The Vancouver Jewish Food Bank is now distributing more than 10,000 kilograms of food every month. (photo from BI and JFS)
According to the Community Food Centres Canada report Beyond Hunger: The Hidden Impacts of Food Insecurity in Canada, “Even before COVID-19, nearly 4.5 million Canadians struggled to put good food on the table for themselves and their families. In the first two months of the pandemic, that number grew by 39%, affecting one in seven people.”
Demand on the Vancouver Jewish Food Bank has almost doubled since the start of COVID-19. The organization is now distributing more than 10,000 kilograms of food every month; supporting seniors, families and individuals. While some of us have been impacted by food scarcity during COVID-19, those most in need live in a state of constant worry about where their next meal will come from.
The 1996 World Food Summit defined food security as: “when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.” To this end, Jewish Family Services and Congregation Beth Israel are hosting More Than a Bag of Food on Jan. 28, bringing organizations and people together for a Tu b’Shevat program on food security in our community and beyond.
Vancouver Talmud Torah and Richmond Jewish Day School students are raising awareness about the food bank and reaching out to recipients. King David High School is hosting a cooking demonstration with Hilit Nurick and Rabbi Stephen Berger at 4 p.m. on Jan. 28, which will feature local ingredients and discuss the need for healthy food for everyone. Hillel BC is running an online quiz, with prizes, and a deep dive into information around food security.
At 7:30 p.m. on the 28th, there will be a Zoom panel including Dr. Tammara Soma, assistant professor, School of Resource and Environmental Management, Simon Fraser University; Dr. Eleanor Boyle, educator and author; Krystine McInnes, director and chief executive officer of Grown Here Farms; Mara Shnay, chair of the JFS client advisory committee; and Cindy McMillan, director of programs and community partnerships at JFS. Lawyer Bernard Pinsky will moderate the discussion.
“This is an important conversation,” said McInnes. “The stakes are very high. The pandemic has thrown into sharp relief just how vulnerable we are, given the way our society is organized. ”
Food systems produce and deliver based on historic demand. With the advent of COVID-19, the system has been stretched, leading to empty grocery shelves and desperate food banks. International supply chains are no longer reliable, with Russia and Vietnam limiting the sale of wheat and rice outside of their countries. Canadian food production plants have been hard hit by pandemic outbreaks and the lack of international workers. This is particularly problematic when food production is concentrated at large facilities; for example, two plants in Alberta provide 70% of Canadian beef.
“We are going to talk about initiatives from local to global,” said Boyle, “and panelists will let audience members know about some of the creative approaches to food security that are being taken at the Jewish Food Bank, as well as what’s going on around the world to try to shift agriculture and diets toward being better for climate and public health.”
The Ben and Esther Dayson Residences, located west of the River District, is one of the residences managed by Tikva Housing, which is responsible for long-term housing solutions in the Jewish community, while Jewish Family Services works with those who require immediate assistance in finding a place to live. (photo from Tikva Housing)
On Dec. 2, Jewish Family Services (JFS), in partnership with Tikva Housing, announced the launch of the first-ever Jewish Housing Registry.
There are six agencies involved in the project: JFS, Tikva Housing, Vancouver Jewish Building Society, Yaffa Housing Society, Haro Park Centre Society and Maple Crest Apartments, each playing a role in addressing the issues of homelessness in the Jewish community in a variety of ways, including advocacy, financial aid and subsidies, and housing placement. Each agency has their own application processes, manages their own wait lists, and collects and stores their client data independent of one another even though their work often crosses over. Consequently, housing needs in the community are difficult to determine accurately. For applicants, a lot of time is spent completing similar applications for different housing providers.
The idea for the registry sprouted from a conversation almost 10 years ago among leaders of the Jewish community, including JFS, Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver and spearheaded by Tikva’s executive director at the time, Susana Cogan (z’l). With the housing registry in British Columbia not set up to collect data on cultural background, and tenant selection priorities based primarily on the housing needs of applicants, a gap focused on community building was missing. The purpose of this new registry is to improve operational efficiencies and also fill that gap – addressing specific cultural needs of our community, which can be fostered within Jewish housing developments; a priority not currently being addressed through any other agencies in the province.
“It’s exciting to see the partnership between different agencies come to fruition,” said Tanja Demajo, JFS chief executive officer. “This is a unique opportunity for us to use the database as a tool to integrate data, help us meet clients’ specific needs and have a better understanding of the issues of homelessness in our community. Having an opportunity not just to house clients, but also support them by building a Jewish community, is what it means for people to ‘create a home.’”
Tikva’s director of operations and housing development, Alice Sundberg, added, “It is commonplace for applicants to register with multiple housing agencies in the Jewish community, resulting in duplicate records, leaving the JFS housing coordinator having to complete a number of similar application forms from each agency. By having this centralized database, that step only has to be completed one time. We look forward to having up-to-date information available in real-time. It will be a huge improvement administratively and will help us better meet the housing needs of applicants.”
Phase I of the registry launched on Dec. 1 for JFS and Tikva to use, and Phase II will launch shortly for Yaffa Housing, Haro Park Centre Society, Maple Crest Apartments and the Vancouver Jewish Building Society.
“We also want to acknowledge that this registry was made possible because of a grant from the Jewish Community Foundation. With their support, JFS and all the other agencies using this software will be better positioned to serve those in need in a timelier manner. Having more accurate data will also serve us in future projects related to housing advocacy and assistance,” said Demajo.
Tikva Housing is responsible for long-term housing solutions in the Jewish community, while JFS works with those who require immediate assistance in finding a place to live. JFS also provides emotional support and assistance to clients residing in buildings managed by Tikva Housing.
For more information about the registry, contact Maya Dimapilis, JFS director of development and communications, by email at [email protected] or by phone at 604-637-3306.
Clockwise from the top left: Tanja Demajo, Shelley Karrel, Amanda Haymond Malul and Rabbi Yechiel Baitelman participate in a JACS Vancouver panel discussion Oct. 15.
“When someone comes through the door and says, ‘I’m an addict. I’m a recovering addict,’ do they feel judged or do they feel accepted? Do they feel that we are putting them in a box, giving them a label?” asked Rabbi Yechiel Baitelman in a recent community discussion. “We have to identify the illness, there’s no question about that. But, is that the only way to view a human being? I think to respect every human being for their humanity, that’s what people are really craving – respect and love.”
Baitelman, director of Chabad Richmond, was one of three panelists on the topic Building Safe and Inclusive Spaces for Those Affected by Addiction and Mental Illness. He was joined by Tanja Demajo, chief executive officer of Jewish Family Services (JFS), and Amanda Haymond Malul, a community member in recovery, in the Oct. 15 event presented by Jewish Addiction Community Services (JACS) Vancouver. JACS Vancouver’s Shelley Karrel moderated the conversation.
Haymond Malul would like to see more community discussions on addiction and people being taught acceptance. She spoke of the need to “have support from the religious leaders of the community, from every single agency in the community, to start talking about it – make it acceptable, educate.” (See jewishindependent.ca/help-repair-the-world.)
And we need to ensure that what we are teaching is in line with our actions, said Demajo. “If we talk to children about acceptance, but we don’t actually practise that, that’s creating double standards where we talk about certain things, but that’s not what people experience,” she said. This could be damaging, she said, to people who “really need that support and want to trust.”
We must see each member of the community as a human being, said Baitelman. Love is important, but, he said, “Love is on my terms, respect is on your terms. If I love you, it’s more a reflection of who I am. But, if I respect you, it’s more of a reflection of how I see you, what you are about – and I think that’s really important. Respect the humanity. If you can love them, that’s even greater. But respect is more fundamental.”
When Karrel asked panelists for tangible ways in which people could be more accepting and inclusive, with love and respect, Demajo said agencies are overwhelmed with the number of people needing support. She said it is up to each of us to connect on a personal level with others, accepting that it will take time for them to trust us enough to share.
“You have to build a relationship, and a relationship is not built overnight,” said Demajo. “I had a client who I often think of, a person who spent a number of years [in the] Downtown Eastside being homeless, not having pretty much anything in his life…. He would come to see me … and we would speak about books, because he was a huge reader and I love reading. It took him six months until he really started talking about things that were going on in his life and what he actually needed, and we started working from there. Now, he has a regular life. He has a home. He brought his family back. He is working. So, things are in a place that he wanted … a number of years ago. Recovery is a process of being vulnerable and, so, if social services don’t have the time to invest in people, I think we are setting ourselves up for a really huge failure.”
All panelists agreed that having a drop-in centre with people who understand is absolutely essential and that, while professional support would be ideal, it is not essential. To be kind, respectful and loving, you do not need to be a professional, they said.
While there are recovery clubs in the general community, Haymond Malul said it would be great if there were also one in the Jewish community – “having a safe place for people to come and be able to drop in, and know that this is the Hillel House of Recovery,” she said.
However, having a community place might inhibit some people from coming out, due to fear of being exposed, warned Demajo. “The other piece is that I do feel that what Amanda has done tonight, speaking of her own experience and being in the community, and [talking about] some of the things that were helpful for her, is important to start with; having those opportunities to open up the conversation – not just for me, in a professional role, but from a personal place – because that is where the relationship happens. I do believe that is the core of whatever we come up with – the core is the relationship.”
Each of us is deserving of respect, regardless of our achievements, successes, failures or addictions, stressed Baitelman. “The fact that you were created by G-d makes you worthy of the highest form of respect and no judgment,” he said.
“Why would I not be involved with somebody who’s in recovery?” asked the rabbi. “After all, these people are accountable. They’re working on character development and are improving certain areas of their lives that they have the courage to acknowledge need to be corrected. They’re actively making amends with people around them. They are working on a conscious relationship with G-d rather than on other forms of success that society often judges success by. This is really an achievement.
“How many of us would like to change even one iota of our character, and people in recovery have changed more than one iota. They have made an incredible change, which is so admirable and should command respect. I think that’s part of the attitude that should be helpful in the broader community, and how we act with people, and the stigma.”
Karrel closed the discussion by giving a brief synopsis of JACS and its services. “We are working to diminish the stigma of addiction,” she told the Independent after the event. “Let’s keep this conversation going so we all feel we belong in our community.”
Brad Chenkis shows off a couple Sonovia masks. (photo from Tikva Housing)
It all began when Boris Chenkis, owner of After Five Fashions, was watching Israel Daily TV (ILTV) and saw an interview with Liat Goldhammer, the chief technology officer of an Israeli startup called Sonovia. She was talking about a new fabric-finishing technology for textile manufacturing developed at Bar-Ilan University, explaining that the technology could repel and kill bacteria located on clothing. Because it was in early January, a few weeks before COVID-19 became a worldwide pandemic, Chenkis just listened with interest.
On ILTV March 18, Dr. Jason Migdal, a microbiology researcher in Israel, discussed how the Sonovia technology mechanically impregnates metal nanoparticles into masks that destroy microorganisms in fabric. This was verified by two independent labs. It was also durable and washable. Now Chenkis was very interested.
With COVID becoming widespread, Sonovia had positively impacted Israeli doctors and health professionals by providing them with the technologically advanced masks. On May 12, Chenkis saw another interview about the Sonovia mask technology on ILTV – and an opportunity to get involved.
During his teenage years, Chenkis lived in Israel, studying and working at Kibbutz Rosh Hanikra. With this connection to Israel that never left his heart, he wanted to support an Israeli startup and so he purchased some masks to keep his family, friends and community safe. Soon after, he received an email from Sonovia, offering him an opportunity to help distribute the masks in Canada. Chenkis said yes. The masks were shipped from Ramat Gan to Vancouver and, within days, he was delivering hundreds to friends and family.
One of those who received the Sonovia mask was Yosef Wosk. Being both pleased and impressed with the technology, Wosk, like Chenkis, saw an opportunity to help not only the community here but also Israel. Wosk wondered how the masks could be made available locally to community members who might not be able to afford them, as they cost $65 each.
Wosk spoke with Shelley Karrel, chair of Tikva Housing, who contacted Tanja Demajo, chief executive officer of Jewish Family Services Vancouver. The need for the masks was confirmed and the shidduch almost complete.
Working with Chenkis’s son, Brad Chenkis, and with Wosk’s help, Tikva has acquired and will distribute 500 masks to residents of Tikva Housing, as well as clients of Jewish Family Services. It’s a win, win and win – tikkun olam, tzedakah and chesed.
For more information about the Sonovia masks, contact Brad Chenkis directly at [email protected].
Jewish Family Services Innovators Lunch committee, left to right: Sherri Wise, Tamar Bakonyi, Candice Thal and Shannon Ezekiel. (photo from JFS)
On May 14, Jewish Family Services held its 15th annual Innovators Lunch at the Hyatt Regency downtown. The sold-out event was hosted by CBC broadcaster Gloria Macarenko and featured keynote speaker Lane Merrifield of CBC’s Dragons’ Den. Attended by 620 donors, partners, sponsors and volunteers, it raised an unprecedented $380,000 towards programs and services designed to improve quality of life for 2,000 Lower Mainland residents.
This year’s theme at JFS is “community.” At the luncheon, Richard Fruchter, the agency’s chief executive officer, spoke of JFS’s mission to provide life’s necessities: “food, shelter, accessibility and emotional stability.”
The audience was shown a video presentation created by Michael Millman, which revealed the wide-ranging benefits of JFS’s work. A single mother spoke candidly and with feeling about her struggles. “Before I reached out to JFS, I struggled with everything. We lived on almost nothing,” she said. JFS staff provided housing, food and food vouchers, as well as trauma counseling. JFS partner agency Tikva Housing provided the family with a townhouse in a new development. “It’s a beautiful place, right on the Fraser River … a lovely home for us to have for many years,” she said, adding, “JFS has given us a life. A way to be happy. It’s just been a huge blessing for us.”
A senior with disabilities spoke about how a spinal cord injury felled him at the age of 36. JFS has helped him remain independent with its Better at Home program. In the video, Cindy MacMillan, director of senior services at JFS, explained that a grant from the United Way made it possible for the senior to remain at home. Now he has a housekeeper come in to look after his home, and also enjoys companionship with weekly visits from a JFS volunteer. “It’s working out, I look forward to them!” he said.
“It’s helped him realize that people in his community care about him,” said MacMillan. “It’s really Jewish values in action, in the broader community. Those values of caring and healing happen every time we make a match with a volunteer.”
JFS board member Jody Dales gave a passionate speech about her own family’s struggles. Dales saw her grandmother turn away help when she was struggling with poverty. Having survived the Holocaust, her grandmother still felt that others needed the help more than she did, Dales explained. As a result, Dales said she applauds anyone who comes forward to seek support. Rather than being a sign of weakness, she said, “Only the courageous are able to say, ‘Help me.’” She acknowledged that people tend to experience “a sense of shame in asking for help. But nothing is certain. It could be any of us at any time.”
Dales also explained how big a difference can be made by even a small donation and told the audience, “Let your empathy guide your decisions.”
Merrifield, co-creator of Club Penguin, an online community for kids, spoke about building community in the business world. Designed to be a safe, collaborative environment for play and learning, Club Penguin is founded on an ethos of mutual reliance and philanthropy. Eventually sold to Disney for $350 million, Disney recruited Merrifield to lead the project, ensuring that Club Penguin maintained the integrity of its original goal, “inspiring change in the world.”
Merrifield urged people to work towards social entrepreneurship, where human concerns guide business decisions. Rather than focusing on capital investment, he advised the audience to “invest in people because that’s what keeps us healthy. Revenue is not what you chase for its own sake,” he said. “It is the by-product of creating a great product with a great team.”
Right from the beginning, the business plan for Club Penguin was based on philanthropy. A portion of subscriptions went to families that live on less than $51 per day, he said. But “there was no fanfare,” said Merrifield. “We didn’t want this to look like a gimmick.” In the first year, the company gave away hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Merrifield spoke of the need to galvanize the community of kids, teaching them to invest in their community with a “coins for change” program. This virtual fundraiser even allowed children to “ring bells” to attract the attention of other subscribers. Over one billion digital coins were donated annually, for a range of humanitarian causes. Self-organizing kids formed virtual marches, becoming activists in their own right; held candlelit vigils and themed parties.
Merrifield brings the same spirit of social responsibility to his work on Dragons’ Den. He and his fellow panelists (“dragons”) hear pitches by entrepreneurs who are looking for investment and choose which ones to support. Merrifield said he looks for companies that “use recycled materials, hire disabled applicants, plant trees, and make an effort to reduce waste in their packaging and lower their fuel costs.” So far, he has not been disappointed. “Most companies have pretty good answers and that gives me hope,” he said.
On the subject of giving back, Merrifield encouraged people to consider donations – such as those to JFS – not as losses to oneself, but as “investments in the future, to individuals who continue to pay it forward.”
He also asked the audience to engage everyone they could to further the cause of fearless generosity. “Use your collective strength and influence to create change for good,” he said.
He advised, “Pool your talents and leave this world far better than it was when we came into it.”
Shula Klinger is an author and journalist living in North Vancouver. Find out more at shulaklinger.com.
Michael Landsberg will deliver the
talk Darkness and Hope: Depression, Sport and Me on Feb. 13, as part of Jewish
Family Services’ Family Life Education Series. (photo from JFS)
Michael Landsberg is a Canadian sports
journalist and former host of Off the Record for TSN. He is also a
passionate advocate for removing the stigma around mental illness, and will be
coming to Vancouver next month to deliver the talk Darkness and Hope:
Depression, Sport and Me. A Jewish Family Services (JFS) Family Life Education
event, the talk will be held at Congregation Beth Israel on Feb. 13, with all
proceeds going to support JFS mental health initiatives in the community.
Landsberg, who suffers from depression and
generalized anxiety disorder, has in recent years been an ambassador for Bell
Let’s Talk, an initiative that raises awareness and encourages dialogue about
mental health. In 2013, his documentary, Darkness and Hope: Depression,
Sports and Me, was nominated for a Canadian Screen Award for best history
or biography documentary program or series. The Canadian Alliance on Mental
Illness and Mental Health has named Landsberg one of its Champions of Mental
Health. Landsberg is known for his Twitter hashtag #sicknotweak, which
encourages discussion around mental health and creates a forum for those
“We’re thrilled and delighted to have Michael
Landsberg come and do a talk at Beth Israel,” said Alan Stamp, clinical
counseling director at JFS. “He has become an ambassador and a pioneer for
mental health. He took a risk coming out about his struggles, [and] for him to
come out and share his experiences is quite captivating. What he does best of
all is he addresses stigma and, when someone in his role can speak out, it
helps to lessen the suffering of the one in five Canadians – which is a
conservative estimate in my opinion – who experiences a mental health concern
over their lifetime.”
In Vancouver, Landsberg will be doing a
one-hour talk with a question-and-answer period afterwards. He spoke to the Jewish
Independent about helping people struggling with mental health issues.
“In general, sports mimics life,” he said.
“When I speak about life and the stigma around mental health, I know we’re not
as far ahead as we think we are. I don’t think we’re nearly as far ahead as we
would want to believe. We’ve been working hard and it’s way better, yet I hear
from people in the sports world all the time who are still in the closet, or
they’re feeling shame.”
A major focus of Landsberg’s work is combating
the idea that mental illness is a sign of weakness or is something
“That is the arrogance of mental health,” he
said. “Mentally healthy people sometimes believe that they would have been able
to overcome the illness – they don’t understand the reality that people with
mental health issues face, and how unchosen and beyond their control it can
actually be. I try to educate the non-sufferer to better understand what mental
illness is, and that it is like any other illness, no different from a physical
There are a number of reasons why both Stamp
and Landsberg feel sport is a good entry point for this discussion.
“I’m a huge believer that the best way to break
people of the stigma is to find really strong people, like Clara Hughes, who
have struggled with this, to talk about it,” said Landsberg.
Hughes, a Canadian cyclist and speed skater who
has won multiple Olympic medals in both sports, has struggled with depression.
“If [Hughes] was close at the end of the race, she would win. If you find that
even a person of that strength and accomplishment can suffer from depression,
it changes your perspective,” said Landsberg. “Everyone with depression feels
that they are not understood, [but] when you hear someone else talk about it,
then you know we all feel some things in common, and … that is incredibly
empowering. Real-life examples are great.”
Landsberg has also partnered with firefighters
who suffer from mental health issues, encouraging them to share their stories.
Landsberg and Stamp believe that reaching youth
is key to changing the future, and sports can be key in doing that.
“We have to help younger people to understand
that mental health concerns are a natural part of being alive,” said Stamp. “We
have to do that much younger, like 6 or 7 years old. They need to know that
when you feel distress, there is a way out.
“We have to start with language,” he said. “How
do we describe somebody who is struggling? Children can be injured by the
labels we use … we should be teaching youth and adults how to be listeners,
how to approach someone and see if they need help. Having some education around
a mental health problem is tremendously impactful. We need to be kinder,
gentler and more empathic in our dealings with people.”
Tickets to hear Landsberg speak are $10 and are available from jfsvancouver.ca or 604-257-5151.
Matthew Gindinis a freelance journalist, writer and
lecturer. He is Pacific correspondent for the CJN, writes regularly for
the Forward, Tricycle and the Wisdom Daily, and has been
published in Sojourners, Religion Dispatches and elsewhere. He
can be found on Medium and Twitter.
Storeys, the Diamond Residences, is among the affordable housing sites where the new TCL will be working. (photo from jfsvancouver.ca)
Jewish Family Services has launched a new tenant community liaison (TCL) position to provide stability and support for JFS clients receiving a Tikva Housing subsidy or who are housed in one of Tikva’s rental buildings for low- and moderate-income Jewish adults and families.
The purpose of the TCL position, which is funded by the Ben and Esther Dayson Foundation and a grant from the federal government, is to increase the long-term success of housing vulnerable and at-risk Jewish community members.
“Once JFS clients are settled in as new tenants, they often struggle to adjust to living in a permanent housing situation,” said Tanja Demajo, director of family and adult resources at JFS. “Many of our clients have a history of addiction, mental illness, a physical disability, and/or family abuse, so adapting to life in a new community is a challenge for them.”
The new TCL will act as a link between JFS and Tikva Housing to ensure that tenants who need support are settled in successfully and to help them understand their roles, rights and responsibilities. In addition, the TCL will provide workshops and counseling, as well as community-building activities, such as holiday celebrations and networking events. Tenants will also learn about appropriate services or resources.
Alice Sundberg, director of operations and housing development at Tikva Housing, said, “We value the collaborative relationship we have with JFS to make sure that those most in need in our community get access to affordable housing. The tenant community liaison will help to ensure that the people we serve have more than just a roof over their heads. We plan to work closely with the TCL to connect our more vulnerable tenants to support services, job and educational resources, as well as enhanced links to the Jewish community and culture.”
Affordable and social housing has become a critical issue in the Lower Mainland for almost all income levels. Following the trend in the general population, the part-time JFS housing coordinator has seen more than a 20% increase in the number of people asking for assistance, with an average of 55 new calls a week.
In the city of Vancouver, monthly rent of $1,730 for a one-bedroom unit is considered affordable. When a person on disability makes a yearly income below $18,000 per year and the minimum wage is $12.65 an hour, it is not surprising that the percentage of homelessness has increased by 30% since 2014. The 2017 Homelessness Count in Metro Vancouver confirmed that some of the main barriers to finding housing are the high cost of rent and the lack of income and shortage of units that suit clients’ needs.
As the Jewish community responds to the issue of affordable housing, the tenant community liaison is a step forward. “Lack of support for affordable and social housing damages clients lives and affects all of us directly or indirectly,” said Demajo. “Having a home is not a luxury, it is a basic need.”
This year, Jewish Federation honoured, for the first time, an organization outside of the Jewish community. The inaugural recipient of the honour was the Vancouver Police Department.
At its annual general meeting June 19, the Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver honoured four volunteers: Alex Cristall, Judi Korbin, Judith Cohen and Courtney Cohen. It also honoured, for the first time, an organization outside of the Jewish community – the Vancouver Police Department.
On June 18, L’Chaim Adult Day Centre celebrated its first 100th birthday, with program participant Beverly Klein.
On the evening of June 13, siblings Shirley Barnett and Philip Dayson were honoured with the B.C. Genealogical Society Book Award.
On the evening of June 5, Jewish Family Services held its first annual Volunteer Appreciation Event, celebrating the dedicated volunteers of JFS and the Better at Home program.
Louis Brier Home and Hospital has successfully achieved accreditation with exemplary standing from Accreditation Canada.
Among the B.C. Civil Liberties Association’s Liberty Award winners on May 17 were Ken Klonsky, for excellence in the arts, and Peter Klein, for excellence in journalism.
At its annual general meeting June 19, the Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver honoured four volunteers.
Alex Cristall was presented with the Harry Woogman Award, which recognizes a volunteer who leads consistently and conscientiously by example and has long-standing and diligent campaign involvement. Cristall is the outgoing annual campaign chair. His dedication and commitment to leadership excellence has made an enormous impact on Federation and the community as a whole.
Judi Korbin was given the Arthur Fouks Award, which honours leaders who demonstrate dedication to the goals and principles of Jewish Federation and who provide outstanding leadership to the annual campaign. Korbin is the outgoing chair of Federation’s endowment program, the Jewish Community Foundation, and is a past chair of the annual campaign.
The Kipnis-Wilson/Friedland Award went to Judith Cohen. As a past volunteer chair of women’s philanthropy, Cohen is no stranger to philanthropic work. She draws the inspiration for her community involvement from having grown up seeing her parents “pour their time and energies into the Jewish community.” She received the Kipnis-Wilson/Friedland Award from Jewish Federations of North America for demonstrating the highest ideals of leadership and involvement.
The Young Leadership Award was presented to Courtney Cohen for her extensive volunteer work with many Jewish organizations around Greater Vancouver. Just two examples among many are her involvement in Federation’s Axis program for young Jewish adults as the co-chair of the leadership development pillar, and her founding of Rose’s Angels, a care-package project created to honour her grandmother.
This year, Jewish Federation also honoured, for the first time, an organization outside of the Jewish community, with the first recipient of the honour being the Vancouver Police Department.
“Our Federation has had a long and valued relationship with the department and our staff have been able to count on their assistance and intervention during crisis situations and high-profile events attracting protesters, as well as being willing to provide education and training to our communal professionals on an as-needed basis,” said Bernard Pinsky, chair of Federation’s community security advisory committee, in presenting the award, which was accepted by Deputy Chief Lawrence Rankin on behalf of the VPD.
Pinksy expressed Federation’s “appreciation to constables Ryan Hooper and Dale Quiring for their support over the years,” and said Federation was looking forward “to a continued positive relationship with Constables James Hooper and Jacqueline Abbot.”
In introducing the video created for Federation’s 30th anniversary, board chair Karen James thanked “Jonathan and Heather Berkowitz, whose experience editing the Federation Magazine for many years was invaluable to this project, as well as past Federation president Sondi Green, whose father, Arthur Fouks, was a founder of our Federation, and Al Szajman, chair of our marketing and communications resource group for their work on this project.”
On June 18, L’Chaim Adult Day Centre celebrated its first 100th birthday, with program participant Beverly Klein. Four generations of her family, friends, fellow program participants, L’Chaim board members, staff and volunteers, as well as Jewish community leaders, threw a party at L’Chaim to commemorate her reaching this milestone.
Knowing her love of music, she was honoured with the musical talents of Allison Berry, who performed classics from the 1940s. Beverly was delighted to receive congratulations and warm wishes from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the Queen’s representative, the governor general of Canada, Julie Payette.
Ezra Shanken, chief executive officer of the Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver, spoke about Beverly and said that she didn’t look a day over 40, to which she replied, “Hey, I like this guy!”
A much-loved program participant since 2013, the birthday girl was born in Poland near Warsaw in Meserich, and was one of 11 children. A story treasured by her children is Beverly’s childhood memory of preparing for Shabbat by “building a floor” and “doing the stove” – her home’s dirt floors had to be swept and pounded down, and Beverly would pile up the bricks for the oven, which was then whitewashed. Her family immigrated to Canada in 1929 with only the clothes on their backs, which were sewn from potato sacks. During the Second World War, Beverly came to Vancouver to spend time with her sister Ruby, and she met her husband Dave. They married and had two daughters and a wonderful life together.
Beverly continues to live in her own home because of the love and devotion of her family. The Turnbulls – Wendy, husband Steve and boys Ryan and Gavin – and the Blonds – Arlene, husband Les and children Amanda and Ben – are all devoted to their mom and bubbie.
Both daughters Arlene and Wendy gave heartfelt speeches at the birthday party. Arlene said, “It’s very reassuring to families to know that their loved ones have a safe place to go where they are not only stimulated but treated like family.” Wendy said, “L’Chaim remembers that older people deserve respect for a lifetime of achievements and all that they are today. The sheer joy with which the staff planned Beverly’s party touched all of us.”
The L’Chaim Adult Day Centre strives to improve the quality of life of its participants by providing a caring and stimulating group experience for those who might otherwise be socially isolated, while also providing support and respite for care-giving families and friends. It is funded in part by Vancouver Coastal Health, Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver, the Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver and private donations from the larger community.
On the evening of June 13, siblings Shirley Barnett and Philip Dayson were honoured with the B.C. Genealogical Society Book Award. Barnett and Dayson were recognized for their book Don’t Break the Chain, which describes the journey of Abraham and Toba Nemetz from Svatatroiske in Ukraine to Vancouver and points in between.
Fleeing from pogroms in 1922, Abraham and Toba began a new life in Canada. One of the pages in Don’t Break the Chain outlines how their family of nine children grew into 196 descendants. Family trees and portraits – both individual and group – are part of a fascinating picture of a family whose lives became an important part of both the Jewish and general communities of Vancouver.
In her acceptance of the award, Barnett said that, while researching the book, numerous family members (known and previously unknown) were reached with 100% cooperation from all of them in helping to compile information for the book. The title comes from Ben Dayson, Barnett and Dayson’s father. Although he married into the family, because of his belief in the value of family ties, Ben Dayson often “ended his conversations and speeches with the sentence, ‘don’t break the chain.’”
Barnett thanked the Jewish Museum and Archives of British Columbia for their support and rich accumulation of archival material. For more information, interested readers may access nemetzfamily.ca or the Jewish Museum at jewishmuseum.ca.
Congratulations to Shirley Barnett and Philip Dayson for being honoured by the B.C. Genealogical Society, who recognized the positive impact of their family and this book on the history and development of our province.
On the evening of June 5, Jewish Family Services hosted more than 70 people at its first annual Volunteer Appreciation Event. It was a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the dedicated volunteers of JFS and the Better at Home program, a government-funded service for seniors managed by United Way and administered by JFS. The guest speaker, Dr. Rotem Regev, presented on the value of human connection, empathy and the power of giving back.
Richard Fruchter, chief executive officer of JFS, spoke about the commitment of volunteers to the agency, describing “volunteers as the life-blood of JFS.” It was volunteers, he said, who founded the Jewish Family Welfare Bureau of Vancouver (JFS’s original name) when it opened more than 80 years ago to assist the poor and elderly living in Vancouver, and to help resettle new immigrants fleeing antisemitism in Europe.
“Your commitment to uplifting lives, for our clients and community, is an example for us all,” Fruchter said. “By stepping up to help, offering your time, skills and resources, you are the reason we can meet more of the needs in our community and accomplish the work that we do.”
There are more than 170 people who volunteer regularly through JFS and Better at Home, and some have been serving for more than 15 years. JFS’s youngest volunteers are in grades 7 and 8 from Vancouver Talmud Torah and King David High School who help regularly at the Jewish Food Bank.
JFS volunteers are responsible for a wide range of work. They support the Jewish Food Bank at the Peretz Centre; seniors lunches and outreach services, such as grocery shopping, visiting and driving to and from appointments; English-language practice for newcomers to Canada; interviewing skills for job seekers; mental health outreach; and administrative support in the office. Chanukah helpers, Passover hampers, Rosh Hashanah activities and Project Isaiah are all programs that rely almost entirely on volunteers. For many individuals and families, these Jewish holiday programs are the only connections they have with their Jewish heritage.
For more information on volunteering with JFS, contact Ayana Honig at [email protected] or call 604-226-5151.
Louis Brier Home and Hospital has successfully achieved accreditation with exemplary standing from Accreditation Canada.
Accreditation Canada is an independent, not-for-profit organization that sets standards for quality and safety in health care and accredits health organizations in Canada and around the world. Louis Brier Home and Hospital voluntarily participated in accreditation because it believes that quality and safety matter to residents and their families/significant others. Improving the quality of care is a continuous journey – a journey to which Louis Brier is fully committed.
As part of the Qmentum program, the home and hospital has undergone a rigorous evaluation process. Following a comprehensive self-assessment, external peer surveyors conducted an on-site survey during which they assessed the organization’s leadership, governance, clinical programs and services against Accreditation Canada requirements for quality and safety. These requirements include national standards of excellence; required safety practices to reduce potential harm; and questionnaires to assess the work environment, resident safety culture, governance functioning and client experience. Results from all these components were considered in the accreditation decision.
The accreditation survey team spent four days at Louis Brier, and reviewed a total of 19 required organizational practices (ROPs), 216 high priority criteria and 295 other criteria for a total of 551 criteria. The accreditation surveyors determined that the Louis Brier successfully met 100% of the ROPs and 100% of the criteria evaluated.
“I am very proud of everyone at Louis Brier Home and Hospital,” said Dr. David Keselman, chief executive officer. “Our staff worked and continue to work incredibly hard to make sure we meet the needs of our residents in every possible way, helping them and their loved ones maintain optimal health status, control and dignity every day, every time. Receiving exemplary standing from Accreditation Canada is a real testament to the changing culture and focus at Louis Brier Home and Hospital. Accreditation Canada standards and requirements will continue to guide us into the future as we continue to evolve and continuously improve our practices and care delivery efforts.”
He added, “I will, of course, be remiss if I do not mention the ongoing support and generosity of the LBHH and WR [Weinberg Residence] and the [Louis Brier Jewish Aged] foundation boards, without whom this journey may not have been as smooth or possible.”
The B.C. Civil Liberties Association’s Liberty Awards recognize outstanding achievements to protect and promote human rights and freedoms in Canada. Among the 2018 award winners were Ken Klonsky, for excellence in the arts, and Peter Klein, for excellence in journalism.
Klonsky, co-author of Dr. Rubin Carter’s Eye of the Hurricane, is a former Toronto teacher and writer now living in Vancouver. He is a director of Innocence International, the organization conceived by Carter to help free wrongly convicted prisoners worldwide. His artistic works call readers to action to defend civil liberties and improve the justice system. His art and advocacy on behalf of those who have been wrongfully convicted has contributed greatly to the advancement of human rights in Canada and internationally.
Klein is a journalist, writer and documentary filmmaker. He has been a producer for the CBS newsmagazine 60 Minutes since 1999, produces video projects for the New York Times and writes columns regularly for the Globe and Mail. He is the founder of the Global Reporting Centre, a nonprofit organization dedicated to reporting on neglected global issues and innovating the practice of global journalism. His record of groundbreaking broadcast journalism exposing human rights abuses around the world deserves to be celebrated. His efforts are empowering the next generation to continue to hold the powerful to account.
The other 2018 Liberty Awards were Miranda Hlady (youth or community activism), Stockwoods LLP (legal advocacy, group) and Dr. Pamela Palmater (legal advocacy, individual). Hassan Diab, Rania Tfaily and Don Bayne, on behalf of the Hassan Diab Support Committee, were recognized with the Reg Robson Award, which is given annually to honour substantial contributions to the cause of civil liberties in British Columbia and Canada.
In mid-April, I attended the Jewish Family Services (JFS) donor appreciation event. My husband and I have always supported JFS and I have always thought very highly of the organization. But, recently, I became more involved and, this year, I joined the board.
At my first board meeting, I was blown away by the information I received about what just one facet of the organization does for its clients – the family and adult resources program, which includes helping with food vouchers, medical support, housing, etc.
At the next meeting, another group of employees came to discuss their services to seniors, which range from individual home support and care to outreach programs reaching hundreds of vulnerable seniors.
Then followed the employees who took care of assisting clients with employment, and settling new immigrants. The list went on … clinical counseling, the Jewish Food Bank, mental health outreach, emergency and transitional housing support, to name a few. About six months in, I am truly amazed by the breadth of services JFS offers and the number of clients they reach, but that’s not even the story.
I went to the volunteer appreciation evening event with my husband, as a board member and supporter, the first one we have attended. Some of our friends were there, many of my parents’ friends, some employees and some volunteers of the organization, as well as my dad. A JFS recipient spoke about his experiences with the agency and how much they helped him. He spoke about receiving counseling for depression after the failure of a business, support he was given to find work and on how to prepare his resumé after not having done so for decades. He then described the help he was given to prepare for job interviews and on how to present himself. He also praised other JFS services, such as the food bank, help with finding new housing and counseling after his divorce, and said he felt supported through these difficult years. All of a sudden, it hit me!
I looked at my dad, who was standing behind me, hand on my shoulder, and I said to him, “Oh, my G-d! You are my JFS!”
It was true. My mom and dad, throughout my entire life, have been my Jewish Family Services. From putting a roof over my head, feeding me, helping me through school, assisting me in all my university applications, editing my resumés, introducing me to potential employers and coaching me for interviews, to counseling me through difficult times, and the list goes on and on. Not to mention the help they provided other family members. All the services required to care for my four grandparents at various times in their lives closely resemble the ones offered through JFS. My parents drove them to appointments, helped get groceries, provided in-house care when necessary, brought them meals, managed their medications and advocated for them. They drove them to and from our Shabbat dinners and all the events in the community, ensuring they could attend shul, family celebrations, holidays and fundraisers.
We are always reminded that it takes a village to raise a child. When I reflect on my childhood or on my children’s lives thus far, it couldn’t be truer. The people in our lives that we rely on – friends, family members, professionals – all have played such an important role in getting us to where we are today. If we take a minute to reflect on how dramatically different our lives would be without this support system, I think we would be amazed.
So many of us are so blessed to have this network, this “village.” However, many people in our community are not so lucky. Thankfully and fortunately, they can access the village that is Jewish Family Services. If your story resembles mine in any way, I believe it is our good fortune that finds us in a life of comfort and security. I feel privileged to be part of this amazing organization and to be able to donate time and money to help those who aren’t as fortunate, so they can have affordable access to JFS and all the wonderful services they provide.
Leonard Brody talks about The Great Rewrite at the Jewish Family Services Innovators Lunch April 24. (Rhonda Dent Photography)
Sitting in the JFS client base are this community’s greatest and most hopeful assets,” said Jewish Family Services Innovators Lunch keynote speaker Leonard Brody. Donating to JFS is not charity, he said, but rather an investment with high returns.
The 600-plus attendees at the JFS’s main annual fundraising event obviously agreed. At press time, more than $350,000 had been raised for the agency’s work, and donations were still coming in, making this year’s lunch the most successful Innovators yet.
Event co-chairs Shannon Ezekiel and Candice Stein Thal welcomed those gathered at the Hyatt Regency Vancouver on April 24, and gave a brief overview of the JFS and of the organization’s new logo and look, which, they said, “inspired the theme for this year’s lunch: ‘Uplifting Lives.’”
Rabbi Jonathan Infeld of Congregation Beth Israel, who is the Rabbinical Association of Vancouver representative on the JFS board, did the blessing over the bread. “This week’s biblical portion is Acharei Mot-Kedoshim,” he said. “Kedoshim is really the essence of why we are here – ‘You shalt be holy,’ the portion begins, and then it gives us a litany of laws in which we are able to bring holiness into this world. A number of those laws do not ask, but demand, that we take care of those who are in need. And one of those laws in particular demands that we feed those who are hungry. Many of us here are hoping to make a difference in this world. We are here, maybe with the idea in mind of a business connection, but, really, the essence of what the JFS is all about is bringing holiness into this world by helping those who are in need.”
After a video, which told the stories of three individuals who were helped by JFS in some way, JFS board chair Bill Kaplan said a few words, stressing that, “most importantly, our volunteers and staff treat our clients with a respect and warmth that uplifts them, makes them feel part of the community and, if you ever visited, you’ll see, it becomes a social highlight for their week.”
All of the lunch guests were given a bag full of items – including some packaged food, toiletries, a poncho and gloves – and asked to give it to someone on their way to work or to a JFS client. The bags were packed by more than 80 kids and their families at Beth Israel a few weeks earlier.
Among those who Ezekiel and Stein Thal thanked were the event’s corporate sponsorship committee, chaired by Audrey Chan; the more than 40 sponsors at the lunch, who had “helped contribute over $183,500 … a record in sponsorship for this event”; the 28 table families; day-of-event chair Dr. Sherry Wise; and JFS’s Maya Dimapilis and her team. The lunch was co-presented by the Diamond Foundation, Austeville Properties Ltd. and Shay Keil; Neil and Michelle Pollock matched every new or increased portion of a donation raised through the lunch, up to $25,000, which was dedicated for the Jewish Food Bank.
JFS executive director Richard Fruchter spoke about JFS, its history and the expanding services it provides. It is because of this growth in the demand for JFS’s services, he said, that “it became important for us to be more visible in the community and tell our story to a much wider audience …. we’ve updated our logo and our name to reflect that. Our logo is a simple, elegant symbol – it conveys the warmth and heart of what we do here at Jewish Family Services.”
“For me, this is not just an amazing lunch with a marquee speaker,” said Keil before he introduced Brody. “It’s an opportunity for me to stand before you and proudly announce my support of the Jewish Family Services, and to thank the army of staff and volunteers … [for their] work in the community.”
Brody’s talk was on The Great Rewrite, a book he is creating with Forbes Magazine, based on a documentary series they produced. “Really what we’re doing this morning,” said the entrepreneur, venture capitalist and author when he took to the stage, “is talking about an evolution, an evolution in us, in our human story.”
Based on about a decade’s worth of research, he said, The Great Rewrite began with the question, “How is this moment in time different? We’ve been through a lot of innovation cycles, from the web and mobile, and now entering into AI and robotics… Is this vast amount of change that we’re all experiencing … substantively different from anything we’ve been through before? Is this a fourth industrial revolution?”
Humanity is “literally rewriting this planet from the ground up,” he said, arguing that we are currently undergoing “pretty much the largest institutional shift in the history of our species.”
The co-founder of four companies, Brody said, “The concept of this rewrite has nothing to do, for me, with just theory – it started as a theory but it’s really what we do and what I do every day for a living at CAA [Creative Artists Agency].”
Before looking at what we can expect in the next 730 days – the next two years – Brody explained how we, the humans of today, are nothing like the people of 100 years ago. For example, he said, the average person now lives 2.7 times longer and is three to four inches taller; the rate of poverty has been reduced from 90% in 1900 to 10% now, literacy increased from 12% to 85% and access to basic education risen from 17% to 86%. We are also “living in the lowest point of human death [caused by any factor] since we could record it, since 1400,” he said, and “the average human being living on this planet works about half the number of hours than someone living in 1900.”
We are fundamentally different people now, said Brody, and herein lies the challenge. “The houses we built don’t fit the people who live here any more,” he said. “We built institutions – I’m talking about all the institutions that govern your life, education, government, religion, work, the family unit – they are all going through massive pressure points today because they are structures based on assumptions, often technological, some patriarchal, that are just no longer true.”
So, he said, “The whole essence of this rewrite is you are living in the disconnect between the people we have become, the technological tools available to us today and the failure of our institutions to keep pace with that.”
One of the reasons for this, he explained, is “inversion.” Most of our institutions are organized as pyramids, with, for example, a head of state or religious figure at the top; however, the internet has flipped this power structure. Up to the mid-1990s, all the methods of communication, from radio to the telephone, had limited reach and were regulated by government, he said, but, with the internet, it “was the first time where millions of people could speak with millions of other people with virtually no hit on their disposable income” and where it was “impossible for governments to regulate.”
With respect to the internet, said Brody, “the average North American spends two-thirds of their working day in their virtual identity and not their physical one. The average Canadian, by the way, spends 63% of their time with close friends and family in their virtual identity and not their physical one, meaning not face-to-face. So, the virtual form of yourself is now the predominant human form, not the physical.”
And our behaviours are different online than in person. “You do things in your virtual identity that you would never dream of in your physical and vice versa,” he said. For example, the average internet user is four times more trusting than they are in person. He illustrated this using a question he asked his 83-year-old uncle: “When your children were babies, would you post their baby pictures on the lamp posts in your neighbourhood?” The response was an emphatic no. “So, then, why do you post hundreds of photographs of your granddaughter on Facebook and Flickr, which is a globally open, searchable and highly manipulated light post, and his face just went totally blank.”
As for how the internet has changed our institutions, Brody gave the example of marriage. As of the end of 2017, he said, “two-thirds of all new marriages in the Western world originated online” – and, for those who met their spouse online, the likelihood of divorce is 15 to 20% less. “The algorithms on these dating sites work from a data perspective,” he said. And, connected to the institution of marriage, he noted that, in the 2016 census, about 40% of Canadian adults reported themselves as living alone, while, in 1955, that statistic was four percent.
Brody went on to explain what CAA was doing in the field of entertainment with virtual reality and how, “in the next decade, roughly 30% of all ‘live’ entertainment will come from performers who are no longer living. You will take your children to go watch the Beatles and Michael Jackson and Elvis Presley – in fact, the Elvis tour has just begun; the estate just signed off on it.”
Currently, there are up to three-and-a-half billion people on the internet, he said, and, over the next two years, another billion people will join. This new billion will be “one of the most significant economic events in human history, if not the most significant,” he said, noting the amount of money to be made from e-commerce.
This coming two-year period, he added, “is the very beginning of a long journey in the rewrite of currency.” He said that traditional wealth generators, such as home ownership and the stock market, will not be profitable in the future, so currency “will become the new stock.”
Brody spoke about the fact that we’re about a decade away from creating machines able to think for themselves, and how computers can now create, for example, a Rembrandt painting that can fool the computers that detect fraud at top auction houses. “The reason I share that with you,” he said, “is because the very thing that makes us human is art. And, once machines begin to make art, you get a very clear indication of how different this world is going to be, and very clearly that we are on a path where humans may no longer be the predominant species on this planet. So, we have very important decisions to make in the next decade about how we regulate the ethics of artificial intelligence.”
He concluded, “Why are we talking about The Great Rewrite and the rewrite of this planet at a JFS Innovators Lunch? There are two specific reasons. The first is this massive shift in institutional power that’s coming…. And the second has to do with math, pure math; in particular, the number 70. Why 70? According to StatsCan, 70% of all charitable donations in this country come from primary donors – 70% come from a small group that make up the vast majority of the donations. So, I started to do a little bit of digging and I brought in my friends and partners at Forbes to help me out on it. It turns out, if you look through the Forbes millionaire and billionaire list, which many Canadians sit on, it turns out that … 70% of that [primary donors] group came from nothing” and could have been clients of an organization like JFS at one point in their lives.
“Benevolence and charity were the wrong lens” with which to look at giving, Brody said. “The right lens was investment. If it’s true, which it is, that the vast majority of donations to charitable causes in this country … and the vast majority of those individuals [who are giving] were, at some point in their lives, disadvantaged and downtrodden, then the math and the investment is very simple. An investment made in JFS today has the greatest statistical likelihood of identifying the next pillars in this community and the next great funders.”