בריטניה החלה בשבוע שעבר לערוך ניסויים קליניים בתרסיס לאף למניעת התפשטות חיידק הקורונה, שמיוצר על ידי חברה בוונקובר “סנוטיז”. החברה בבעלות הישראלית, ד”ר גילי רגב, שמשמשת גם המנכ”לית שלה. קנדה השלימה כבר את השלב הראשון בניסויים הקליניים שלה ואילו ארה”ב אמורה להתחיל בניסויים דומים בימים הקרובים. בישראל לעומת זאת שוקלת מערכת הבריאות להגדיר את התרסיס של “סנוטייז” כמכשיר רפואי ולא כתרופה, כך שהתהליך לאישורו יהיה הרבה יותר מהיר.
התריס לאף של “סנוטיז” מבוסס על תרכובות שנמצאות במזון ויוצרות תחמוצת חנקן בכמות קטנה. הוא אמור לסייע במניעת מעבר נגיף הקורונה דרך האף ומערכת הנשימה. לדברי ד”ר רגב החברה קוראת למוצר חומר חיטוי לאף – בדומה לג’ל חיטוי לידיים למניעת התפשטות הקורונה. לדבריה מאה איש שהשתתפו בשלב הראשון של הניסויים הקליניים בקנדה והשתמשו בתרסיס, ואף אחד מהם לא חלה בנגיף.
ד”ר רגב למדה באוניברסיטה העברית בירושלים וסיימה את הדוקטורט בביוכמיה. לאחר מכן עברה לוונקובר והיא הקימה כאן את “סנוטיז” ביחד עם ד”ר כריס מילר לפני כארבע שנים.
קנדה רכשה פי חמישה חיסונים מהנדרש אך חיסנה רק אחוז מהאוכלוסייה
סיפור כשלון שמעורר תמיהה מתרחש בקנדה. המדינה שרכשה מראש יותר מנות של חיסונים נגד הקורונה מכל מדינה אחרת (כמעט פי חמישה מהנדרש), ומערכת הבריאות הציבורית שלה נחשבת מצויינת ומתוקצבת כראוי. אך למרות זאת, בקנדה התחסנו עד כה רק כאחוז אחד מכלל האוכלוסיה. ממש מביש.
לדעת המומחה, ריאן אימגרונדל, קנדה נתנה כל כך הרבה תשומת לב לאחסון הזריקות בהקפאה, ולא מספיק תשומת לב לשלב שבו הן יוצאות מההקפאה ועוברות לזרוע של האזרחים. הרשויות היו מודאגות לגבי דרישות האחסון, ונראה שהם “שכחו” שהזריקות היו אמורות למעשה להינתן לאנשים.
מומחה למחלות זיהומיות באוניברסיטת טורונטו, ד”ר איזק בוגוך, הסביר מדוע ישראל הצליחה להפיץ את החיסון בצורה מסיבית הרבה יותר. לדבריו ישראל היא מדינה קטנה והאוכלוסייה מרוכזת הרבה יותר מאשר קנדה. כידוע קנדה היא המדינה השנייה בגודלה בעולם מבחינת שטח. האוכלוסיה של קנדה מפוזרת באזורים שונים ומרוחקים זה מזה. צריך שרשרת אספקה (בטמפרטורות הנמוכות) לשמירה על החיסונים, וזה מסובך באזורים מרוחקים, כפריים ונטולי שירותים. זה אתגר מאוד גדול בקנדה.
אמזון לא עוצרת: רוכשת לראשונה מטוסי ארוכי טווח להעברת משלוחים מקנדה
ענקית המסחר האלקטרוני האמריקנית אמזון ממשיכה לגדול בתקופת משבר הקורונה, ורוכשת לראשונה מטוסים ארוכי טווח להעברת מישלוחים לאירופה ואזורים מרוחקים נוספים. עד כה החברה רק החכירה מטוסים להעברת המישלוחים.
אמזון חתמה לפני מספר ימים על הסכמים לרכישת אחד עשר מטוסי בואינג שבע שש שבע/שלוש מאות: שבעה מחברת התעופה האמריקנית דלתא וארבעה מחברת התעופה הקנדית ווסט ג’ט. מטוסי הנוסעים יוסבו לקרגו ויוכנסו לשימוש ע”י אמזון.
זו אגב הוכחה נוספת שחברות התעופה מקטינות את צי המטוסים שלהן לטיסות ארוכות טווח, נוכח המשבר הקשה שפוקד את ענף התעופה.
אמזון החליטה לפני כשנתיים להטיס בעצמה את מטעניה לכל רחבי ברחבי העולם, והיא מחזיקה כיום בציא ענק של שמונים מטוסים מוחכרים. עתה החברה כאמור רוכשת מטוסים והציא שלה יגדל אפוא לתשעים ואחד מטוסים. לפי הערכות אמזון מתכוונת להמשיך ולהגדיל את ציא המטוסים שלה למאתיים, בדומה למתחרה האמריקנית שלה להעברת מטענים – חברת יו.פי.אס.
אמזון מעסיקה כיום קרוב למיליון עובדים ברחבי העולם ושווי השוק שלה נאמד ביותר מטריליון דולר.
Israel’s Operation Tzur Israel, bringing olim from Ethiopia to Israel, began Dec. 3. (photo by Kassaw Molla)
It’s been almost 40 years since Israel coordinated the first airlift of Ethiopian Jews to Israel in 1984. The Beta Israel people, a citizenry of more than 100,000 at the time, were facing starvation in the midst of Ethiopia’s civil war. By the end of Operation Moses, some seven weeks and 30 clandestine flights later, more than 8,000 men, women and children had been airlifted to Israel. Since that time, Israel has rescued more than 30,000 Beta Israel from northern and central Ethiopia.
The impetus for saving Ethiopia’s fractured and often-persecuted Jewish populations goes back to 1921. Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, the then-Ashkenazi chief rabbi of British Mandatory Palestine, made an appeal for Jews to rescue the “holy souls of the House of Israel” from “extinction and contamination” in Ethiopia. His urging would be repeated by numerous other rabbis, including a former Sephardi chief rabbi, the late Ovadia Yosef, who, five decades later, declared the population eligible for aliyah to Israel. Nonetheless, there are thousands of Ethiopian families still waiting for their turn to move to the Jewish homeland.
Descendants of Beta Israel
The Jewish enclaves of Gondar City and the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa are home to the descendants of those first refugees of the 1980s and 1990s: grandchildren and great-grandchildren, fathers, mothers and children who were born while their parents waited for Israel to fulfil its stated promise to provide a new home. Their primitive living conditions, say aid workers, are often the product of circumstance. In a 2014 interview, Rabbi Sybil Sheridan (now Romain), a co-founder of the aid organization Meketa, told me that the Beta Israel moved to Gondar City from their ancestral farmlands decades ago due to persecution, with the implicit understanding that their next home would be in Israel.
“They gave up their things, they gave up their jobs, they left thinking they would actually be on the next plane,” Sheridan said. For many, those years of waiting for the next plane have resulted in a week-to-week existence, hinged on the assurances of a future that will reunite them with their now-Israeli families.
In 2003, the Israeli government announced that 20,000 Jews would be allowed to move to Israel, but that plan was later dropped when the Ethiopian government objected to the mass emigration. In 2015, when it became evident that Jewish populations were still at risk from persecution, the Knesset declared it would rescue 9,000 Ethiopian Jews, and would complete the airlifts by 2020. Fewer than 1,000 individuals have been admitted during that time.
In October 2020, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu announced that 2,000 olim would be airlifted to Israel by the end of 2020. The deadline for Operation Tzur Israel (Rock of Israel) has been extended to the end of January 2021, and is gradually being fulfilled. Last month, roughly 700 olim arrived from Gondar and Addis Ababa. Another two airlifts this month have brought the total to roughly 1,500.
Family members and aid groups in both countries say the 2,000-person limit is not enough. Those waiting in Israel to see their relatives say they are worried for their families’ safety with the risk of civil war and the coronavirus pandemic. Aid organizations argue that the country’s economic shutdown in March is still causing widespread unemployment. While Meketa and Struggle to Save Ethiopian Jewry (SSEJ), two aid groups that work to support the communities, have been shipping in food to the community synagogues, they warn that families are still at risk from famine.
Avi Bram, a trustee for Meketa, said conditions in Gondar are worrisome. “The community is in a very bad situation. Many, not all, but many are in a very, very poor and unsettled standard of living, especially now because of the pandemic.”
Bram said the original mandate of Meketa, which was established in 2013, was to reinforce independence for the community through training, conversational Hebrew classes and small business micro-loans. It was never designed to be a supplemental food program. But the aid is critical at this time. “It fills a humanitarian need,” he said.
SSEJ representative Jeremy Feit said the organization does what it can to support impoverished members of the Addis Ababa community. It arranges medical assistance for children under 5 and seniors, and hot meals for malnourished children and pregnant and nursing mothers.
“The end goal of the work is to limit needless suffering and deaths, while urging Israel to evaluate their claims and allow those eligible to make aliyah as soon as possible,” said Feit.
Mengistu (no last name given), who lives in Ethiopia and has relatives in Israel from a previous aliyah, said the communities are facing increasing danger. “On one side, there’s coronavirus,” said Mengistu. On [another] side there’s the war,” coupled with endemic unemployment and famine.
According to Mengistu, the changing criteria for airlifts are only inciting more stress at home.
“[They] said they would bring 2,000 people at the end of this year,” Mengistu said. “We don’t know if they applied their decision [because] every time they decide [on a quota], they change it.
“So, who are they going to bring? Are they going to bring children? Are they going to [separate] brothers and sisters and leave [some] with their parents? Two thousand people, it’s nothing,” Mengistu said, “compared to the [actual number of] the people still in Ethiopia.”
A stalwart proponent
In May of last year, Pnina Tamano-Shata was appointed minister of absorption and immigration by the Likud-Blue and White coalition. The 38-year-old Ethiopian-born Israeli came with life experiences that made her an ideal candidate for the position. She and her family had immigrated during the 1980s rescue Operation Moses, during which an estimated 4,000 refugees died en route. She knows firsthand the conditions that today’s Ethiopian Jewish communities are forced to endure while they wait for aliyah.
She also isn’t bashful in her support for immigrant rights or services. In October, she negotiated an agreement with the Israeli nonprofit Shavei Israel to airlift approximately 700 Bnei Menashe Jews from North India. As part of the agreement, Shavei Israel would cover all transportation costs. The new immigrants will quarantine at a moshav before settling into their new homes and reuniting with their families.
As well, she has put forth a vision and a budget for how to finally resolve the humanitarian crisis in Ethiopia.
In August, Tamano-Shata proposed a plan that would allow, in her words, for Israel to “close the camps” in Gondar and Addis Ababa. Approximately 4,000 of 8,000 olim would be airlifted to Israel by year-end and the rest would follow by 2023. The NIS 1.3 billion ($380 million US at the time) proposal received support from all sides but was never adopted. The Netanyahu government later endorsed a limit of 2,000 by Dec. 31, with assurances of more immigrants at a later date.
Still, Tamano-Shata says she is committed to seeing the aliyah to its end. “[To] my dismay, we were unable to approve the national budget which was supposed to include the outline for the aliyah of those remaining in Ethiopia,” Tamano-Shata told the Jewish Independent in a recent email interview. “However, this does not prevent me from continuing to push for a comprehensive solution for this issue.”
To Mengistu, like many in Ethiopia’s Jewish enclaves, Tamano-Shata’s words are a hopeful sign. “Because now the help for the aliyah is Pnina,” said Mengistu. “She’s one of us. So maybe she will understand the situation and the [reason for] the protests [in Israel.] Maybe things will change.”
With Israel now set to face a fourth election in just two years, Tamano-Shata’s future as the next minister of absorption and immigration is yet to be determined, but her motivation to see the end of what is arguably Israel’s greatest humanitarian crisis remains firm. In 2016, the then-new minister was recognized by humanitarian activist Martin Luther King III for her efforts to establish better protections for Ethiopian immigrants in Israel. Last year, she toured the Addis Ababa enclave and handed out baskets of food to residents. She said she is committed to the rights of Israel’s olim, “despite the policies of lockdowns, shutting of flights and closing of the skies that exists in many countries due to COVID-19.”
At this point, all eyes are on Tamano-Shata. Few doubt that she will meet her stated commitment of 2,000 olim by Jan. 31. But can she, as well, engender better trust between Israel and those waiting for aliyah?
In a recent interview for the podcast One Jewish Family, Ambanesh Biru, former chair of the Gondar Jewish community, summarized the views of a hopeful community that knows its safety may rest in the Israeli government’s understanding of their predicament.
Don’t forget about the Ethiopian Jewish community, said Biru, “especially those [anticipating] aliyah. Because all of the Jews in Gondar and Addis Ababa came from villages expecting they would be going to Israel right away, not to live in Gondar [for the rest of their lives]. So, if anybody comes and talks about aliyah from Israel, please do your best [to follow through].”
Jan Lee’s articles and blog posts have been published in B’nai B’rith Magazine, Voices of Conservative and Masorti Judaism, Times of Israel, as well as a number of business, environmental and travel publications. Her blog can be found at multiculturaljew.polestarpassages.com.
In his December presentation, Michael Geller showed this photo of a building in Paris, where modular housing was added atop an existing apartment building to provide more units.
An old adage says that investing in real estate is always a good idea. “Buy land, they’re not making it anymore,” said Mark Twain. But local housing guru Michael Geller rejects this notion.
“I think sometimes you have to create land,” Geller said. Looking at Vancouver from above, he said, you see a lot of green and a lot of blue. But you also see a lot of grey. Making better use of parking lots, rooftops, the top levels of parkades and underused space around existing buildings are among the ways Geller imagines we can create more space for housing.
Geller spoke at Tikva Housing Society’s annual general meeting, held virtually on the first night of Chanukah. Tikva is a nonprofit society that provides access to affordable housing, primarily for Jewish low- to moderate-income adults and families. Its vision is “a safe, stable and affordable home for every Jewish person who needs one in Greater Vancouver.”
In honour of the eight nights of Chanukah, Geller offered up eight ideas, including building houses like we build cars – in factories. Also, taking the concept of laneway housing to new heights by allowing the construction of housing on parking lots. And designing apartments that can be divided into two studio suites or opened up to create family accommodation. Plus, matching people who live alone, or in a couple, and have extra bedrooms in their house to connect with people who need housing.
He showed one instance of a high-rise complex in West Vancouver where two new low-rise buildings were constructed amid the landscaped gardens around the older buildings.
Geller was an early adopter of the concept of modular housing, having written a thesis on the subject in university. Modular housing consists of units manufactured and moved as completed (or mostly completed) structures to their temporary or permanent sites. He showed a photo of a building in Paris, where modular housing was added atop an existing apartment building to provide more units. The top levels of many urban parkades might make ideal locations for modular housing, he said, since few people park there unless the entire structure is full.
In European countries – Geller is doing work in Russia at present – families use space for more than one purpose, allowing better utilization of limited footage. Student accommodations, he suggested, could be developed by transforming a living area into a second bedroom through a pocket door or similar. Larger apartments could be made more flexible with extra external doors and tiny kitchenettes that allow one apartment to become two smaller ones – or those two smaller ones to be easily retrofitted for a growing family. He called these types of lock-off suites, “a mortgage helper in the sky.”
Identifying new municipal, provincial and federal lands for affordable housing is another option.
“I really like golfing at Langara,” Geller said. “But, I must say, if you were to take a 40-foot strip off that golf course all the way along Cambie Street, you could create a lot of land, which could be used for affordable housing and some market housing to support the non-market housing.”
He admitted that some of his golfing friends might think this is a terrible idea.
Many of Vancouver’s older residents are “over-housed,” according to Geller, meaning that one or two people might live in a three- or four-bedroom home. Not everyone would be comfortable sharing their home with erstwhile strangers, he admitted, but some would.
“They might want to share with another senior, they might want to share with a younger person who is willing to help around the house, to pick up prescriptions, to pick up food, to drive them to see friends,” he said.
Another idea Geller mooted was “the Tikva Suite.”
“Maybe we should start a program where we basically approach every member of the Jewish community who owns an apartment building and say, rent us a suite, give us a suite, and the clever accountants in the community can work out some way so there can be a tax receipt for this and that way you can have a suite in every one of those buildings,” he said. “It’s a dream, but many of the dreams I’ve had over the last 50 years actually do materialize. They take awhile, but this is not such a crazy idea.”
Geller is a planner, real estate developer and retired architect with five decades of experience in the public, private and institutional sectors. He is adjunct professor at the Simon Fraser University Centre for Sustainable Development.
Beginning with a seven-unit building in South Vancouver in 2007, Tikva Housing Society has grown to support the housing needs of 288 individuals. The society provides housing directly through three complexes – with another under construction – as well as through rent subsidies. The AGM heard that the society has net assets of about $2.6 million.
At the meeting, outgoing chair Shelley Karrel announced the launch of a new Jewish Housing Registry, an online platform for people who are looking for housing. It is a partnership between Tikva, Jewish Family Services, Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver and the other Jewish housing societies: Vancouver Jewish Building Society, Yaffa Housing Society, Haro Park Centre and Maple Crest Apartments (which is under the auspices of Royal Canadian Legion Shalom Branch 178). The registry will provide a single source for housing applications and will also provide partners with a more accurate way of determining the scope of the community’s housing needs. (See jewishindependent.ca/jewish-housing-registry-live.)
The 2011 Census reported 26,250 people in Metro Vancouver’s Jewish community, of which more than 16% reported incomes below the low-income cutoff, giving Vancouver the second highest rate of Jewish poor in Canada. Average rent for a two-bedroom apartment in Metro Vancouver is more than $2,000 a month and the vacancy rate is about one percent.
The violence at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. (photo by Tyler Merbler/flickr)
Elect a clown, expect a circus. That has been a recurring meme over the past four years. As the reality show that is the Donald Trump presidency staggers into its final few days, the full fruit of the president’s years of bellicosity and violent language expressed themselves at the U.S. Capitol Jan. 6. Incited by the president, who repeated his utterly baseless claims of a stolen election, thousands of people marched on the seat of America’s democracy, smashed windows, stormed the building, threatened lawmakers and defaced and desecrated the premises.
Some observers, including many Republicans, expressed shock at a turn of events that was almost entirely predictable. After years of the most irresponsible rhetoric imaginable from the so-called leader of the free world, and after two months of undermining the most sacred facet of American democracy, the peaceful transition of democratically elected administrations, violence was a surprise only to those who have not being paying attention – or who observe through ideological blinders.
It seems to be a turning point. A growing, though still far too small, number of Republicans are finally saying they have had enough of the outgoing president’s petulance and possibly criminal irresponsibility. Listening to some, it appears they were looking for an opportune moment to break with their leader, and the violence – which killed five people – provided the ideal opening.
It is not enough for apologists to pretend that these elements are in any way peripheral to Trumpism. He has encouraged, abetted and refused to condemn the most evil strains in the American body politic, from the Ku Klux Klan to Proud Boys, referring to “very fine people on both sides” at Charlottesville – when one side was white supremacists with a sprinkling of neo-Nazis and anti-democratic thugs. Faced with the destruction his words and his supporters wrought at the Capitol, Trump uttered the least a president could possibly say, calling on the rioters to go home, while also repeating the lies that led to the violence in the first place. Then he added: “We love you. You’re very special.” He just can’t help himself.
Among the insurrectionists at the Capitol were overt Nazis, including at least one wearing a shirt with “Camp Auschwitz” emblazoned on it and another with the acronym “6MWE,” meaning “six million wasn’t enough.” These are the very special people Trump loves. Jews and others who were taken in by an embassy move and other ostensibly “pro-Israel” acts should know now the fire with which they were playing.
There must be accountability. At the top, those who abetted and encouraged the worst actions of the past years should be held criminally liable, if that is the extent of their culpability. At a lesser level, those who tacitly or explicitly permitted what has happened – Republican senators, congress members and party officials – will ideally suffer at the ballot box at the next opportunity. Among ordinary people, including some in Canada who have expressed support for this extremist and white nationalist approach, we should seek introspection around how we may have been drawn into a political disease that we should have recognized for what it was – yet let proceed along a path that almost inevitably led to the loss of human life and the shattered glass at the U.S. Capitol last week.
We might also hope that leaders of other countries will look at the American case as an instruction in the dangers of oratorical brinksmanship, division and scapegoating. One of Trump’s greatest allies, Israel’s Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, is in an election (again) and it will be illuminating to see if his style softens at all. In Europe, where far-right populism is seeing a resurgence, perhaps the warning shots from Washington will inspire a little more moderation.
Barring more violence on Inauguration Day, God forbid, this chapter will soon be behind us. Joe Biden was not everyone’s first choice for president, he was more of a compromise pick. Based on decades of experience, he has been charged with picking up the pieces of a society shattered by four years of negligent and confrontational executive leadership. It doesn’t hurt that he has a grandfatherly demeanour and a history of consensus-building. While the outgoing president will not attend the swearing in – more proof that he abhors the core principles of democracy – beside Biden will be Kamala Harris, the first woman and the first Black and Asian person to assume the vice-presidency.
No humans are perfect. The Biden-Harris administration will make mistakes and we will criticize them. But we can rejoice in the arrival of a new future, led by people of goodwill, intelligence and moderation, who know the difference between right and wrong, between neo-Nazis and very fine people.
At 109, Richmond resident Reuben (Rube) Sinclair might be Canada’s oldest Second World War veteran. (photo from Reuben Sinclair)
A Richmond resident is almost certainly Canada’s oldest Second World War veteran. Reuben (Rube) Sinclair received a special recognition on Remembrance Day, though, because of confidentiality issues, Veterans Affairs Canada can’t confirm he’s the oldest service member. But, at the age of 109, basic statistics suggests that, if Sinclair isn’t the oldest, he’s got to be close.
The centenarian spoke with the Independent virtually via Zoom about his life and what advice he might have for aspiring super-seniors like himself.
Sinclair was born in 1911 on the family farm near Lipton, Sask. Lipton was one of many “colonies” created by Baron Maurice de Hirsch in Canada, Argentina and Palestine to resettle oppressed Jews from Europe. Sinclair’s father, Yitzok Sinclair (born Sandler), traveled from Ukraine, via Liverpool and arrived at Ellis Island Jan. 4, 1905, on the SS Ivernia. He made his way to Saskatchewan, where he was given land by de Hirsch’s Jewish Colonization Association. However, the land was poor and so the newcomer worked for the Canadian National Railway long enough to save up and buy a better plot and build a house. When he was settled, he sent for his wife, Fraida (born Dubrovinsky), and their two young sons.
Reunited in Lipton, the family grew to include not only Samuel and Sol, who were born in the old country, but the only sister, Clara, then Rube and the youngest, Joe.
The last survivor of his birth family, Sinclair has fond memories of the farm life. He and the other two youngest did chores while the older two headed to university. Samuel became a medical doctor and Sol was a professor of agriculture at the University of Manitoba.
“There was a whole colony of Jewish families,” Sinclair said. “My parents had one of the largest farms – 16 quarter-sections [more than 2,500 acres]. I remember we had 42 horses. We had milk cows. I had my jobs. My job was to go collect the eggs from the chicken house and, when I was 12, I was already driving our car.… Always things to do on a farm.”
Yitzok donated a few acres to the community and helped construct a school, which doubled as a synagogue. On Shabbats and Jewish holidays in winter, the boys would sleep in the hayloft so the local men could stay in the house and not walk home in the freezing Saskatchewan weather.
“My father was a leader in the community,” he said.
Sinclair joined the Royal Canadian Air Force during the Second World War and was stationed in North Battleford, Sask. In the days before radar was commonplace, he taught Allied pilots how to take off and land in the dark using a “standard beam approach,” which involved a navigation receiver that allowed the pilot to line the aircraft up with the runway when preparing to land.
“In the air force barracks, I was on the top bunk,” he said. “I always got the top bunk because the younger generation would come home drunk and I wouldn’t sleep in the bottom bunk.”
One day, he encountered a barrack-mate in tears. Sinclair recalls the conversation: “They’re sending me to Vancouver, he said, and my family is all here around Brandon, Manitoba. So I said, that’s no problem. When they want a person to go to Vancouver, they don’t care who the person is. Vancouver wants one person. So, I said, don’t cry. We’ll go see the commanding officer. I told him that my wife has got family in Vancouver and I’d be glad to go instead. He said they don’t care, all they want is one person. So, I was the person who went to Vancouver at that time and I’m still here,” he recalled with a laugh.
Joe, the youngest of the five siblings, had served in the army and after the war joined Rube in British Columbia. They started Sinclair Bros. Garage and Auto Wrecking, in Richmond, just across the two old Fraser Street bridges from Vancouver.
“My job was to go out and find old cars and we had a tow truck,” Sinclair said. “I’d bring them in and my younger brother would wreck them. We opened a wrecking company.” They also bought surplus army vehicles to fix up and sell.
The business soon became a sort of family compound. A small house adjacent went up for sale and the Sinclairs bought it, bringing parents Yitzok and Fraida to the coast. Then sister Clara and her husband Morris Slobasky bought a general store that was next door.
Because of his wartime experience, Sinclair developed migraine headaches and was told to go to a drier climate. He thought Arizona sounded good, but his wife, Ida, had siblings in the Los Angeles area and a brother-in-law offered him a job in a furniture store in Anaheim.
In 1964, Rube and Ida packed up the three kids – Nadine (now Lipetz), Karen and Len – and moved to Southern California.
“He put me in charge of the furniture store,” Sinclair said of his brother-in-law. “I knew nothing about furniture, but I learned pretty quick.”
Soon he was in business for himself again.
“Then my boss that I worked for in Anaheim, his wife wasn’t very well and she spent a lot of time in Palm Springs,” Sinclair recalled. “So, he said, instead of me going back and forth, I’ll move to Palm Springs and you can have the store, just pay me for the inventory.”
In 1994, Ida had a stroke and the couple moved back to British Columbia. She passed in 1996. Rube still lives in their Richmond condo.
Rube and Ida were active in their communities. In Los Angeles, they raised more than a million dollars for City of Hope, a cancer hospital and research facility. Both were active members of Schara Tzedeck Synagogue here, he especially in the Men’s Club, and he is proud of his lifetime honorary membership in the shul. In addition to their three adult children – Nadine is in Vancouver; Karen and Len in California – he has six grandchildren, 16 great-grandchildren and one great-great-grandchild.
Asked if he has any advice for others, Sinclair didn’t hesitate.
“That’s easy. I always say, if you have a problem, don’t worry; you’ll lose your hair. Fix it. If you have a problem, fix it. Don’t sit back and worry. Worry is not going to help.”
Any bad habits?
“I don’t think so,” he said after a thought. “I spent most of my life working and, in my spare time, working for people less fortunate. That was my enjoyment in my spare time.”
Two years ago, the City of Richmond named Sinclair an “honoured veteran.”
Recalled daughter Nadine: “He was part of the Remembrance Day service in Richmond and they made a big deal about it. They sent a limo and he sat with the mayor and the Silver Cross Mother. They gave him a wreath and then they walked him around. He was up on the dais with the mayor and the head of the RCMP as the soldiers all walked by. It was a very big deal for him.” Last Remembrance Day, he received a certificate from Veterans Affairs.
If, by some chance, Sinclair is not
Canada’s oldest veteran of the Second World War, he seems determined to attain that title.
“I’m not going anywhere,” he said. “I still have some unfinished business.”
A scene from the documentary Martha, in which director Daniel Schubert is given a more appropriate shirt by his grandmother, Martha Katz. (Courtesy NFB)
Two very different scenes in the National Film Board of Canada’s short documentary film Martha – which will be released on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, Jan. 27 – combine to highlight the joy and pain that is life. Directed and co-written by Daniel Schubert, a grandson of the film’s subject, Martha Katz, there is a funny and relatable interaction where his grandmother questions his choice of shirt for the filming and provides him with a more appropriate one. This lighthearted exchange contrasts with the heart-wrenching tour that Katz takes with her grandson through the Holocaust Museum LA.
Born in Berehove, Czechoslovakia, Katz is 14 years old when she’s taken to the ghetto, then to Auschwitz. Both of her parents and two of her brothers were murdered in the Holocaust; she, along with two other brothers and two sisters, survived the concentration camps. She speaks, with emotions near the surface, about some of her experiences. The documentary is a mix of seemingly spontaneous moments, while other parts are scripted reenactments or prepared questions being asked and answered.
“My original idea for the documentary,” Schubert told the Independent, “was to track Martha and her two sisters’ incredible journey together through the ghettos and, eventually, Auschwitz. After Auschwitz, they were even forced to work at a German bomb factory together in Allendorf, manufacturing the bombs. The fact that Martha and her two sisters managed to stay together and survive through all of the horrors of the concentration camps, to me, was a miracle. I thought that would make an amazing documentary.
“But, as we developed it at the NFB, we realized that a more traditional cinéma vérité documentary could be a viable way to tell her story, too. I did not know many of the facts beforehand, so many of the things she told me in the film came as a surprise. My grandmother and I have a warm and loving relationship and I thought, why not show that on screen as I find out all of these amazing things?
“The other thing about my grandmother,” added Schubert, “is she’s hilarious. She’s the classic Jewish grandmother and I wanted that to come across. I wanted this to also be a real picture of a grandmother and her grandson and how we naturally interact.
“We also decided that in between these cinéma vérité moments would be cinematic vignettes narrated by my grandmother herself. There were many more amazing things she went through, but, due to time constraints, I picked those stories.”
One of the stories is how, after the war, in Vienna, his grandmother met and married Bill Katz, who had been in a labour camp. The couple went to Winnipeg, with $200 they had saved up. They had two children – Jack and Sharon – and struggled financially. It was his grandmother who suggested they go into business for themselves. She went to night school, then saw an ad for a grocery store for sale – she bought it, learning on the job. There are some wonderful photos and video in this part of the film.
It was her goal in life for her two children to have whatever they wanted and she talks about her happiness at having had them. “We had to have a life again,” she says, stressing that this doesn’t mean she doesn’t think about the Holocaust all the time, because she does – “I hope it should never happen again. That’s all.”
“Bringing her to the museum was a bit of a tough decision, but she encouraged us to go,” said Schubert. “The intention was to see whether there was anything new that she and I could both learn about the atrocities committed. And, as it turned out in the film, there was; specifically, about the excruciating length of time the gas chamber took, in some cases, to exterminate those poor victims trapped inside, including my great-grandmother and her young son. Suffice to say, it took way longer than expected, and neither of us knew how long they may have had to suffer inside.”
It was for health reasons that Katz, who is now 90 years old, moved to Los Angeles.
“My grandmother suffered from chronic bronchitis since the war and, because of Winnipeg’s frigid winters, the doctors advised her to move somewhere warmer, or else her life could be at risk,” explained Schubert. “My grandfather’s brother lived in Los Angeles, so they helped them get settled there. They came to Winnipeg from Europe in 1948 and moved to Los Angeles in 1964.”
The 22-minute documentary is dedicated to the memory of Katz’s older sister, Rose Benovich. The statement at the film’s end notes: “Her courage in Auschwitz is the reason I am alive today.”
The Vancouver Jewish Food Bank is now distributing more than 10,000 kilograms of food every month. (photo from BI and JFS)
According to the Community Food Centres Canada report Beyond Hunger: The Hidden Impacts of Food Insecurity in Canada, “Even before COVID-19, nearly 4.5 million Canadians struggled to put good food on the table for themselves and their families. In the first two months of the pandemic, that number grew by 39%, affecting one in seven people.”
Demand on the Vancouver Jewish Food Bank has almost doubled since the start of COVID-19. The organization is now distributing more than 10,000 kilograms of food every month; supporting seniors, families and individuals. While some of us have been impacted by food scarcity during COVID-19, those most in need live in a state of constant worry about where their next meal will come from.
The 1996 World Food Summit defined food security as: “when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.” To this end, Jewish Family Services and Congregation Beth Israel are hosting More Than a Bag of Food on Jan. 28, bringing organizations and people together for a Tu b’Shevat program on food security in our community and beyond.
Vancouver Talmud Torah and Richmond Jewish Day School students are raising awareness about the food bank and reaching out to recipients. King David High School is hosting a cooking demonstration with Hilit Nurick and Rabbi Stephen Berger at 4 p.m. on Jan. 28, which will feature local ingredients and discuss the need for healthy food for everyone. Hillel BC is running an online quiz, with prizes, and a deep dive into information around food security.
At 7:30 p.m. on the 28th, there will be a Zoom panel including Dr. Tammara Soma, assistant professor, School of Resource and Environmental Management, Simon Fraser University; Dr. Eleanor Boyle, educator and author; Krystine McInnes, director and chief executive officer of Grown Here Farms; Mara Shnay, chair of the JFS client advisory committee; and Cindy McMillan, director of programs and community partnerships at JFS. Lawyer Bernard Pinsky will moderate the discussion.
“This is an important conversation,” said McInnes. “The stakes are very high. The pandemic has thrown into sharp relief just how vulnerable we are, given the way our society is organized. ”
Food systems produce and deliver based on historic demand. With the advent of COVID-19, the system has been stretched, leading to empty grocery shelves and desperate food banks. International supply chains are no longer reliable, with Russia and Vietnam limiting the sale of wheat and rice outside of their countries. Canadian food production plants have been hard hit by pandemic outbreaks and the lack of international workers. This is particularly problematic when food production is concentrated at large facilities; for example, two plants in Alberta provide 70% of Canadian beef.
“We are going to talk about initiatives from local to global,” said Boyle, “and panelists will let audience members know about some of the creative approaches to food security that are being taken at the Jewish Food Bank, as well as what’s going on around the world to try to shift agriculture and diets toward being better for climate and public health.”
On Jan. 28 and 29, Music on Main hosts the world première livestream of Graveyards and Gardens, co-created and co-produced by Caroline Shaw (composer and recorded sound) and Vanessa Goodman (choreographer). A PuSh Festival Partner Presentation, the performance takes place among 400 feet of orange sound cables and an arrangement of plants – nature and technology being another synthesis the artists explore. Things begin with a long passage featuring an array of sounds – some come from tape decks, some from a record player, some from old Edison wax recordings – and this production is, among other things, a powerful display of the creative process.
New York-based vocalist, violinist, composer and producer Shaw, the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for Music winner, was Music on Main’s composer-in-residence from 2015-2016. Vancouver choreographer Goodman is the artistic director of Action at a Distance Dance Society.
Catalina Beraducci plays Noemí Goldberg in the Topic film Noemí Gold. (photo from Topic)
For his first feature film, writer and director Dan Rubenstein has done well. Noemí Gold, which is currently streaming exclusively on Topic, is a quietly engaging story that touches upon serious issues, though never delves into them. While the story is somewhat scattered and doesn’t always make sense, the acting is strong and the glimpse into Argentine culture interesting.
The title role is played by Catalina Beraducci, who is perfect for the part. Noemí Goldberg, 27, has accidentally become pregnant from a tryst with an egotistical artist of questionable talent and character. She is an unassuming person, recently graduating with her master’s in architecture, though she doesn’t appear to have a job. When she seeks a doctor who can perform an abortion – which was an illegal procedure in Argentina until just last month – she has some trouble raising the money she’ll need to go to Uruguay to get one.
Noemí has a couple close friends – eccentric roommate Rosa and party-girl Sol – both of whom help in small but important ways. Also in Noemí’s court is her grandmother, though we find out later in the movie that their relationship has had its complications. Lastly, while all this is going on, Noemí’s cousin, David, comes to visit from Los Angeles, where his family moved when he was 7, for tragic reasons we eventually find out.
David and Noemí were once close, but, for most of the movie, their interactions are strained. David works for an energy drink company and his job is, literally, to post photos on Instagram of himself enjoying the drink in various places and while doing various activities. (He is the only one in the film who has a job, it seems.) Social media plays a prominent role in the narrative as a whole – and, hopefully, younger viewers will take it not only as a representation of themselves in film but as a critique of how much time they dedicate to promoting the fun they are ostensibly having versus actually having fun.
Women’s rights, religion (via a discussion with and seduction attempt of two young Mormon missionaries), what constitutes art (one amusing scene features an objectively poor dancer filming her own performance using a camera on a selfie stick, while being cheered and applauded by an adoring audience), the importance of forgiveness, the challenges of being a good friend, the imperfection but necessity of family, and many other topics run through Noemí Gold. There are no pronouncements and the laidback pace could fool one into thinking there is not much of substance in the film, but they’d be wrong.
The breakdown of Nefesh B’Nefesh 2020 aliyah. (image from Nefesh B’Nefesh)
Despite a challenging and tumultuous 2020, 291 individuals from Canada decided to make aliyah and move to Israel with Nefesh B’Nefesh (NBN) over the past year. The Canadians were among the 3,168 individuals who moved to Israel from North America in 2020 – 2,625 since the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
Founded in 2002, Nefesh B’Nefesh, in partnership with Israel’s Ministry of Aliyah and Integration, the Jewish Agency for Israel, Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael and Jewish National Fund-USA, has assisted in easing the aliyah process for more than 65,000 olim since its inception. With the help of its partners, NBN assisted nearly 90% of the total number of olim that arrived in 2019.
Since January of 2020, Nefesh B’Nefesh olim have most often hailed from New York, New Jersey, California, Florida, Ontario, Illinois, Massachusetts, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Texas. Altogether in the past year, 811 families chose to move their lives to Israel, along with 1,032 singles and 332 retirees. There were 61 physicians among a total of 198 medical professionals who arrived in Israel in the last year, most of whom joined the frontlines in Israel’s fight against the coronavirus. And 390 young men and women stepped off the plane with the desire to serve Israel as lone soldiers.
In addition to the olim who arrived throughout 2020, Nefesh B’Nefesh received 6,704 aliyah applications, in contrast to 3,035 in 2019 – marking a 126% increase in interest in aliyah.
“From the earliest days of the Jewish state, no matter how trying or difficult the circumstances, aliyah has always continued in order to preserve what was once a distant dream for our parents and grandparents,” said Rabbi Yehoshua Fass, NBN co-founder and executive director. “As we look back at the challenges everyone faced in 2020, we are extremely proud of what we have accomplished together. We look forward to watching each oleh grow and build their new lives in Israel, and eagerly look ahead to 2021, a year with the potential to exceed all expectations in aliyah.”
“I welcome the dozens of new olim who chose to leave everything, especially during the time of a global epidemic, and fulfil their dreams of building new homes for themselves in Israel,” said Minister of Aliyah and Integration Pnina Tamano-Shata. “Many will surely remember 2020 as a challenging and complex year, but the olim who arrived [recently] from across the U.S. and are part of the last group of olim this year, are enabling it to be shaded in more encouraging and optimistic colours.
“Despite COVID-19, the Jewish nation is thriving and aliyah is continuing,” Tamano-Shata continued. “In the past year, more than 20,000 olim from 80 countries around the world made aliyah.”
“The thousands of new olim from North America and around the world, during a year of a global pandemic, lockdowns and almost complete paralysis of international air travel, emphasizes how much the longing for Zion is deeply ingrained in the hearts of the Jewish people around the world,” said Isaac Herzog, chair of the Jewish Agency.
The top 10 cities in Israel that new olim chose as their homes this year were Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Beit Shemesh, Ra’anana, Haifa, Herzliya, Netanya, Modiin and Be’er Sheva. The olim most commonly worked as educators, physicians, nurses, social workers and lawyers, as well as in the fields of marketing, sales and business. The average age of an oleh this year is 30, with the oldest being a 97-year-old and the youngest being only 35 days old.
When the pandemic began in earnest in March 2020, Nefesh B’Nefesh adapted its various programming and transitioned into holding virtual meetings, webinars and informational sessions. The online seminars have allowed the organization to reach a much wider audience and have included a wide range of subjects, from choosing communities and special webinars for medical professionals, to how to pack and ship for aliyah.
The ongoing support after aliyah provided by NBN has meant that 90% of its olim have remained in Israel, leading to tens of thousands of new Israelis who go on to make significant contributions to the country.