Don’t Get Old: Let’s Unite Against Elder Abuse will cover what can be done to prevent – what many recent studies have shown to be – a growing problem. Featured speakers include Michael Lee, MLA for Vancouver-Langara and shadow minister for Indigenous relations and reconciliation; Isobel McKenzie, British Columbia’s seniors advocate; and Linda Youk of Seniors First BC.
“A very important element of elder abuse is that it can happen to anyone,” said Cindy McMillan, director of programs and community partnerships at JFS. “We shouldn’t make assumptions about who is at risk and who is not. Awareness that it exists, and that there are supports out there … is what June 15 is all about.”
For JFS, “a nonprofit that supports up to 1,200 seniors annually to live at home safely and with dignity, elder abuse prevention, detection and response is an essential part of support,” she said. “This year, following several years of COVID, and subsequent isolation of many older adults, I felt it was very timely to bring the community together to create more awareness around this issue.”
Elder abuse comprises varying forms of mistreatment, the most commonly reported being neglect, followed by emotional and financial abuse. Physical abuse is also prevalent, with 8.8% of abused seniors experiencing physical violence, according to data provided by JFS. Elder abuse can occur in numerous settings, including within the home, at care facilities and in the community. Most reported cases involve family members, with adult children and spouses being the most common perpetrators.
A Statistics Canada report released in 2019 stated that nearly one in five seniors had experienced some form of abuse. A report from the Office of the Seniors Advocate in British Columbia, using data from 2017 to 2021, found a 49% increase in neglect and self-neglect, an 87% increase in reported physical abuse and a 49% increase in financial abuse over that five-year period.
Neglect is often underreported, both because of a lack of awareness as to what constitutes neglect and the potential stigma associated with the admission of neglect, explained McMillan. Neglect can manifest in different ways, such as providing insufficient food and water, failing to administer medication, leaving an older adult in dirty and unsafe living conditions, and not seeking medical attention for the elderly person when it is needed.
Financial abuse, or the exploitation of older adults for monetary gain, can have serious ramifications. Despite numerous laws in place to prevent it, B.C. seniors lose an estimated $50 million annually because of financial abuse, with only one in five cases reported.
WEAAD was launched in 2006 by the International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse and the World Health Organization at the United Nations.
“JFS has always been involved in WEAAD, primarily through our Better at Home program, where we have partnered with different community organizations to have smaller events that promote awareness,” said McMillan. “Our involvement stems from our connection with the Marpole Community Response Network, who is at the forefront of providing information and education on elder abuse.”
Better at Home is a JFS-coordinated program, administered by the United Way, which helps seniors in Kerrisdale, Oakridge, Marpole, Southlands and Dunbar with non-medical, day-to-day tasks such as housekeeping, transportation, grocery shopping, visits and handyperson repairs. The program’s objective is to assist seniors so that they can continue to live independently in their own homes and remain connected to their communities.
This year’s June 15 event will have numerous resource tables located in the atrium of the JCC. Among the groups presenting are the Alzheimer Society of British Columbia, JQT Vancouver, Kerrisdale Oakridge Marpole Community Policing Centre, L’Chaim Adult Day Centre, ASK Friendship Society and ReAct Adult Protection Program of Vancouver Coastal Health.
In a statement to the Independent, JFS said it “was very grateful to have partners like the Jewish Federation, the JCC, the Better at Home Program and Seniors First BC coming together to put on such an important event.”
To register for Rights Don’t Get Old: Let’s Unite Against Elder Abuse, visit jfsvancouver.ca. Refreshments will be provided.
Sam Margolis has written for the Globe and Mail, the National Post, UPI and MSNBC.
Helen Schneiderman headlines and David Granirer emcees the Stand Up for Mental Health show at the Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver on June 1. (photos from JCC)
“There are many comedy shows out there, but not many like this one,” Kyle Berger told the Independent. “I keep saying that this will be the ‘feel-good comedy of the year,’ but it really will be. These comics will show us that we can laugh at just about anything and feel inspired at the same time – with all proceeds going to incredible causes. I can’t wait!”
Berger is the sports coordinator at the Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver and the delegation head of JCC Maccabi. He is also a stand-up comic and a producer with Rise of the Comics. It is in all these capacities that he is participating in the Stand Up for Mental Health comedy show at the JCC on June 1, 7:30 p.m.
A joint fundraiser for the Stand Up for Mental Health (SMH) Comedy Society and JCC Maccabi Vancouver, Berger is producing the event, with the support of Stand Up for Mental Health, and will be performing a set himself. “It will be a huge honour for me to share the stage with this crew,” he said.
“This crew” includes SMH founder, counselor and comedian David Granirer.
“Stand Up for Mental Health is my program teaching stand-up comedy to people like myself with mental illnesses as a way of building confidence and fighting public stigma,” Granirer explained. “We have been around since 2004 and have trained approximately 300 comics and done hundreds of shows for government, corporations, the military, correctional facilities, medical schools, etc.”
Berger attended one of those performances last year, in which SMH Comedy Society showcased “their students’ incredible talents, and I absolutely loved it,” he said. “I knew some of the SMH Comedy board members from working together in the comedy scene and made the connection right away. They are always looking for venues and new audiences and I knew I wanted to do something with comedy as a JCC Maccabi Games fundraiser, so inviting them to team up seemed like a no-brainer to me.”
Also performing next week will be Helen Schneiderman, who headlines the show.
Schneiderman’s comic career began in 2018, when she took a comedy course at Langara College that was taught by Granirer. She said she did it, “mainly to get off the couch. I didn’t expect to love it so much, nor to continue doing it after the class. But, once I got my first few laughs, I was hooked. Over the past couple of years, I’ve gotten more comfortable sharing my experiences and perspectives, and I try to remember to always have fun up there.”
Being able to do stand-up comedy has influenced how Schneiderman navigates through life.
“I now see the world through ‘funny glasses,’” she said. “Every interaction and experience has the potential to be a joke – not always a good joke, but a joke nonetheless. My day job is delivering leadership training and so I get to have a captive audience, even at work.”
In addition to her day job and other involvements, Schneiderman has been on the board of SMH Comedy Society for four years, and board president for the past two years.
“I’m involved with the organization because it’s doing really important work to tackle the stigma of mental health,” she said. “It’s a fantastic program, and I am in awe of the comics who share their stories with so much vulnerability and smart humour.”
People can find out more about SMH at smhsociety.org. Post-pandemic, the society is once again holding live classes and shows, as well as continuing to put on Zoom shows. The pandemic, said Granirer, “made me realize that, by being creative on Zoom, we could reach people all over the English-speaking world. It also made me realize how much people need to have in-person contact in order to maintain their mental health.”
One of the reasons SMH is teaming up with JCC Maccabi Vancouver for this show, he said, is “because they’re a great organization and exercise is crucial to maintaining good mental health.”
The decision to partner was easy for Berger.
“As the delegation head for Vancouver’s JCC Maccabi squad, I am always looking for ways to raise money for scholarships so that anyone who wants to participate in the JCC Maccabi Games experience can do so,” he said. “At the same time, producing and performing stand-up is another hobby and passion of mine, so it always makes sense to me to raise money through laughter. I always love the opportunity to work with other causes or charities, and this one was a match made in heaven.”
The June 1 Stand Up for Mental Health show is being presented by JCC Maccabi Vancouver and Life is Still Funny, which Berger described as “a group of local comedians who might be considered, well, not particularly young, but still quite young at heart! Made up of locals like Helen, Ray [Morrison], as well as recent Canada’s Got Talent contestant Syd Bosel. They are all involved with SMH Comedy Society.”
In addition to Schneiderman, Berger and Granirer, Morrison will perform, as will a few SMH students. Tickets are $20 (plus fees) and are available at eventbrite.ca. There will be a cash bar and a raffle draw at the show. Berger said half of the proceeds will go to SMH Comedy Society and half to JCC Maccabi Vancouver.
Rachel Gerber and Judah Moskovitz, regional co-presidents of BBYO Vancouver, at the first annual Jewish Prom on May 6. (photo from BBYO & JCC Teens)
BBYO, in partnership with the Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver (JCC), held its first annual Jewish Prom on May 6. Organized by BBYO’s regional teen board, this inaugural event brought Grade 11 and 12 students together for an evening of celebration and connection. From the decorations to the music, the celebration not only exceeded expectations but also established itself as an annual event within Vancouver’s Jewish teen community.
From its inception to its execution, the planning process embraced BBYO’s core principles of youth empowerment and involvement – the event was planned by the teens, for the teens. The prom was held at Heritage Hall on Main Street, and the venue was transformed. It was a red-carpet theme for the occasion, complete with lights, balloons, confetti and Oscars-themed centrepieces. Teens enjoyed a snack bar, dessert bar, beverages and popcorn. There was a photobooth on site, along with carnival games, and a live DJ kept the energy up. The décor and set-up provided the perfect backdrop for the evening’s festivities.
With more than 125 students in attendance, the atmosphere was electric from the start. The DJ played a mix of popular hits and classic dance tunes. Students from various schools came together, forging new friendships and rekindling old ones as they danced, socialized and had fun.
The BBYO Teen Regional Board worked hard to ensure that the event was both safe and enjoyable for everyone. The planning process brought together teen committees, professional staff, philanthropists and other community leaders who provided guidance and raised money in support of this initiative. Staff, volunteers and professional security were on site during the event, which was alcohol- and drug-free.
“We are thrilled with the success of our first-ever BBYO prom,” said Rachel Gerber and Judah Moskovitz, BBYO’s regional board co-presidents. “Our goal was to provide an opportunity for Jewish teens completing high school to come together and reconnect, for a fun evening, and we definitely achieved that. We want to thank everyone who attended and helped make the event such a success.”
BBYO Vancouver’s Prom is anticipated to become a highlight of the annual social calendar, bringing together Jewish teens throughout the Lower Mainland, Sea-to-Sky Corridor and Vancouver Island. BBYO Vancouver is looking forward to next year’s prom, which promises to build on this year’s event. The regional board is already brainstorming ideas for new decorations, themes and activities.
In addition to prom, BBYO holds weekly teen meetings at the JCC, regular social events in Vancouver, as well as in Langley and on the North Shore. Within just a year, the regional board has engaged more than 300 Jewish teens from various Metro Vancouver high schools, an accomplishment that began with a cohort of fewer than 20 teens, primarily from King David High School.
As the regional board continues to grow, with seven emerging leaders and increasing interest in leadership roles from more teens, BBYO’s local impact expands further – notably, Moskovitz’s election to BBYO’s AZA international board as grand aleph shaliach. Working alongside a teen counterpart from Spain, Moskovitz will assume responsibility for all Judaic content and teen programming for BBYO internationally.
BBYO is a leading global, pluralistic, Jewish teen movement aspiring to involve more Jewish teens in more meaningful Jewish experiences. BBYO welcomes Jewish teens of all backgrounds, denominational affiliation, gender, race, sexual orientation or socioeconomic status, including those with a range of intellectual, emotional and physical abilities.
With a network of hundreds of chapters across North America and in 62 countries around the world, BBYO reaches nearly 70,000 teens annually. For more information about BBYO Vancouver and its teen-led board, contact Efrat Gal-Or, regional director, at [email protected].
Mark your calendars for May 14. The Festival of Israeli Culture, a one-day free series of events at the Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver, is a multicultural celebration of music, dance, art, sports, food and drink.
Get ready for community drumming by the Drum Café, Israeli dance, Mediterranean belly dancing, flamenco and the Israeli Choir, followed by a sing-along with well-known Israeli musician Elad Shtamer. And that’s not all! Join Maccabi-Mania with gym-based activities for all ages, the sassy sesame cooking workshop, intuitive painting, and calligraphy workshops.
For adults, there is a range of 19+ programs, including an Israeli wine tasting and cocktail party to sample some arak-based cocktails (arak is an alcoholic drink made primarily with aniseed and grapes) followed by an exhibition of video art from Bezalel Academy of Art and Design in Israel.
In addition to the performances and activities, the festival will have a market featuring a variety of eats from local vendors and food trucks, along with hand-poured candles, jewelry, clothing, arts and crafts, Judaica, and more.
The Festival of Israeli Culture on May 14 runs from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the JCC. While all events are free of charge, food donations to the Jewish Food Bank are encouraged. For more information, visit israelifestival.com.
– Courtesy Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver
On March 9, community members gathered to bury sacred Jewish texts at Beth Israel Cemetery. (photo by Cynthia Ramsay)
According to Jewish law, no sacred texts and objects are allowed to be thrown out. This includes anything with God’s name printed on it. These texts and objects must be buried in a respectful way,” explained Rabbi Jonathan Infeld of Congregation Beth Israel in an email to the Jewish Independent about the March 9 Genizah Project ceremony at the synagogue’s cemetery. “Since a burial spot is not always convenient, people store their sacred material in a special place called a genizah until they can be buried.”
A few months ago, Infeld received a phone call from Eugene Barsky, a librarian at the University of British Columbia. Barsky was looking for a place to bury a considerable number of sacred books that were beyond repair. Infeld “immediately said yes.”
“But I wanted to do much more than just bury the materials,” the rabbi said. “I asked if he would be interested in a community-wide program, and Eugene also agreed. After that, we sought other interested parties including UBC Jewish studies, Hillel BC, King David High School, Peretz Centre and the Waldman Library.”
Representatives of these organizations were present on March 9, including students from KDHS and UBC. Infeld spoke about how sacred objects and texts not only give Jews a connection to our spiritual existence, but a social connection as well.
“And, no matter what differences we may have as a people, we are brought together within a rubric of study, of prayer, all connected to the written word,” he said. “For us, as a Jewish people, the book is sacred. For us, as a Jewish people, study is a sacred task, a sacred opportunity. And so, it only makes sense that, when we have studied, have brought a book to its conclusion, that’s literally falling apart, we don’t just throw it away, but the book, or the sacred object, has become our friend and become part of us. And so, according to Jewish tradition, we bury it.”
Barsky highlighted one of the many books being buried: a Pentateuch (the Five Books of Moses) published in Furth, Germany, in 1805. “I wish we could preserve these books, but some of them are molding,” he said. “We have a preservation lab at UBC but they reviewed them and some of them just could not be preserved.”
Barsky asked two members of the Vancouver Jewish Folk Choir – Stephen Aberle and Aurel Matte – to sing a couple of songs. The pair led “Hinei Ma Tov,” about how pleasant it is when sisters, brothers, all of us, gather together; and “Al Sh’loshah Devarim,” about the three things on which the world stands (Torah, divine service, acts of love) and by which the world endures (truth, justice, peace).
For UBC student Ellie Sherman, the burial ceremony was particularly meaningful, “as someone who spends every day reading more and more information, paying close attention to authors and narrators, and focusing on crafting assignments with correct references, to give credit where credit is due.”
She said, “The need for the genizah recognizes that the significance of words is beyond two-dimensional figures on a page, that the lessons we learn and the knowledge we gain from our books can be infinite, just as the meaning behind the words.”
Gregg Gardner, associate professor and Diamond Chair in Jewish Law and Ethics at UBC, shared how the name genizah came about. “The ancient rabbis of the first centuries tell a story about a king,” he said. “The king’s name is Munbaz. This king travels to Jerusalem, where there is drought and a famine. To provide relief, Munbaz gives away his fortune to the needy. Munbaz bizbez, Munbaz spends. His brothers confront him and demand an explanation as to why he’s giving away the family fortune…. Munbaz says that he does not bizbez the fortune … but rather he ganaz the fortune, he stores it, he saves it…. Munbaz explains that, by giving your money to charity here on earth, you do not waste your money … you save it in the world to come, in the afterlife.
“The word genizah literally means ‘storing’ and, in doing so, it can denote hiding from view,” he said. “Ancient Jewish traditions going back to the first centuries, the Second Temple period, talk about hiding many things, even the holy vessels from the Jerusalem Temple, and there are traditions in which the word ganaz is associated with storing valuables.”
Gardner said, “We are here at a cemetery, essentially taking these books out of use, laying them to rest, and yet, at the same time, going back thousands of years, the genizah has been a story not only about death, but about Jewish life.”
Richard Menkis, associate professor of medieval and modern Jewish history at UBC, picked up on this last aspect. During the planning for the burial, he said, there was a feeling towards solemnity, even mourning. But, he said, “there was a whole other sensibility that we could be bringing to it.”
He spoke of the Jews of Algeria, who would place items wherever they could around the synagogue and “several weeks later, they would carry them, the books, the other objects, in sacks. They’d escort them to the cemetery and bury them and, on that day, there would be a feast and special hymns for the occasion. There were similar customs in the community in Morocco of Meknes.
“The Sephardic Jews of Jerusalem had a custom of placing sacred objects and texts in the walls of the synagogue and, every three to seven years, would … joyously take them from the synagogues to a special section in one of the cemeteries in Jerusalem.”
The joy would come, said Menkis, from knowing that “the respect and honour that they were giving to these items would bring down upon them a variety of divine segulot, a variety of blessings. For some, it might be, we can call down rain. For others, it might be to prevent a plague.”
Menkis said, “I embrace the Genizah Project as the moral opposite of a horrible feature of modern life – the book burning. While the book burning denigrates ideas and discussion, the genizah shows reverence for ideals and aspirations.”
Those gathered were reminded of this reverence by Rabbi Kylynn Cohen, senior Jewish educator of Hillel at UBC, who led the service by the gravesite. As in the burial of a human body, she said, it is up to us to do the carrying when a person – or, in this case, the books – cannot go forth themselves.
Everyone helped transport the books from the chapel to the gravesite. Maiya Letourneau, head librarian of the Waldman Library, held up a book with gold embossing, another with lace embroidery. She said, “When we’re thinking about the memories that books create and the importance that they have in our lives, as a librarian, it can be really, really hard to take a book out of the collection, but it’s part of maintaining a healthy library, it’s part of making sure the library is useful for years to come, and it’s just an important part of what we do.”
After those gathered recited the Kaddish d’Rabbanan, the prayer that is said whenever a minyan of Jews finishes studying, Rabbi Stephen Berger, head of Judaic studies at KDHS, spoke about the class he brought to the ceremony, which has been studying Malachi, the Book of Kings. “It’s not just that we study to know,” he said. “The studying itself, opening the book and learning the book is a religious act in Judaism. And that’s why we treat it so carefully and so succinctly and sanctify it…. All these acts [serve to remind us] this is who we are, and we should live up to the title of the People of the Book.”
BI Rabbi Adam Stein concluded the ceremony with Eitz Chayim Hi, which most congregations sing when putting the Torah scrolls back in the ark at the end of a Torah service. It describes the Torah as a tree of life.
Daniel Shalinsky being interviewed and filmed as part of White Rock South Surrey Jewish Community Centre’s oral history project, which will form part of the community’s Feb. 5 Tu b’Shevat Gala, along with singer Tania Grinberg, speaker Karen James and more. (photo by Helen Thomas Mann)
The White Rock South Surrey Jewish Community Centre Tu b’Shevat Gala will take place on the evening of Sunday, Feb. 5, the start of the holiday. With the theme “Strengthen Our Roots,” a main component of the event will be community members’ oral histories.
“The idea for the project came about in a very multidirectional way,” Helen Thomas Mann, WRSSJCC president, told the Independent. “First, we wanted to host an annual fundraising event and, with our membership drive being around the High Holidays, Tu b’Shevat seemed like a good time for it.”
Tu b’Shevat, the 15th of the Hebrew month of Shevat, is the New Year of Trees.
“Naturally,” said Thomas Mann, “the theme for a Tu b’Shevat event would be trees, so we began focusing on our ‘tree of life’ as a community. But we were coming back together after a three-year lull from the pandemic – we needed people to remember why this place is important, and why it should continue to exist. The ideabecame, let’s honour our roots, our history as a community of nearly 30 years; remember the branches that connect us to our Jewishness and the WRSSJCC, and celebrate our leaves, the future of our community.
“As a new president and newer member of the community,” she said, “I felt sensitive to the fact that, although I was playing a leadership role in the organization, there were many people who had worked hard before me to create this warm Jewish space. Our new board didn’t have to reinvent the wheel. I made it my mission to learn those stories.”
A therapist by profession, Thomas Mann is naturally interested in people’s stories, she said. “I had a conversation with Alysa [Routtenberg] from the Jewish Museum and Archives of British Columbia, and that’s where collecting life stories of people in our community came about. She provided me with a recording device. Then it occurred to me that these life stories and the stories of the JCC itself could be incorporated into our celebration.
“I was scrolling the WRSSJCC Instagram account, and I saw a person we follow, and who follows our organization back, who had beautiful fine art photos. Their website said they were passionate about storytelling. I took a chance and reached out, and the person happened to be Yaacov Green, who participated in the JCC as a child and whose father was a president of the JCC for many years! Yaacov generously offered to donate his time to record and edit these interviews to make a short presentation for the Tu b’Shevat event, and a longer version to be submitted to the Jewish Museum and Archives of B.C.”
During the project, Thomas Mann said, “Marcy Babins from the museum mentioned this may be the first representation of Jews from our outlying community in the archive, so I’m thrilled we will be represented. There’s such a rich history here of creative, scrappy and very grassroots Jewish community-building efforts. It’s been very inspiring to learn about. We have interviewed 23 people so far, plus we are having two make-up days…. We are also completing a few Zoom interviews for those who are no longer local.”
Everyone in the community was invited to participate, whether new to the community or having been a part of it for a long time. One of the participants was Daniel Shalinsky, who was interviewed for the project by his grandmother, Helen Lynn Lutterman.
“He attended Hebrew school at the JCC and spent lots of time there as a child,” said Thomas Mann. “There are pictures of him as a child with a hammer, literally building our WRSSJCC alongside his family. His parents are Hertha and Steve Shalinsky, who we are honouring at the Tu b’Shevat event. Their family, including Steve’s brother and his wife, Ken and Andrea Shalinsky, were integral in acquiring our physical space. Steve was a president for many years. For more on the fascinating story of how the space was acquired, you will have to attend the event to find out!”
In addition to the community histories, award-winning Yiddish singer Tania Grinberg will be featured at the celebration. And the night’s keynote speaker will be Karen James, who will share the story of her experience at the 1972 Olympics in Munich. James was there with the Canadian Olympic swim team, and witnessed a group of people climbing over the wall of the Olympic village. Only later would she find out that those people held hostage and then murdered 11 Israeli athletes. “She will share how witnessing this event impacted her life, her connection to her Jewish identity, and her relationship with the WRSSJCC,” said Thomas Mann of James’ presentation.
The Tu b’Shevat fundraiser is for specific programming, as well as operating expenses of the WRSSJCC.
“We are fundraising to generally pay our bills, and our hope is to be able to hire a part-time employee to support our admin needs and flourishing programming,” Thomas Mann explained. “We also have a list of ‘wishing tree’ items that range in dollar amounts from new oven mitts to computer monitors, and open amounts for specific purposes such as donating towards a child in need’s Hebrew school tuition. Long term, we would love to be able to find a new building space where we could have a stand-alone building, as opposed to being in a strip mall, with an outdoor area for a sukkah and community garden. That would be our pie-in-the-sky donation! We are a 100% volunteer-run organization, so every contribution counts.”
The entire community is welcome to the Feb. 5 event, which will be held at the White Rock South Surrey Jewish Community Centre, 32-3033 King George Blvd., in Surrey. “We considered the ease of hosting in a different location for space restrictions, but it seemed too important to centre the space,” said Thomas Mann. “Plus, our tree of life is on the wall, and we will be unveiling the newadditions at the event.”
Minister and MP Harjit Sajjan speaks at the Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver on Dec. 5, while Jewish Federation chief executive officer Ezra Shanken looks on. (photo from Jewish Federation)
On Dec. 5, the Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver (JCC) announced that it has received $25 million in support from the Government of Canada through the Department of Canadian Heritage. The funding will be used for the redevelopment of the 3.3-acre property at West 41st and Oak Street. It will support the transformation of the JCC into a state-of-the-art multigenerational community hub in the Oakridge area with more childcare spaces, expanded seniors programs, arts and cultural spaces, and an expanded Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre.
“The Government of Canada stands with Jewish communities across Canada and around the world. Today’s investment is part of our commitment to an inclusive Canada that is strong and proud of its diversity. Supporting cultural facilities is essential, not only to retain their viability today, but to help them flourish for generations to come,” said Minister of Canadian Heritage Pablo Rodriguez.
“The Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver is now another step closer to building a larger community hub where Vancouverites of all backgrounds can connect through shared experiences, while allowing the centre to continue providing services and supports that enrich quality of life in our city,” said Harjit Sajjan, minister of international development, minister responsible for the Pacific Economic Development Agency of Canada and member of Parliament (Vancouver South).
The redevelopment of the JCC is the cornerstone of the overall site redevelopment plan, which will also provide permanent homes for more than 20 not-for-profit community organizations and two residential towers that will provide mixed-use rental housing, some to be at below-market rates.
The JCC, Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver and King David High School have signed a memorandum of understanding that will see them work together to fulfil a shared vision rooted in extensive community and public consultation.
“The funding from the Government of Canada through the Department of Canadian Heritage contributes the resources necessary to support and sustain the Jewish community in Vancouver,” said Eldad Goldfarb, executive director of the JCC.
“The new space is poised to be a connection point that people of all ages and from all walks of life can enjoy for generations to come, and the legacy of this redevelopment will last a lifetime,” he added.
“This announcement is the result of efforts that spanned many years,” said Ezra Shanken, Jewish Federation chief executive officer. “We want to thank the Government of Canada and our advocacy agent, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, for their work on this.”
Monday’s announcement builds on the $25 million funding provided in 2021 by the B.C. government and a $25 million gift and community match from the Diamond Foundation.
– Courtesy Government of Canada and
Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver
Siblings Becky, left, and Margaux Wosk (photo from We Belong!)
The first-ever We Belong! Festival will take place Aug. 27 in Downtown Vancouver. Organized by siblings Margaux and Becky Wosk, We Belong! is a “one-of-a-kind creative arts market with a focus on giving disabled artists the opportunity to showcase and sell their art.”
Margaux Wosk is a self-taught artist, an activist and a disability rights advocate, fighting for disabled small business owners to get resources. Becky Wosk is an artist, designer, writer and musician; she and Emmalee Watts form the duo Hollow Twin.
Margaux Wosk started their business, Retrophiliac (shopretrophiliac.com), more than 10 years ago. Its focus is on visual art.
“Being an openly autistic person,” said Wosk, “I found that there was a void in the marketplace for the type of items I wanted to see and purchase.
“My business has really ramped up in the last five years,” they continued, “and I focus on autistic, neurodiversity and disability pride items, such as enamel pins, patches and stickers. I design retro-inspired pins, stickers and patches as well. I also have other items I offer and I have over 26 retailers between Canada and the United States.”
Wosk also uses their business “as a way to talk to the government about disabled small business owners” and they have gone to the provincial budget meeting two years in a row “to rally for funding and resources for other people like myself.”
They explained, “Currently, as it stands, we have no resources, and any of the funding that goes to ‘inclusive employment’ only goes to employers that hire disabled people, not disabled people who own their own business.”
Part of the mission of the We Belong! Festival is to raise awareness.
“I have been part of other markets and I do enjoy it, but none of them meet all of my needs,” said Wosk. “I find that sometimes there are financial barriers, sometimes the events are just too long and I find that it can take a toll on my mind and body. I wanted to create something with little barriers for other disabled artists and we were lucky enough to be the recipients of the Downtown Vancouver BIA’s [Public Space] Vibrancy Grant. This way, we won’t have to charge our vendors any costs and we can provide them tables, canopies and chairs. I want people to see what we’re all capable of.”
The Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association helped secure the market’s space at 855 West Hastings St. (Lot 19), and it is being provided free of charge. The location, which is between Burrard and Howe streets, is close to Waterfront Station and other public transit points.
“Once the location and date were confirmed,” said Becky Wosk, “we were able to figure out how many vendors we can accommodate and, from there, we put out a call to artists/makers. We have a specific budget to work with, so we have been able to gather quotes for the supplies we will need to make this event successful.
“When working on an event,” she said, “it’s important to work backwards from the date that you have secured and determine what needs to be ordered/booked in advance of that date – for example, canopies need to be booked 30 days out etc. [There are] lots of small details to be mindful of!”
In addition to the vendors who will be selling their creations, the market will include four nonprofits: Artists Helping Artists, Curiko, the Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver’s Art Hive, which is run by Leamore Cohen, and the BC People First Society, on whose board Margaux Wosk sits, as regional director, Lower Mainland West.
While the deadline to apply as an exhibitor has passed, the Wosks are still looking for volunteers to help with set up and tear down. Anyone interested should email [email protected].
Leamore Cohen (photo by Efrat Gal-Or Nucleus Photography)
The Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver’s inclusion services program is one of the recipients of the Lieutenant Governor’s Arts and Music Awards, in the category of visual arts. This one-time honour, marking the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, recognizes organizations like the JCC that have excelled in fostering wide community engagement through a robust spectrum of arts and culture programs. Most important: the award emphasizes the JCC’s commitment to diversity and inclusivity.
It all began with a passionate letter of nomination by Chaia Schneid, whose daughter, Sarah Halpern, discovered “a previously untapped creative passion” in the Art Hive and Theatre Lab classes she attended, among other programs run through the JCC’s inclusion services. Writing to the Hon. Janet Austin, lieutenant governor of British Columbia, Schneid stated: “The quality of the arts and culture programs is unlike anything we have found elsewhere. They are professionally delivered and of the highest calibre, and yet individualized to meet the special needs of the diverse participants.” In particular, Schneid praised the JCC’s annual Jewish Disability and Awareness Inclusion Month (JDAIM). Schneid also praised current program director and inclusion services coordinator Leamore Cohen, calling her a “rare individual.”
Shelley Rivkin, vice-president, local and global engagement, at the Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver wrote a letter of support for the nomination. In it, she highlighted several inclusion services arts and social programs, and Cohen’s leadership.
“Leamore Cohen is the driving force behind these programs and her compassion, creativity and commitment to inclusion shine through in all aspects of the program,” wrote Rivkin. “She is always generating new ways and ideas for participants to engage with the arts and to create to the best of their abilities. These programs break new ground by offering meaningful educational and recreational opportunities for people with diverse needs. Having had the opportunity to attend some events, I have seen firsthand the joy that participants feel in being able to express themselves in a variety of mediums and the pride that their parents and family members experience when they see the creativity and talent of their loved ones.”
For a growing number of Vancouverites from all religious and ethnic backgrounds, and across all ages and abilities, the calibre and range of the JCC’s work is well-known. A schedule of performing and fine arts programs coincides with an array of sport, leisure and fitness options inside a facility that houses a theatre, library, gymnasium and pool. The JCC is also widely known for its annual Jewish Book and Chutzpah! festivals – both occupying a key place in the city’s cultural calendar – alongside community services including preschool and toddler daycare.
“While the arts programming is the centrepiece of what is being offered,” wrote Rivkin, “other inclusion programming for adults includes free memberships and access to all the fitness and wellness facilities at the Jewish community centre along with two virtual classes offered five days a week that are designed to be sensitive to the sensory stimulation needs of participants.”
Noting that activities continued throughout the pandemic, Rivkin concluded, “the program demonstrates its dedication to equity and inclusion daily by the range of programs embedded in the arts that have been opened up to this population and, of course, commitment, both on the part of Leamore Cohen, who dedicates so much time and thought to designing these programs, and to the participants themselves, who have remained active and involved despite their personal barriers and the COVID restrictions.”
* * *
On June 18, Annette Whitehead was awarded a Queen’s Platinum Jubilee pin by MP Joyce Murray. Whitehead was nominated for the honour by Kitsilano Community Centre for her outstanding commitment and dedication to her community. She also received a certificate as a sign of gratitude for all the wonderful and hard work she does for her constituency.
June 2022 marked the 70th anniversary of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. To commemorate this milestone, Murray was issued a number of Platinum Jubilee pins, which she decided would be best used to celebrate and thank those who volunteer in Vancouver Quadra. The ceremony took place at Trimble Park.
* * *
On July 7, the National Audubon Society announced the winners of its 13th annual Audubon Photography Awards. This year, judges awarded eight prizes across five divisions from a pool of 2,416 entrants from all 50 states, Washington, D.C., and seven Canadian provinces and territories.
Local Jewish community member Liron Gertsman won three awards:
Professional Award Winner for his photo of a white-tailed ptarmigan,
Professional Honourable Mention for his photo of a sharp-tailed grouse, and
Video Award Winner for his sharp-tailed grouse video.
In a July 7 Facebook post, Gertsman writes about his wins: “Getting a chance to shine some light on these often under-appreciated birds brings a big smile to my face!”
He also writes about the white-tailed ptarmigan:
“Perfectly adapted to harsh alpine conditions, they spend most of their time foraging on small plant matter in the tundra, insulated from the wind and cold by their warm layers of feathers. Ptarmigan are also famous for changing their feathers to match their snowy surroundings in the winter, and their rocky surroundings in the summer. This mastery of camouflage makes them very difficult to find, and I’ve spent countless hikes searching for them, to no avail. On this particular day, after hiking in the alpine for a couple of hours, I stumbled right into my target bird! This individual was part of a small group of ptarmigan that were so well camouflaged, I didn’t notice them until some movement caught my eye just a few yards from where I was standing. Wanting to capture these remarkable birds within the context of their spectacular mountain domain, I put on a wider lens and sat down. The birds continued to forage at close range, and I captured this image as this individual walked over a rock, posing in front of the stunning mountains of Jasper National Park.”
* * *
At the Rockower Awards banquet, held in conjunction with the American Jewish Press Association’s annual conference, June 27, 2022, in Atlanta, Ga., the Jewish Independent received two Simon Rockower Awards for Excellence in Jewish Journalism. These awards honoured achievements in Jewish media published in 2021 and there was a record-breaking 1,100-plus entries from AJPA members.
In the news story category, in the division of weekly and biweekly newspapers, the ˆI took second place for Kevin Keystone’s article “What constitutes recruiting?” The piece explored the allegation by a coalition of foreign policy and Palestinian solidarity organizations that Canadians are being recruited for the Israel Defence Forces.
For excellence in editorial writing, in which all member papers competed, the JI editorial board of Pat Johnson, Basya Laye and Cynthia Ramsay received an honourable mention, or third place. “Strong reasoning and writing, relevant to Jewish audience,” wrote the judges about the trio of articles submitted. The submission included “Ideas worth the fight,” about university campuses and the need to keep “engaging in the battle of ideas, however daunting and hopeless the fight might appear”; “Tragedy and cruelty,” about the response to the catastrophe at Mount Meron on Lag b’Omer in 2021; and “Antisemitism unleashed,” about how the violence in Israel in May 2021 year spilled out into the world with a spike in antisemitic incidents.
Myriam Steinberg’s Catalogue Baby: A Memoir of Infertility, with illustrations by Christache, has won two gold medals for best graphic novel. The first was the Independent Publishers (IPPY) Awards, and the second is the Foreword Indies Award. This is after having won the Vine Award for Canadian Jewish Literature last fall.
“This book was not only a labour of love, but also a call-out to the world to recognize and acknowledge the very real experience of so many people,” wrote Steinberg in an email. “Pregnancy loss and/or infertility touch almost everyone in some way or other. It affects those who are trying to conceive the most, but it also touches (often unbeknownst to them) their children, friends, family and colleagues.”
To celebrate the honours, Steinberg is offering a 20% discount on books bought directly from her (shipping extra). To order, email [email protected].
* * *
The Vancouver Symphony Orchestra (VSO) and the VSO School of Music (VSO SoM) are excited to recognize the appointment of Ben Mink, CM, as a Member of the Order of Canada. On June 29, 2022, Governor General of Canada Mary Simon announced that Ben Mink, who is a member of the board of directors for both the VSO and VSO SoM, has received the distinction “for his sustained contributions to Canadian music as a producer, multi-instrumentalist and writer.”
Mink has amassed a critically acclaimed body of work spanning decades, styles and genres as an international musical force. His influence is tangible and enduring in the widest range of musical styles and directions, and his imprint can be found in countless recordings, film scores and television programs. As a producer, songwriter, and instrumentalist, Mink has brought his signature style and approach to major musical artists and productions. He has an impressive list of recording collaborations that include k.d. lang, Rush, Daniel Lanois, Roy Orbison, Elton John, Alison Krauss, Heart, Feist, the Klezmatics, Wynona Judd, Method Man, James Hetfield (Metallica), and many more.
He has been nominated for nine Grammies, winning twice for his work with k.d. lang. The song “Constant Craving,” which he co-wrote and produced with lang, won her a Grammy for best female pop performance and has been used in several TV shows.
In 2007, he was co-nominated for his work on Feist’s Grammy-nominated “1234,” which gained global popularity in the roll out campaign for the iPod Nano. His recent collaborations with Heart were Billboard hits. Mink’s work helped set new and significant directions in Canadian popular music, and his writing and producing has been recognized with seven Juno nominations (three wins) and the SOCAN Wm. Harold Moon Award for international recognition.
Reesa Steele and family have the absolute pleasure to announce the upcoming marriage of Talia Magder and Weston Steele on Sunday, July 24, 2022, under the chuppah in front of family and friends in Vancouver.
Mazal tov to Nicole and Philip Magder of Montreal and Reesa Steele and David Steele of Vancouver.
Mazal tov to Talia and Weston. May this be the first of many simchas ♥
* * *
Emmy nominee Molly Leikin is the author of Insider Secrets to Hit Songwriting in the Digital Age, published by Permuted Press, a division of Simon & Schuster, in July 2022. It is Molly’s eighth book.