Dr. Yosef Wosk, right, with Max Wyman, 2017. (photo by Fred Cawsey)
The Yosef Wosk Poetry Initiative at the Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver, which began in 2009, marked its 10th year with a celebratory gathering of artists and poets and with the publication of a commemorative book earlier this year. In addition, the Yosef Wosk Poets’ Corner, along with the adjacent Poet Laureates Garden, was inaugurated on the newly renovated top floor of the downtown central Vancouver Public Library – it was named in recognition of Dr. Yosef Wosk’s decades-long support of the VPL.
Wosk was an early major donor to the redevelopment of the eighth and ninth floors and the roof of the central branch of VPL and was asked to serve as honourary chair of the VPL campaign in 2018/19. The architect for the renovations, as for the library itself, was Moshe Safdie, while Cornelia Hahn Oberlander designed an extensive garden to complement her roof garden that crowns the award-winning structure.
In the library world, Wosk – who has established more than 400 libraries on all seven continents over the past 20 years – was able to fund more than 50 new initiatives in 2018/19, including 20 libraries in remote Himalayan villages and 37 in Jewish communities throughout the world.
As a writer and publisher, Wosk’s work has appeared in a number of publications. Most recently, these include having curated and written the preface for Memories of Jewish Poland: The 1932 Photographs of Nachum Tim Gidal, featuring photographs by Gidal from Wosk’s and the Israel Museum’s collections (Gefen Publishing, Jerusalem and New York, 2019). He also initiated and funded a biography, written by Christopher Best, of Faye Leung, the effervescent pioneer in the Chinese and real estate communities, affectionately known as the Hat Lady (Warfleet Press, 2020).
Wosk’s essay “On the Wings of Forever” was published in the online Ormsby Review this year in collaboration with the Canadian Academy of Independent Scholars. The editor’s preface notes that: “With prose as profound and learned as it is clear and accessible, here Wosk examines and appreciates the role of museums and museum workers in the digitizing modern world. It’s not gloom ’n’ doom. Instead, he outlines what he calls ‘a stirring vision, one of innovative technology on a human scale, heart-centred and soul-sized.’”
In collaboration with the Canadian Museums Association, Wosk helped transform the President’s Award into the President’s Medal; he also commissioned the medal and wrote the introduction in the booklet that accompanies the honorific, which was first awarded in 2019.
The province-wide Max Wyman Award for Critical Writing in the Arts, which was inaugurated by Wosk in 2017, formed an alliance this year with the VIVA Awards (the Shadbolt Foundation), which will begin in 2020.
In academia, Wosk was reappointed this year as an adjunct professor in humanities at Simon Fraser University and completed four years as a Shadbolt Fellow at SFU, where he was recently named a Simons Fellow.
During the year, Wosk served on 11 boards in the Jewish and general communities in areas such as education, medical research, museums, libraries, literature, business and the arts. These boards have included the Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre, Schara Tzedeck Cemetery Board, CHILD Foundation, Museums Foundation of Canada and Pacific Torah Institute. He was also an ambassador for the Vancouver Sculpture Biennale and is completing a second term with the B.C. Arts Council.