Yosef plays for his zaida, Marvin Nider.
Six-year-old Yosef Nider has been playing the violin for two years. On Wednesday, Feb. 26, 10 a.m., in the gymnasium at Vancouver Hebrew Academy, he makes his concert debut. Yosef will play a recital in honor of his beloved Zaida, Marvin Nider, who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in February 2013.
Concert for a Cure will raise money for the B.C. Cancer Foundation. Yosef’s mother, Elizabeth Nider, said the idea for the fundraiser came about organically. “Yosef and I were talking about tzedakah one night before bedtime and he asked me if we’re only supposed to give tzedakah to people who don’t have enough money for food and clothing and I said, no, we can give tzedakah to many other places, such as schools, aquariums, scientists or doctors who look for cures for diseases,” Nider told the Independent. “And then, Yosef asked me what kind of diseases, so I gave an example of cancer and he right away said, ‘I want to give all of my tzedakah to cancer scientists so that they can find a cure for Zaida.’ I told him how that was a very nice idea and cancer scientists need lots of tzedakah because they have lots of experiments and testing to do. Then, a few days later, in the car, Yosef announced, ‘Mommy, I want to make a fundraiser for cancer scientists.’ (I’m still not sure where he got the word ‘fundraiser’ from.) And when I asked him what he wants to do, he said, ‘Have a violin concert.’
“At first, he said that he wanted to have the concert at the place where the Cavalia show is held, but I told him it might not work because it’s probably just for Cavalia. Then I told him I’d do some thinking and get back to him and finally we decided that having the concert at Vancouver Hebrew Academy would be best, because other kids could attend and perhaps get inspired to fundraise for organizations or causes that they are passionate about, as well. And here we are.”
The relationship between a grandparent and any of their grandchildren can be close, but sometimes an eldest grandchild holds a special place in a grandparent’s heart. Yosef, his two siblings, Ephraim and Sari, and their Zaida have the added benefit of living in the same city and the opportunity to develop a closeness that comes from more regular interaction.
“Not to generalize but, generally, zaidas have more fun with older kids since there is more to do with them. Not to mention, Yosef and Marvin have a lot in common: they both love skiing, building, wood working and playing with Lego. They have been doing these things together for a few years and, because Yosef loves to ask questions and Marvin loves to answer them, they’ve gotten to be quite a pair.”
“Yosef is the first grandchild, which makes him the oldest grandchild, which means that he has more exciting things to do with his Zaida,” noted Nider. “Not to generalize but, generally, zaidas have more fun with older kids since there is more to do with them. Not to mention, Yosef and Marvin have a lot in common: they both love skiing, building, wood working and playing with Lego. They have been doing these things together for a few years and, because Yosef loves to ask questions and Marvin loves to answer them, they’ve gotten to be quite a pair.”
Yosef takes lessons in the Suzuki method with a private teacher and he has been spending time specifically on his recital repertoire ahead of the concert later this month, said Nider. “Yosef practises every day except Shabbat and that hasn’t actually changed; he is still practising the same amount. He is, however, practising with his violin teacher more on the songs for the concert and not learning any new pieces for now. He is also meeting with [clarinetist and community member] Connie Gitlin … and they are practising to play together.”
Families approach illness and sharing sad news with their youngest members in various ways, but Nider said she felt clear that she should share the news about her father-in-law’s prognosis with her eldest son, a choice she feels fits with her family’s orientation towards life. “First and foremost, where I get all of my ideas and strength is from living a Torah-based life,” she explained. “We, as Jews, have been blessed with a blueprint for life. It says right in the Torah how to deal with difficult situations … so my ideas are certainly not original by any means. I have found tremendous strength from the belief that Hashem runs the world [and] we are never in control.
“I know that this idea has trickled down to our kids without us even realizing it; I know this because the day after we found out about Marvin’s diagnosis, my husband [Jeff] was in shul with Yosef and my husband was having a hard time focusing so he had to leave. My husband told me that Yosef looked up at him and, seeing tears in his father’s eyes, he said simply, ‘Abba, everything happens for the good.’ Yosef knows that there is a greater plan and that we are not usually privy to the reasons why things happen and when. Just this fact alone is essential in dealing with any kind of difficulty, whether illness or otherwise. I also can honestly say Jeff and I are extremely thankful that in Yosef’s school there is no shortage of educators, from preschool to head of school, who believe these same beliefs [and] teach children these values from the get-go. So, what I teach my child at home is hugely supported at school and I have found that these two factors greatly increase Yosef’s appreciation for why things happen, both good and bad, and how we can’t always explain the reasons.
“Personally, I believe that explaining in simple terms what is happening is helpful in keeping children from being afraid. If they understand what cancer is, for example, then there will likely be less fear because it makes sense and it is not a secret.”
“Another aspect that I have found to be effective is being open. Personally, I believe that explaining in simple terms what is happening is helpful in keeping children from being afraid. If they understand what cancer is, for example, then there will likely be less fear because it makes sense and it is not a secret.”
Yosef’s original fundraising goal for the B.C. Cancer Foundation “was $1,000 and he surpassed that goal in less than 24 hours of word getting out about Concert for a Cure,” said Nider. At press time, Yosef had surpassed $6,500 and his new goal was $10,000. The Feb. 26 concert was sold out.
“It’s incredible to see this level of support,” Nider said. “People who don’t even know Marvin but just know Yosef have donated, and vice versa. We didn’t realize it, but the creation of Concert for a Cure has become something of a small piece of joy amidst all of the daily stress and worry that is affecting our family. Marvin and Barbara (Yosef’s Bubby) check the donation website often and it’s giving them nachas to feel supported by friends, family and people who they don’t even know but who believe in this cause.”
Meanwhile, Yosef is also a regular six-year-old. His favorite subjects at school are art and math. Asked what is the best (and worst!) thing about playing the violin, Yosef said that the best thing is “that people listen and that it’s fun.” And the worst? “When people say ‘encore.’” Sorry to say, Yosef, chances are that’s exactly what you’ll be hearing on the 26th – and a hearty bravo.
To donate, visit donate.bccancerfoundation.com/goto/concertforacure.