Outside Richmond Jewish Day School, Courtney Cohen accepts a donation to Rose’s Angels, which was collected by RJDS students and staff. (photo from Rose’s Angels)
This past February, the eighth annual Rose’s Angels event took place, although it looked very different from that of previous years, due to COVID-19.
Rose’s Angels, which is under the umbrella of the Kehila Society of Richmond, was founded in memory of Courtney Cohen’s grandmothers, Rose Lewin and Babs Cohen. It was established after Courtney Cohen and family friend Lynne Fader came together to discuss how to best honour the grandmothers, while giving back to the community – Rose Lewin and Babs Cohen were both very philanthropic and instilled this value in their families. Since its inception in 2013, Rose’s Angels has donated more than 6,000 care packages to not-for-profit organizations within the City of Richmond.
With the pandemic impacting not-for-profits around the city, Cohen and Fader knew it was essential to push forward and fundraise for donation items and monetary gifts for recipient agencies. Gift cards, slippers, non-perishables, toiletries and feminine hygiene products were among the donations received from the community.
“We adapted and innovated this February’s event to allow for volunteers to still play an integral role,” said Cohen. “Volunteers assisted with pickup and delivery of the bulk donation items to our recipient agencies. Volunteers are an essential part of Rose’s Angels and we truly appreciate their support and dedication year after year.”
Rose’s Angels donated to 12 Richmond not-for-profit agencies servicing those most vulnerable. Among these agencies were Turning Point Recovery Society, Light of Shabbat (Chabad of Richmond), Richmond Family Place, Tikva Housing, Richmond Food Bank, Pathways Clubhouse, and Nova Transition House (Chimo Community Services).
“Although we were unable to host our large community care-package event in person this February, our community came together in another wonderful way,” said Cohen. “People donated generously and this allowed us to purchase specific items that were both needed and wanted by our recipient agencies.”
She added, “We look forward to 2022, when we can have our amazing volunteers together again to safely assemble the Rose’s Angels care packages.”
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, [email protected] or via kehilasociety.org.
In back, left to right, are Marshal Stern and Mel Moss. In the front are, left to right, some members of the ORT committee: Marie Doduck, Mary Tobin, Bess Hirsch, Lane Stein and Beverly Pinsky. (photo from ORT Vancouver)
ORT Vancouver and Richmond Jewish Day School co-sponsored the Aug. 23 Ride for STEM (science, technology, engineering, math). They are the first Vancouver Jewish organizations to hold such an event and the donated funds are designated to students so that they have the opportunities that arise from the knowledge and skills that STEM education can provide.
ORT’s goal is to bridge the gap between ability and opportunity by providing state-of-the-art education both locally and around the world. World ORT reaches 300,000 children who benefit from STEM education in 37 countries, including here in Canada.
Stills from the NFB’s Highway to Heaven: A Mosaic in One Mile. Richmond Jewish Day School is one of the institutions featured in the short film, which screens at this year’s Vancouver International Film Festival.
The National Film Board short Highway to Heaven: A Mosaic in One Mile, written and directed by Sandra Ignagni, is visually striking. For the most part, it lets the images do the talking, communicating more about cultural diversity than words could.
Part of this year’s Vancouver International Film Festival, Highway to Heaven introduces viewers to the multiple faith groups and institutions along a mile-long section of No. 5 Road in Richmond, which includes Richmond Jewish Day School. In the 17-minute documentary, this strip of road – which has been called “Highway to Heaven” – appears both full of colour and action, as well as remote and removed, not just geographically but with chain link fencing and other security measures.
“We share a world grappling with ethnic and racial tensions, religious xenophobia and violence,” writes Ignagni in her director’s notes. “Such realities are not limited to the world’s conflict zones – they are a part of everyday life, even in the most advanced democracies such as Canada. It was in this context that I was drawn to the peculiar landscape of No. 5 Road … where multiple cultural and religious groups share a short stretch of suburban road. I was curious about how groups pitted against each other in so many corners of the world appeared to be living relatively peacefully with one another, and in very close proximity, in an ordinary Canadian suburb.”
In showing the beauty of the area – both in landscape and in cultural acceptance – Ignagni also captures some of the tensions that exist. The camera jumps from a lush orchard to a mansion mid-construction to a for-sale sign in front of what seems to be part of a forest. In one scene, which looks like it was filmed at RJDS, police in full gear – bulletproof vest and holstered weapons – address RJDS and Az-Zahraa Islamic Academy students, introducing themselves so that the kids should feel comfortable going to the police if they have a problem. The police then referee the kids in a game of ball hockey – boys against the boys, girls against the girls – throwing in questions about boundaries and other issues for the kids to consider.
Referring to the police presence on the road, Ignagni writes that it could “be variously interpreted as bridge-building, protection or surveillance. I learned that, for more than one decade, the Richmond Jewish Day School did not have an exterior sign for fear of antisemitic attacks against its schoolchildren. And, in recent years, the secular residential community that surrounds No. 5 Road launched a major campaign opposing the proposed expansion of a Pure Land Buddhist temple, using the pejorative moniker ‘Buddha Disneyland’ to describe the proposed building in local media and public debates. The mere fact that zoning by-laws have ordered these communities – the majority of which play a critical role in new immigrant and refugee resettlement – to the fringe of suburban land is also ripe for reflection.”
The minimal use of narration or interviews in the film was a deliberate choice. To do otherwise, Ignagni notes, “would be an exercise in public relations, reducing complex issues to soundbites and polemics. Instead, I wanted to make a film that would at once capture the remarkable – because it is truly remarkable – diversity on No. 5 Road, as it actually exists, while gesturing to some of the unresolved issues that underlie Canadian multiculturalism. The film is, therefore, constructed as a ‘mosaic’ – defined by writer and activist Terry Williams as ‘a conversation between what is broken.’”
While she doesn’t rely on words to tell this story, sound plays an integral role in the film: calls to prayer, monks chanting, different languages being spoken (and not translated), kids playing, school bells ringing.
“My film invites audiences to sit with what is unknown, different, raw or only partially visible,” says Ignagni. “To me, a mosaic captures perfectly the subtle tensions one finds on No. 5 Road, where custom and ritual, language and cultural diversity are practised under surveillance cameras and behind locked doors and gates. In making this film, I am asking audiences to look with open eyes and hearts – with a spirit of curiosity – at themselves and their neighbours, and simply reflect on multiculturalism as an unfinished project in need of attention in Canada and around the world.”
In addition to RJDS and Az-Zahraa, the list of participating neighbours includes the Evangelical Formosan Church of Greater Vancouver, India Cultural Centre of Canada/Gurdwara Nanak Niwas, Kingswood Pub, Lingyen Mountain Temple, Mylora Executive Golf Course, Royal Canadian Mounted Police (Richmond detachment), Thrangu Tibetan Buddhist Monastery, Trinity Pacific Church, and Vedic Centre.
At VIFF, Ignagni will participate in one of a series of panel discussions presented by Storyhive on Totally Indie Day, Sept. 28, at Vancity Theatre. She will be on the hour-long panel called Not Short on Talent: The Rise of the Short Form Documentary, which starts at 3:45 p.m. For the full film festival lineup, including, eventually, the not-yet-listed screening time of Highway to Heaven – which was an Official Selection at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival – visit viff.org.
The Arnold and Anita Silber Theatre at Tel-Hai College officially opened last month. (photo from Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver)
Last month, Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver chief executive officer Ezra Shanken, as well as board members Karen James, Alex Cristall and Candace Kwinter, and Jewish Community Foundation executive director Marcie Flom were in Israel for the official opening of the Arnold and Anita Silber Theatre at Tel-Hai College. This new 1,200-seat outdoor theatre will be a hub of activity for the university and surrounding area. The theatre is located at the centre of the Tel-Hai campus, and is a key component in the college’s long-term development plan.
The Silbers have long supported Federation’s partnership region of the Galilee Panhandle, and its work there. They have supported a number of projects and established the Friends of Beit Vancouver, a donor-recognition program for supporters of Beit Vancouver. Anita Silber serves on Federation’s Israel and overseas affairs committee, and has for several years. Recognizing that Tel-Hai is a significant economic driver in the region led the Silbers to fund this legacy project and lend their name to it.
The official opening of the theatre began with a welcome reception with Tel-Hai’s board of trustees, followed by a ribbon cutting. The Silbers were joined by their granddaughter, Samantha Addison, and family members from Israel. In reply to the address honouring them that was delivered by Tel-Hai’s president, Prof. Yossi Mekori, Arnold Silber stressed that the students were the primary motivation for this investment. They are the ones to whom the future of the region is entrusted, and it is they who will take it to the next level.
A number of families and individuals from our community agree, and they are funding scholarships, which were awarded to students at the ceremony by James and Cristall: the Coleman Family Scholarships, the Krell Family Scholarships, the Evelynne Loomer z”l Scholarships, the Bernard Lotzkar Scholarships and the Zalkow Family Scholarships.
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Over the course of the 2018/2019 school year, the Student Council Committee of Richmond Jewish Day School took it upon themselves to raise money for the Shalva Centre Hydrotherapy Program in Israel.
With the support of families, the school raised $1,000, which was generously matched by Lola Pawer. Pawer and Leslie Diamond, who is a board member of the Shalva Centre, came to RJDS to teach students about the work Shalva provides for children with disabilities.
The students presented a cheque to Diamond in the amount of $2,000. For anyone wanting to learn more about Shalva or make a donation, visit shalva.org.
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Brett and Caro Rudolph have fun at their wedding in Syracuse, Sicily. Brett is the son of Les and Anita Rudolph of Vancouver (previously from South Africa) and Caro is the daughter of André and Svetli Wanne of Vienna. The wedding was officiated by Rabbi Paul Chaim Eisenberg of Vienna and was thoroughly enjoyed by family and friends. Brett and Caro live in Israel.
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On May 25, 2019, Samantha Pawer was conferred the degree of bachelor of science honours in integrated sciences with distinction from the University of British Columbia. Samantha is an alumna of Richmond Jewish Day School and Hugh Boyd Secondary School. Proud are parents Jeff Pawer and Beverly Pawer and big brother Brayden Pawer.
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Moshe Baitelman decided to become a doctor when he took his first biology class in high school. On May 26, 2019, the Vancouverite graduated as valedictorian at Touro’s Lander College of Arts and Sciences in Flatbush, Brooklyn, N.Y. He will begin medical school in the fall.
Baitelman chose Touro because it offered a strong Jewish environment as well as academic rigour. He majored in honours biology and minored in computer science. Along the way, he built strong relationships with his professors. “They all pushed me to be my best,” he said.
Living in Brooklyn, Baitelman found support for his career goals via the Gedaliah Society, a local network of Chabad men and women in the healthcare profession who offered advice and shared their own experiences in preparing for medical school. He also served as executive editor of Touro’s science journal and president of the Touro Science Society.
“Moshe has distinguished himself as a gifted, multitalented student with outstanding leadership skills. We are confident that he will become a respected physician, who will create a Kiddush Hashem in all his patient and professional interactions,” said Dr. Robert Goldschmidt, vice-president and executive dean of the Lander College.
Prior to Touro, Baitelman attended Vancouver Hebrew Academy for elementary and then the Pacific Torah Institute. Both schools imparted a strong Torah education with Jewish morals and values, and a first-class education. Baitelman’s education in Vancouver was the solid foundation for a life of strong Jewish identity and commitment to Jewish observance and learning, as well as enabling him to pursue further career education.
Baitelman credits his parents for his drive; they instilled a strong work ethic and have continued to encourage him. He offers similar advice to students getting ready to start college: “Be proactive. It will be the difference between just passing through and actually gaining from college. Find activities that will be conducive to your professional and educational growth – use your network of professors, advisors and other students.”
Students in grades 6 and 7 hand out sandwiches on the Downtown Eastside Nov. 15. (photo from RJDS)
On Nov. 15, 60 students from Richmond Jewish Day School and Az-Zahraa Islamic Academy went to the Downtown Eastside to meet the people in the neighbourhood and hand out food that had been prepared earlier.
“The students, staff and administration of Richmond Jewish Day School have always been committed to doing what we can to improve the lives of those less fortunate among us,” said Reesa Pawer, student life coordinator at RJDS. “One of the ways we have done this is by actively participating in a week of Random Acts of Chesed.”
As part of Random Acts of Chesed Week, Grade 6 and Grade 7 RJDS students worked together with their neighbour school, Az-Zahraa, to put together 700 bags of food and more than 500 sandwiches.
Richmond Jewish Day School principal Ronit Amihude with the award-winning children’s book What Do You Do With An Idea? by writer Kobi Yamada and illustrator Mae Besom. (photo by Coleen Lou)
Ronit Amihude is a leader with a vision. The new principal at Richmond Jewish Day School (RJDS) has been working in Jewish education since high school and in day school settings for more than two decades. She brings with her a passion for relevant, pluralistic Jewish education, and training in forward-looking pedagogical theory and practice.
Amihude was born in Winnipeg and moved to Toronto in the early 1990s to work at the Heschel School, at the time a small progressive Jewish school with a dream of crafting creative education that involved children in a way that was individualized and relational. Amihude did a little bit of everything in her 18 years there and was able, she told the Jewish Independent, “to see how you can take a small beautiful seed and turn it into a gorgeous garden.”
Amihude got a master’s in education while at Heschel and went through the Jewish Theological Seminary’s Day School Leadership Training Institute, a 15-month program which, according to their website, “prepares new and aspiring heads of school for their work in Jewish day schools by providing engaging experiential learning opportunities, cutting-edge leadership development, ongoing mentoring, and the chance to collaboratively problem-solve with cohort peers.”
While at Heschel, Amihude took on multiple leadership roles. After her tenure there, she was recruited to Atlanta, where she became the principal of learning, teaching and innovation at the Epstein School.
Richmond Jewish Day School began looking for a new principal after Abba Brodt, a beloved educator and administrator who had been with the school since 2010, left in 2017. Amihude had heard about RJDS over the years and felt it had “the same heimish [homey] feeling as Heschel” and was “a beautiful little school community” that believes all Jewish kids deserve a Jewish education and could be helped to get one.
“The feeling I got was that RJDS is a wonderful place where kids are supported and appreciated, where it is not just STEM that is taught, but kindness, perseverance and acceptance,” she said.
Amihude applied for the job last December and, after multiple Skype calls and phone chats, she flew out in February of this year and contracts were signed around Pesach.
When Amihude spoke with the Independent, it was her fifth day on the job and she generously made time in her hectic schedule to talk. Her first impressions of life at RJDS were resoundingly positive.
“It is a really diverse population where that is celebrated,” she said. “It’s a place where children of all levels of observance and non-observance from all over the world – Israel, Russia, Colombia and elsewhere – learn together. Kids who think everybody eats matzah balls on Yom Tov learn there are lots of ways to be Jewish.”
Amihude said a balance between tradition and pluralism is important for her, and the school community is open to different styles of being Jewish. This approach is showcased, in part, by their pluralistic approach to tefillah (prayer), which embraces Orthodox and progressive rituals. “If kids are given a hard line, telling them that only one way is authentic,” said Amihude, “then what message does that give them if that’s not the way of themselves or their family – that they’re not Jewish?”
This fall at RJDS, students took part in the international Kindness Rocks movement, where kids decorate rocks with messages of encouragement and kindness and place them out in the community. The school put a unique spin on this practice by integrating it into the days of teshuvah (repentance/return) between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
Amihude said an essential part of her mission at RJDS is giving kids the tools to find their own Jewish selves outside of school and to help their families figure out who they are and what they want to be doing. She wants to see a collaborative space where kids can work together to create, to learn perseverance and problem solve.
“Can the kids build a model sukkah? Can they create a double-decker chanukiyah for parents and kids to light together? There is so much we can be doing with 21st-century skills, while celebrating the Jews that we are and the people that we want to be.”
Matthew Gindin is 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.
Several students and a few teachers from Richmond Jewish Day School were invited to appear on Variety’s Show of Hearts telethon. (photo from RJDS)
The Richmond Jewish Day School (RJDS) is a school that loves to donate to charity. The school currently donates to several organizations, including the Regional Animal Protection Society, the Jewish Food Bank and Variety – The Children’s Charity.
A total of $1,150 was raised this school year for Variety, through flower sales, bake sales and non-uniform days (where students donate a dollar for the privilege of not wearing a uniform). As a result, RJDS received an invitation to be on the Variety Show of Hearts telethon on Feb. 11 to formally donate the money that the student council raised. Several students and a few teachers went on TV and everyone was so excited to be part of such a great experience.
For me, the telethon was very inspiring in many ways. There were many people there whose stories were told, and they made me and the rest of student council even more pleased that we could donate. There were many other donations given, as well as ours, that I am sure will make a big difference in some lives. It was amazing to see how much Variety impacts the lives of children and how happy it can make them.
Haylee Toppis a Grade 7 student at Richmond Jewish Day School.
Editor’s note: This year’s Variety Show of Hearts raised almost $5.5 million, which will benefit children with special needs and their families. Also appearing on the telethon was ShowStoppers, a group founded by Perry Ehrlich and Simon Isherwood that started out as Sound Sensation; the group’s first performance was on the telethon 25 years ago. Those who missed this year’s Show of Hearts can still make a donation online at variety.bc.ca, by calling 604-310-KIDS or by texting “KIDS” to 45678 to make an automatic $20 contribution.
The goal of the Richmond Jewish Day School student council committee this year was to help purchase a Sunshine Coach for Variety Club. From left to right are Rachel Marliss, Shai Rubin, teacher Reesa Pawer and Nate Brown. (photo from RJDS)
The Richmond Jewish Day School student council started three years ago. While there used to be elections, as of this year, any Grade 6 or 7 student can join, and we’re now called the student council committee. From its very beginning, the committee has done fundraisers for charities, such as the Richmond Animal Protection Society, the Jewish Food Bank and Variety – The Children’s Charity.
Many of the students at RJDS agree that giving and helping means the world to us, and a lot of students at our school, including members of our committee, have given to various causes.
In past years, we have done bake sales, non-uniform days and flower sales in support of charities. Most recently, we did a highly successful flower sale in front of our school – we sold every single bouquet, and we were interviewed by Global TV. Our goal was to raise $1,049 in support of Variety to help purchase a Sunshine Coach, and the goal was surpassed fairly quickly.
We wanted to raise money for Variety because of what they do for children who are less fortunate and need medical attention. Our fundraising will hopefully make a difference to these kids, and put smiles on the faces of some of those in need.
Shai Rubinis a Grade 7 student at Richmond Jewish Day School. Because of their efforts, RJDS students will appear on the Variety telethon Feb. 11, between 1:30 and 2:30 p.m. The telethon is a daylong broadcast on Global BC.
Global TV was at Richmond Jewish Day School last week to recognize the efforts of Grade 6 and 7 students who are selling flowers to fundraise for the Variety Club, Richmond Animal Protection Society and the Jewish Food Bank. To date, the students have raised $2,000 for these charities. Pictured, left to right, are Rachel Marliss, Shai Rubin and Nathan Brown. (photo by Lauren Kramer)
The day before Yom Kippur, Richmond Jewish Day School students in grades 2 and 5 went to Garry Point Park to do Tashlich. The students learned about why Jews have this custom, and listened to a story about teshuvah (repentance) from Moreh Abba (Brodt). They then sang Avinu Malkeinu together and had two students recite the Tashlich prayer for everyone. The students were given breadcrumbs to throw in the water, symbolizing the getting rid of sins.
“Today, we went to Garry Point to say Tashlich,” said one of the students, describing her experience. “We had lots of fun there. We threw breadcrumbs in the water. Each breadcrumb represents my sins I did over the year. I’m so thankful I get to have an opportunity to say sorry to Hashem and ask for forgiveness.”
Chaya Malul is a Grade 5 student at Richmond Jewish Day School.