Every time I put together one of these special five-year anniversary issues, I am both thankful for and awed by the community’s commitment to this newspaper. Even though I have owned it now for a quarter of its existence (!) and have experienced everything it has taken to keep publishing it, I still feel like it’s a miracle that, while so many other newspapers have folded, the Jewish Independent continues.
When I look back at old issues of the JI and the Jewish Western Bulletin, I get to see time move in almost an instant. In one sitting, I can follow the creation, the lifetime and, often, the transformation, or occasionally even the end, of a communal organization. I can see how a cohort of community members transitions into a whole new generation of dedicated volunteers and generous philanthropists. I can relate to the financial and other challenges that every former publisher and editor has gone through. I can feel the support of community leaders, readers and advertisers, who consistently have come to the rescue of a paper that has pretty much always been on the edge of solvency. I can share in so many people’s happinesses and sadnesses, their kudos and their complaints. I can appreciate the hard work of the paper’s publishers, writers and staff in every decade and that of countless community members, which has gotten us to today.
The community and the JI/JWB have survived the Great Depression, the Second World War, numerous recessions and other hardships. Currently, we are in the midst of surviving a global pandemic together. It has been a difficult year for all of us, to say the least. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to having moments of despair and fear, and not just during COVID. I know how privileged and lucky I am, both personally and professionally, but, sometimes, I need reminding.
During this past year, as my few staff have switched to working at home or semi-retired, I have had more opportunities to speak and email with community members and others. While not a replacement for face-to-face encounters, it has been one of the pluses of this hard-earned +1 year of the newspaper, which had to postpone our special 90th anniversary issue until now. It is no exaggeration to say that we have only made it to 90+1 because of you. And not only your financial support, for which I am extremely grateful, but your indomitable spirit. We have pages to print because there are events to cover; classes, lectures and performances to attend; opinions to share; ambitious projects to promote; endeavours for which to raise funds; people offering help and people in need of assistance; people and milestones to celebrate; and losses to mourn. In this very newspaper you are holding in your hands or looking at on screen, there are stories on all of these aspects of our community.
Every time I prepare an issue of the JI, I’m buoyed by the promise that each paper holds – that there is a future, unknown as it may be, towards which we are all working. And, every time I look at past issues of the JIand the JWB, I am inspired by all that we’ve accomplished; by the no small feat that we are still here, showing up for one another and trying to make the world at large, or at least our small corner of it, a little bit better.
In my forays into the newspaper’s archives for this special edition, I came across, by chance, a few pithy sayings, no doubt intended to be motivational but, more pragmatically, to fill the small spaces that, in the olden days of typesetting, were hard to fill at the end of a column of news. From 1933 and 1934, they impart messages that could apply to any generation: “Resolve to be thyself, and know that he who finds himself, loses his misery”; “Some people can’t have a word together without having words”; “Better is one smile from the living than fountains of tears for the dead.”
I have no idea from where these aphorisms came, but they made me smile when I came across them. This newspaper never fails to surprise me. I just love it. And I thank all of you for helping me fill its pages and keep the presses rolling. May we all go from strength to strength.
B’nai B’rith, 1977. (photo from JWB fonds, JMABC L.09486)
If you know someone in this photo, please help the JI fill the gaps of its predecessor’s (the Jewish Western Bulletin’s) collection at the Jewish Museum and Archives of B.C. by contacting [email protected] or 604-257-5199. To find out who has been identified in the photos, visit jewishmuseum.ca/blog.
When we decided to have a celebration marking 18 years since the beginning of the latest chapter of the Jewish Independent’s nearly-nine-decade history, it made perfect sense to focus on the future as much as the past.
The centrepoint of the JI Chai Celebration is the JI’s 18 Under 36 Awards. The day’s headlines might be cause for dejection, but anyone who works with, or spends any time with, members of this community’s younger generations knows that the future is bright.
This truly is reason to celebrate.
I am amazed to think I’ve owned the newspaper for longer than some of our awardees have been alive. I don’t feel that old. On the other hand, it does seem like another lifetime when Kyle Berger, Pat Johnson and I bought the Independent’s predecessor, the Jewish Western Bulletin, from publishers Sam and Mona Kaplan. Kyle was 24, Pat was 34 and I was 29 – we all would have qualified for the JI’s 18 Under 36 Awards, and I’d like to think we might have offered some tough competition.
I would say to younger audiences, as both a promise and a warning: beware of how way leads on to way. Sometimes wonderful things happen and the mission of your life presents itself without you even realizing what’s happening.
My roots are not here. My immediate family has lived in Ontario for a long time now. And, when I came here about 25 years ago from Ottawa, I intended to spend a year in British Columbia, get my master’s in economics at Simon Fraser University, then return east and do a PhD in economics at University of Toronto.
But, I got a job in Vancouver as I was finishing my MA, and worked as an economist until, one day, I took a phone call from the then-publisher of the Jewish Western Bulletin. I’d never heard of him … or it. My involvement with the Vancouver Jewish community was through music – with the Vancouver Jewish Folk Choir, with whom I still sing today, and Beth Israel Choir. The paper was looking for someone to fill in writing editorials and I was looking for a change, so I agreed to take the job – for the summer.
As I mentioned, one thing leads to another, and the Kaplans, who had published and edited the JWB since 1960, wanted to retire. Pat and Kyle, my then-newfound friends and colleagues, suggested we put in a bid to buy the paper. I didn’t think the Kaplans would sell it to such a green team, as there were some other serious bidders with far more experience in business.
But the Kaplans saw something in the three of us that I certainly did not. They were Orthodox Jews, Zionists who brokered no criticism of Israel, and believed in advocacy journalism. We were secular, Zionists of a rather more open-minded variety, firm advocates of free speech and believed that journalism should be as objective as possible. Despite our obvious differences, I think the Kaplans recognized in us something of the inevitable future.
While Kyle and Pat have moved on to other endeavours, they thankfully remain involved in the paper and are there to help and offer advice, with Pat still doing much writing, as well as serving on the editorial board.
Looking back at the past 18 years, I can say that, while we’ve had challenges, we’ve overcome them and we’ve had many more successes. And this is one of the major reasons for the JI Chai Celebration. We want to celebrate the fact that, with the community’s help and the hard work and dedication of so many over the decades, the Jewish Independent, this community’s newspaper, is a vibrant and evolving enterprise.
Still … it is no secret that the newspaper industry is a tough one these days, to put it mildly. We must find a way to keep the Independent a sustainable and quality publication – not just for the coming months, but for the coming generations. The funds raised through the JI Chai Celebration will go, in part, toward a study of North American Jewish community newspapers and other examples of community journalism, which might direct us to best practices and models for the future of the JI.
The incredibly generous financial support of Joseph and Rosalie Segal and family, and the support of Mary-Louise Albert of the Rothstein Theatre and Chutzpah! Festival, laid the foundation for this celebration. The contributions of Gary Averbach, Shirley Barnett, David Bogoch, LKP Holdings (Tzipi Mann and family), JB Newall Memorials, Olive+Wild, Red Truck Beer, Vancouver Learning Centre, Web exPress, Yosef Wosk and so many others made it all possible. Led by talented event manager Bonnie Nish, all of this came together in three months.
Everyone performing here today is donating their time, as is the bartender and the volunteers you’ve seen on tickets, at the auction tables, ushering, all about. And about that auction table – thank you so much to all the donors to the auction and those who contributed the prizes for tonight, including the gift packages for the 18 awardees.
In addition to funding a study that can set the course of the paper’s future, revenue from this event will help stabilize the Independent and let us continue the important role we play as a mirror to and a voice of this community.
To ensure that independent Jewish journalism survives and thrives in this city and province, though, it ultimately depends on you. I ask you to support this newspaper by reading, sharing, subscribing, advertising or donating.
If you still wonder why and for whom we need to continue building this community and strengthening the media that shares its stories, look only to the 18 individuals being honoured tonight and to the future that they represent.
Portrait of Max Malit Grossman, circa 1926, copied from the book The Jew in Canada. Grossman’s mimeographs were the start of it all. (photo from Jewish Museum and Archives of British Columbia L.00011)
From 1930 until Abraham Arnold’s arrival in 1949, there was a new editor and/or publisher of the Jewish Western Bulletin every couple of years. Arnold lasted 11 years, Sam and Mona Kaplan about 36 all told. My first article ran in the JWB on March 28, 1997. I was listed as a contributor for the next year, becoming editorial assistant in May 1998, and assistant publisher that September. When Kyle Berger, Pat Johnson and I bought the paper, they graciously agreed that I become the publisher. Since that first issue, June 4, 1999, I have held that title. That makes 16 years. The second-longest term in the paper’s history.
For more than 10 years, I’ve been the sole owner of the Bulletin / Independent. While Kyle still contributes occasional articles and blogs, Pat is on the editorial board with former editor Basya Laye and me, and contributes weekly. I have worked with countless talented and kind people, many of whom have stuck with me, the paper and the community through some tough times, especially since the 2008 economic downturn. It is us, a handful of people, along with a few regular freelance writers, who get this paper to press every week. It is a labor of love for all of us. We do it for very little pay.
Financial struggle is as much a characteristic of this paper as is its Jewish character and its communal foundation, though that is one tradition I would happily leave to the dustbin of history.
Reviewing the 85-year history of the paper affirms my conviction that it is an absolute treasure, one of immeasurable value to Jewish life and this community. Yet, it is largely taken for granted. True, it has its admirers – thank you to all the organizations and businesses who advertise, and to all the readers who subscribe, donate or support our advertisers. But, on the whole, it is undervalued. And it has been almost since Day 1.
The newspaper got its start in 1928 as a mimeographed newsletter whose goal was to generate the funds and enthusiasm for a Jewish community centre. It succeeded in that regard, though the JCC would experience existential difficulties more than once in its life. Today, thankfully, the JCC is a strong and vibrant fixture in the community. When the mimeo became a tabloid in October 1930, its name was borrowed from a 1925 publication that was well-loved but, evidently, not well-funded, as it didn’t last for long.
More than one editor of the JWB has exhorted readers to pay their subscriptions and pleaded with organizations to buy advertisements. The relationship between editors and readers was much more contentious and frank during the 1930s and 1940s than it has been since. Reading these editorials every time I organize a special anniversary issue – this is my fourth – I am both saddened and heartened by the fact that, at their core, the issues remain the same.
This year, I have been particularly affected by the missives of editor and publisher Goodman Florence as he neared what turned out to be his last several months with the JWB. In the latter half of 1948, he starts to air some of the dirty laundry that has obviously been accumulating between himself and the Vancouver Jewish Administrative Council that took over control of the paper when the Jewish Community Centre, Jewish Community Chest and Hebrew Aid Society formed it in 1932, as well as other community organizations and even readers.
In August, he tackles head on the idea that readers have somehow gotten that “the Bulletin is a highly profitable proposition and is fought for. Such is not the case.” He points out that “subscriptions pay for only postage, paper and addressing, if it does that much. An attractive, newsy and acceptable publicity medium such as the Bulletin, is expensive to produce and its cost must be borne by advertisers.” This remains the case today.
That October, Florence’s one-year contract was coming to a close. Among his “many problems and many anxieties” is “the matter of the financial loss so far sustained in publishing for the community” under the terms of his contract, which he describes as “hastily arranged.”
He sums up his difficulties in being the publisher of an Anglo-Jewish weekly in November of that year, yet still holds hope that the situation is improving. In January 1949, he writes about all the ideas he has for the paper’s future, with only “a few final details” to be organized regarding a new contract. “I am hoping in the coming year to be able to devote more time and space to national and international affairs and will express a viewpoint in ‘editorials’ – and will endeavor to get prominent members of our community to also take their ‘pens in hand.’
“It will be my continued policy to assist every organization now in existence and which might come into existence, so long as the purpose is lawful and of good intention – to place itself before the public in as accurate a light as possible.”
After talking about an increase in the price of subscriptions and new help in finding advertisers, Florence concludes, “For 1949 I hope with your cooperation to make of our paper ‘one of the best’ – and to help build a progressive integrated community – and to spread the story of its good works throughout the land.
“For the opportunities of the past and the promise of the future, I wish to say, ‘Thank you.’ I will continue to do my best to serve you well.”
Less than a month later, his farewell editorial was published by the new team at the helm.
“Readers want world news, features, editorials . . . officers of all local organizations want their activities to be publicized. Up to date, I have not yet been able to completely sell the simple fact that to do all this requires considerable revenue,” Florence writes. “Some headway has been made in recent months, and there are now signs that more organizations are becoming aware of the need to place advertising that would be considered commensurate with the amount of news publicity their various activities require. There are signs also that more of the Jewish business men are coming to realize that there is after all some virtue in advertising in the Bulletin and doing business with the members of this growing Jewish Community.
“My decision [to leave] was arrived at after I realized that I had not been getting sufficient advertising support, and that without such assistance, progressive development could not be undertaken. I feel certain that now that the position has been drawn to your attention, the new publishers, Abe Arnold and Asher Snider, will get the support necessary to continue the venture, and I bespeak for them your utmost cooperation.”
When I look at the state of the publishing and newspaper industry today, I take heart that there have always been challenges and, despite the often-dire-sounding editorials of Florence and many of the paper’s other editors and publishers, here we are today. Many recessions have come and gone. Heck, the newspaper survived the Great Depression. Will it survive the internet? I certainly hope so, and not just because I would like to own a successful business.
I have looked through the physical pages of almost every JWB and searched through them online (multiculturalcanada.ca/jwb) ad nauseam for various people and events. I have read every single copy of the JI. Every time I look back at the articles and images in the papers, something surprises me, something sparks my imagination, something makes me think or makes me laugh.
I don’t know anyone who owns a community newspaper or any similar business. When I read that other editors, publishers and owners of the paper have had similar concerns, challenges and joys, there is a sense of solidarity, of not being alone. When I read about what various people in this community have had to endure, what they’ve accomplished, I am inspired. When I attended the rededication of the Jewish section of Mountain View Cemetery earlier this month, I felt like I had personally known many of those buried there. My connection to this community through its newspaper of record for 85-plus years is that strong and goes back that far.
But, ultimately, I didn’t know any of those people. I was born in Moncton and grew up in Winnipeg. My immediate family now lives in the Montreal-Ottawa-Toronto corridor and I came to Vancouver from Ottawa in 1992. My Winnipeg-based aunt had lived here in the 1960s. After I got my MA and a job – i.e. once it looked like I was staying awhile – she connected me with the Vancouver Jewish Folk Choir via her longtime friend and former musical colleague Claire Klein Osipov. It was one of my first connections to the Jewish community here and it has, obviously, led to other connections, including being the editor of the Jewish Museum and Archives of British Columbia’s annual journal The Scribe for the last seven editions.
I’ve always liked history, and I love having 85-plus years’ worth of it at my fingertips. It wasn’t until this special issue though that I decided to do a search for my aunt’s name – she passed away last fall.
My searches yielded more than a dozen results from 1962 through 1966, including the birth announcement of one of my cousins, her third son. And there was a photo of her, which was published twice, once with the wrong caption, a correction being noted in the following week’s paper. I knew that Aunt Chickie (married to Nathan Frankel at that time) was involved in the Peretz Centre and that she accompanied Claire on the piano, but seeing some of the committees she was on, the events she helped organize, the music she performed … seeing her face – I can’t describe the feeling, except to say, once again, this newspaper is such a vital resource in ways that I’m still discovering after almost 20 years working here.
The JWB had two fifth anniversary issues, one in 1934, another in 1935. In the first, editor S.A. Goldston writes, “It seems hard to realize that time has flown so quickly. We all remember well the small mimeographed copy first issued in the office of Max Grossman, and we wonder how many thought that the day was not far distant when it would grow to a regular weekly newspaper.”
He wonders whether the Bulletin had “filled the mission for which it was first intended? Is it any use today?” He leaves the answer to readers, “for naturally we are somewhat prejudiced in our personal views on the matter.
“The paper was first produced to act as the voice of the Community and to bring its readers in closer touch not only with the happenings in its own surroundings but with Jewry all the world over – to awaken Jewish consciousness, and if possible to create a deeper sense of unity among the Jewish residents of this City. In this way we can, without exaggeration, say [we] have been fairly successful.”
I love this last sentence, which, to me, shows clearly Goldston’s great humility. Yet his purpose is grand: publishing news of all the city organizations and devoting “considerable space to world happenings,” trying “hard to preach through the columns of this paper the absolute necessity of a United Jewry not only in Vancouver but throughout the world…. We have also, during the past year, continued to spur on our readers in civic, philanthropic and educational services and have received congratulations from non-Jewish communities on our work.”
But, he notes, as others would, “There are two things apart from the reading matter that is necessary to make a paper a success…. We need subscribers and advertisers.”
Of the advertisers the paper did have, he says, “We get a very fair share…. But we also owe a duty to every advertiser who uses our columns. We must give them our patronage whenever possible. They have confidence in us and [we] must show that this confidence is not misplaced. We would therefore respectfully suggest that in making your purchases those who advertise in the Bulletin be given preference.”
Goldston and his colleagues have “the great ambition of doubling the size of the paper,” which was then eight pages, within the next year. He asks for help in getting there, saying he has “much to be thankful for,” despite his “failing health,” and is proud to hold the position of editor.
The very next issue carried a front-page obituary. Goldston had passed away suddenly, at age 63. According to B.C. Archives records, he died April 11, 1934. His given names were Sim Alfred.
In the 1935 editorial marking “Five years of the Bulletin,” editor David Rome echoes some of Goldston’s remarks. He, too, speaks of gratitude and writes that the Bulletin’s “being taken as a matter of course by Western Canadian Jewry” is “the greatest compliment that can be offered to it,” showing that it “is not a freak venture but part of the life of its readers.
“But this sometimes blinds its readers to the phenomenon of a relatively small community successfully publishing a weekly newspaper for a number of years. Those who are daily in contact with the workings of the community publication realize fully the efforts that have to be made to maintain the standards set and to elevate them.”
Rome thanks all “those anonymous workers who have devoted unselfishly of their time and energy for this community enterprise. The Bulletin is a fairly big business and it needs a large amount of work and application to run this business. This devotion was given it by the members of the [Council’s Bulletin] committee and it is no more than fitting that thanks be given to them for their work.”
He notes that this anniversary of the paper also marks the first year since Goldston’s passing: “It is not at all an exaggeration to say that he worked beyond the limits of health, and the community should honor his memory and recognize his sacrifices for the community newspaper.”
Somehow I feel that, with every issue of this paper, we are honoring the people in this community who have made – and are making – sacrifices for whatever people and causes that are important to them. Every event, interview, photo, birth announcement, obituary … everything that gets recorded is proof of existence, of purpose, of being part of something larger than oneself.
This newspaper has always had a grand, even grandiose, view of the impact it could have on the community. But, looking back at 85 years – 90 if you count the original Bulletin, 87 if you start at Grossman’s mimeo – I’d say it has exceeded even the grandest of its expectations. And I’d like to see it continue to do so, whether or not I’m involved. But, as pretty much every publisher of the paper will tell you, “There are two things apart from the reading matter that is necessary to make a paper a success….” The future of this community treasure is, quite literally, in your hands.
The community has always enjoyed a good contest, JWB, December 1948.
Paging through 85 years of this newspaper reveals a stunning consistency of recurring phenomena, repetitious concerns, familiar family names, perpetually unresolved issues across decades and a solid tradition of community-building from generation to generation. The reporting across the decades reveals a comfortingly familiar refrain of the paper rallying the community to support the UJA Campaign, the Home for the Aged, Israel Bonds,
Hebrew University, Talmud Torah, Histadrut, summer camps, and the full range of communal organizations and causes, many of which continue to thrive today. Individuals are fêted for service to the community, for becoming bar or bat mitzvah, for graduating from university.
So perpetual are some of the issues facing the community and the Jewish world that headlines could be plucked form one decade and dropped unobtrusively onto the pages of the paper many years earlier or later. For fun, try to guess the years when these headlines appeared: “The past year will long be remembered as one of stress and strain;” “Jews must help Israel regain ‘positive image’”; or “Religious storm in Israel.” (Answers: the 1931 Rosh Hashanah issue editorial; 1985; 1950.)
Or these ones: “US won’t accept Likud position on territories”; “The trend of the time is toward the elimination of useless and duplicating organizations”; or “… it has been said that our loyalties are divided. That, in being Zionists, we fail as Canadians.” (Answers: 1977; 1925; 1929.)
Of course, some headlines are unique. On Nov. 3, 1988, the paper’s headline blared: “Israel achieves UN victory.” This was about a failed attempt led by Arab states to have Israel thrown out of the General Assembly.
Philanthropy is a continuous thread joining the decades. As early as 1930, the editorial was acknowledging that “The residents of the Vancouver Jewish Community doubtlessly at times become impatient with the term, ‘A worthy cause’” … before inveigling upon readers to support another commendable undertaking.
Warning of the dangers to communal well-being at the start of the Great Depression, an editorial in December 1930 takes a very Keynesian tone: “The foolish philosophy of tightening the purse-strings during a business depression, although the purse-holder is still well able to spend, becomes a selfish and heartless philosophy when applied to philanthropy. To deny assistance to those who are gripped in the vise of illness or need when the horizon looks darkest, is to display a false attitude to the charitable ideal.”
Pressure, sometimes not at all subtle, urged readers to give generously to the community chest campaign. “Larger Pledges Needed for Success of Chest,” the headline of October 9, 1936 read. “Open Your Door to Your UJA Canvasser,” pitched an issue in 1951.
Also unsubtle, but justifiably so, was the ominous plea for the 1940 campaign aimed at sending aid to the Jews of Nazi-occupied Europe: “Vancouver Jewish External Welfare Fund seeks support for Jews in Hungary, Poland, Germany and Romania … Tomorrow may be too late.”
Running in 1930, this headline nevertheless could have been from any decade in the paper’s history: “Bronfman Family Create Scholarship.” In this case, it was for the Talmud Torah and a Jewish orphanage in Winnipeg, but more than half a century later, the Bronfman family was instrumental in the creation of the Birthright-Israel program, which has sent thousands of young Jewish Canadians to Israel.
In decades when Jewish allegiance to Canada was sometimes implied or openly expressed, the paper routinely adopted a highly patriotic tone. From heralding King George VI to lamenting his death with pages of editorial, there were also major assertions of Jewish allegiance to the new Queen Elizabeth II at the time of her coronation in 1953. Meetings of Jewish communal officials with elected leaders, including prime ministers, have been prominently reported, including just weeks ago when Prime Minister Stephen Harper met with Sephardi Canadians in Ottawa.
Emphasizing the responsibilities of citizenship has been a recurring theme. In 1930, the editorialist noted: “Indifferent people are often heard to say, ‘It doesn’t make any difference to me what party is in power, so why should I vote?’ Such a statement is the furthest thing from the truth and reflects an attitude which is to be strongly deplored.”
Although allegiance to Canada has been conspicuous, so too has been this community’s deep connections to the Jewish homeland.
In 1930, the paper reported on the appointment of a commission “to investigate the Moslem and Jewish Claims to the Wailing Wall.”
Throughout the 1920s and 1930s, anti-Jewish riots and pogroms in Palestine killed hundreds and shattered hopes of a peaceful existence in the Yishuv.
“As these words are written,” an editorial in 1936 lamented, “Palestine is again the scene of disorders, riots, bloodshed, sniping, isolated attacks and agonized mistrust, fomented hatred and international complications. The land of peace is again being ravaged by hate, and the eternal people of peace is again forced to consider problems of defence and even to raise physical means to ensure its own safety.”
These riots had the intended consequence of leading the British authorities to end Jewish migration to the Mandate. While met with outrage and agitation by Jews worldwide, the catastrophic historical impact of that decision would not be fully recognized until the endangered Jews of Europe suffered the Holocaust.
Even so, the paper recognized surprisingly early on the threat coming from Germany’s far right. In 1930, three years before Hitler took power, the Bulletin was already warning of the threat posed by the Nazis: “The Hitlerites, who, at the recent election in Germany made such tremendous gains, are marching to power on the wave of a dangerous and prejudiced nationalism. Their anti-Semitic policy is definite and has already manifested itself in many outbreaks and disorders of a most distressing kind.”
Concern for Jews all over the world has been constant in these pages. When the Sino-Japanese War broke out in 1937, the paper expressed fears for the Jews in China, noting that … “After Palestine, the United States and Latin America, China was the largest recipient of Jewish refugees in the 1930s.”
Jews and Christians packed Vancouver Lyric Theatre to overflowing after news of Kristallnacht signified what we now understand to have been the unquestioned beginning of the Holocaust.
By 1944, the realization of what had happened to European Jews was widely understood and an above-the-banner editorial held no punches: “To anyone working for one Jewish cause or another it becomes increasingly apparent that there are those among us who are SHIRKING THEIR DUTIES AND RESPONSIBILITIES.
“Yes, there are those among us who are too busy with their own affairs to think of their fellow man.
“Many of our fellow Jews never care to remember that somewhere in the darkness of Hitler’s Europe thousands and thousands of men and women and children are hiding in basements, in walled ghettos and in dismal forests in an attempt to escape certain death, while we abide in the glorious freedom and abundance of Canada.
“At this moment half the Jews in Europe are dead. WHAT IN GOD’S NAME WAS THEIR CRIME?
“You know, and I know, that their only crime is that THEY WERE BORN AS JEWS.
“Do you ever stop to ponder that it is only a curious turn of fate that led you or your parents to leave Europe and that you or your children might otherwise be among those who were exterminated by the Nazi slaughterhouses of Europe. WE MUST LEARN TO FEEL THE PAIN AND SUFFERING OF THOSE POOR BROKEN, BLEEDING PEOPLE AND DENY OURSELVES, IF NECESSARY TO SAVE THEM.”
When the war ended and the camps were liberated, the local community came together, helping in different ways, special prayer services among them.
Awareness of the extent of the Holocaust – and the role of Jewish statelessness in allowing it to happen – was made plain immediately after VE Day in an editorial penned by M. Freeman, president of Vancouver Zionist Organization: “For the Jews who have managed to survive this holocaust, Palestine and Palestine alone stands out as their only refuge. Only in a Jewish fatherland will they be safe. Only in Palestine can they start the broken lives anew with hope of ultimate restoration. We can help make this possible. We betray our own birth-right if we do less. No Jew, whatever his shade of opinion can withdraw from co-operating with the resurgence of his people. If we gave everything we ever owned, it still could not measure up to what they have already paid.”
From 1945, the issue of Soviet Jewry made top news month after month until 1989, when a new revolution allowed Jews across Eastern Europe to emigrate, changing the face of Israel and Vancouver, among other places.
The pages of the Bulletin also show that global events had unexpected ripples for Israel and the Jewish people. In 1973, the paper noted that, with the ceasefire in Vietnam, left-wing and other protest groups were turning their attentions to “Middle East peace.”
The connection between Jewish British Columbians and Israel leaps off the pages of the paper (including before Israel was “Israel”). The passing of the Partition Resolution was reported with jubilance and, months later, the dangers facing the new state were downplayed, declaring “A Nation Reborn.”
In 1954, in an event typical of discussions in the paper and in the community in the intervening years – and continuing today – a forum at the community centre mooted “What does Israel mean for us here?”
After the 1967 war, before the moral and military practicalities of occupying the West Bank took over the pages, the paper celebrated news of a reunited Jerusalem: “After 1900 Years City of David Returned to Israel.”
The paper has also highlighted the achievements of Jews around the world, from the first Jewish governor of Oregon to the appointment of a Jewish American ambassador to Albania. In 1930, the paper hyperbolically declared: “Of interest to every Jew in Canada is the recent election of David Arnold Croll, 30-year-old Jewish barrister as Mayor of Windsor, Ontario.” This item may not have had the universal interest the author believed, but Croll did go on to serve in the Ontario and Canadian parliaments and became the first Jewish senator in Canada.
Closer to home, the chronicling of events and achievements large and small has been the paper’s life’s blood. “Hadassah Chapter has Successful Year,” said a 1931 headline. “Permanent Camp Site Purchased by Jewish Council Women,” in 1937, was the first of many articles about the birth of what became Camp Hatikvah, originally in Crescent Beach, near White Rock, which was deemed by the reporter to be “the finest bathing resort in British Columbia.”
Since its beginning, the paper has been reporting on community-held contests of various sorts, including photo and public-speaking competitions – the latter still held annually despite worries as early as 1966 that, “These days when the custom of watching television has caused sociologists concern over the possibility of mankind forever losing the art of conversation …” began one editorial.
And, through it all, the community and the paper has managed to keep a sense of humor. From 1958:
Scrap collector: “Any beer bottles lady?”
Lady: “Do I look like I drink beer?”
Scrap collector: “Well, any vinegar bottles, lady?”
The 2014 Jewish Federation annual campaign has closed with a record achievement of $8 million, which is an increase of $290,000 from last year. Funds will support critical programs and services on which thousands of community members rely.
Harvey Dales, general chair of the campaign, said it is “a true community achievement – for our community, and by our community. I remain amazed and inspired by this community and the support received from thousands of donors and hundreds of volunteers. In fact, 93% of the total was raised by volunteer canvassers, who contacted their fellow community members to discuss how they could help address the needs of our Jewish community. Despite ever-increasing demands made on us all, the love and generosity that our donors bestow on those in need of a little more support is astounding. This incredible $8 million achievement is significant, particularly in terms of the people, programs and institutions that will benefit from our commitment to tzedaka.”
One of the keys to success was a fund that saw donors’ new and increased gifts doubled through a matching gifts program supported by several major donors. This helped inspire many donors to make first-time gifts to the campaign or to increase their gifts, and helped the campaign reach its record.
Jewish Federation was named a top 20 charity in British Columbia by the Vancouver Sun in 2012 – the most recent rankings to date – and scored particularly well with respect to its low administrative and fundraising costs. Canada Revenue Agency guidelines indicate the cost of fundraising should be below 35%, but Jewish Federation’s is below this with a net cost of fundraising for the 2014 annual campaign of 12.5%.
From the pages of the JI
Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver describes itself as an organization “committed to strengthening the quality of Jewish life locally, in Israel and around the world, and to creating a vibrant, caring and inclusive community. Its work is inspired by the Jewish values of tikkun, tzedaka, klal Israel and chesed,” working “in collaboration with many partners locally, nationally and abroad. Its efforts are combined with other Jewish communities in Canada through Jewish Federations of Canada-United Israel Appeal, and in Israel through Keren Hayesod-United Israel Appeal and the Jewish Agency for Israel.”
Federation has been around longer than most of us, and the JWB/JI has been reporting on its activities from the very beginning.
The Sept. 1, 1932, JWB reports on the creation of the “Formation of Vancouver Jewish Administrative Council Ratified by Members of Centre, Chest and Hebrew Aid Society.” The subheading reads, “Enthusiastic Meeting Last Monday Elects First Board of Twenty-four to Serve For Period of Two Years.” A year later, in July 1933, the JWB reported, “Formation of an Endorsation Bureau Unanimously Endorsed.” The full text of both articles follows.
From the JWB, 1932
Meetings of the Vancouver Jewish Community Centre, the Vancouver Jewish Community Chest, and the Hebrew Aid Society were held at the Community Centre on Monday, Aug. 29, to consider the recommendations made by the respective Boards of these three groups to the effect that the Vancouver Jewish Administrative Council be formed to administer jointly the affairs of the three organizations.
Much enthusiasm was evident.
Mr. Wm. N. Zimmerman, President of the Vancouver Jewish Community Centre, opened the meeting, convened as the Community Centre meeting. He explained briefly the purpose of the meeting, and the advantages to be derived through amalgamated administration, not only in the saving of administrative costs, but in the conservation of time and energy of the workers in the community. He stated, “This amalgamation of administration will not only save money for the three organizations, but will avail for us the best men and women power of the city, that will administer the affairs of the three Boards jointly.”
Upon motion by Dr. S. Petersky, and seconded by L. Gorosh, the members of the Vancouver Jewish Community Centre ratified the recommendation of their Board of Governors, and approved the formation of the Vancouver Jewish Administrative Council.
Following this motion, the meeting of the Jewish Community Centre adjourned, and the Vancouver Jewish Community Chest meeting was called to order.
In the absence of Mrs. M. Koenigsberg. President of the Vancouver Jewish Community Chest, Mr. Wm. N. Zimmerman was requested to preside at the Chest meeting.
The Trustees of the Community Chest, through their acting chairman, Mr. Zimmerman, brought before their members their recommendation as follows: “The Trustees of the Vancouver Jewish Community Chest recommend the formation of the Vancouver Jewish Administrative Council, for the purpose of jointly administering the affairs of the Vancouver Jewish Community Centre, the Vancouver Jewish Community Chest, and the Hebrew Aid Society.”
After considerable discussion by members of the Chest, regarding the proposed amalgamation of administration, and after the Constitution of the Administrative Council was read by Mr. E.R. Sugarman, it was unanimously resolved by the Chest members “That the Vancouver Jewish Administrative Council be formed to jointly administer the affairs of the Vancouver Jewish Community Centre, the Vancouver Jewish Community Chest, and the Hebrew Aid Society.” The Chest meeting then adjourned.
Mr. M. L. Greene, President of the Hebrew Aid Society, was called to preside at the meeting, convened as the Hebrew Aid Society. His interpretation of the situation was that the Hebrew Aid Society would remain intact under the advisorship and control of the Administrative Council. After considerable discussion as to the status of the respective organizations under the Administrative Council, the vote was taken, and the Hebrew Aid Society approved the recommendation of their trustees, “That the Vancouver Jewish Administrative Council be formed to jointly administer the affairs of the Vancouver Jewish Community Centre, the Vancouver Jewish Community Chest, and the Hebrew Aid Society.”
Following the motion, the meeting of the Hebrew Aid Society was adjourned, and Mr. W.J. Levin, acting chairman of the Vancouver Jewish Administrative Council, presided.
Mr. Levin stated, “This Administrative Council is created for the welfare of the Jewish Community in Vancouver. The men and women who in the past were able to give freely of their time to communal activities, are now forced to devote a large part of their time to business owing to the depressed economic conditions prevailing. Organizations in the city have been suffering through lack of proper workers. This joint administration will not only save administrative costs, but will conserve and co-ordinate the time and energy of the volunteers. We will unite as one, and work for a common purpose, the welfare of the Community.”
Mr. E.R. Sugarman moved that the constitution as read be adopted for the Vancouver Jewish Administrative Council. This motion was seconded by Dr. Petersky, and carried.
The Chairman explained that under the Constitution as adopted, a Board of 24 must be elected and that the sub-committee working out plans for the formation of the Vancouver Jewish Administrative Council have nominated 21 names for election. To this list could be added nominees from the floor. The enthusiasm of the meeting was so great that thirty names were nominated, and those elected to the first Board of the Vancouver Jewish Administrative Council are as follows: M.H. Brotman, Sam Chess, Mrs. Nellie GeShaye, E.M. Goldsmith, L. Gorosh, M.L. Greene, A.G. Hirschberg, Mrs. H.B. Kalin, I.J. Klein, A.O. Koch, Mrs. M. Koenigsberg, J.L. Kostman, J.J. Lechtzier, P. Lesser, N.C. Levin, W.J. Levin, Mrs. H.A. Nemetz, J. Reed, H. Rosenbaum, S. Rothstein, I. Stein, E.R. Sugarman, Wm. N. Zimmerman and H.B. Kahn.
From the JWB, 1933
A sub-committee appointed at a meeting of Presidents of the various Jewish Organizations who met on several occasions to discuss the advisability of forming an Endorsation Bureau presented a skeleton plan to a full committee of presidents held on Wednesday last, the 28th inst, in the Community Centre, The Committee comprised J.B. Jaffe, representing the Schara Tzedeck Congregation; Mrs. H.B. Kahn, representing the Beth Israel Sisterhood; Mrs. B. Shapiro, representing the Ladies’ Auxiliary B’nai B’rith; Mrs. S. Petersky, representing the Council of Jewish Women; S. Rothstein, representing the Vancouver Organization; E.R. Sugarman, President of the Administrative Council (ex-officio). Most of the societies in the City were represented and a full discussion took place.
All the recommendations submitted met with instant approval, except Article No. 1, which provides for the entire present Board of the Administration Council serving on and being part of the Endorsation Bureau. The principal argument against such a procedure being that the Administrative Council was elected for the specific purpose of administering the affairs of the Hebrew Aid, The Jewish Community Centre and the Community Chest, and with a representation of twenty-four members they would have increased powers for which their constitution did not provide, and which would enable them if they so desired to veto any project brought before them by the increased new representatives. The Chairman, Mr. E.R. Sugarman, explaining that by virtue of the newly formed organization each new member elected would have a seat of the Administrative Board and become part and parcel of the Board. If it were, however, necessary he felt that the Board though elected for two years (of which they had only served one) would be willing to resign en masse and that a new election could take place and such alterations as were necessary would be made in the Constitution of the Administrative Council at a meeting of Contributors specially called for that purpose.
This explanation seemed to allay the objections raised and on a vote being taken every representative present voted unanimously [in] its favor. It was further arranged that the plan be submitted to a mass meeting on Sunday, July 30, at which meeting the delegates of the Western Conference in Winnipeg would be present and submit their report.
Report of the Sub-Committee
We, the Sub-Committee appointed by the Chairman, E.R. Sugarman, to bring in a skeleton plan for the formation of an Endorsation Bureau in Vancouver, DO HEREBY BEG TO STATE that we have seriously considered the question from all angles and make the following recommendations to you:
That the existing organization, known as the Vancouver Jewish Administrative Council, be enlarged to include the Presidents of fifteen organizations, a list of which we hereby append, and this newly constituted body have the powers heretofore existing in the Administrative Council and be further clothed with the power to supervise and endorse all matters or projects of a community nature whether the same be initiated by organizations or groups of individuals.
That the said body further be considered in the position of speaking on behalf of the whole Jewish Community of Vancouver, particularly in matters which are submitted to the Community to act as a unit.
The right to supervise or interfere with the private management of any organization shall be specifically eliminated.
That endeavours be made immediately to consolidate the Junior Organizations into a Council of their own and when so consolidated the Juniors to have not more than two representatives on the new Board.
That a mass meeting of the citizens of Vancouver be called immediately for the purpose of submitting this new proposition to the Community and have its endorsation of this plan.
All of which is respectfully submitted,
(Signed) E.R. SUGARMAN, Chairman.
The list of organizations referred to is as follows: Samuel Lodge B’nai B’rith, Zionist Organization, Ladies’ Auxiliary B’nai B’rith, Hadassah Organization, Council of Jewish Women, The Schara Tzedeck Organization, Beth Israel Congregation, Community Talmud Torah, Cemetery Board, Ladies’ Auxiliary Talmud Torah, Pioneer Women’s Society, Achudth Society, Poalie Zion Society, Mizrachi Society, The Beth Israel Sisterhood.
It is with warm memories and appreciation that I reflect on the opportunity I had from 1970 through 1985 to serve, at different times, as the Jewish Western Bulletin’s editorial assistant, city-desk editor and assistant editor – all the while helping report on the world’s ongoing number-one story: the Middle-East situation … and the Jewish people, their survival, culture, religion and history.
The Greater Vancouver and B.C. Jewish communities were growing rapidly during those years and its diverse members – with, at that time, no internet, email or 24-hour all-news TV channels – primarily looked to the paper as a key source of information for major local, national and international Jewish issues and stories.
Bringing those stories to Bulletin readers during those pre-computer days, with its absence of word-processing and page-layout software, was often a very arduous endeavor, with copy that had to be typewriter-written and then often retyped, and pages that could only be slowly hand-designed. Additionally, the then standard usage of large linotype printing machines (running in the back of the Bulletin offices, and operated by four persons) resulted in a much longer and more involved production process than the one found today, where late-breaking stories can be readily included using digital technology.
Guiding the paper with excellence were the exceptionally dedicated and talented publishers and senior editors, Sam and Mona Kaplan. One goal was prevalent in all of the JWB’s undertakings during those years: to extensively and objectively cover important news and issues that affected the well-being and life of the Jewish people; to serve and advance, as best as possible, the B.C. and Canadian Jewish community, its individuals and organizations and, of course, Israel and world Jewry.
In serving the community, the Bulletin often focused on supporting Zionism, alerting the readership to antisemitic threats and incidents, and reporting on immigration issues. Readers could regularly find wide coverage of local community events and organization happenings, feature articles on community issues, in-depth profiles of local personalities and leaders, etc…. and the Lazar (Between Ourselves) column, with its breezy, informal style of “breaking” community news-gossip, was usually a must-read for JWB readers.
The culture scenes were far from neglected, with reporting by theatre, art, music and, yes, Jewish stamps, columnists and reviewers. The full-range of lifecycle milestones, such as births, b’nai mitzvahs, engagements, weddings and obituary announcements, were regularly printed.
Jewish news from across Canada and worldwide was extensively covered, with emphasis, of course, on the ever-changing situation in Israel and the Middle East, as well as the special plights at that time facing Soviet Jews and Ethiopian Jewry.
Throughout my 16 years at the paper, I found that participating in each issue’s production was truly an ongoing highlight, resulting in a strong feeling of exhilaration as the approaching deadlines brought with them an intensity in office visitors, copy submissions, planning, writing and editing, phone calls, the sounds of typesetting, etc. Other memorable times included the privilege of meeting visiting and local VIPs for stories and feature profiles, and taking part in a special Jewish Agency-sponsored tour of Israel for North American Jewish journalists, during which participants met many key leaders.
The staff always came through. When heavy snows closed offices around the city, we were at the JWB ensuring that the paper got out. When postal strikes thwarted distribution, we made arrangements for copies to be picked up, free of charge, at key community locations. And when large holiday editions saw production-time pressure, the typesetters would work all night to make sure that the paper would be in readers’ hands on time.
The Bulletin always respected the challenge of objectively and completely reporting on the full spectrum of what was happening in the Jewish world.
It was very interesting, challenging work and an utmost privilege and pleasure to work with this wonderful community.
A singles ad placed in the Bulletin by father-son team Ron and Steve Freedman in 1992 led to the engagement (in 1997) of their son/brother David to Betty-Mae Coblenz, who were married in 1998.
Ron Freedman, who passed away in December 2014, worked for the Jewish Western Bulletin / Jewish Independent for 46 years. As we mourned his loss with his family at a ceremony celebrating his life, his son David shared the story of how his father and his brother Steve, who has worked at the paper for more than 30 years, used the power of community media to change his life.
As Alex Kliner explained in his May 15, 1998, Menschenings column:
“David Freedman was baffled. Three young women had responded to his personals column ad in the Jewish Western Bulletin. But wait! He had never placed an ad. But whatta ya’ gonna do? His curiosity was aroused. So he agreed to meet Betty-Mae Coblenz for coffee. They talked for hours. Not long ago, Betty-Mae Coblenz became Betty-Mae Freedman.
“And the mysterious ad? It seems David’s dad, Ron, and brother, Steve, (both JWB staffers) had placed it in the personals under David’s name. It was a joke! Not a bad joke, eh? And what’s more, it obviously pays to advertise in the JWB!”
If you know someone in this photo, please help the JI fill the gaps of its predecessor’s (the Jewish Western Bulletin’s) collection at the Jewish Museum and Archives of B.C. by contacting [email protected].
Group of men with documents, State of Israel Bonds, Vancouver, B.C., 1970. (JWB fonds, JMABC L.14607)
If you know someone in this photo, please help the JI fill the gaps of its predecessor’s (the Jewish Western Bulletin’s) collection at the Jewish Museum and Archives of B.C. by contacting [email protected].