Sarah Marel Schaffer, left, and Sandy Hazan pause while sorting clothing for Operation Dress-Up, a social action project sponsored by the National Council of Jewish Women, Vancouver section. (photo from NCJW Vancouver)
Shlepping bags of new underwear and socks plus bundles of gently used, donated clothing to inner-city Vancouver gives Sarah Marel Schaffer and Sandy Hazan a sense of fulfilment.
The two women spearhead Operation Dress-Up, a social action project of the National Council of Jewish Women, Vancouver section. The clothing they buy, collect and distribute goes to needy children identified by school counselors and principals, by neighborhood youth and family workers, or by the Jewish Family Service Agency.
On Sunday, Nov. 16, the Vancouver section of NCJW will celebrate 90 years of education, advocacy and social action projects such as Operation Dress-Up. The event is set for 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at VanDusen Gardens, and all are welcome.
Operation Dress-Up, begun 20 years ago, is supported by NCJW fundraising and by grants. United Way recently awarded the project $6,000. Schaffer said they are “quite lucky” to get this amount at one time and will soon call schools to see what’s on their wish lists and determine where the money will be best used.
Both women have been involved in Operation Dress-Up for 10 years. Schaffer said that for her it’s a way to give back to the community. “It’s a joy to dress your own kids in nice clothes and it’s a joy to help out in this way,” she said.
Hazan has found her participation to be a learning experience. “When you see the desperate need in Vancouver, it’s very humbling. I never knew that the poorest postal code in Canada is on the Downtown Eastside. I was shocked,” she said.
While Operation Dress-Up is a hands-on project, NCJW works with many local organizations, mainly by providing grants. One recipient is Children of the Street, whose mission is to intervene to prevent the sexual exploitation and human trafficking of children and youth.
Human trafficking, a modern form of slavery, is a focus for NCJW nationally and internationally. Council has advocated for passage of Bill C-36, to protect girls and women from sexual exploitation, sponsored by MP Joy Smith (Kildonan-St. Paul, Man.).
International Council of Jewish Women has joined with Stop the Traffik (stopthetraffik.org), devoted to ending human trafficking worldwide. ICJW also works on various projects with nongovernment organizations at the United Nations.
In Israel, ICJW lobbies on behalf of women kept captive by unfair divorce laws (agunot), and supports the Women of the Wall in its quest for gender equality. NCJW of Canada supports ALUMA, formerly known as IFCA, Israel Family Services Association.
At the 90th anniversary celebration, a roving magician, speakers – national NCJW president Sharon Allentuck from Winnipeg and international president Robyn Lenn from Australia – and finger food will be part of the fun. Organizations that partner with Vancouver NCJW will be arranged in a “farmers market” of informational booths. Some of these will include the Vancouver Public Library, Richmond Jewish Day School, Vancouver Coastal Health, Elizabeth Fry Society, Jewish Book Festival, Children of the Street, Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters (HIPPY), B.C. Transplant Society, Barefoot Books and the Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver. Council’s own projects, Books 4 Kids and Operation Dress-Up, will also be on display.
Tickets to the 90th celebration are $18, available at Vancouver NCJW’s office at the JCCGV. Call the NCJW office at 604-257-5180 for reservations.