The Ben and Esther Dayson Residences, on East Kent Avenue North, opened its doors to tenants last month. (photo from Tikva Housing)
The first tenants at the Ben and Esther Dayson Residences started moving into their new homes in late August. Managed by Tikva Housing, the 32 townhomes are located west of the River District, on East Kent Avenue North, a block from Riverfront Park.
The residences comprise four two-bedroom units (1,045 square feet), 24 three-bedroom units (1,175 square feet) and four four-bedroom units (1,305 square feet). The units were open to Vancouver-based families with one to six children, within a range of income levels. The site includes two towers that will be managed by the Fraserview Housing Co-op.
A part of the Vancouver Land Trust project, the residences share a number of amenities, such as green space and a playground. Rent will be targeted to approximately 30% of gross household income to a rent maximum. Tenants are expected to pay for hydro, phone, internet and contents insurance.
Anat Gogo, Tikva Housing’s manager of programs and donor relations, expressed her enthusiasm upon the launch. “I feel so excited for the community,” she said. “It will be a concentrated Jewish community. When you build neighbourhoods, you build community.
“The residences will also provide a home for essential workers, such as teachers, in our community,” she added.
The Dayson Residences are situated close to several daycares, elementary and high schools, as well as banks, shopping centres, grocery stores, libraries and hospitals.
The strong need for affordable housing in the region has been a prevalent concern for many years. A 2011 survey of the Greater Vancouver Jewish community identified more than 4,000 people (or 16% of the total community) who were low-income; the number included 600 children and 550 single-parent families.
To many local renters, Vancouver holds the unenviable distinctions of having the highest rents and the lowest vacancy rates in the country. At the start of the year, the rent for an average one-bedroom apartment in the city was more than $1,500 per month, while vacancy levels hovered around one percent.
Tikva Housing helps those who would be deemed “working poor” and cites the limited “life options” available to them in this expensive city. For example, to a person earning $2,000 a month, the affordable level for their rent should be a maximum of $600 per month. For the past decade especially, rents in the Lower Mainland have risen far beyond that level – thus leaving little money to set aside for food, medicine, utilities, transport or education to improve job skills.
“They save people from being on the streets. They save people from unsafe situations,” said Steve, a tenant at Tikva Housing’s Diamond Residences in Richmond. “It’s given me security. I don’t have to worry about making rent. It’s affordable. I buy our groceries. It puts me in a wonderful frame of mind. It allows me to be a good father. Without Tivka, I would not have been able to give proper care to my children.”
Tikva Housing’s stated mission is to provide a safe, stable and affordable home to every Jewish person in Metro Vancouver who needs one. Its services are geared primarily at low- and moderate-income adults and families.
It also operates the 11-unit Dany Guincher House apartments in Marpole and the 18-unit Diamond Residences cited above. Opening in early 2021 is the Arbutus Centre on the West Side – as part of a partnership with the City of Vancouver, the YWCA and the Association of Neighbourhood Houses of British Columbia – which will bring another 18 studios and 19 one-bedroom units to low- and moderate-income members of the community.
As might be expected, the number of people turning to Tikva Housing has increased during the COVID-19 pandemic. In July alone, it approved a record number of eight recipients for the Tikva Housing Rent Subsidy Program.
“The subsidy allocation for the past five months amounted to just shy of $27,000 in addition to the existing allocations, and the need continues to grow,” Gogo said.
In August, Alice Sundberg, Tikva’s director of operations and housing, announced, “I am in conversation with a few private developers and nonprofit housing providers regarding potential projects in Vancouver, Burnaby, Richmond and Surrey. I can’t say more about these opportunities at this time.”
Ben Dayson was a prominent figure in Vancouver and Richmond real estate and a philanthropist. Together with his wife Esther, they worked to help many charitable causes. Helping those in need find affordable housing was one of their primary objectives, through funds provided by the Ben and Esther Dayson Charitable Foundation.
“Our family is focused on providing funding to areas of basic needs,” said their daughter, Shirley Barnett. “Obviously, housing is one of these areas we choose to support. As my parents, Ben and Esther Dayson, were in real estate development, it seemed natural to fund a complex such as this in their memory.”
For more about the Tikva Housing Society, visit tikvahousing.org.
Sam Margolis has written for the Globe and Mail, the National Post, UPI and MSNBC.
Left to right are Shirley Barnett, Michael Schwartz, Sam Sullivan, Julian Prieto, Margaret Sutherland and Alysa Routtenberg. (photo from Jewish Museum and Archives of British Columbia)
The Jewish Museum and Archives of British Columbia was pleased to welcome Sam Sullivan, MLA for Vancouver-False Creek, for a tour of the B.C. Jewish Community Archives on Aug. 15, 2019. Archivist Alysa Routtenberg and director of community engagement Michael Schwartz shared highlights of the archival collection and explained how JMABC staff and volunteers work to preserve and share these important documents.
Among his many accomplishments, Sullivan is a former mayor of Vancouver and the founder of Transcribimus, an online service dedicated to transcribing early Vancouver city council meeting minutes and publishing them online. Transcribimus was an essential resource in the JMABC’s efforts to restore the Jewish section of Mountain View Cemetery in 2013-2015, an initiative led by former JMABC board member Shirley Barnett.
National Council of Jewish Women of Canada celebrated its 95th year in Vancouver with a birthday party June 4, 2019, at the Vancouver Lawn Tennis and Badminton Club.
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Ben Etkin-Goulet beat all the other cyclists in his category at the GranFondo Axel Merckx Okanagan on July 14. The 24-year-old Vancouverite completed the 92-kilometre Mediofondo in two hours and 30 minutes, beating out hundreds of competitors. It was only his second competitive race.
“I’ve been commuting for as long as I can remember,” said Etkin-Goulet, “but I started cycling more as a sport in 2016 and I’ve been ramping up since then. This last year was my first year training throughout the winter.”
Etkin-Goulet graduated last year with a degree in commerce from the University of British Columbia and works in data analytics at Boeing. He is the son of Fabienne Goulet and Alan Etkin and grandson of Leonor Etkin.
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Parents Cyndi and Max Mintzberg and Ricki and Mark Kahn and grandparents Evelyn, Gloria and Irwin are delighted to celebrate the marriage of Jaclyn and Alex.
Sui Khuu and her husband Dar, with their two children. (photo from Shirley Barnett)
In the last couple of years, Jewish congregations and groups in Vancouver have sponsored refugees from Syria, acts of humanitarianism that are inspired in part from ancient and recent history in which Jewish people were strangers in a new land. But this generosity is not new. Forty years ago, in 1979, a similar phenomenon occurred with Vietnamese refugees fleeing conflict in Southeast Asia.
The so-called “boat people” – about two million Vietnamese – fled their homeland in the years following the war there, which ended in 1975. Across Canada, churches, synagogues, service clubs and other groups came together to sponsor refugees. Among these were several B.C. Jewish groups.
Forty years later, one of the refugees sponsored by a group of Jewish friends reflected on the experience.
Sui Khuu was 5 years old when she arrived in Vancouver with her 4-year-old sister Ngoc Lien (informally called Ileen), her father Vinh and grandparents Namson Khuu and Kim Thi Kiu.
“My mom passed away in [a refugee camp in] Thailand,” Khuu told the Independent recently. “She was five months pregnant. She had malaria and she passed away.”
Khuu has no recollections of her life before Canada, but deeply embedded in her memory is the warm welcome she and her family received from the Jewish sponsors as soon as they arrived here.
Four couples joined together to guarantee to the government of Canada that they would ensure the sponsored family got a secure start in their new country: Peter and Shirley Barnett, Abe and Esther Nobleman, Buddy and Cherie Smith and Paul and Edwina Heller.
With the support of Canadian Jewish Congress and Jean Gerber, who worked there at the time, numerous groups banded together to sponsor Vietnamese immigrants, including Beth Israel, Temple Sholom, the Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver and Emanu-El in Victoria, among others.
“Each group had a name and our group chose the name ‘Hope,’” Shirley Barnett recalled. She has kept in close touch with the family across the decades and remembers how Sui was just 7 or 8 years old when she served as translator for her father and grandparents at government meetings and with doctors, teachers and such.
“By the time she was 9, she was the head of the family, because the grandparents never learned to speak English,” Barnett said. The father worked for the Barnetts at their Elephant and Castle restaurant for years. He is now semi-retired. The grandparents have both passed away.
“They were incredibly resourceful, successful,” said Barnett about the family. The girls finished high school and Ileen became an accountant, while Sui is coming up on 29 years as a pharmacy assistant at London Drugs.
“How did they get the strength to turn out so great?” Barnett asked. “The answer came from their grandmother. I remember one day, as a little one, Sui forgot to take her lunch to school and Grandma packed her lunch and found her way to school without speaking English and Sui told me later she found her grandmother wandering in the hallway just trying to find out what classroom she was in to bring her lunch.”
While the grandparents never learned English, they found ways to communicate.
“In those years, my ex-husband, Peter, was still fluent in French and he was able to talk to Grandpa a bit in French,” said Barnett.
Khuu recalls something beyond verbal between her grandmother and Shirley Barnett.
“I can’t imagine how she and Shirley communicated at that time but they totally understood each other,” the daughter said. “That was a great memory. My grandmother was trying to tell Shirley [something] and Shirley totally understood what she wanted her to do.”
She also remembers the Barnetts and Nobelmans picking the family up to take them to dinner, delivering Christmas gifts and taking family members to doctors’ and dentists’ appointments.
“Cherie Smith was in charge of finding them clothes,” Barnett said. “I was in charge of getting them enrolled in a preschool.”
“Shirley got a house for us on East 12th Avenue in Vancouver,” Khuu said. Both girls, now in their 40s, are married and each has a son and a daughter of their own.
Seeing Syrians coming to Canada now evokes memories for Khuu.
“It’s hard when they have young families like what my grandparents and my dad went through,” she said. She is saddened when she hears comments that are unwelcoming toward new Canadians and sees the circle of life in the next generation of refugees finding a home here.
Barnett is effusive about how Sui and Ileen have turned out: “By luck or determination or resilience or whatever they had, they turned out really well. They are just lovely, responsible, charming, caring people.”
Dayson Here portrays Ben Dayson’s innate business acumen and his economic success, as well as his unwavering devotion to his wife, Esther.
Following the publication of the Nemetz family biography Don’t Break the Chain: The Nemetz Family Journey from Svatatroiske to Vancouver, in 2017, comes a new book called Dayson Here: The Story Behind the Voice, compiled and written by Shirley Barnett and Philip Dayson.
Anyone who met Ben Dayson knows he was larger than life. Standing at five feet, six inches (or thereabouts), he was a giant among men. People knew him for many things, but primarily his business success, his deep and abiding love for his “beautiful wife” Esther, and his close family. What’s missing from that picture are his modest beginnings in Ukraine, the journey that brought him to Vancouver, and the man behind the voice. The new book, comprised mainly of direct quotes from Dayson – thanks to the Dayson/Barnett families and the Jewish Museum and Archives of British Columbia – and black-and-white photos, tells a more intimate story of his life. My favourite quote of his is: “I know nothing and you know even less!” Pure Ben Dayson.
The book portrays not only Dayson’s innate business acumen and the extent of his economic success, but also his unwavering devotion to his wife, Esther. She was the epicentre of his life, the voice of reason and the sole calming influence in his life.
It’s no secret that Dayson was an extraordinary character. He made his presence known, and loved to “work a room.” Within the space of a few hours, he could be loud, moody and assertive in his office, then morph into a charming, polite man in a social setting.
Dayson was very interested in real estate development, first residential and, later on, commercial. He had a natural business sense, despite having little to no formal education. There’s no question that his obsession with building and developing fed the fire in his belly. He’d often drive friends around to visit his buildings.
Starting life in Canada wasn’t easy, but, with determination and sheer energy, he parlayed his first business ventures into greater and greater things. Ironically, his difficult start in life (his father died when Dayson was 15) primed him for later success. Having witnessed pogroms and antisemitism, Dayson was determined to have a better life for himself and his family. When a cousin in Kamsack, Sask., sent papers to help him come to Canada, that gave Dayson the impetus to build that good life. Traveling from Ukraine to Moscow, then Riga, Berlin and Rotterdam, Dayson’s world opened up. In Rotterdam, “he became acquainted with new things in life – chocolate, coffee, white bread and girls.”
But Dayson became impatient to get to Canada. In anticipation of his future, he bought a few essentials: a new suit, a pair of shoes and a hat, which left him with only $7. His arrival in Canada took him from Halifax to Montreal to Winnipeg and then to Kamsack, where he settled in 1927. Beyond most everything else, gaining Canadian citizenship was one of his proudest accomplishments. A more patriotic man you could not find.
Friends from his hometown sent word that Esther Nemetz, who grew up just blocks from Dayson in Ukraine, was living in Vancouver – and she was a beauty. Despite never having met her, Dayson began a correspondence with her in 1931. He courted her by mail, despite that she was engaged to a doctor from London, Ont. Dayson’s trademark perseverance won the day and their romance grew. As some people know, Dayson began life as Boruch Deezik, but, at the urging of his wife-to-be, he Americanized his name and became Ben Dayson.
Nemetz’s six brothers had done well since their arrival in Canada and she benefited from their generosity, having the “wedding of her dreams,” after which, the couple moved to Viscount, Sask., where Ben Dayson had already purchased a general store. The book recounts that “Esther sold her furs and diamond rings to help buy inventory.” Their business grew, they made more money, and became community leaders.
Working together as partners, Ben and Esther Dayson grew their family and built a good life. They moved to Saskatoon and bought a meat market, which also did well. In 1949, Esther suggested they move to Vancouver, since her six brothers and two sisters lived there. Living in the big city, the Daysons involved themselves in the Jewish community, surrounded themselves with extended family and expanded their social circle.
In 1951, Dayson discovered real estate and became consumed by it; he built numerous apartment buildings in Vancouver, Richmond, Burnaby, New Westminster and West Vancouver. He had a remarkable sense of what would work and what wouldn’t in the real estate world. He was a pragmatist and a savvy, self-taught businessman. In the 1970s and 1980s, he discovered industrial property, and the book paints a picture of a tenacious but principled man who always got what he wanted. Unless his wife vetoed it.
Throughout their life, Ben and Esther Dayson were great philanthropists and ardent supporters of Israel. Among the many causes they supported was the Richmond Public Library, where I was first introduced to Ben. Having built the first high-rise apartments in Richmond and benefited from them, Dayson felt he owed a debt of gratitude to Richmond. So, in 2004, the couple gave $50,000 to the Richmond Public Library Endowment Fund, one of the library’s largest single donations.
An avid reader and lover of books, Ben Dayson also gave most of his personal Judaica book collection to the library, and established the Ben and Esther Dayson Judaica Collection at the Brighouse (Main) Branch. Thanks to the Daysons, the library is now home to one of the Lower Mainland’s largest Judaica collections, and includes Jewish books, DVD movies and newspapers. In 2004, Ben Dayson was awarded the British Columbia Library Association Keith Sacré Library Champion Award for his support of libraries, literacy and public access to information.
As a senior librarian at the Richmond Library, I had the honour and pleasure of working closely with Ben Dayson to develop this collection. He maintained a hands-on approach to the collection, and would regularly buy and donate Jewish-themed books to the library. Always insisting on an accurate (and usually immediate) accounting of the books he donated, I would often get calls from him, asking (telling?) me to come to his home with the library’s laptop, so I could type out an author/title list of the books he donated.
This was a regular occurrence. But I remember one particular time when there was a bad snowstorm. It was a Friday night and my home phone rang at around 8 p.m. It was Dayson. He said, “I have books for you. Come and get them.” I recall asking him, “You mean right now?” To which, naturally, he replied, “Yes.” It was around 2006 and I didn’t yet own a personal laptop. Knowing that few people ever say no to Ben Dayson (and live to tell the tale), I drove through the snowstorm to his home, bearing a pad of paper and a pen. The rest is history.
Dayson Here: The Story Behind the Voice is filled with fascinating information about the Dayson family business. But there are also plenty of surprising and humorous anecdotes demonstrating how passionate Ben Dayson was about issues that offended him personally. He pursued causes until he got a satisfactory resolution, or was forced to give up the fight, like when the government revoked his driver’s licence at age 95.
As Shirley Barnett said so eloquently in her father’s eulogy, Ben Dayson “lived his life loud and clear.” It’s nearly impossible to encapsulate the enormity of his personality, but this book does just that, with humour, honesty and love. His headstone says it all: “Once met, never forgotten.”
Copies of Dayson Here are available at the RPL Brighouse branch, the Isaac Waldman Jewish Public Library at the Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver or by contacting the authors directly.
Shelley Civkin is a happily retired librarian and communications officer. For 17 years, she wrote a weekly book review column for the Richmond Review, and currently writes a bi-weekly column about retirement for the Richmond News.
Penny Sprackman receives the special shoes on her 60th birthday, in 2006. (photos from Shirley Barnett)
Some things just happen and, before long, they become a tradition. In 1987, Harvey Shafron, while working at Freedman Shoes on South Granville, came across a rather clunky pair of women’s shoes on a top shelf and gave them to his sister, Rhoda (Shafron) Brickell.
Brickell, in turn, presented them to her friend Lola Pawer for her 50th birthday. Since then, the shoes have been passed from friend to friend among a group of Vancouver Jewish women on birthdays that end in a zero or five.
“It just happened,” said Shirley Barnett, a two-time recipient – on her 60th and 70th birthdays. “It became kind of fun to say, ‘Oh my God, it’s the shoes again.’”
The pair is not casually delivered; the recipient is formally presented the shoes at a celebration, usually at a restaurant, in front of the assembled pals.
“I really believe, as they were passed around, that it’s a story about friendship,” Barnett said. “When you reach a special age of some sort, everybody seems to say girlfriends are really important. It doesn’t matter if you’re divorced or widowed or you’re still married. At a certain age – and that could be 60, 70, 80 or 90 – a light seems to go on in women’s heads that says girlfriends are important. They are the ones you call in the middle of the night – maybe not, maybe you call your kids, I don’t know – but there seems to be an unwritten code that the older you get, you just need a few good girlfriends.”
The size 8C shoes have fit every recipient, Barnett said. A ceremonial walkabout by the birthday celebrant is a part of the ritual.
Leslie Diamond and Pawer have received the shoes five times. Sylvia Cristall and Darlene Spevakow have received them four times. Karla Marks is a three-time recipient and Carole Chark and Penny Sprackman have gotten them twice. Others who have been honoured with the pair are Maja Mindell, Shelley Lederman, Anita Silber, Sandy Magid, Esther Glotman and Cynthia Levy.
At the start, the names of the recipients were written on the soles of the shoes but, as Dorothy Parker said, time wounds all heels, and the inscriptions have become mostly illegible.
What has remained indelible are some of the remarks made by recipients over the years. Barnett, who is sort of the informal archivist of the group, has collected words of wisdom shared over the years.
“It is the friends we meet along life’s way who make the trip more fun,” said one birthday celebrant.
“Friends make good things better and bad things not so bad,” said another.
“Being older sets you free,” reflected one. “You care less about what other people think, you no longer need to question yourself. You have earned the right to be wrong and not think about what could have been or what will be.”
On one birthday, a friend declared: “Remember, growing old is a privilege and old friendships are rare. So, when your ‘old’ friends reach for your hand, grab it.”
Another gem Barnett has collected: “The better the friend, the less cleaning you have to do before they come over!”
Left to right are Sam Sullivan, Glen Hodges, Cynthia Ramsay, Margaret Sutherland and Shirley Barnett with one of the Mountain View Cemetery ledgers. (photo by Lynn Zanatta)
“When we were restoring the Jewish cemetery at Mountain View, we spent two years going through City of Vancouver material trying to determine if the city actually had something in writing to prove the legitimacy of this Jewish section since 1892,” Shirley Barnett, who led the Jewish cemetery restoration project, told the Jewish Independent in an email. The committee couldn’t find anything in the city records.
While this lack of documented history lengthened the restoration agreement process significantly, it did not halt it. Barnett, as chair, opened the first meeting of the restoration advisory committee on Feb. 13, 2013, and the Jewish cemetery at Mountain View was officially rededicated on May 3, 2015. However, if the committee were to have started its work today, the information it sought would have been found, and the process would have moved much more quickly.
Sam Sullivan, member of the Legislative Assembly (Vancouver-False Creek) and former mayor of Vancouver, founded the Global Civic Society in 2010. As part of its mission to encourage “a knowledgeable and cosmopolitan citizenry to make strong connections to their community,” the society leads several initiatives, including Transcribimus, “a network of volunteers that is transcribing early city council minutes and other handwritten documents from early Vancouver, and making them freely available to students, researchers and the general public.”
Transcribimus project coordinator Margaret Sutherland has transcribed at least 155 sets of Vancouver City Council minutes. It was she who found what Barnett and her committee were looking for – in the council minutes of June 6, 1892. On page 32 of the minute book, it is recorded that correspondence had been received, “From D. Goldberg asking the council to set aside a portion of the public cemetery for the Jewish congregation,” and was “Referred to the Board of Health.”
Two weeks later, the minutes of June 20, 1892, note that the health committee had resolved, among other items, “[t]hat the piece of land selected by the Jewish people in the public cemetery be set aside for their purposes.”
The cemetery first appears to have come up a few years earlier. In the July 29, 1889, council minutes, there is reference to a letter: “From L. Davies on behalf of the Jewish congregation of the city of Vancouver requesting council to set apart about one acre and a half in the public cemetery for members of the Hebrew confession. Referred to the Board of Works.”
In an email to Barnett, Sutherland wrote, “There doesn’t seem to be any indication from city council minutes that the Board of Works ever followed up on the above request. Although [Jewish community member and then-mayor] David Oppenheimer was on the Board of Works for that year, so was his opponent, Samuel Brighouse.”
On Dec. 7, 2018, the Jewish Independent met with Barnett, Sullivan, Sutherland, Lynn Zanatta (Global Civic Policy Society program manager) and Glen Hodges (Mountain View Cemetery manager) at Mountain View. In documents she brought to that meeting, Sutherland explains that Oppenheimer “declined to serve as mayor again at the end of 1891, citing poor health as his reason for retiring. Fred Cope was elected mayor in 1892 and served till the end of 1893.” So it was Cope who was mayor when the Jewish cemetery was established; Oppenheimer was Vancouver’s second mayor (1888-1891) and Malcolm Maclean its first (1886-1887).
The first interment at Mountain View Cemetery was Caradoc Evans, who died at nine months, 24 days, on Feb. 26, 1887. The first Jew interred in the cemetery is thought to be Simon Hirschberg, who “died of his own hand” on Jan. 29, 1887, and was, according the plaque erected by the cemetery in 2011 (the cemetery’s 125th year), “intended to be the first interment,” however, “rain, a broken carriage wheel on a bad road and his large size all contributed to him being buried just outside the cemetery property,” where he was “long thought to have been left near the intersection of 33rd and Fraser” until his body was moved into a grave on cemetery property. Oddly enough, the first Jew to be buried in the Jewish section was Otto Bond (Dec. 19, 1892), who also took his own life.
So far, since its inception in 2012, Transcribimus has seen more than 300 transcripts produced by almost 40 volunteers, although a handful of them are responsible for the lion’s share to date. Many people have donated their time, technical advice and, of course, funds to the project. Barnett sponsored the transcribing of the city council minutes for 1891, and fellow Jewish community member Arnold Silber sponsored the transcription of the 1890 minutes. A few other years have also been sponsored, including 1888, by the Oppenheimer Group.
About nine years’ worth of minutes have been transcribed (1886-1893 and 1900), leaving much more work to be done, as the city kept handwritten minutes until mid-1911. After that, minutes were typewritten and these documents can be scanned and read with OCR (optical character recognition), said Sutherland.
The Transcribimus website (transcribimus.ca) is one of the best-designed sites the Independent has come across. It is both visually appealing and incredibly easy to use. In addition to the transcribed council minutes, it includes photos of the minute book pages. As well, it features letters from Vancouver’s early years, historical photographs and a few videos, including a film by William Harbeck of a trolley ride through Victoria and Vancouver in 1907, which has had speed corrections and sound added by YouTuber Guy Jones. (Astute viewers will see that the trolley is driving on the lefthand side of the road. British Columbia didn’t switch to the right until 1921-22.)
In the material Sutherland brought to the December meeting at the cemetery office, she included the transcription of the short letter that city clerk Thomas McGuigan wrote on June 23, 1892, in response to Goldberg’s letter that was mentioned in the council minutes. In it, McGuigan confirms “the grant made by council to the people of the Jewish faith of a piece of land in the public cemetery,” but adds that “they will be unable to give you title for the same, as the land was set apart by an Order in Council of the provincial government for burial purposes and they refuse to give any other title.”
Sutherland hadn’t come across Goldberg’s letter, that of Davies or any response to Davies. It’s likely that these letters have been lost or destroyed, but they might turn up in another file, she said.
However, Sutherland did find a brief letter to the editor of the Vancouver Daily World newspaper, dated Nov. 1, 1898, from L. Rubinowitz, which she emailed to the Independent. Rubinowitz wanted the application for the Jewish cemetery by “a certain number of Jews of this city” to be refused. In his view, “all the Hebrews of this city are not combined as one body” and “To avoid trouble between them and for the sake of peace, as one party will claim that they have the sole right to it, the other party will claim that they have the sole right to it, therefore, as it is now under the control of the city, we are well satisfied to let it remain so, as in my opinion the city will have no objections for us to make any improvements if necessary.”
The old joke comes to mind of the Jewish man who, when stranded on a deserted island by himself, builds two synagogues – the one he’ll attend and the one he won’t set foot in. Community cohesiveness is a heady task; always has been, and definitely not just for the Jewish community.
As more council minutes, letters, photographs and other documents are found, transcribed and shared, the holes in our understanding of the past and how it has formed the present will be filled. To support or participate in Transcribimus or other Global Civic Society projects, visit globalcivic.org.
This year, Jewish Federation honoured, for the first time, an organization outside of the Jewish community. The inaugural recipient of the honour was the Vancouver Police Department.
At its annual general meeting June 19, the Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver honoured four volunteers: Alex Cristall, Judi Korbin, Judith Cohen and Courtney Cohen. It also honoured, for the first time, an organization outside of the Jewish community – the Vancouver Police Department.
On June 18, L’Chaim Adult Day Centre celebrated its first 100th birthday, with program participant Beverly Klein.
On the evening of June 13, siblings Shirley Barnett and Philip Dayson were honoured with the B.C. Genealogical Society Book Award.
On the evening of June 5, Jewish Family Services held its first annual Volunteer Appreciation Event, celebrating the dedicated volunteers of JFS and the Better at Home program.
Louis Brier Home and Hospital has successfully achieved accreditation with exemplary standing from Accreditation Canada.
Among the B.C. Civil Liberties Association’s Liberty Award winners on May 17 were Ken Klonsky, for excellence in the arts, and Peter Klein, for excellence in journalism.
At its annual general meeting June 19, the Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver honoured four volunteers.
Alex Cristall was presented with the Harry Woogman Award, which recognizes a volunteer who leads consistently and conscientiously by example and has long-standing and diligent campaign involvement. Cristall is the outgoing annual campaign chair. His dedication and commitment to leadership excellence has made an enormous impact on Federation and the community as a whole.
Judi Korbin was given the Arthur Fouks Award, which honours leaders who demonstrate dedication to the goals and principles of Jewish Federation and who provide outstanding leadership to the annual campaign. Korbin is the outgoing chair of Federation’s endowment program, the Jewish Community Foundation, and is a past chair of the annual campaign.
The Kipnis-Wilson/Friedland Award went to Judith Cohen. As a past volunteer chair of women’s philanthropy, Cohen is no stranger to philanthropic work. She draws the inspiration for her community involvement from having grown up seeing her parents “pour their time and energies into the Jewish community.” She received the Kipnis-Wilson/Friedland Award from Jewish Federations of North America for demonstrating the highest ideals of leadership and involvement.
The Young Leadership Award was presented to Courtney Cohen for her extensive volunteer work with many Jewish organizations around Greater Vancouver. Just two examples among many are her involvement in Federation’s Axis program for young Jewish adults as the co-chair of the leadership development pillar, and her founding of Rose’s Angels, a care-package project created to honour her grandmother.
This year, Jewish Federation also honoured, for the first time, an organization outside of the Jewish community, with the first recipient of the honour being the Vancouver Police Department.
“Our Federation has had a long and valued relationship with the department and our staff have been able to count on their assistance and intervention during crisis situations and high-profile events attracting protesters, as well as being willing to provide education and training to our communal professionals on an as-needed basis,” said Bernard Pinsky, chair of Federation’s community security advisory committee, in presenting the award, which was accepted by Deputy Chief Lawrence Rankin on behalf of the VPD.
Pinksy expressed Federation’s “appreciation to constables Ryan Hooper and Dale Quiring for their support over the years,” and said Federation was looking forward “to a continued positive relationship with Constables James Hooper and Jacqueline Abbot.”
In introducing the video created for Federation’s 30th anniversary, board chair Karen James thanked “Jonathan and Heather Berkowitz, whose experience editing the Federation Magazine for many years was invaluable to this project, as well as past Federation president Sondi Green, whose father, Arthur Fouks, was a founder of our Federation, and Al Szajman, chair of our marketing and communications resource group for their work on this project.”
On June 18, L’Chaim Adult Day Centre celebrated its first 100th birthday, with program participant Beverly Klein. Four generations of her family, friends, fellow program participants, L’Chaim board members, staff and volunteers, as well as Jewish community leaders, threw a party at L’Chaim to commemorate her reaching this milestone.
Knowing her love of music, she was honoured with the musical talents of Allison Berry, who performed classics from the 1940s. Beverly was delighted to receive congratulations and warm wishes from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the Queen’s representative, the governor general of Canada, Julie Payette.
Ezra Shanken, chief executive officer of the Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver, spoke about Beverly and said that she didn’t look a day over 40, to which she replied, “Hey, I like this guy!”
A much-loved program participant since 2013, the birthday girl was born in Poland near Warsaw in Meserich, and was one of 11 children. A story treasured by her children is Beverly’s childhood memory of preparing for Shabbat by “building a floor” and “doing the stove” – her home’s dirt floors had to be swept and pounded down, and Beverly would pile up the bricks for the oven, which was then whitewashed. Her family immigrated to Canada in 1929 with only the clothes on their backs, which were sewn from potato sacks. During the Second World War, Beverly came to Vancouver to spend time with her sister Ruby, and she met her husband Dave. They married and had two daughters and a wonderful life together.
Beverly continues to live in her own home because of the love and devotion of her family. The Turnbulls – Wendy, husband Steve and boys Ryan and Gavin – and the Blonds – Arlene, husband Les and children Amanda and Ben – are all devoted to their mom and bubbie.
Both daughters Arlene and Wendy gave heartfelt speeches at the birthday party. Arlene said, “It’s very reassuring to families to know that their loved ones have a safe place to go where they are not only stimulated but treated like family.” Wendy said, “L’Chaim remembers that older people deserve respect for a lifetime of achievements and all that they are today. The sheer joy with which the staff planned Beverly’s party touched all of us.”
The L’Chaim Adult Day Centre strives to improve the quality of life of its participants by providing a caring and stimulating group experience for those who might otherwise be socially isolated, while also providing support and respite for care-giving families and friends. It is funded in part by Vancouver Coastal Health, Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver, the Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver and private donations from the larger community.
On the evening of June 13, siblings Shirley Barnett and Philip Dayson were honoured with the B.C. Genealogical Society Book Award. Barnett and Dayson were recognized for their book Don’t Break the Chain, which describes the journey of Abraham and Toba Nemetz from Svatatroiske in Ukraine to Vancouver and points in between.
Fleeing from pogroms in 1922, Abraham and Toba began a new life in Canada. One of the pages in Don’t Break the Chain outlines how their family of nine children grew into 196 descendants. Family trees and portraits – both individual and group – are part of a fascinating picture of a family whose lives became an important part of both the Jewish and general communities of Vancouver.
In her acceptance of the award, Barnett said that, while researching the book, numerous family members (known and previously unknown) were reached with 100% cooperation from all of them in helping to compile information for the book. The title comes from Ben Dayson, Barnett and Dayson’s father. Although he married into the family, because of his belief in the value of family ties, Ben Dayson often “ended his conversations and speeches with the sentence, ‘don’t break the chain.’”
Barnett thanked the Jewish Museum and Archives of British Columbia for their support and rich accumulation of archival material. For more information, interested readers may access nemetzfamily.ca or the Jewish Museum at jewishmuseum.ca.
Congratulations to Shirley Barnett and Philip Dayson for being honoured by the B.C. Genealogical Society, who recognized the positive impact of their family and this book on the history and development of our province.
On the evening of June 5, Jewish Family Services hosted more than 70 people at its first annual Volunteer Appreciation Event. It was a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the dedicated volunteers of JFS and the Better at Home program, a government-funded service for seniors managed by United Way and administered by JFS. The guest speaker, Dr. Rotem Regev, presented on the value of human connection, empathy and the power of giving back.
Richard Fruchter, chief executive officer of JFS, spoke about the commitment of volunteers to the agency, describing “volunteers as the life-blood of JFS.” It was volunteers, he said, who founded the Jewish Family Welfare Bureau of Vancouver (JFS’s original name) when it opened more than 80 years ago to assist the poor and elderly living in Vancouver, and to help resettle new immigrants fleeing antisemitism in Europe.
“Your commitment to uplifting lives, for our clients and community, is an example for us all,” Fruchter said. “By stepping up to help, offering your time, skills and resources, you are the reason we can meet more of the needs in our community and accomplish the work that we do.”
There are more than 170 people who volunteer regularly through JFS and Better at Home, and some have been serving for more than 15 years. JFS’s youngest volunteers are in grades 7 and 8 from Vancouver Talmud Torah and King David High School who help regularly at the Jewish Food Bank.
JFS volunteers are responsible for a wide range of work. They support the Jewish Food Bank at the Peretz Centre; seniors lunches and outreach services, such as grocery shopping, visiting and driving to and from appointments; English-language practice for newcomers to Canada; interviewing skills for job seekers; mental health outreach; and administrative support in the office. Chanukah helpers, Passover hampers, Rosh Hashanah activities and Project Isaiah are all programs that rely almost entirely on volunteers. For many individuals and families, these Jewish holiday programs are the only connections they have with their Jewish heritage.
For more information on volunteering with JFS, contact Ayana Honig at [email protected] or call 604-226-5151.
Louis Brier Home and Hospital has successfully achieved accreditation with exemplary standing from Accreditation Canada.
Accreditation Canada is an independent, not-for-profit organization that sets standards for quality and safety in health care and accredits health organizations in Canada and around the world. Louis Brier Home and Hospital voluntarily participated in accreditation because it believes that quality and safety matter to residents and their families/significant others. Improving the quality of care is a continuous journey – a journey to which Louis Brier is fully committed.
As part of the Qmentum program, the home and hospital has undergone a rigorous evaluation process. Following a comprehensive self-assessment, external peer surveyors conducted an on-site survey during which they assessed the organization’s leadership, governance, clinical programs and services against Accreditation Canada requirements for quality and safety. These requirements include national standards of excellence; required safety practices to reduce potential harm; and questionnaires to assess the work environment, resident safety culture, governance functioning and client experience. Results from all these components were considered in the accreditation decision.
The accreditation survey team spent four days at Louis Brier, and reviewed a total of 19 required organizational practices (ROPs), 216 high priority criteria and 295 other criteria for a total of 551 criteria. The accreditation surveyors determined that the Louis Brier successfully met 100% of the ROPs and 100% of the criteria evaluated.
“I am very proud of everyone at Louis Brier Home and Hospital,” said Dr. David Keselman, chief executive officer. “Our staff worked and continue to work incredibly hard to make sure we meet the needs of our residents in every possible way, helping them and their loved ones maintain optimal health status, control and dignity every day, every time. Receiving exemplary standing from Accreditation Canada is a real testament to the changing culture and focus at Louis Brier Home and Hospital. Accreditation Canada standards and requirements will continue to guide us into the future as we continue to evolve and continuously improve our practices and care delivery efforts.”
He added, “I will, of course, be remiss if I do not mention the ongoing support and generosity of the LBHH and WR [Weinberg Residence] and the [Louis Brier Jewish Aged] foundation boards, without whom this journey may not have been as smooth or possible.”
The B.C. Civil Liberties Association’s Liberty Awards recognize outstanding achievements to protect and promote human rights and freedoms in Canada. Among the 2018 award winners were Ken Klonsky, for excellence in the arts, and Peter Klein, for excellence in journalism.
Klonsky, co-author of Dr. Rubin Carter’s Eye of the Hurricane, is a former Toronto teacher and writer now living in Vancouver. He is a director of Innocence International, the organization conceived by Carter to help free wrongly convicted prisoners worldwide. His artistic works call readers to action to defend civil liberties and improve the justice system. His art and advocacy on behalf of those who have been wrongfully convicted has contributed greatly to the advancement of human rights in Canada and internationally.
Klein is a journalist, writer and documentary filmmaker. He has been a producer for the CBS newsmagazine 60 Minutes since 1999, produces video projects for the New York Times and writes columns regularly for the Globe and Mail. He is the founder of the Global Reporting Centre, a nonprofit organization dedicated to reporting on neglected global issues and innovating the practice of global journalism. His record of groundbreaking broadcast journalism exposing human rights abuses around the world deserves to be celebrated. His efforts are empowering the next generation to continue to hold the powerful to account.
The other 2018 Liberty Awards were Miranda Hlady (youth or community activism), Stockwoods LLP (legal advocacy, group) and Dr. Pamela Palmater (legal advocacy, individual). Hassan Diab, Rania Tfaily and Don Bayne, on behalf of the Hassan Diab Support Committee, were recognized with the Reg Robson Award, which is given annually to honour substantial contributions to the cause of civil liberties in British Columbia and Canada.
Don’t Break the Chain is the first publication of what the Jewish Museum and Archives of British Columbia hopes will become a Family History series.
The Jewish Museum and Archives of British Columbia has released the first book in what it hopes will become a Family History series. Don’t Break the Chain: The Nemetz Family Journey from Svatatroiske to Vancouver was published in collaboration with the Ben and Esther Dayson Charitable Foundation, and was researched by Shirley Barnett and Philip Dayson.
Barnett described her family as founders and workers behind the scenes of the Vancouver Jewish community.
“One of my mother’s sisters helped build Congregation Schara Tzedeck, the Louis Brier Home and funeral chapels, while another sister founded Jewish Family Services and visited the poor, people in prisons and mental hospitals. My mother ran charity events for Jewish Vancouver from the age of 18 and her brother started Camp Hatikvah,” she said. “They brought a lot of strength to the community. The next generation, which was mine and included 23 of us, has made significant contributions to Jewish Vancouver, too.”
There was plenty of raw material to draw from for the book, given the fact that Barnett’s six brothers had created memoirs and Dayson had begun creating family trees 25 years ago. The project became challenging when she opted to include charts and photographs of children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
“I established contact with members of the family I never knew, siblings who’d had arguments and people estranged from the family, and it took a very soft approach, getting them to respond with photographs,” she explained. “I wasn’t looking to mend fences or interfere in anyone’s life, I just wanted to write a book!”
Ultimately, with the assistance of graphic designer Barbi Braude and Facebook, she was able to source all the photographs required to complete the book.
Michael Schwartz, director of community engagement at the JMABC, said the Nemetz family journey would resonate among many other Jewish families in Vancouver.
“The story of leaving Europe, getting here and eventually bringing their family to Canada has parallels for many in our community and is a fascinating tale,” he said. “The Nemetz family has a very interesting history and many siblings of the early generation have accomplished great things and had an important impact on the community as a whole.”
The museum is hoping to partner with other families who are interested in creating similar books. Barnett described the creation of the book as a joint venture. “My brother and I contributed the money to the museum and archives, which then allowed us to use their name, resources, and to co-publish this,” she said. “I’d like to see the Wosk, Groberman and Waterman families – all large, extended families with deep roots in Vancouver – do a book like this.”
The launch of Don’t Break the Chain is being celebrated at a hosted brunch at the Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver on April 2, 11 a.m. If you are interested in attending, call the museum 604-257-5199.
Lauren Kramer, an award-winning writer and editor, lives in Richmond. To read her work online, visit laurenkramer.net.
Shirley Barnett, a longtime community activist and philanthropist, is to be honored by the Jewish National Fund at its annual Negev Dinner April 10.
“The Jewish National Fund is a strong organization that is entering a new stage of many joint ventures and many new directions and worthy of support,” said Barnett, who selected as the recipient project of the event a shelter for women and children fleeing domestic violence.
Jewish National Fund, Pacific Region, is collaborating with No to Violence Against Women, which was established in 1978 by Israel Prize laureate Ruth Rasnic, who is scheduled to be in Vancouver for the event.
The goal is to raise $1.5 million for the project, which will shelter 10 to 12 families at a time and provide victims of domestic violence with a safe environment from which they can start over. Staff and volunteers of the organization work with families to access therapy, secure income and new housing.
As many as 65% to 70% of women and children fleeing domestic abuse in Israel cannot access shelters due to lack of availability. Moreover, the shelters run by No to Violence Against Women are the only ones open to people of all religions and denominations, said Barnett.
The shelter, in Rishon Le Zion near Tel Aviv, will be named the Vancouver Shelter.
The cause is in line with Barnett’s lifetime work.
“I was involved in the women’s movement going way back to the ’60s,” she told the Independent. “I was on the board of directors of the Vancouver Status of Women in the ‘60s. I’ve always been aware of the lack of empowerment in women and the lack of women seeing their potential to be strong. And, when you’re abused, you need to develop the strength to be more resilient.”
Barnett said she knew she wanted to be a social worker from age 12. While at the University of British Columbia, she had the opportunity to work as a women’s matron at Oakalla prison in Burnaby.
“I was always interested in institutional work, I don’t know why,” she said. “I worked there for about half a year and then I did my fieldwork in juvenile probation.” She worked in other prison settings, as well as with people with addictions.
“More recently, I was on the board of the Odd Squad Society,” she said. “It’s a group of police officers who do gang prevention work in their off-hours.”
She also helped found Food Runners, now part of the Vancouver Food Bank. It is a program in which a refrigerated truck picks up surplus food from hotels and restaurants and delivers it to organizations that feed people.
After graduating with a bachelor of social work degree, Barnett worked for a federal agency setting up affirmative action projects for women and resettlement projects for Ugandan refugees.
As a volunteer, she served on the board of directors of the Jewish Family Service Agency for 12 years, including four as president. She also spent two years as the agency’s acting executive director. During that time, she founded the Hebrew Free Loan Association, which now holds more than $1 million in assets and has provided thousands of loans to people in need.
Barnett has also co-chaired campaigns for the Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver (JCCGV) and the Jewish Museum and Archives of British Columbia (JMABC). She was the first president of Shalva, a facility in Israel for special needs children. She established a garden in Fir Square at B.C. Women’s Hospital and a unit for addicted mothers and their infants, a peer-to-peer coaching program at the UBC Counseling Centre, a pilot project at Vancouver Hospital for early intervention for depression in women, and led the restoration of the old Jewish Cemetery at Mountain View. She has advised the Aboriginal Mother Centre and currently serves on the faculty of arts advisory committee to the dean of arts at UBC, on the board of directors of the JMABC and on the Schara Tzedeck Cemetery board, and she is an honorary director of the Hebrew Free Loan Association.
With her brother, Philip Dayson, she administers the Ben and Esther Dayson Charitable Foundation, which provides philanthropic funds to local Jewish and other community causes, particularly in the area of non-market housing and rental subsidies for members of the Jewish community.
Barnett said that the shelter project in Israel is especially meaningful because it is supported by the JNF, a charity that her family has always supported.
“We grew up with the JNF in our house,” she said.
In addition to the latest honor from the JNF, Barnett’s contributions to the community have been recognized by the JCCGV, N’Shei Chabad and Jewish Women International, and she received the Gemilut Chasadim award from the International Association of Hebrew Free Loans.
The sold-out Negev Dinner takes place at the Four Seasons Hotel.