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.”
More than 80 volunteers came together to help Jewish Family Services sort the food on Sept. 26, organizing nearly 1,300 bags of food and toiletries. (photos from facebook.com/JFSVancouver)
During this year’s Project Isaiah food drive, the Metro Vancouver community donated four months’ worth of provisions for the Jewish Food Bank, which will feed and support the 300 households who turn to the Jewish Food Bank each month.
More than 80 volunteers came together to help Jewish Family Services sort the food on Sept. 26, helping unload, box and organize nearly 1,300 bags of food and toiletries. The collection is a huge effort and JFS could not have done it without all of its partners across the Jewish community, as well as the countless individuals who donated and volunteered, and Vancouver Talmud Torah and Congregation Beth Israel who offered the use of their facilities.
The number of those who rely on the Jewish Food Bank continues to rise. JFS’s services also include home delivery to seniors and people with disabilities, and the recently launched Jewish Food Link program extends the agency’s reach to serve people in the Tri-Cities and Richmond areas.
Jewish Family Services has launched a new program to provide short-term financial assistance to Jewish community members living in the Tri-Cities area, including Maple Ridge and Mission. This program is funded by a grant from a private donor through Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver.
Called the Chesed (or Compassion) Program, the project responds to recommendations made by the Jewish Food Security Task Force, a joint collaboration between JFS and Jewish Federation, that identified the lack of regionally based Jewish food options as one of the top priorities to address.
According to a report from the Jewish Federation, 4,200 Jews in the Lower Mainland earn less than $30,000 annually and live below the low-income cut-off. Approximately 20% of these households live in the Tri-Cities, Mission, Langley and Maple Ridge. Another five percent of households in these areas earn less than $50,000. This means there are approximately 1,000 people living in these communities, many of whom are single-parent working families, who are considered food insecure.
Richard Fruchter, chief executive officer of JFS, said that, for those living in this situation, their day-to-day reality is dire. “Many do not have enough food to last the whole month without accessing a food bank,” he explained, and “some parents go without so that their children have enough to eat. Still others have poor diets, lacking sufficient income to purchase fresh fruit and vegetables.”
Nearly all Jewish programs and services are located in Vancouver and, despite the number of low-income Jewish households in these geographic areas, there are no Jewish-run social services available to them. Many are families that have requested assistance from JFS but, because of the distance to Vancouver or the Jewish Food Bank’s limited hours of operation, they are not getting the help they need. In addition, a significant number of these households are new immigrants, the majority of whom are Russians or Russian-Israelis. They would benefit from being connected to the Jewish community and having access to social and educational programs offered closer to their homes. The Chesed Program is a small but significant step in creating access to these social services.
The program is designed to offer up to six months’ short-term assistance for people in crisis where no other source of funding is available. Eligible are Jewish community members 18 to 65 years old who are residents of the Tri-Cities, Maple Ridge or Mission and can demonstrate financial need (i.e. bank statement, rent receipt, income tax statement, social assistance cheque, proof of income) and are willing to develop a long-term plan for addressing their financial needs, where possible. Individuals or families who meet the eligibility criteria will receive a loaded credit card that can be used for purchasing basic needs items.
For more information about the Chesed Program, contact Tanja Demajo, director of family and adult resources at JFS, at [email protected] or 604-637-3316.
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.”
In the second of a series of articles on sexual harassment and violence in the Jewish community, the Jewish Independent speaks with Dr. Alan Stamp, clinical director at Vancouver’s Jewish Family Services.
The #MeToo movement, founded by Tarana Burke in 2006, is based on the concept that empowerment for scores of survivors is possible through empathy – from survivors knowing they are not alone. The movement aims to achieve radical community healing and disruption of all systems that have allowed sexual violence to flourish.
Dr. Alan Stamp, clinical director at Vancouver’s Jewish Family Services, stressed the particular need to protect children. From a psychological standpoint, around the age of 9, there is nothing worse than what is called a “boundary violation” of a young person inflicted upon him or her by an adult.
“Adults, parents, caregivers … are meant to keep kids safe,” Stamp told the Independent. “And when a child is abused by an adult figure, it breaks the trust that the child has – not only in that person, but it breaks their trust in the world. The world becomes an unsafe place to be.”
Stamp went on to explain that children have simple intellectual lives, in that they expect to be cared for in a way that is warm, nurturing and attentive. “When abuse happens, this is stripped away,” he said. “The impact on the developing psyche is that … I have to be vigilant, watchful, that there could be danger all around me…. And, it could be a teacher, an adult and/or a family member.
“The child puts a lot of focus on being vigilant rather than what they are meant to do, which is to learn through play, through relationships. So this is a very injurious act, probably the most injurious act a child can experience.”
Young people who have had this kind of experience develop all kinds of coping strategies – from withdrawing, to acting out, being aggressive and developing learning problems. These coping mechanisms can last a lifetime.
“I’ve had many clients over my life who, when they are in their 60s, 70s or 80s, they tell me they’ve never told anyone this story before … and they launch into a story about being harmed … and that it has had an effect on all the relationships they’ve gone on to have in their lives,” said Stamp. “This is why it’s so injurious to a child. If you’re an adult and you have the horrible misfortune of being assaulted or abused, you have had more life experience to be able to manage it. If abuse happens to a youth, while not a child any more, they’re still at a tremendous disadvantage. For young people, getting help, intervening as soon as possible for an extended period of time, really increases the potential for people to do better later in life.”
Outside of explicit sexual abuse, other forms of abuse include emotional abuse, which can involve behaviour that is berating, condescending, hostile or threatening.
“This can be telling a young person that, if you don’t get a top mark in your class, you’re going to ‘suffer these consequences’ – like withdrawing food, be sent to the basement as punishment, neglect, or any manner of things,” said Stamp.
Another form of abuse is physical. “I’ve seen kids who’ve been hit by cast-iron frying pans on their head,” said Stamp.
“I can tell you what parents are meant to do,” said Stamp. A parent “is meant to provide their child with guidance, affection, warmth, food, shelter and education. And, when a parent or caregiver is withholding things, punishing without a clear reason, disciplining inappropriately for the offence – all of these things are felt as abuse to a child.
“This is different than simply being a strict parent by sticking to boundaries, having guidelines, curfews and insisting that homework or chores are done,” he clarified. “This may be strict, but it’s not abusive. It’s abuse when an act or reaction is an inappropriate response to behaviour. A child may think she or he is being treated unfairly, but it is not necessarily abuse. Abuse is something that will shake up the developmental life of the child and will cause them to look at the world through a different lens. Being a strict or controlling parent isn’t necessarily abuse, but the line can be crossed.”
Financial abuse is more often seen among adults, when someone is in a relationship – a spouse, significant other or adult child, for example – takes control of the other’s bank account. Stalking is a form of psychological abuse, making a person feel threatened and unsafe in their own home, neighbourhood or community. And there is sexual harassment. Violence can be two-sided, where both parties are abusive toward each other, or one-sided.
“Elder abuse is now happening with tremendous frequency, where adult children are abusing their elderly parents,” said Stamp. “This is something that’s almost a pandemic, I think, in many – even North American – societies.”
For people who are in an abusive relationship, it is often difficult to leave an abuser. Violence against women is a form of very fierce oppression, according to Stamp. “It oppresses their spirit. They often will say that they should have left and that they knew they had to, but that they couldn’t – that they felt paralyzed with fear for themselves or of harm coming to them, their child or to other family members … or that they didn’t have the confidence to leave,” he said.
“The psychological or physical abuse of a spouse or partner is very systemic,” he explained. “It affects them in many ways. Often, women will take up to eight years to leave an abusive relationship – that’s a very telling stat. When they do leave, they can look back on it and say that they should have left earlier. What I advise is, ensure that you are safe, that you have a safety plan … that you can get up and out of the house with your child within minutes.”
Stamp advises people in abusive relationships to always include in their escape plan talking to family and friends about the situation, as well as to identify resources in their community, just in case. “There are many resources in the community for women fleeing domestic violence,” he said. “It’s a very scary proposition, but, to get what you want, you have to give something up. You have to fight for yourself and become your own hero in many ways, your own best friend. There is help, there are resources…. Life is not meant to be lived being oppressed, threatened or being fearful for your safety.”
Stamp said it is important to remember that abuse is often passed down in families. If you were raised in a home where your parents yelled at each other, hurt each other, used foul language or were otherwise disrespectful, you have a much greater chance of being abusive yourself.
“Using one’s anger is a way of trying to gain control and to oppress others,” said Stamp. “Abuse is something that tends to be systemic, so it can be familial…. It can go back in time and come back to haunt us in the present.
“I’ve seen and worked with many men who were abusive and I’d say that 85% of those men came from homes where they were abused. So, unless we’re addressing that kind of family situation and the people who use abuse as a way to control or manage themselves and others, we’re going to continue to see this pattern throughout time.”
Stamp said the only way to create change is by means of awareness and education – through campaigns, schools, reporting, and by having community services that can positively intervene.
For more information about the counseling services offered by JFS, visit jfsvancouver.ca or call Stamp at 604-637-3309.
Entrepreneur, venture capitalist, author and media visionary Leonard Brody is the keynote speaker at this year’s JFS Innovators Lunch April 24. (photo from JFS Vancouver
On Tuesday, April 24, Jewish Family Services (JFS) will be hosting its annual Innovators Lunch. The event, which encourages people to think as innovators and uplift lives to bring about meaningful and lasting social change, raises essential funds that go directly to serve JFS clients, programs and services. It has attracted more than 600 people in each of its 14 years.
This year, the keynote speaker is Leonard Brody, chair of Creative Labs, a joint-venture with Creative Artists Agency, the largest sport and entertainment agency in the world. He and his team are building new ventures and companies for some of the biggest celebrities and sports personalities in the world. He acts as principal in several venture capital funds throughout the world, and is behind the financing and creation of dozens of start-up companies every year. He is also one of the owners of Coventry City Football Club in England.
The award-winning entrepreneur, venture capitalist, bestselling author and two-time Emmy nominated media visionary has been called “a controversial leader of the new world order.” His upcoming book, in partnership with Forbes Magazine, is The Great Rewrite. In it, he addresses the rapid pace of change, innovation and disruption brought about by the internet and how to respond to its profound changes on our social and economic ways of life.
“Everything we do, from how we speak, how we buy, how we employ people, is being rewritten,” he told JFS. “The internet is the first time in our history where millions of people can speak directly to millions of other people at little cost, no regulation; the first time in our species that we have owned our communication at mass scale on a global level. The tools for innovation are nothing, the playing field is now level.”
Wherein lies the controversy? Brody argues that the resulting change in communication is “a massive disconnect between the institutions we’ve created and the people we’ve become.” He contends that it is the largest level of institutional shift in human history.
“Our world is inverted,” he explained. “We are fundamentally different than the people we were 100 years ago.” The institutions that run society are traditionally top down, he said. Take, for example, politics, with a prime minister at the top and the people at the bottom. Once the internet became ubiquitous, the power pyramids started to flip, or invert.
The pace can be disorienting, and Brody seeks to raise the level of our dialogue and provide a useful framework for action that people can look to and use. Through concrete stories, he provides many answers, ultimately offering a playbook on how we can engage in the world that’s being rewritten around us.
For tickets to JFS’s Innovators Lunch on April 24 at the Hyatt Regency Vancouver, visit jfsvancouver.ca/innovators. There is a limited number available, so book your space early.
Jewish Family Services CEO Richard Fruchter with Karen James, who received the 2017 Naomi Gropper Steiner Visionary Award. (photo from JFS)
At Jewish Family Service Agency’s 81st annual general meeting on Nov. 29, Richard Fruchter, chief executive officer, announced that the agency will be shortening their name to Jewish Family Services. The organization has also launched a new logo and website at jfsvancouver.ca. JFSA has been in a period of growth over the past four years,” said Fruchter. “However, when it came time to looking at our website and logo, we knew they had difficulty connecting with current audiences.
“In response, we created a marketing task force that consisted of some key community members and professionals to guide us in refreshing our look and giving us the tools to present ourselves in a more vibrant and professional way.
“As we discussed the logo, we naturally talked about our name,” he said. “We’ve been known in this community as Jewish Family Service Agency since 1958, but ‘agency’ is repetitive. Other Jewish organizations dropped that extra word from their name awhile ago and we felt that it made sense to do the same. We’re now referring to ourselves as Jewish Family Services or JFS. ‘Services,’ rather than ‘service agency,’ more accurately reflects the remarkable breadth of what we do.”
In addition to the new logo and look, Fruchter said, “We also have a new tag line, ‘Uplifting Lives.’ It’s exactly what we do here – we uplift the lives of families and individuals in our community who need our help. It works both ways, though – we also uplift the lives of our members and donors who are participating in tikkun olam and gemilut hasadim – repairing the world through acts of loving kindness.
“We’re proud to present these marketing initiatives on behalf of JFS to our community. We feel it’s a refreshing representation of who we are and the work we do, which is grounded in the values and mission of our organization.
“As we look ahead to the future,” he said, “our vision is to be a leader in the Jewish and broader communities, transforming the lives of individuals and families through quality services and innovative programming that responds to evolving community needs. With a new look, logo, name, tagline and website, we are more prepared than ever to do just that.”
The new website is now live at jfsvancouver.ca. JFS will be phasing out its old logo and branding materials by the end of 2017.
At the AGM, Karen James received the Naomi Gropper Steiner Visionary Award, given to a past board member who went over and above in their duties. She stepped into the top volunteer job at the agency at a critical time and guided JFSA to provide significantly more services to the community.
Shelley Ail received the Paula Lenga Award for her major volunteer contribution over a decade to the Jewish Food Bank and her commitment to coordinating volunteers and organizing JFSA’s annual Friends Campaign phone-a-thons.
Schara Tzedeck Congregation received the Community Partner Award.
JFS’s Volunteer Appreciation Award recipients were Ros Calof, for her work with the seniors lunch program, and Lina Moskaleva, for supporting its mental health outreach program.
The work of the staff was also celebrated – Staff Term of Service Awards went to Alan Stamp (10 years), Zanna Linskaia (10 years), Naz Gurbuz (five years) and Tanya Skovorodnikova (10 years).
Bill Kaplan, JFS board chair, introduced the new board members: Judith Cohen, Shannon Gorski, Peter Hotz, Simone Kallner and Michael Kaplen. Along with the nominating committee, Kaplan recruited a strong and talented group of community members.
The board of directors of Hillel BC Society has unanimously approved the appointment of Sam Heller as the next executive director of Hillel BC. The appointment will be effective July 1, 2018.
Over the years, Heller has repeatedly exhibited exceptional leadership skills in a variety of positions. While attending the University of British Columbia, where he received a bachelor’s in political science, he led the fight against antisemitism and anti-Israel activities on campus.
In an effort to make an even more significant contribution to the Jewish community, Heller moved to Israel and joined the Israel Defence Forces, where he achieved the rank of sergeant, Infantry Brigade, and earned an honour of excellence.
Heller returned to Vancouver and was hired by Hillel in 2015 to be the program/outreach coordinator responsible for directing social, cultural and educational programming at seven universities in the province. His ability to communicate with people of all ages, combined with his keen understanding of the campus and Vancouver Jewish communities, fluency in Hebrew and proficiency in social media marketing, have made him an invaluable member of the Hillel team. In recognition of these qualities, he was promoted to program director in 2016 and to managing director in June 2017.
Rabbi Philip Bregman will continue in a part-time basis as Hillel rabbi, whose duties will include Jewish chaplaincy and fundraising.