For the SOS – Starting Over Safely summer campaign at chwsos.ca on Aug. 22, donated funds will be matched three times. (photo by Ben Kelmer)
CHW (Canadian Hadassah-WIZO) is in the midst of its third annual SOS – Starting Over Safely – summer campaign, aimed at empowering victims of domestic violence in Canada and Israel. Building upon the success of last year’s campaign, CHW has expanded its support for Franny’s Fund, ensuring an availability of funding in Vancouver, Calgary, Ottawa, Montreal and Toronto. Franny’s Fund was created to fill gaps for urgent needs like therapeutic counseling and legal support for women and their children who are navigating the criminal justice system.
In Canada, where domestic violence remains a critical issue, one woman is killed in a violent act every 48 hours. The spike in domestic violence that began during the pandemic is not diminishing and instead continues to increase. In Canada, it has increased by 27% since 2019. Similarly, Israel has experienced an escalation, with a 50% increase in femicide in 2022 – 17 women have lost their lives to domestic violence in Israel in the first six months of this year.
SOS – Starting Over Safely focuses on three campaign priorities: Franny’s Fund in Canada, WIZO programs, and the Michal Sela Forum in Israel. The campaign goals include empowering at-risk women and children to break the cycle of violence, access to critical resources, provision of essentials and opportunities for economic independence, and the establishment of a supportive network for women in similar circumstances. Additionally, the campaign aims to fund specially trained canine protection and respite summer camp experiences for at-risk youth.
“CHW firmly believes in the right of every individual to achieve their full potential while living in safety and security,” said Lisa Colt-Kotler, CHW chief executive officer. “Together, we have the power to empower.”
Established in 1917 by Jewish women, CHW (chw.ca) is a non-political, non-partisan national network of volunteers that believes in the advancement of education, healthcare and social services, transcending politics, religion and national boundaries. To support the SOS – Starting Over Safely 2023 campaign, there have been events held across the country. The CHW Montreal Walk took place on Aug. 6 and the CHW Vancouver Walk on Aug. 13, at Jericho Beach Park. The CHW Calgary Walk will take place on Aug. 20 and Montreal’s Online Bridge Tournament on Sept. 6. On Sept. 10, people can empower victims of domestic violence by supporting the CHW National Garage Sale held in cities across Canada.
Most importantly, on Tuesday, Aug. 22, CHW will host a 27-hour online crowdfunding campaign, beginning at 9 a.m. PST. The fundraising target for the campaign is $400,000, with all donated funds being matched three times by a dedicated group of donors known as the “Matching Heroes.” To contribute or learn more about CHW’s initiatives, visit chwsos.ca.
Marie Henry, left, and Barbara Halparin (photo by Barbara Halparin)
Don’t yearn to push your pedals to the max up the Sea to Sky Highway among thousands of lean, spandexed superbodies? Then do I have a fondo for you: the Grannyfondo, aka Solidarity Cycle 2023.
On Sunday, Sept. 10, Grandparents Day, a team of 30-plus grandmothers and their grand-others will conquer 100 kilometres of dike trails and farmlands in the Fraser Valley, all in the service of the Stephen Lewis Foundation Grandmothers to Grandmothers Campaign.
Among the cyclists will be grandparents Darcy and Marty Billinkoff and Marie Henry, as well as myself. We’re all members of Tikun Olam Gogos, one of 18 Gogos groups in the Lower Mainland. Gogo is an African term for grandmother (or the oft-used “granny”), and the Hebrew phrase tikkun olam means repairing the world. We are grandmothers and grand-others aiming to alleviate the scourge of HIV/AIDS that continues to ravage Africa.
We ride in solidarity with our African partners, the millions of grandmothers in 15 sub-Saharan nations who are raising their grandchildren, orphaned by a disease that continues to overwhelm, despite the progress that has been made worldwide in the areas of treatment, prevention and education.
Inspired by these intrepid women, we ride with hearts full of the knowledge that we are a part of a life-changing movement in which aging women who feel increasingly powerful in their lives are moving the world forward.
Darcy Billinkoff, an avid cyclist, and Janine Reid of Royal City Gogos, conceived the idea for the Solidarity Cycle after learning of similar events in Victoria and Ottawa. Reflecting local inclinations, they envisioned an experience that would be challenging yet doable: a one-day, 100-kilometre ride with a 50-kilometre option. Cyclists are fully supported with nourishing meals and treats, insurance, route maps, GPS, first aid, a service vehicle, a photographer and, of course, a Solidarity Cycle T-shirt. To date, Solidarity Cycle, now in its seventh consecutive year, has raised more than $308,000 for the Grandmothers Campaign.
If you love to cycle, we would love to have you along for this fun-and-fund-raiser, whether or not you are a member of a grandmothers group. If you wish to support the team with your donation, we would love that too! To register or donate, go to solidaritycycle.weebly.com.
In Canada, one woman is killed in a violent act every 48 hours. The spike in domestic violence that began during the pandemic is not diminishing and instead continues to increase. It has increased in Canada by 27% since 2019.
In Israel, the situation is just as critical. In the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, 20,140 domestic violence complaints were lodged with police, an increase of 12% from the previous year, and, in 2022, the rate of femicide in Israel increased by 50%. In the first five months of this year, 16 women have been murdered.
Join CHW (Canadian Hadassah-WIZO) Vancouver Centre for the CHW Vancouver Walk on Sunday, Aug. 13, from 10 a.m. to noon at Jericho Beach. This annual event raises funds in support of CHW’s SOS – Starting Over Safely – summer campaign to empower victims of domestic violence.
The CHW Vancouver Walk is an opportunity for the community to come together and make a difference. By participating in this event, you will not only support essential programs that empower women to break the cycle of violence, but also raise awareness about the issue of domestic abuse.
The programs supported by this cause are WIZO services for domestic abuse survivors, Michal Sela Forum in Israel and Franny’s Fund in Canada. These programs will:
provide help for parents and families in need of an urgent response,
provide women and their children with specially trained protections dogs,
provide women and their children with the basic essentials to start over safely,
provide awareness materials to help women recognize the signs of abuse,
fund respite summer camp experiences for at-risk youth,
provide access to critical resources, including legal counsel and therapeutic counseling services, and
assist with social and personal support to help break the cycle of violence.
CHW encourages everyone to come to Jericho Beach, where the event will kick off promptly at 10 a.m. To donate and to register to walk, jog or run, go to chw.ca/vancouver-walk (free for kids under 18). Strollers and dogs are welcome. No matter how you choose to participate, your presence and support will make a meaningful impact. Together, we can create a safer and more secure environment for those affected by domestic abuse.
Also, save the date: on Aug. 22, CHW will launch a 27-hour online crowdfunding campaign. Funds raised that day will be matched three more times by a loyal community of donors, the Matching Heroes, so please visit chwsos.ca sometime during those 27 hours and donate.
“Tikkun olam,” said Candace Kwinter, Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver board chair and Jewish Agency for Israel board member, about what drives her to donate so much of her time and energy both locally and globally.
“I feel it in my heart and soul to assist every Jew in the world who needs help in whatever way necessary,” said Kwinter, who is concluding her two-year term as chair. She will continue with the board as immediate past chair.
As board chair, Kwinter works alongside fellow volunteers and Federation staff.
“We provide our more than 30 partner agencies, including the day schools, supplementary Hebrew schools, Jewish Family Services, the Jewish Community Centre and more, with support, not only through funding but by bringing our partners together to collaborate and innovate to meet our community’s evolving needs today and in the future,” she said.
With the Jewish Agency, Kwinter attends the board of governors meetings twice a year; additionally, she sits on the agency’s aliyah, unity of the Jewish people, and antisemitism committees.
“With antisemitism on the rise and aliyah doubling because of Ukraine and Russia, the Jewish Agency has been extremely busy. We are working hard to connect Israelis to world Jewry and, from a local perspective, more Jews in British Columbia specifically,” she said.
According to Kwinter, the partnership between Federation and the Jewish Agency is vital because each can achieve much more by joining forces. She noted that it is the federation system across North America – not only the local federation – that partners with the Jewish Agency by financially supporting the agency’s work on the ground.
“The impact our community can make at an international level is so much greater when we work together,” she said. “Locally, Federation supports the Jewish Agency and the Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) with funding to assist world Jewry in aliyah, humanitarian needs and security concerns, as well as bridging the gaps between Israelis and world Jewry.”
Largely due to the global pandemic, needs have shifted during Kwinter’s time on both boards. “COVID changed everything. We all had to pivot when the pandemic hit and it created a lot of uncertainty,” she said.
Among the social consequences resulting from COVID-19 – locally, in Israel and around the world – have been increased food insecurity, a surge in mental health issues, inflation and isolation. In 2022, humanitarian needs were exacerbated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, thereby increasing the demand for aliyah.
“I am incredibly proud of the way our community responded and, because of the partnerships already in place with organizations like the JDC and the Jewish Agency, we were able to get people the help they needed quickly and effectively,” said Kwinter.
Concurrent with the European conflict, the Jewish Agency established Tzur Israel at the beginning of 2022 to unite the remaining Ethiopian Jews with their families in Israel, she said. “Once again, world Jewry came together to fund the aliyah segment – the Israeli government funds the entire absorption costs. I had the privilege of being on the first plane of Operation Tzur Israel last June, where we brought 179 Ethiopians to Israel. It was incredible.” (See jewishindependent.ca/israels-new-ethiopian-airlift.)
Kwinter’s love of Israel derives from a concern about antisemitism and the history of the Holocaust and a commitment to “Never Again.”
“To me, Israel represents ‘Never Again’ and gives me a sense of security as the homeland for every Jew in the world,” Kwinter said. “It is with great pride I speak of Israel and all it has achieved in the past 75 years. It is truly a beacon of tikkun olam and innovation, for all the world to benefit. It is a light among the nations.”
Kwinter holds 40-plus years of experience in financial services, including owning and operating her own financial services agency for 29 years, before selling it in 2017. She has been involved with Federation in various capacities and volunteers with the Jewish Community Foundation of Greater Vancouver, the Canadian Jewish Political Affairs Committee, and the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, Pacific Region. She is president of the North Shore Jewish Community Centre / Congregation Har El, having also served as synagogue president from 2005 to 2007. From 2008 to 2011, she served on the Pacific Northwest Region of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism.
Sam Margolis has written for the Globe and Mail, the National Post, UPI and MSNBC.
With the help of Jewish Family Services, Belmont Properties and others, the Zubrys family – Alexander, holding Artem, Sophie and Katrina – are getting settled in Vancouver. (photo from JFS)
For Oleksandra Liashyk and her family, who fled the Ukraine-Russia war last year, resettling in Vancouver was an opportunity for a new, though unexpected start. The family of three, who have an apartment and have enrolled their son in public secondary school, are learning English and navigating the ropes that come with resettlement. Still, Oleksandra admitted that it hasn’t been easy, that simply adjusting to a new culture, community and language has been a challenge. “This is absolutely another world,” she said.
It’s a sentiment shared by many of Vancouver’s newest immigrants from Ukraine. Fedor and Yulia, who came from wartorn Chernihiv with their two children, had good jobs as a real estate broker and a fitness instructor. While their children aren’t yet old enough to attend school, the kids are struggling with socialization. “The hardest thing to adjust for our children here was lack of communication with children of their age,” they said. “[E]verything looks quite unusual here.”
Like Fedor and Yulia, many others have left behind established businesses and jobs, professions that will be hard to restart in Vancouver. Lawyers, real estate brokers, accountants, social workers and business owners will need licences, education and a practised familiarity with Canada’s certification processes. But first, they need a place to live and a way to support their families.
According to Tanja Demajo, chief executive officer of Vancouver’s Jewish Family Services, the Ukrainian resettlement program was already in the planning stages when Russia formally announced its intended occupation of Ukraine in February 2022. Well-versed in creating programs to assist new immigrants, JFS knew the program would have to be versatile and able to address the many challenges faced by refugees on the move. Not all immigrants would be able to plan ahead before leaving Ukraine; many would arrive unprepared for their new home.
“Families reach out in many different ways,” Demajo explained. “Sometimes they call us from abroad and they are trying to understand the Canadian systems and how to actually come here. Sometimes we receive a call from other [Canadian] cities when families have already left [Ukraine] and they are thinking about relocating to the Lower Mainland. And sometimes we receive calls from families that are already here and are trying to navigate their next steps.”
According to Demajo, more than 80% of Ukrainian refugees enrolled in the resettlement program have advanced educations, but lack fluency in English, so JFS partnered with the B.C. Centre for Disease Control to provide its Food Skills program. In it, participants learned how to read labels in grocery stores and purchase food, which then became the ingredients for new Western-style dishes, which they cooked in the JFS Kitchen. “Throughout the cooking, they were also learning English,” Demajo said. “We also had childcare provided as well.” The classes were so successful that JFS is looking at expanding the program.
But the greatest challenge facing new immigrants to Vancouver has been the city’s housing shortage. Residential vacancy rates, which now stand at less than 1%, and the disproportionate cost of rental apartments have made it harder to find housing.
JFS settlement worker Tanya Finkelshtein helps connect new immigrants with “welcome circles” of volunteers that can help get them settled. “Housing is the number one problem in the Great Vancouver area, especially for newcomers. We [are] able to support some of our clients, but it is a serious issue,” said Finkelshtein, who works with about 70 Ukrainian families in JFS’s settlement program.
Affordable housing is key to creating adequate living conditions, including suitable employment.
“We have a family that was initially living outside of Vancouver,” Demajo said by way of example. The family’s efforts to connect with the Vancouver Jewish community were hampered by distance, as was their effort to find suitable employment. By connecting them with Tikva Housing and Temple Sholom Synagogue’s volunteer network, JFS was able to help the family resettle closer to employment opportunities and Jewish community programs. Tikva has since set aside two other units for JFS’s resettlement program.
But the search for housing continues to be a problem for new arrivals, so Demajo reached out to a property management company with well-known connections in the Jewish community. Shannon Gorski, whose family owns Belmont Properties, said JFS was looking for a couple of apartments that could provide temporary housing for Ukrainian immigrants. Gorski, who also serves on the JFS board and is the managing director of the Betty Averbach Foundation, reached out to Belmont’s board of directors “and then I learned … that they had been approached by someone in the rental world, Bob Rennie, and they had already stepped up to the plate.” Gorski said the board agreed to provide four units free of charge for four months.
The offer couldn’t have come at a better time for Alexander and Katrina Zubrys, who had been living out of a hotel since arriving from Kherson. The 1,200-square-foot apartment meant the couple could enrol their two children in a Jewish day school close by.
“The school is located 10 minutes from our house,” said Alexander, who acknowledged that, for his 5-year-old son Artem, “the biggest problem is English.” With the school’s help, Alexander said Artem and Sophie, 13, are adapting to their new surroundings and new language.
According to Gorski, the Zubrys family is the only one so far to request temporary housing from Belmont. “My concern is there are so many other families out there that don’t know that the Jewish community is here to help them,” she said. Thus, the challenge isn’t just finding available housing for current clients, but getting the word out to those arriving who don’t know who or how to ask for help.
As for finding new housing for the program, Gorski encourages other companies to get involved. “We are proud to be able to help the Zubrys family and we would like to help other families once identified,” she said. “And we challenge other property management families to step up as well.”
She is confident that, once alerted that Belmont Properties has donated temporary accommodations to the program, other property owners “would answer the call. I have no doubt that they would.”
Demajo said the settlement program wouldn’t have gotten off the ground without the assistance of the Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver, which sent out an emergency appeal to the community to fund the project.
“Our community and our Federation have a history of responding quickly and generously whenever and wherever help is needed and we can be incredibly proud of the way our community responded to the crisis in Ukraine,” said Federation chief executive officer Ezra Shanken. “We didn’t spring into action the day the war broke out – we work year-round building communities and partnerships around the world and here at home so that we have the systems in place to make an impact.”
Demajo said Temple Sholom and Congregation Schara Tzedeck are playing a role in supporting new immigrants. Both run their own programs and have collaborated with JFS to make sure new arrivals are supported, she said.
“We continue to support these families now, helping some find vehicles, others looking for new jobs,” said Temple Sholom’s Rabbi Dan Moskovitz.
For the Zubrys family, the support system is what made the 9,100-kilometre migration possible. It’s Gorski’s “big heart” and the help of JFS and other volunteers that made it possible to finally find a new home, said Alexander.
For information about how to offer temporary housing and other help for Ukrainian refugees, contact Tanya Finkelshtein at 604-257-5151.
Jan Lee is an award-winning editorial writer whose articles and op-eds have been published in B’nai B’rith Magazine, Voices of Conservative and Masorti Judaism and Baltimore Jewish Times, as well as a number of business, environmental and travel publications. Her blog can be found at multiculturaljew.polestarpassages.com.
Emcee Michael Newman, left, and keynote speaker Anders Sörman-Nilsson at the Jewish Family Services Innovators Lunch. (photo by Josh Bowie)
“I believe that the next trend is not necessarily digital transformation, but it is the alignment of two of these trends: sustainability and digitalization,” Swedish-Australian futurist Anders Sörman-Nilsson told guests at the 17th Annual Jewish Family Services Innovators Lunch on May 10. Organizations that align digital transformation and sustainability have a 2.5 times better chance of being top performers, he said.
Sörman-Nilsson was the keynote speaker at the lunch, which took place at the Hyatt Regency, the first in-person Innovators since the beginning of the pandemic.
As the founder of Thinque, a think tank and trend analysis firm that reaches global brands across four continents, Sörman-Nilsson is responsible for data-based research and foresight regarding future trends. Beyond his research, he is known for co-creating the Adobe Creative Intelligence test for B2B (business-to-business) marketing. He currently hosts two social innovation podcasts, the 2nd Renaissance Podcast and Entrepreneurs Organization’s Scaling Impact Podcast, and is the author of three books, Aftershock (2020), Seamless (2017) and Digilogue (2013). Sörman-Nilsson’s approach to futurism involves seeking out what he calls “avant-garde ideas” that can drive meaningful change.
Sörman-Nilsson aims to challenge the misconception that integrating technology into an organization’s operations impedes human connection. He gave the example of his family’s business, a clothing store, which thrived on personal interaction out of a brick-and-mortar building in a “highly analogue fashion,” using a pen and paper. He said such an approach is suited “for a world that no longer exists” and that the eventual bankruptcy of the store after 104 years of business was due to the failure to adopt new technologies. He dedicated Digilogue to his parents, exploring in it “how to win the digital minds and analogue hearts of tomorrow’s customers.” He emphasized that technological tools and personable business principles can not only coexist, but enhance one another.
Sörman-Nilsson urged businesses to conduct “pre-mortem” analyses to identify changes that could prevent obsolescence or bankruptcy. He asked people to imagine that it is 2030 and your company has gone under – what were the trends you missed, what were the signs you ignored and what were the investment decisions you delayed that contributed to your company’s failure? To avoid such an outcome, he encouraged organizations to focus on “mega trends” based on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, such as prioritizing affordable and clean energy, responsible consumption, and improving global health and well-being. These goals are “a good indicator of where the world and smart capital is moving,” he said, and reflecting one or more of them in the product or service you provide and in your day-to-day operations and external marketing efforts is key for long-term success. “Mega trends are powerful,” he said, “but they’re particularly exponential when you sit at the intersection of two overarching aligning trends, like digitalization and sustainability.”
Sörman-Nilsson uses the UN Brundtland Commission definition of sustainability, which he described as “meeting the needs of the present without hindering future generations from meeting theirs.” He spoke about the concept of “conscious capitalism,” where an organization is purpose-driven and prioritizes stakeholder well-being. Building a sustainable “ecosystem of impact” – otherwise known as a supply chain – is crucial in winning over today’s consumers, he argued, adding that technology is the most efficient way to achieve this. Better data collection, for example, can lead to less waste, or to gauging more accurately consumer needs. In his Innovators Lunch talk, he compared such technological integration to tikkun olam, as it reflects one’s responsibility to repair the world. He also advocated for the practice of “effective altruism,” which, he said, means that “the investment of your dollar in philanthropy should go the furthest,” giving the example of investing in mosquito nets in Africa. He connected this idea – helping the most people as possible – to tzedakah, justice and charity, as well as to tikkun olam.
Sörman-Nilsson reminded the audience that major tech players are raising the bar with predictive technologies that have the power to solve problems before they arise. He challenged businesses to use technology to streamline mundane tasks, which would allow workers to focus on more meaningful and humanistic responsibilities. He emphasized the importance of merging humanism and technology to leverage the best of human intelligence and artificial intelligence. He stressed the need to “ask the right questions” and incorporate human creativity and ethical decision-making when engaging with technological tools. By doing so, he said, brands can enhance their ability to cultivate community.
Headlining this year’s JFS Innovators Lunch, Sörman-Nilsson shared his insights with more than 500 guests. Over the past 16 years, the Innovator’s Lunch has raised more than $5 million for JFS, supporting services such as food, counseling, housing and comprehensive care for children, youth, adults and seniors. Event committee chair Candice Thal said, “I believe that giving back to the community is not only a responsibility but a privilege.” This event, she said, is “our way of caring for others,” the funds raised helping JFS provide services for more than 3,000 community members.
The event was emceed by Michael Newman of Global BC News. Following a land acknowledgement from Elder Rose Guerin of the Musqueam First Nation and welcoming remarks from Thal and Tanja Demajo, chief executive officer of JFS, there was a video entitled Building Future, Today, which showcased how JFS not only helps individuals, but their families, creating a ripple effect on the entire community and future generations. Rabbi Dan Moskovitz of Temple Sholom, who did the blessing over the meal, underscored JFS’s mission with the story of “Sam,” a man who sought the rabbi’s help after falling on hard times. “We know many people like Sam,” said Moskovitz. While change is constant, he said, some things never change: “People still get sick, they are hungry, inadequately housed, lonely and vulnerable.” He concluded, “The work of JFS, your support of Jewish Family Services, has never been more important or more necessary.”
Moskovitz’s sentiment was shared by Jody Dales, chair of the JFS board of directors, who shared how the Jewish community helped her after she tried to take her own life when she was 19 years old, living on her own and barely making ends meet at a minimum-wage job. “The blade didn’t cut deep enough to do any real damage but it penetrated enough to scare the hell out of me,” she said. “In the darkest moment of my life, the faintest ray of hope appeared, and I called my mom. And because she was part of the community, thiscommunity, her well-placed phone call set off a chain of events that tracked me into the office of a professional who saved my life. It took me years to ask for help, only days to receive it, but a lifetime to heal.”
In a very different place today, Dales said she shared her story so that people could “understand the complexities of despair, dread and depression. I doubt that there’s a person in this room for whom at least parts of this conversation don’t resonate.”
Among the tools that continue to help her, she said, “is dedicating my life to a life of service. It’s hard to feel bad about yourself when you’re making other people feel good about themselves. And there’s no agency that I know of that makes people feel good about themselves better than Jewish Family Services.”
For Dales, JFS can make such an impact because of the “intangibles” they offer – making all people feel seen and valued. “JFS is overwhelmed with need,” she said, and the only thing holding the organization back from helping more is money. She highlighted the event’s gift-matching sponsor, the Paul and Edwina Heller Memorial Fund, and encouraged people to donate. To do so, visit jfsinnovators.ca/donate.
Alisa Bressleris a fourth-year student at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont. She is an avid reader and writer, and the online director of the arts and culture publication MUSE Magazine. Bressler is a member of the Vancouver Jewish community, and the inaugural Baila Lazarus Jewish Journalism Intern.
Lucy Samuel, left, and Tori Segal, co-chairs of the Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver’s Ben Gurion Society. (photos from BGS)
“Both of us were BGS members before becoming co-chairs. We are so grateful for the leadership opportunities that BGS has given us,” said Tori Segal (née Simons), who co-chairs the Ben Gurion Society with Lucy Samuel (née Adirim). “We recognize that the Jewish community of Greater Vancouver made us the leaders we are today, and so we jumped at the chance to give back.
“We were shaped by this community,” Segal continued. “Through BGS, we have connected with like-minded young adults, donated to Jewish Federation in support of our community, and been afforded special opportunities for us all to learn from leaders spanning multiple fields in our community.”
The Ben Gurion Society is Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver’s national donor recognition program for young professionals ages 25-45, who support the community through the Federation’s annual campaign with a gift of $1,000 or more.
BGS offers its members a range of possibilities, from private speaking events and social cocktail hours with donors and community leaders, to professional development and leadership opportunities. Recently, for example, BGS members listened to presentations from David Shore, the executive producer of The Good Doctor and House, and Lillian Boraks-Nemetz, the author of Mouth of Truth and Out of the Dark, among several other titles. Later in the spring, they will hear from Anat Yahalom, an advocate in Israel for those with disabilities, and other local Jewish leaders.
Additionally, BGS offers members a chance to gain a better understanding of community needs from the Jewish Federation’s many partner agencies, which are based both locally and in Israel.
“New members are typically found by word of mouth or through our campaign volunteer canvassers,” Samuel explained. “We invite community members in the BGS age range (25-45) to events we hold for both BGS and non-BGS members, so that they can experience our programming and learn about our philanthropic mission, the types of events we hold and how they can join if they are interested.”
Samuel, who was born and raised in Vancouver, learned the importance of engaging with her Jewish values at a young age – at Vancouver Talmud Torah, King David High School and Camp Hatikvah. She enrolled at McGill University and studied cognitive science. Throughout her time in Montreal, she was involved in both Hillel and Chabad. She was also a long-term chair of Save a Child’s Heart McGill.
After graduating in 2016, Samuel became a realtor and started working with her father at the family business. Upon returning to her hometown, she joined Axis, where she met her husband.
Axis is a network of Jews in their 20s and 30s whose stated aim is to build a vibrant young Jewish community in Metro Vancouver.
“In addition to my time on the Axis board, I recently helped start a new chapter of Canadian Hadassah-WIZO, the BVLGARI chapter,” Samuel said. “I am looking forward to continuing to grow and expand the wealth of opportunities available to young adults in the Vancouver Jewish community.”
Segal, too, is a native Vancouverite and has enjoyed being brought up immersed in the local Jewish community. She also attended VTT and KDHS, where, she said, she “learned about community values and history.”
An alumna of McGill University as well, she, like Samuel, continued her involvement there in the Jewish community through the school’s Chabad and Hillel organizations. She graduated from McGill with a degree in dietetics, and works as a registered dietitian at Vancouver General Hospital in cardiology and cardiac surgery. Alongside that work, Segal is a clinical instructor at the University of British Columbia, supervising and teaching dietetics students in their hospital placements. Further, she is currently completing a postgraduate program in healthcare safety, quality, informatics and leadership through Harvard University.
“I joined the Ben Gurion Society upon its restart at the Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver and have recently taken on co-chairing the society with Lucy. I married Dylan Segal in August 2022 and am looking forward to building a Jewish home and supporting others in doing the same. I am excited to join the Federation board and support initiatives that help create the Greater Vancouver Jewish community,” Segal told the Independent.
Over their two-year term, both Samuel and Segal said they will continue to seek out new members to help support the community, and engage existing members through a broad range of events.
For more information, visit jewishvancouver.com/bgs.
Sam Margolishas written for the Globe and Mail, the National Post, UPI and MSNBC.
Courtney Cohen delivers donations to Jewish Family Services as part of this year’s Rose’s Angels. (photo from Rose’s Angels)
Since 2012, Rose’s Angels has donated more than 7,000 care packages to date in honour of Rose Lewin and Babs Cohen, Courtney Cohen’s grandmothers.
Rose’s Angels falls under the umbrella of the Kehila Society of Richmond, where co-founders Courtney Cohen and Lynne Fader, co-executive director of the Kehila Society, established the passion project together.
A Holocaust survivor, Rose Lewin met the love her life, Joseph Lewin, in Vancouver, where they started a family. She raised her children and grandchildren with love and support, instilling the importance of giving back to those in need.
“Every Sunday, dinner was hosted at my grandmother’s home and it was an open door policy for bringing whoever we wanted…. There was never a shortage of home-cooked food to be had and love to be shared,” said Cohen.
With the support of donors and community members, Rose’s Angels was able to donate to 13 not-for-profit agencies this year. Some of the recipient agencies were Turning Point Recovery, Heart of Richmond AIDS Society, Mamas for Mamas, Pathways Clubhouse, Richmond Family Place, Jewish Family Services and Chimo Community Services.
With inflation, agencies are seeing more and more families needing support for basic items. Every year, the agencies are asked what their clients would like to receive and, this year, the consensus for what was most-needed included personal hygiene items, baby formula, and gift cards to grocery stores or pharmacies – gift cards allow Rose’s Angels recipients the freedom to purchase what they need on their own.
Organization of this year’s event began in January, with donation letters sent out to partner agencies, family friends and community members. In February, monetary and physical donations were collected, Richmond Jewish Day School hosted a hygiene collection drive and grocery gift cards were purchased. Last month, all the donations were delivered with the help of volunteers.
“Giving back can set a positive example for others in the community, particularly children and youth. It can inspire others to get involved and make a difference in their own way. Having given birth to a daughter this past year, it has made me more aware of why community events like ours are so important to continue,” said Cohen. “Donating to those in need can make a significant difference in someone’s life. It can provide hope, support and a sense of community for those who may be struggling.”
Rose’s Angels hopes to bring back its in-person packaging event in 2024. To learn more or donate to Rose’s Angels, email [email protected] or call the Kehila Society at 604-241-9270.
Tikkun olam, repairing the world, is a central tenet of Jewish life, but sometimes the task can seem overwhelming. The climate crisis looms large for all of us, but especially for younger folks, who will bear the brunt of its effects. A new graphic novel for 6-to-12-year-old readers offers an optimistic, fun story about the power of kindness – towards ourselves, other people, animals, the environment – to energize and inspire us to action, to at least try and fix things.
I Can Hear Your Heart Beep, published by Planet Hero Kids in Vancouver, is the first book of the children’s graphic novel series Steve and Eve Save the Planet. Written by Paul Shore and Deborah Katz Henriquez, with imaginative and colourful illustrations by Prashant Miranda, the book is being released on Feb. 25, in recognition of International Day of the Polar Bear, which takes place Feb. 27. One of the book’s two main characters is a polar bear, Steve, who lives in the Arctic. Steve, Eve (an electric vehicle) and their friends come to realize that it is up to them to do whatever they can to clean up the environment and try to stem the global warming that is, among other things, reducing the animals’ food supply.
Eve ends up in the Arctic accidentally. Bullied and ostracized by her “gassy car cousins,” who tell her, “You’re just a heartless machine, sister – like us – you’ll never make a difference in this world!” she takes off (she has wings) to find her “pack,” other electric vehicles. On her way to Norway, she experiences a malfunction that lands her in the Arctic, where she is found by Steve, who’s having problems of his own – driven to stealing food because he’s so hungry, and missing his parents, who went away to find food and haven’t returned.
I Can Hear Your Heart Beep is the genesis story of the two likely-to-become environment heroes, Steve and Eve. We find out their motivations and meet their first sidekicks/allies, the other Arctic animals, and Burger the Booger, their first nemesis of, no doubt, more to come.
For readers wondering about the choice of an electric car as a heroine, Shore writes on the book’s website: “The spark that started our Planet Hero Kids journey first became visible when my pyjama-wearing 8-year-old daughter spontaneously hugged an electric car! That day of our first EV test drive, my daughter laid her little body on the car’s hood with arms outstretched across it, and with one ear against the smooth metal she said, ‘she has a heartbeat.’ The fact that the car seemed calm, gentle and fun … seemed to tell her that the machine was as friendly as a family pet.
“The realization that young children intuitively understand what is healthier for them and the planet sent me in search of partners to help create an uplifting climate action kids book that would cultivate hope and a sense of opportunity during the challenging era in which our children find themselves growing up.”
Shore took the idea to Henriquez, who, he told the Independent, he “first met at an author’s reception at the JCC book festival several years ago!” The pair began their collaboration, eventually connecting with Miranda.
I Can Hear Your Heart Beep can be ordered from Amazon. For more information on the series, visit savetheplanetbook.com.
Dr. Randall and Shalene Trester, who run West 1st Chiropractic Wellness Centre. Last year, their food drive collected more than 400 pounds of food for the Jewish Food Bank. (photo by Allison Kuhl)
Since 2016, patients at West 1st Chiropractic Wellness Centre have been bringing in non-perishable food items destined for the Jewish Food Bank. These donations are collected and, in turn, provided to those in the community who face food insecurity.
The Jewish Food Bank struck a particular chord with chiropractor Dr. Randall Trester and his wife Shalene, who run the centre, which will celebrate its 20th anniversary this September.
“I had a few friends that had been helping with the food bank and they told me how difficult the situation is for some people. I felt we just had to get involved,” Shalene Trester told the Independent.
The Tresters hold the food drive every December, reminding clients ahead of time by posting information throughout the centre and via email correspondence.
“Our patients are really the ones who should get all the credit. We organize it every year and it’s amazing to see the generosity of our patients,” said Shalene Trester, who manages the office. “Our patients look forward to participating. It’s awesome to see the overflowing boxes at the end of the food drive. It’s such an awesome feeling to give back to our community every year.”
The most recent drive saw an increase in the amount of food donated. “There was a greater need,” she said.
“The Tresters have been supporting us for many years through their annual food drive and donating all the food to us,” said Carol Hopkins, the coordinator of the Jewish Food Bank. “Last year, they donated 410 pounds of food. We really appreciate their support.”
Distribution for the JFS Grocery Program is held weekly at JFS’s the Kitchen, located at 54 East 3rd Avenue in Vancouver, and at hubs throughout the Lower Mainland. For those unable to pick up their grocery order at one of the hubs, JFS offers a delivery service.
“We currently serve approximately 900 people and provide more than 12,000 kilograms of healthy food every month,” said Hopkins. “The JFS Grocery Program does not offer any meats, poultry or shellfish. We ensure that kosher items are available for clients who do keep kosher.”
The majority of supplies at the Jewish Food Bank are bought, and the team relies heavily on donations – non-perishable food or money. Among the benefits of hosting a food drive, the Jewish Food Bank notes on its web page, are “engaging your community members and helping to spread the word on the issue of hunger, [while] also providing an incredible service to your neighbours in need.”
Some of the best items to donate are rice; canned or dried beans, lentils and legumes; whole grains (oats, barley, millet, bulgur, quinoa, couscous); canned fish (tuna, salmon, sardines); canned tomatoes and tomato sauce; and pasta. According to the Jewish Food Bank, a $10 donation can buy $30 of food at wholesale prices or provide four days of healthy snacks for five children.
Soap, shampoo, toilet paper and diapers are greatly appreciated and needed as well.
The Jewish Food Bank funders include Jewish Women International-B.C. and many community members. Any person or organization wanting to organize a food drive should call 604-558-5698 or visit jfsvancouver.ca/food-drive.
Sam Margolishas written for the Globe and Mail, the National Post, UPI and MSNBC.