The new Jewish Seniors Alliance Snider Foundation Empowerment Series season began on Oct. 19 with a concert. As usual, the program was co-sponsored by JSA and a community organization; in this case, the Kehila Society of Richmond. Because of the pandemic, the event took place on Zoom.
Last year’s Empowerment theme, “Be Inspired,” was carried forward for this year’s season. Fifty participants tuned in to Music in the Afternoon, which featured pianist Lester Soo and vocalist Maria Cristina Fantini. Soo is an accomplished musician who has taught, adjudicated, accompanied and performed in the world of music for many years, while Fantini – a dramatic soprano, at home in both classical and popular styles – teaches and has established her own vocal studio.
Toby Rubin, coordinator of Kehila Society, welcomed everyone and introduced Soo and Fantini.
JSA’s Gyda Chud spoke about the alliance and recalled that Soo and Fantini had performed in a joint program in the past. This time, the musicians performed from Soo’s home, where he was able to make use of his grand piano.
The audience was entertained by a number of old favourites, starting from the 1930s. Songs included “Unforgettable,” “When I Fall in Love” and “Besame Mucho.” These were followed by works by Cole Porter and Irving Berlin, k.d. lang’s version of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” and “Tonight” from West Side Story. The duo then switched to the jazz genre, with “Misty.” Lester played a solo of “Over the Rainbow” and he and Fantini ended with an aria by Puccini, “O, My Beloved Father.”
It was a wonderful concert. The only problem was that the musicians couldn’t hear the applause because the audience was muted for the performance. However, Rubin thanked Soo and Fantini on everyone’s behalf.
Diabetes Canada named Gerri Klein as Diabetes Nurse Educator of the Year, 2020, citing Klein’s dedication and passion for her work. For three years, rain or shine, she led a noontime Walk the Walk program for patients living with diabetes; she often makes home visits to vulnerable seniors afflicted by the condition and has accompanied patients to smoking cessation clinics, psychologist and psychiatrist visits, as well as support meetings such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Al-Anon visits.
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The board of directors of the Kehila Society of Richmond has announced the appointment of its new political liaison, Zach Segal, effective this month.
Segal grew up in Richmond, attending Richmond Jewish Day School and Steveston High School. He then studied political science at the University of British Columbia and the University of London.
Following university, Segal worked in Ottawa for four years as a political advisor under the last Conservative government. Today, he can be found working at Vancouver-based Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp.
As a strong advocate for community involvement among Jewish youth, Segal has spoken to schools and Jewish youth organizations about political activism and community involvement. He and his family have a long history in the Lower Mainland and within British Columbia’s Jewish community, dating back to his great-grandparents. He is an active member of the Jewish community and a longtime member and volunteer with CIJA, CJPAC and a variety of other outreach Jewish community organizations.
The board looks forward to Segal assisting in the continued growth of Kehila’s Richmond Jewish community and the community at large. He is a passionate and strong advocate who is ready to roll up his sleeves to make a real difference.
For more information, contact the Kehila office at 604-241-9270.
Left to right are Lynne Fader (Kehila Society), Adam Ben-Dov (Connect Me In), Toby Rubin (Kehila Society), Michael Sachs (with daughter Desi and son Izzy), Monica Flores and Steve Uy (Garden City Bakery). (photo from Kehila Society)
The Covid Challah Initiative was started by Michael Sachs and is a partnership between Richmond’s Kehila Society, Richmond’s Garden City Bakery, Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver’s Connect Me In and North Vancouver’s Congregation Har El. The initiative aims to ensure that everyone in Metro Vancouver who needs a (free) challah is delivered one. (For the story of how the initiative started, see citynews1130.com/2020/05/03/challah-delivery-covid-richmond-family.) To sign up for a challah contact, visit jewishvancouver.com/challah-delivery. Each week’s registration opens on Monday and closes Thursday at noon – and people need to register each week, as this is not a recurring service.
Courtney Cohen holds a photo of her grandmothers, Rose Lewin, left, and Babs Cohen. (photo by Lianne Cohen Photography)
The seventh annual Rose’s Angels took place at Richmond Jewish Day School on Feb. 16. Held under the umbrella of the Kehila Society of Richmond, the event was founded by Courtney Cohen and Lynne Fader in 2013, in memory of Cohen’s grandmothers, Rose Lewin, who was a Holocaust survivor, and Babs Cohen. This year’s gathering saw the largest turnout for volunteers, with approximately 80 family, friends and community members coming together to assemble more than 1,000 care packages and several hundred warmth bundles, which were delivered to partner agencies.
A total of 24 not-for-profit agencies receive the care packages for their clients. Participating agencies included, but were not limited to, Richmond Family Place, Chimo Community Services, Jewish Family Services, Richmond Food Bank, Richmond Centre for Disability, Heart of Richmond AIDS Society, RainCity Housing, Richmond Multicultural Community Services and Gilmore Park United Church.
The packages consisted of toiletries, such as shampoo, soap and toothbrush; feminine hygiene products, including tampons, hair accessories, nail file and makeup; books, note pads, and arts and craft supplies; non-perishable food items, such as juice, oatmeal, granola bars, soup, coffee packets, trail mix and chocolate; and socks, gloves and scarves.
The items included in the packages were tailored to meet the needs of the recipients, as Fader and Cohen asked the agencies involved to survey their clients as to what items they would like to receive. The feminine hygiene and makeup products are donated via the Beauty for Babs component of Rose’s Angels, said Cohen.
“This event would not be possible,” she said, “if it wasn’t for our incredible donors and volunteers, who allow this event to be successful year after year. Individuals and businesses donate to Rose’s Angels through the Kehila Society of Richmond.”
She added, “People want to volunteer in their community and, sometimes, they don’t have the resources or connections that allow them to carry out their desire to give back. Rose’s Angels has grown into a strong pillar event in our community and it’s wonderful to see volunteers of all ages coming together to assemble care packages for those who they will never meet. It’s inspirational.”
Rose’s Angels takes place in February because, said Cohen, February is a special month – it’s Heart Month, Valentine’s Day and the month of her grandmother Rose Lewin’s birthday. Since its inception in 2013, the annual event has created and donated more than 5,000 care packages Richmond-wide, she said.
For more information about Rose’s Angels or to make a donation, contact Cohen or Fader at the Kehila Society of Richmond, 604-241-9270, or [email protected]. For more information about the Kehila Society, visit kehilasociety.org.
“Dueling pianists” Lester Soo and Marilyn Glazer entertain at the last Empowerment Series session of the season. (photo from JSA)
Co-sponsored by Jewish Seniors Alliance and the Kehila Society of Richmond, the fifth session of this season’s JSA Snider Foundation Empowerment Series took place at Congregation Beth Tikvah. It more than lived up to the series’ theme this year: “Renewing and Reinventing Ourselves.”
As usual, the program was preceded by a lunch provided by Stacey Kettleman. Beth Tikvah’s Rabbi Adam Rubin did the Hamotzi and Toby Rubin, co-executive director of the Kehila Society, welcomed everyone. Among the 120 or so attendees were members of the Kehila Society and of JSA, as well as a group from L’Chaim Adult Day Care.
The entertainment portion of the program took place in the sanctuary, where Ken Levitt, president of JSA, spoke briefly and Rubin introduced the “dueling pianists”: Marilyn Glazer and Lester Soo, both of whom are accomplished musicians and piano instructors. The two have known each other for 35 years and have been playing duets for much of that time – one piano, four hands. At the Empowerment Series performance, they began with four Hungarian rhapsodies and continued with Mozart’s Eine Kleine Nachtmusik. They then played a number of Gershwin tunes and ended with Cole Porter.
Rubin thanked the pianists for their wonderful performance, which was the last event of the 2018/19 Empowerment Series. The series will begin again in the fall, with a new lineup of events presented by JSA with other seniors groups in the community.
Shanie Levinis an executive board member of Jewish Seniors Alliance and on the editorial board of Senior Line magazine.
Left to right are Toby Rubin, Marie Doduck and Lynne Fader. (photo by Lianne Cohen)
On May 5, the Kehila Society of Richmond celebrated its 20th anniversary. The society honoured Marie and Sid (z”l) Doduck for the support and guidance they have given to the society since its inception, and celebrated members of its first board of directors. The special annual general meeting, which took place at the Richmond Country Club, also saw the initiation of Kehila’s current board and the event featured speaker Dr. Sherri Wise, who shared her story of surviving a terrorist attack in Israel. More than 90 people attended the AGM.
“The difference that Kehila has made for our Jewish community in Richmond … for the quality of living for those residing here – we continue to be an integral part of the Richmond community at large and are partners within it, making a difference every day,” said Lynne Fader, co-executive director with Toby Rubin.
“Kehila’s weekly seniors program on Mondays is an essential service for most of our attendees,” said Rubin. “We are meeting so many of their needs: from free ESL programming to food sustainability and socialization and education. We are very proud of our program and its vitality.”
The 2019/2020 Kehila Society of Richmond board of directors is Sherri Barkoff (co-president and treasurer), Mark Babins (co-president), Keziah Selles (secretary), Ruth Singer (seniors’ representative), Shauna Osten (community outreach), Shelley Morris (human resources), Courtney Cohen (community outreach) and Harley Godfrey (finance committee), with directors Rabbi Levi Varnai (the Bayit representative), Lu Winters (Richmond Jewish Day School), Jeff Rothberg (Beth Tikvah) and Sanford Cohen (Chabad Richmond).
“I am proud of the collaboration that we do with all the organizations in Richmond to help those in need, seniors, families and youth,” said Barkoff.
Kehila’s partnerships include the Multifaith Richmond Food Aid Delivery Program, a faith-based group of organizations working to feed the homeless, isolated, low-income and frail in the general population. Kehila assists with deliveries, cooking and, when viable, food vouchers and items of warm clothing. Kehila has facilitated a partnership with the Richmond SPCA and Tysol Pets to assist with these community members’ animal companions.
Kehila also participates in Light of Shabbat, with Chabad of Richmond. This biweekly, by-donation program has volunteers of all ages doing the cooking, packaging and delivering of kosher Shabbat meals to 30-plus individuals.
The Len Babins Nutritional Subsidy Program is a donor-sponsored initiative focused on RJDS but not exclusively. It provides hot lunches twice a week for children in need at the school; children are screened discreetly through the school counselor. Approximately 254 meals per term per student are provided, with a total of 17 children from 12 families accessing the service. But the number of children served is higher than this because, additionally, Kehila funds a healthy lunch for these same children who, on days of no hot lunch program, do not have lunches.
Chabad of Richmond and Kehila also partner in the Richmond Community Seder, an annual, by-donation event that has been held for numerous years. Generally, about 70 people attend the seder and many take food home for a second seder or out of need. This year, for the first time, a full seder meal and supplies were delivered to those who were unable to attend.
Lastly, Kehila spearheads Rose’s Angels, an annual outreach program that provides warm clothing, hygiene products, children’s books and more to local community agencies whose clients are in need of assistance. This year, more than 1,100 individuals benefitted from the program, which is run through donations of many kinds.
Cory Bretz has made a video of Kehila Society’s work and Lianne Cohen photographed the 20th anniversary event – the video and photos can be found on Kehila’s Facebook page (facebook.com/113139405408718).
Some of the 70 volunteers who helped out at Rose’s Angels Feb. 17. Event founder Courtney Cohen is holding the bags and Kehila Society executive director Lynne Fader is standing in the front, with the long sweater. (photo by Lianne Cohen Photography)
For most people, getting out of the house and being somewhere by 9 a.m. might be no big deal. For me, especially on a weekend morning, it’s a challenge. But, at least once a year, it’s a challenge I enjoy.
As the owner and editor of the Jewish Independent, I’ve known of Rose’s Angels since it launched six years ago, but only first participated last year in the packing of the more than 1,000 care packages for Metro Vancouverites in need. Courtney Cohen, who created the annual event in honour of her grandmothers, Rose Lewin and Babs Cohen, with longtime friend Lynne Fader, was among the 18 Jewish community members under the age of 36 who were honoured by the Jewish Independent with a JI Chai Award in December 2017 for doing good. Having made the personal connection, I headed out to Richmond Jewish Day School a couple of months after the JI Chai Celebration to help out. It was such a fun experience that I went again this year.
The atmosphere at RJDS is like “Old Home Week.” This time around, I drove there with a friend – she brought the muffins and I made the coffee. As before, I ran into several people that I don’t see often. A well-organized venture, Rose’s Angels, which is run under the auspices of the Kehila Society of Richmond, provides coffee and pastry for those who can wait till they get to the school for their fix. Lists taped onto the wall tell volunteers at which station they’ll be working.
I must have done an OK job last year because I was once again assigned to putting together glove and sock bundles, wrapped in ribbon, colour-coded to indicate whether the bundle was for men, women or children. So absorbed was I in the work and conversation that I can’t say what others were doing, but there was much bustling about and, by noon, a big truck and several cars were stuffed with boxes to be delivered.
This year, said Cohen, 70 volunteers put together 1,200 packages, filled with necessities from toiletries to books to food to warm clothing, thanks to donations of items and money. The packages were distributed by a couple dozen organizations, including Turning Point Recovery Society, Heart of Richmond AIDS Society, Light of Shabbat program, Jewish Food Bank, Richmond Food Bank, United Way, Tikva Housing, Richmond Centre for Disability, Touchstone Family Services, St. Alban’s Drop-In Centre, Richmond Mental Health Society and Richmond Food Aid.
Scheduled to happen around Valentine’s Day, this year’s Rose’s Angels took place Feb. 17.
“Watching firsthand our community come together to give back on a long weekend, with family and friends is quite amazing,” Cohen told me when I asked her what was the most fun aspect of the day for her. “Seeing people of all ages working together to help package the care packages in such an organized manner is really something to behold.”
Fader, who is co-executive director of the Kehila Society, also enjoys the communal feel, as well as the diversity of the group that gathers to help. “It is always a fun, well-spirited, well-oiled machine that puts months of hard work gathering all the items together to produce a beautiful bundle of items,” she said.
In looking to the future, Fader would like to see the annual event become “bigger, better,” serving “more recipients in our community,” referring to Richmond as a whole, not only its Jewish community. “Although Rose’s Angels is an annual project,” she added, “the Kehila Society is daily working with our community agencies and partners to assist on a daily basis.”
“I see the success of Rose’s Angels growing from year to year with the involvement of the community partners and individuals,” said Cohen. “Personally, I already see the success and fulfilment that Rose’s Angels has given our community at large. Receiving thank you phone calls, emails and messages from the recipient agencies reminds me of the impact that Rose’s Angels is making to so many individuals.”
Caviar and Lace entertain at the last session of the 2017/18 Jewish Seniors Alliance Snider Foundation Empowerment Series. (photo by Alan Katowitz for JSA)
On June 25, Jewish Seniors Alliance and the Kehila Society of Richmond co-sponsored the fifth in the JSA’s Empowerment Series program. This year’s theme was “Laughter and Music: Feeding the Soul” and the subtitle for this final event in the season was “Music for our Hearts and Songs We Love.”
Toby Rubin, coordinator of Kehila, introduced the afternoon and welcomed everyone. About 100 enthusiastic attendees dug into the summertime lunch of burgers and hot dogs prepared by Stacey Kettleman.
After lunch, everyone proceeded to the sanctuary to be entertained by Caviar and Lace, comprised of Michelle Carlisle and Saul Berson. The duo performed an eclectic mix of classic, jazz and folk songs. Carlisle plays piano and Berson plays a variety of instruments, from saxophone to clarinet. They both played and sang, encouraging the audience to join in. The mix of oldies, and especially songs from the 1950s, was indeed music to the ears of the listeners, who were familiar with most of the melodies.
A new JSA Snider Foundation Empowerment Series will start in the fall.
Shanie Levin, MSW, worked for many years in the field of child welfare. During that time, she was active in the union. As well, she participated in amateur dramatics. She has served on the board of the Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver and is presently on the executive of JSA and a member of the editorial committee.
Rose’s Angels provides hygiene care packages, nonperishable food items and warmth bundles to 1,000 Richmond individuals in need. (photo by Lianne Cohen Photography)
The month of February is special because it’s both Heart Month and the birthday month of Rose Lewin, after whom Rose’s Angels is named.
“The Kehila Society’s Rose’s Angels program is celebrating its fifth year this coming February,” said organizer and co-founder Courtney Cohen. “As the need for care packages has increased every year since our inception, and after receiving feedback and input from service agency’s and their recipients, we’ve been able to extend our outreach efforts this year. This program continues to honour Rose Lewin and Babs Cohen in the truest form of tzedakah and love for our Richmond community.”
Rose’s Angels provides hygiene care packages, nonperishable food items and warmth bundles to 1,000 Richmond individuals in programs such as Richmond Family Place, Salvation Army, Jewish Food Bank, Richmond Food Bank, Kehila Meals on Wheels and other similar Richmond outreach initiatives.
For the care packages, Rose’s Angels are looking for the following items: packaged dried fruit or nuts (raisins, trail mix, etc.); canned foods, such as soup and tuna; boxed foods, like macaroni and cheese, rice and pasta; individually packaged baked goods (granola bars, energy bars, cookies, oatmeal, pudding, Jell-O, etc.) that are still sealed; peanut butter; juice boxes, hot chocolate and tea; individually wrapped chocolates; toiletry items such as toothbrushes, toothpaste, deodorant, floss, soap, mini shampoo/conditioner and tissues; feminine hygiene products; beauty care products (hair accessories, lotion, makeup); gloves or mittens, both children- and adult-size; toques; and thermal socks.
If you would like to come out on Feb. 11 to assist in packaging the bundles or would like to donate items and/or funds or help with package deliveries, call the Kehila Society office at 604-241-9270 or email [email protected].
For the first time in the 100-year-plus history of the organization, the Hebrew Free Loan Association of Vancouver (HFLA) has hired an executive director. In July, HFLA brought Lynne Fader on board to fill the new role.
Active between 1915 and the middle of the Great Depression and then reinvented in 1979, the purpose of the volunteer-run organization is, as the name suggests, to provide interest-free loans to members of the Jewish community. As the community has grown and spread out, the current board of directors decided it was time to extend HLFA’s reach and hire a part-time executive director.
Fader is a familiar face for many in the Jewish community, especially those in Richmond, as she was a founder of the Richmond Kehila Society. Since 2000, Fader has been co-executive director of Kehila and she will continue her work there, as it and HFLA have complementary missions. She also has served as a volunteer on various boards, including those of Richmond Jewish Day School and Richmond Multicultural Society.
Fader recently sold the company she owned and ran for 14 years, ER Plus Risk Management Inc., an enterprise that involved her in efforts to advance access for women in the trades and in the safety industry. She has worked with different levels of government both professionally and as a volunteer, and is looking forward to using her networking skills and drive to significantly raise the profile of HFLA.
Not only will Fader be meeting in the coming months with community leaders, but she will be planning and implementing educational opportunities for people who could most benefit from an HFLA loan. “I recognize that the HFLA is a hidden community treasure,” she told the Independent. “I look forward to meeting with fellow agency professionals in the effort to allow front-line professionals to have a face and a contact to connect with for their clients and members.”
The grassroots nature of HFLA – it has been run by volunteers for nearly 40 years – is a great fit for Fader. She understands the association’s mission and method: help people before they fall into poverty and as they emerge from financial difficulties. With a deep knowledge of the Lower Mainland’s various social safety networks from her work with Kehila, Fader is in the unique position of being able to refer applicants who don’t fit the HFLA framework for a loan to the appropriate assistance.
The HFLA board will continue to perform the work of interviewing and granting financial assistance. The association currently has $417,000 in loans out in the community. The loans are primarily to people in the Lower Mainland but reach as far away as Tofino, Victoria and Salt Spring Island. One of the reasons HFLA was looking to hire an executive director is the increasing number of Jews migrating to more affordable locations in the province, such as Squamish, the Sunshine Coast and further into the Fraser Valley.
In addition to Fader, HFLA also has recently hired a new office administrator, Judy Walker.
“I’m confident that Judy’s unique blend of technical and interpersonal skills will ensure those inquiring about loans are met with a professional experience,” said Leana Gaerber, vice-president of HFLA’s board of directors.
For more information on applying for a loan or becoming involved as a donor or guarantor, call 604-428-2832 or visit hfla.ca.
Michelle Dodekis a freelance writer living in Vancouver.