הסייף הישראלי שאול גורדון ייצג את קנדה בתחרויות הסיף באולימפיאדת טוקיו שתתקיים בחודש יולי הקרוב. אחד עשר סייפים נוספים ייצגו את קנדה באולימפיאדה ביפן.
גורדון יליד תל אביב בן ה-26, גר בעיר ריצ’מונד שליד ונקובר בריטיש קולומביה מאז היותו בגיל עשר. הוא סיים תואר ראשון בשפה וספרות צרפתית באוניברסיטת פנסילבניה, שבפילדלפיה ארה”ב בשנת 2016. לאחר מכן עבר גורדון למונטריאול כדי ללמוד בפקולטה למשפטים באוניברסיטת מגיל. השנה הוא סיים לימודי תואר מתקדם שני במשפטים (על חוקי אבטחת החלל).
גורדון עזב את ישראל בגיל ארבע ועבר עם משפחתו לגור בעיר טורינו שבאיטליה. כבר בגיל שבע התחיל להתאמן בסייף בסגנון חרב. בגיל עשר (שש שנים לאחר מכן) עברה המשפחה לריצ’מונד. ומאז זה ביתו הקבוע למעט תקופות הלימודים הארוכות בארה”ב וקנדה.
בשנת 2019 זכה גורדון במקום השמיני באליפות העולם בבודפשט הונגריה שזה ההישג הגדול ביותר בקריירה שלו. באותה שנה הוא זכה גם במקום השלישי במשחקי פאן אמריקה שנערכו בלימה פרו. ואילו נבחרת קנדה שבה הוא משתתף הגיעה באותם משחקים למקום השני. הנבחרת הקנדית הגיעה עימו עוד פעם למקום השני במשחקי פאן אמריקה שנערכו בטורונטו בשנת 2015. גורדון זכה עם הנבחרת הקנדית גם במקום הראשון במשחקי גביע צפון אמריקה שהתקיימו בשנת 2011 בדאלאס טקסס. גורדון (המחזיק גם בדרכון ישראלי) זכה באוקטובר 2019 באליפות ישראל לבוגרים. כיום הוא מדורג במקום ה-22 בדירוג העולמי לסיף.
אחותו הצעירה של שאול, תמר גורדון, כשהייתה בת 15 זכתה גם כן באותה אליפות ישראל בסיף בתחרות לבוגרות (למרות גילה הצעיר). תמר גורדון (כיום היא בת 17) גם כן מתחרה בסגנון חרב, נמנית על נבחרת ישראל. היא אמורה לסיים את לימודי התיכון בריצ’מונד בעוד כשנה וחצי. לאחר מכן תלמד קרוב לוודאי באחת האוניברסיטאות בארה”ב. בשנה שעברה זכתה תמר גורדון מקום שלישי באליפות אירופה לקדטים (עד גיל 17) שהתקיימה בקרואטיה. היא זכתה במקום ראשון באליפות צרפת בשנת 2019. וכן הגיעה מקום שלישי בתחרות לקאדטים שנערכה בצרפת אשתקד.
אולימפיאדת טוקיו הייתה אמורה להתקיים במקור בקיץ אשתקד אך המשחקים הבינלאומיים נדחו לקיץ זה בגלל מגפת הקורונה. האולימפיאדה תיפתח ב-23 יולי ותימשך עד השמונה באוגוסט. לטוקיו אמורים להגיע למעלה מאחד עשר אלף ספורטאים (מ-207 מדינות), בהם לא פחות מ-85 ספורטאים מישראל. אם כן תהיה זו המשלחת הישראלית הגדולה ביותר אי פעם השתתפה במשחקים האולימפיים כלשהם. האולימפיאדה אמורה אגב להתקיים ללא קהל לאור המגפה חשש להידבקות עולמית.
שאול גורדון פגש את יאנה בוטביניק (בת ה-22) – שהיא סייפת הדקר הבכירה בישראל – בשנת 2018 באליפות העולם בוושי סין, ומאז הם ביחד. בוטביניק נמנית על נבחרת ישראל לומדת בימים אלה בחוג למתמטיקה ומחשבים באוניברסיטת קולומביה בניו יורק בארה”ב. היא עלתה מרוסיה לישראל בשנת 2010, ומגיל 14 החלה להתאמן בסייף. בגיל 17 היא זכתה לראשונה בתואר אלופת ישראל (לגילאים אלו). משנת 2019 בוטביניק נחשבת לבוגרת והיא סיימה במקום עשר באליפות אירופה, וזכתה במדליית ארד בברטיסלבה סלובקיה. כיום היא מדורגת במקום ה-68 בדירוג העולמי לסיף.
האח האמצעי של שאול, מתי גורדון (23), משחק דווקא רוגבי והוא נמנה על נבחרת ישראל ברוגבי שבע. מתי גורדון למד במשך ארבע שנים בחוג ללימודים אירופיים באוניברסיטת טורונטו. עתה הוא נמצא בשנה השנייה של לימודי לתואר במשפטים אוניברסיטת קווינס קינגסטון אונטריו.
At 109, Richmond resident Reuben (Rube) Sinclair might be Canada’s oldest Second World War veteran. (photo from Reuben Sinclair)
A Richmond resident is almost certainly Canada’s oldest Second World War veteran. Reuben (Rube) Sinclair received a special recognition on Remembrance Day, though, because of confidentiality issues, Veterans Affairs Canada can’t confirm he’s the oldest service member. But, at the age of 109, basic statistics suggests that, if Sinclair isn’t the oldest, he’s got to be close.
The centenarian spoke with the Independent virtually via Zoom about his life and what advice he might have for aspiring super-seniors like himself.
Sinclair was born in 1911 on the family farm near Lipton, Sask. Lipton was one of many “colonies” created by Baron Maurice de Hirsch in Canada, Argentina and Palestine to resettle oppressed Jews from Europe. Sinclair’s father, Yitzok Sinclair (born Sandler), traveled from Ukraine, via Liverpool and arrived at Ellis Island Jan. 4, 1905, on the SS Ivernia. He made his way to Saskatchewan, where he was given land by de Hirsch’s Jewish Colonization Association. However, the land was poor and so the newcomer worked for the Canadian National Railway long enough to save up and buy a better plot and build a house. When he was settled, he sent for his wife, Fraida (born Dubrovinsky), and their two young sons.
Reunited in Lipton, the family grew to include not only Samuel and Sol, who were born in the old country, but the only sister, Clara, then Rube and the youngest, Joe.
The last survivor of his birth family, Sinclair has fond memories of the farm life. He and the other two youngest did chores while the older two headed to university. Samuel became a medical doctor and Sol was a professor of agriculture at the University of Manitoba.
“There was a whole colony of Jewish families,” Sinclair said. “My parents had one of the largest farms – 16 quarter-sections [more than 2,500 acres]. I remember we had 42 horses. We had milk cows. I had my jobs. My job was to go collect the eggs from the chicken house and, when I was 12, I was already driving our car.… Always things to do on a farm.”
Yitzok donated a few acres to the community and helped construct a school, which doubled as a synagogue. On Shabbats and Jewish holidays in winter, the boys would sleep in the hayloft so the local men could stay in the house and not walk home in the freezing Saskatchewan weather.
“My father was a leader in the community,” he said.
Sinclair joined the Royal Canadian Air Force during the Second World War and was stationed in North Battleford, Sask. In the days before radar was commonplace, he taught Allied pilots how to take off and land in the dark using a “standard beam approach,” which involved a navigation receiver that allowed the pilot to line the aircraft up with the runway when preparing to land.
“In the air force barracks, I was on the top bunk,” he said. “I always got the top bunk because the younger generation would come home drunk and I wouldn’t sleep in the bottom bunk.”
One day, he encountered a barrack-mate in tears. Sinclair recalls the conversation: “They’re sending me to Vancouver, he said, and my family is all here around Brandon, Manitoba. So I said, that’s no problem. When they want a person to go to Vancouver, they don’t care who the person is. Vancouver wants one person. So, I said, don’t cry. We’ll go see the commanding officer. I told him that my wife has got family in Vancouver and I’d be glad to go instead. He said they don’t care, all they want is one person. So, I was the person who went to Vancouver at that time and I’m still here,” he recalled with a laugh.
Joe, the youngest of the five siblings, had served in the army and after the war joined Rube in British Columbia. They started Sinclair Bros. Garage and Auto Wrecking, in Richmond, just across the two old Fraser Street bridges from Vancouver.
“My job was to go out and find old cars and we had a tow truck,” Sinclair said. “I’d bring them in and my younger brother would wreck them. We opened a wrecking company.” They also bought surplus army vehicles to fix up and sell.
The business soon became a sort of family compound. A small house adjacent went up for sale and the Sinclairs bought it, bringing parents Yitzok and Fraida to the coast. Then sister Clara and her husband Morris Slobasky bought a general store that was next door.
Because of his wartime experience, Sinclair developed migraine headaches and was told to go to a drier climate. He thought Arizona sounded good, but his wife, Ida, had siblings in the Los Angeles area and a brother-in-law offered him a job in a furniture store in Anaheim.
In 1964, Rube and Ida packed up the three kids – Nadine (now Lipetz), Karen and Len – and moved to Southern California.
“He put me in charge of the furniture store,” Sinclair said of his brother-in-law. “I knew nothing about furniture, but I learned pretty quick.”
Soon he was in business for himself again.
“Then my boss that I worked for in Anaheim, his wife wasn’t very well and she spent a lot of time in Palm Springs,” Sinclair recalled. “So, he said, instead of me going back and forth, I’ll move to Palm Springs and you can have the store, just pay me for the inventory.”
In 1994, Ida had a stroke and the couple moved back to British Columbia. She passed in 1996. Rube still lives in their Richmond condo.
Rube and Ida were active in their communities. In Los Angeles, they raised more than a million dollars for City of Hope, a cancer hospital and research facility. Both were active members of Schara Tzedeck Synagogue here, he especially in the Men’s Club, and he is proud of his lifetime honorary membership in the shul. In addition to their three adult children – Nadine is in Vancouver; Karen and Len in California – he has six grandchildren, 16 great-grandchildren and one great-great-grandchild.
Asked if he has any advice for others, Sinclair didn’t hesitate.
“That’s easy. I always say, if you have a problem, don’t worry; you’ll lose your hair. Fix it. If you have a problem, fix it. Don’t sit back and worry. Worry is not going to help.”
Any bad habits?
“I don’t think so,” he said after a thought. “I spent most of my life working and, in my spare time, working for people less fortunate. That was my enjoyment in my spare time.”
Two years ago, the City of Richmond named Sinclair an “honoured veteran.”
Recalled daughter Nadine: “He was part of the Remembrance Day service in Richmond and they made a big deal about it. They sent a limo and he sat with the mayor and the Silver Cross Mother. They gave him a wreath and then they walked him around. He was up on the dais with the mayor and the head of the RCMP as the soldiers all walked by. It was a very big deal for him.” Last Remembrance Day, he received a certificate from Veterans Affairs.
If, by some chance, Sinclair is not
Canada’s oldest veteran of the Second World War, he seems determined to attain that title.
“I’m not going anywhere,” he said. “I still have some unfinished business.”
Garden City Bakery owner Steve Uy, right, with store manager Monica Flores and fellow baker Richard Caranto. (photo from Garden City Bakery)
If you’ve not set foot into Garden City Bakery for some time, you’re in for a surprise. The longtime Richmond kosher bakery at Blundell and Garden City roads came under new ownership in December 2019 and Steve Uy has infused the shop with his personal style and charisma. The interior has been updated and the bakery hums with an energy inspired by Uy’s friendliness and business acumen.
A Manila native, Uy moved to Vancouver in 1989 at the age of 20 and studied economics at Simon Fraser University. By 26, he’d returned to the Philippines, first importing Canadian food products and later immersing himself in the kitchen, where he baked steam buns for grocery stores. In 2017, when he returned to Vancouver with his wife and children, he was determined to continue baking for a living. An ingredient supplier introduced Uy to former Garden City Bakery owner Ivan Gerlach and, within two months, the transaction was complete and Uy was at the helm of the business.
“When I took over the shop, the only thing I wanted was an oven to bake things,” he admitted. “I didn’t even know what kosher was!”
Immediately afterwards, though, his kosher education began in earnest, first under Gerlach’s tutelage and then under the instruction of rabbis from BC Kosher. It was a steep learning curve but Uy was fiercely committed to two things: to respect the Jewish traditions of the bakery and to increase the availability of its signature challahs, challah buns, bagels and pita bread.
“Our goal is to be more visible and more available,” he told the Independent.
Expanding the availability of his baked breads wasn’t easy initially and, when Uy first approached Safeway at King Edward Avenue and Oak Street, he wasn’t met with open arms. “I wondered why a Safeway right beside a Jewish school wouldn’t want to carry kosher bread,” he said. It took four months of repeated meetings and encouragement before the grocery store agreed to carry Garden City Bakery challah and buns. But, as soon as they did, the items disappeared fast and the store increased their order. By January 2020, Safeway had invited Uy to set up his own bread rack in the store, where he could sell even more kosher breads, including pita, bagels and rye bread.
Today, Uy’s baked goods are available at Meinhardt Fine Foods, Stong’s Market, two Save-On Foods (Dunbar and Terra Nova), Omnitsky Kosher, Louis Brier Home and Hospital, two Superstore locations (Marine Drive and Richmond) and a FreshCo. And Uy is just getting started on his wholesale journey.
“We intend to expand into more Safeway stores, Superstores and Save-On Foods in the next year or two,” he said. “There’s a gap in the market we can fill here. Grain bread and artisan bread are popular, but I think there’s a market for kosher bread beyond the Jewish community, for anyone who appreciates a good bread. And, personally, I think challah is one of the best, most beautiful breads in the world. The dough itself is just fabulous.”
While expansion plans have been put on hold by the COVID-19 pandemic, Uy’s ambition has not tapered. A hands-on owner, he does much of the mixing and baking himself, “to keep our secret recipes and to ensure consistency of the product.” Uy also handles delivery of the products to the stores.
His baking repertoire remains much the same as it was previous to his leadership, but a couple of new items include a Filipino soft bun called Pandesal, and a sandwich loaf made from the same dough as challah but more suitable as an everyday bread. “The challah and challah buns are our mainstay and we worry that adding too much variety will bog down the bakery in terms of manpower,” he explained.
A great ambassador for the bakery, he emanates positivity and a can-do attitude. “When I bought the business, I could tell that the sales volume was not great, but I’ve always been a risk-taker and I’m confident in my own abilities,” he said. “I’m really enjoying the business, and owning a kosher bakery has exposed me to a new group of people, a different culture and unique traditions I didn’t previously understand.”
He added, “It’s my sales pitch when I go to new stores. I tell them we’re different because we’re kosher. We’re taking one step at a time, but we’re determined to open up more avenues for kosher bread in British Columbia. We know when people start believing in the product, they’ll buy it.”
Lauren Kramer, an award-winning writer and editor, lives in Richmond. To read her work online, visit laurenkramer.net.
Last year, Richmond RCMP Superintendent Will Ng came up with the idea of creating a challenge coin unique to each of seven communities in Richmond. (photo by Lauren Kramer)
In 2019, Superintendent Will Ng at the Richmond RCMP came up with the idea of creating a “challenge coin” unique to each of seven of Richmond’s larger communities: Jewish, Christian, Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim, Sikh and Chinese. A coin was designed for each with the guidance of the community’s spiritual leaders.
For the Jewish community, the coin was collaboratively designed by Sgt. Kevin Krieger and Congregation Beth Tikvah’s Rabbi Adam Rubin.
“I was genuinely moved and touched when the RCMP approached me to help design the coin,” Rubin told the Independent. “The fact that the RCMP was willing to produce a challenge coin for the Jewish community speaks volumes about its commitment to diversity and inclusion, as well as its commitment to the safety, well-being and flourishing of Jews in the Lower Mainland.”
The Jewish coin features a quote from the Talmud (in English) and an image of the Star of David and a Torah scroll. Rubin and Krieger both felt that these are widely recognized symbols of Judaism and Jewish life.
“The Torah is at the very heart of our religious life, the core of who we are as a people, while the Star of David connects us to our past and to the state of Israel,” Rubin said. “The excerpt from the Talmud, ‘The entire Torah was given for the ways of peace,’ is a heartfelt expression of an essential teaching of our tradition – that peaceful relations between people is one of the goals of religious life. Given recent events in North America, Europe and elsewhere, that claim is more important than ever.”
Some 400 coins were produced in time for Rosh Hashanah last year and have been handed out by members of the police force at special community events, both in Richmond and beyond.
“The coin represents the fact that we stand in solidarity with our Jewish community against hate and antisemitism,” said Ng. “We will do our best to protect our Jewish community to ensure they feel safe to both live and practise their religion free from hate or prejudice.”
Rubin said he is deeply grateful to the RCMP for producing a coin with such an important message. “I hope and pray that, though this challenge coin may be fairly modest in the grand scheme of things, it plays a part both in ensuring the continued flourishing of Jews in Canada, and in helping to reinforce the crucial value of peace.”
Cpl. Adriana Peralta, who works in Richmond RCMP’s media relations, said the coins are commonly used in the RCMP as a token of appreciation for community service, or as a small gift to individuals who have served their community. “We have a large faith-based community in Richmond and our detachment came up with this particular series of coins as a way to connect with our interfaith partners and celebrate the rich diversity of our cultural groups,” she explained.
The RCMP has created a display of the seven coins at the Richmond detachment, where they are positioned below an image of the Richmond skyline.
Lauren Kramer, an award-winning writer and editor, lives in Richmond. To read her work online, visit laurenkramer.net.
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.
Ben Silverman is the managing director and co-founder of Integral Artists, a talent agency based in Vancouver. He’s also the president of media investment firm Various Things Entertainment and co-founder of James Charles Properties, a real estate development company focused on B.C. holdings. It takes a lot of energy, but Silverman, who was named on Business in Vancouver’s 2019 Forty Under Forty list, has a mind that’s always working.
“Even if I am trying to relax on vacation, my brain doesn’t seem to want to shut off the part which is observing the world around us and processing it in search of new opportunities and/or improvements,” he said. “As a lifelong student of the art of calculated risks and plan execution, I am naturally compelled to the life of an entrepreneur.”
The 39-year-old grew up in a creative environment, enjoying writing and performing.
“Growing up in Richmond, I used to perform in the Prozdor musical theatre productions put on by Joan Cohen at Beth Tikvah,” he recalled. “My entire family would partake – my brothers on stage with me, my dad playing in the live orchestra and my mom helping organize the program. Prozdor was a real contributor to my enjoyment and pursuit of the performing arts.”
While he continued that pursuit, which included obtaining an undergraduate degree in creative writing, his taste for the entrepreneurial was taking shape as well. In 2003, he launched his first formal start-up, Astone Fitness, off the back of an infomercial he produced for a product he trademarked – Ripcords Resistance Bands.
Now, the film and television industry is where he brings his passions together. “Film and TV are commercial art forms which I have always been drawn to as forms of great entertainment and storytelling,” he told the Independent. “There is an inherent overlap and compromise required between the creative and the business side in film and TV.”
This overlap is where he does his best work, he said, harnessing his communication skills and his ability to relate to the needs of his creative clients, as well as his business acumen.
Outside of his work endeavours, Silverman remains active in the Jewish community, and is connected to the Bayit.
“I have tremendous respect for Rabbi Levi Varnai, who is inspiring and doing incredible work galvanizing the community around him and helping people from all walks of life feel like they belong,” Silverman said. “The shul’s [past] president, Mike Sachs, is also one of the hardest working and dedicated individuals I know. Together, their approach is inspiring and makes me feel like my contributions matter, which motivates me to participate however possible, whether financially or with my time.”
Silverman continues to dream big. Last year, Various Things Entertainment acquired feature film distribution company levelFILM, which had seven movies at the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival, including Hope Gap, starring Annette Bening and Bill Nighy, and Ordinary Love, starring Liam Neeson.
As for Integral Artists, which also has offices in Toronto, Silverman said the agency is in “active discussions regarding a further expansion within North America. Our goal is to be the largest talent agency headquartered in Canada.”
Shelley Stein-Wottenis a freelance journalist and comedy writer. She has won awards for her creative non-fiction and screenwriting and enjoys writing about the arts and environmental issues. She is based on Vancouver Island.
Left to right: Councilor Kelly Greene, Councilor Bill McNulty, Bayit past president Michael Sachs, Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie, Bayit president Keith Liedtke, Councilor Chak Au and Councilor Alexa Loo at the Bayit, after the mayor officially proclaims Jan. 27 as International Holocaust Remembrance Day in the city of Richmond. (photo by Cynthia Ramsay)
On Jan. 22, emotions were near the surface in a Holocaust commemoration that included the official proclamation of Jan. 27 as International Holocaust Remembrance Day in the city of Richmond. In a packed sanctuary at the Bayit, a synagogue in the province’s second-largest Jewish community, survivors, rabbis, community leaders and a host of elected officials from all levels of government were on hand to mark what was billed as an historic day.
Writer and teacher Lillian Boraks-Nemetz spoke as a survivor of the Holocaust and shared her first-person account, as well as the moral implications of what happened and the weight of survival.
“Not a day passes when I don’t ask myself why did I survive when six million perished, 1.5 million children and among them my 5-year-old sister,” said Boraks-Nemetz. “And I survived. Why? When every European Jewish child was automatically sentenced to death by Hitler, I won. Was my survival a miracle? A twist of fate? The will of God? Why me?”
She recalled the day everything changed, Sept. 1, 1939.
“I was alone on the porch of my grandfather’s summer home when masses of airplanes passed over my head. I heard shots, explosions, my dad ran to get me and we barely made it to the shelter, where the sight of crying children and frightened people confirmed my own fears,” she said. The Nazis invaded her Polish homeland. Jews lost all human rights, her father lost his right to practise law, her uncle was prevented from practising medicine. Teachers, professors and businesspeople were all kicked out of their positions. Jewish children did not attend schools and they were bullied, a precursor of the much graver fate to come.
Soon the Jews of Warsaw were imprisoned in the ghetto, where a Nazi-created dystopia developed.
“People stole food from each other,” she said. “All morality ceased to exist in an amoral world.”
Young Lillian was smuggled into the factory where her mother was a slave labourer. Lillian’s grandmother had bought a small house in a village and promised it to a man in exchange for posing as her husband, creating a pretext of a non-Jewish Polish family. Lillian was then smuggled from the ghetto through bribery and survived the war with her grandmother and the man.
“What were my chances of surviving? The rate of a child’s surviving the ghetto was seven percent,” she said. “We were liberated in 1945 by the Russians. But liberation isn’t liberating to survivors.”
While adults worked to reestablish their lives in a new country, children were left largely to their own devices to assimilate all that had happened. Psychiatry or any professional help was largely nonexistent.
“I was told to forget and to let go by people who didn’t have a clue what was on my mind or my soul,” she told the audience. “This was not a physical wound that results in a bruise or a scab, which then falls off and mostly disappears. This is a branding on the soul of fire caused by man’s inhumanity to man, woman and child. The enormity of the Holocaust is still largely incomprehensible and still emotionally inaccessible to those who were born here.”
Judy Darcy, British Columbia’s minister of mental health and addictions, shared the story of how her father survived the Holocaust and subsequently hid his Jewish identity to everyone, including his own children, until the last years of his life, when he tried to reconcile his experiences in meetings with the late Toronto rabbi Gunter Plaut. Darcy’s story was featured in the Independent (Feb. 24, 2017, jewishindependent.ca/mlas-father-hid-past).
Rabbi Levi Varnai, spiritual leader of the Bayit, recalled his family’s survival during the Holocaust, and Ezra Shanken, chief executive officer of the Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver, spoke of the human potential for good and evil.
“We must understand that we as human beings have the capacity for immense love but also to create immense pain and it’s only through disciplining ourselves through education and through moments like this that we ensure that the community that I think we all want, which is a community of love, is what will remain,” Shanken said.
Richmond’s Mayor Malcolm Brodie spoke at the event. In an interview with the Independent after, he noted that he often receives requests for proclamations. Recently, the urgency for making a statement and standing with Jewish people was accentuated when a Richmond auction house had to be pressured to cancel the sale of Nazi military memorabilia. Participating in the commemoration with the Jewish community was significant for him, said the mayor, and the past is a lesson for the future.
“I found it quite moving,” said Brodie, noting the remarks by Boraks-Nemetz and Darcy. It is important, he said, “to remind people, and the greater community, to watch out for the signs, because something like this – hopefully never on the scale – but something could happen again.… There have been enough times recently that antisemitism is still a real thing. It is something that we don’t hear too much about but it is something that is very real. In addition to honouring these millions who died, we have to educate young people to make sure that everybody knows the facts and we make sure that it never happens again.”
Michael Sachs, a Jewish community activist and past president of the Bayit, was pivotal in organizing the event – which was co-hosted by the Bayit, Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre, Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, Kehila Society of Richmond and Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver – and ensuring the attendance of the elected officials. Among the attendees were the mayor, most of Richmond’s city councilors, all four of the city’s members in the Legislature, Member of Parliament Alice Wong and former MP Joe Peschisolido, as well as others.
“There were 100 chairs and it was standing room only,” Sachs said afterward. “It’s historic because it’s the first time in Richmond that this proclamation has been made. To have such an outpouring of elected officials, VIPs and all these people coming out – it’s the first in history in Richmond.”
Sachs was effusive in his praise for the mayor for his actions. While many commemorations are taking place because it is the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, that was not a prime motivator of the Richmond event, said Sachs.
“It’s the first step of many that will come,” he said. “It’s the beginning of a real public acknowledgement that will lead to more public education. We had someone who was there, one of the aides of an elected official, and he came up to me afterwards and he said, ‘I didn’t know anything about the Holocaust.’ That’s one person right there,” Sachs said. “And, hopefully, this moment continues to help bring Holocaust education into every classroom in this province.”
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).
Left to right: The Bayit president Michael Sachs, Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie and Marc’s Mensches winner Taya Benson. (photo from the Bayit)
Marc’s Mensches winner Taya Benson fundraised more than $7,500 for the Richmond SPCA, where she also volunteers every week. She was awarded the cash prize on Sept. 26 at the Pizza in the Hut event for Sukkot, which was co-sponsored by the Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver and Marc’s Mensches. The event brought out a diverse crowd of more than 200 people, including many local officials and civic election candidates.
While the Marc’s Mensches initiative continues, the program is in the process of switching objectives: instead of being a contest, it will be focused on working as a group to do acts of chesed (loving kindness) around the city and community. “People can still nominate [youth] for the monthly gift card draw,” Bayit president Michael Sachs told the Independent, “but the main focus in Year 2 is harnessing the power of these mensches and doing good all over.”
Election day for municipal governments across British Columbia is Saturday, Oct. 20. In Vancouver, advance voting opportunities are available until Oct. 17, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. (photo by Cynthia Ramsay)
Members of British Columbia’s Jewish community have been involved in many pursuits over the decades. With some notable exceptions, few have pursued elective office. And this election continues the tradition. Of the hundreds of people running for city councils, school boards, regional district boards and the Vancouver park board, the Independent has identified only four members of the community running in the Oct. 20 elections, though there may be others. Here is a glance at their platforms and motivations.
Herschel Miedzygorski Independent candidate for Vancouver city council voteherschel.ca
Herschel Miedzygorski’s priorities include clean and safe streets, increased night transit and more funding for the arts. He wants to deter real estate speculation and speed up permitting processes for middle-class homes.
Miedzygorski has had a career as a restaurateur in Vancouver and Whistler, running Southside Deli in the resort municipality for 25 years and being involved in food ventures in the city. He has sold his food interests and now represents Giant Head Estate Winery, based in Summerland, B.C., to restaurant clients.
“I was born and raised in Vancouver,” he said. “My father had a secondhand store on Main Street for 60 years, it was called Abe’s Second Hand. That was my mom and dad.… We all grew up on Main Street.”
Miedzygorski has coached football and soccer and spends time at the Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver. He was asked to run with a couple of the city’s political parties, he said, but “I just want to be an independent voice.”
Steven Nemetz is running for Vancouver park board because the time is right.
“It speaks to me at this stage of my life – father, grandfather – and I grew up in the city,” he said. “I grew up intimately familiar – because my father was a great outdoorsman – with these parks.”
Nemetz is a lawyer and holds a master’s in business administration and a rabbinic ordination. He created the “pop-up shul” Shtiebl on the Drive for the High Holy Days this year.
Having lived in various cities, notably New York, Nemetz wants to bring to Vancouver some ideas that have worked in other places. Inspired by the High Line, a park created from an old elevated railway in Manhattan, Nemetz suggests saving the Georgia and Dunsmuir viaducts (which are slated for demolition) and creating an elevated park in the space between them and extending that park east and west. A second High Line-style recreation space could work along the Broadway corridor, he said, incorporating transit hubs, Vancouver General Hospital and other existing assets.
He advocates a “privileges card” for city residents that would mean they pay no parking fees at any parks.
“There are 650,000 residents of the city of Vancouver,” he said. “There are over 10 million visitors a year.” A slight price increase for non-residents could offset the loss of revenue from locals, he said. “The residents of the city of Vancouver pay taxes. They support their infrastructure. They shouldn’t have to pay more for the use of facilities that they primarily support by way of small nickel-and-diming, like parking at Kitsilano Beach and Jericho.”
Nemetz looks at Mountain View Cemetery, 106 acres at the heart of the city, and sees potential for repurposing it to respectfully accommodate more living residents.
“We are not talking amusement park,” he said. “It could be something very unique, world-class in a way, that’s different.”
Norman Goldstein Richmond First candidate for Richmond school board richmondfirst.ca
Norman Goldstein is a former Richmond school trustee seeking to return to the board.
“The best thing for all people, including the Jewish people, is an open, accountable government that adheres to the rule of law,” he told the Independent. “The laws need to be crafted by caring, competent people, who understand that the strength of a society rests on how fairly and inclusively all citizens are treated. This is what I believe and this shapes who I associate with and trust politically.”
His priorities for education include moving forward with the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) policy passed by the Richmond school board.
“This has been, unfortunately, a very polarizing issue in Richmond,” he said. “To my understanding, the opposition to SOGI is based either on misunderstanding what the policy says – please, read the policy – or on deep-seated prejudice that is not self-recognized as such.”
Goldstein holds a doctorate in mathematics and taught and researched at the university level. He later completed a master’s of computer science and spent 21 years at MacDonald Dettwiler and Associates in Richmond, retiring in 2013.
“The Richmond School District has had a long, proud history of inclusion,” he said. “A major tool in this endeavour has been to integrate all learning levels into the same classroom. This socializes students to understand and appreciate each other.”
Election day for municipal governments across British Columbia is Saturday, Oct. 20. In Vancouver, advance voting opportunities are available until Oct. 17, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Advance voting dates and times differ by jurisdiction. More details are at vancouver.ca/vote or on the website for your municipality.