‘SHEPPING NACHAS’ is a term used in Yiddish when one derives pleasure from one’s family and that’s what the JSA did on September 9th 2015 at their annual AGM which took place at Congregation Beth Israel – since that is what the JSA has become – a large family of close to 700 caring members unified by a common goal of bettering the life of seniors.
A large crowd of 130 gathered to hear President Marilyn Berger open the meeting with a warm welcome and ask for a minute of silence for those who had passed away during the year.
Following the introduction by Berger of two visitors from our member organization COSCO, she called on Adolf Zilbershtain, President of Most-Bridge Russian Jewish Seniors, who rose to bring greetings and thanks from his 170 members in appreciation for JSA’s continuous support.
Serge Haber presented the financial report due to absence of treasurer, Milton Adelson and owing to the ongoing diligent fundraising efforts by himself and aided by Lyle Pullan, the finances proved to be healthy for the upcoming year.
Pam Ottem, Chair of the Peer Support Program – which was referred to as one of our crown Jewels by our Executive – and is now the largest in the city, reported that after five graduating classes, the client base has increased from 68 to 86 and the new Ambassador program has 11 trained graduates who have been going into the community acquainting those interested with what is available: friendly home visits; ‘Shalom Again’ friendly phone calls; transport and accompanying of clients to medical appointments; senior information or referral line and the renewal of the bereavement support group. Ottem attributed the growth of the Peer Support Services to the excellent leadership of Grace Hann and Charles Leibovitch.
Chair of the membership committee, Lyle Pullan informed us that there were 38 new members this year but in fact each one of us can be an active member of the membership committee and urged us all to consider ourselves recruiters and sign up friends and family.
Ezra Shanken, CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver, spoke of his grandfather whom he held in the highest esteem. His wife, he said, had referred to his grandfather as Shanken’s hero. Shanken then said he felt that there were many heroes in this roomful of seniors in the audience who also just did what needed to be done. Seniors who were following in the paths of those who had walked them before. Shanken praised and recognized the many contributions made by the JSA to the community.
The President’s Report given by Marilyn Berger was just like her – positive and always validating the deeds of others. It was filled with thanking her ‘troika‘ of Vice Presidents as she called them – Ken Levitt, Rita Rolling and Past President Serge Haber – without whom she couldn’t accomplish all that she did. Berger’s full report can be read at www.jsalliance.org.
Berger ended with a quote from Pirkei Avot– Ethics of Our Fathers -‘The Day is Short and the Task is Great’- and wished all a Shana Tova– a Happy and Healthy New Year!
The nomination slate, read by Serge Haber, was voted on and adopted as read.
Certificates of Appreciation to outgoing board members were presented to: Debbie Cossever, Janet Kolof, Rubin Feldman, Timothy Newman and Edith Shier.
The key word is support so that we can continue to Shep Nachas and that we certainly did as we were ushered into the Bev Libin Conference Room by the music of ‘Caviar and Lace’, with Saul Berson and Michelle Carlisle playing familiar Jewish melodies striking nostalgic chords in all of us.
One of our founding members Jack Altman, truly a master of wit, acted as Master of Ceremonies, displaying his usual charm and entertaining us with his dry humour and thoughtful comments about this year’s honourees.
The four volunteers being honoured this year, were selected by their individual organizations in appreciation for their time ‘in service to others’ – a phrase particularly pertinent to describe them as they have all dedicated their lives to making sure others may enjoy life to the fullest of their abilities.
Irene Dodek: Perry Seidelman, President of Board of Directors, The Jewish Historical Society of BC/Jewish Museum and Archives of BC and ex-Principal of Talmud Torah High School, introduced Irene Dodek, nominated by the Jewish Museum and Archives of British Columbia where she has served as director for 24 years and has played an essential role in the 45 year history of the museum. Dodek has recorded over 80 oral history interviews, as she feels each one us has a story to tell. Upon receiving the certificate, Dodek, thanked the JSA for the work we do and her own society for the tribute they had paid her with this nomination.
Cissie Eppel: Cynthia Ramsey, journalist and owner of The Jewish Independent, introduced her. She said that although Cissie Eppel unfortunately couldn’t attend, her family was here representing her. Ramsey quoted Eppel when she said ‘personal pasts have been allowed to recede and we mustn’t allow our own personal histories to recede into oblivion. We are who we are-what we value and what our family history is. Eppel founded the Jewish Genealogical Institute of British Columbia in 1992 and served as its first president for 8 years, establishing connections with other genealogical societies. Cynthia Ramsey accepted the certificate In Eppel’s absence.
Dr. Rubin Feldman: Annica Carlsson stated that their nominee Dr. Feldman had been involved with L’Chaim Adult Day Care Centre since 2006 when his wife was there and he remained active following her death, becoming President in 2011 until this past August 2015. It was at his urging that the 30-year anniversary of L’Chaim became a festive celebration last year, in partnership with Jewish Seniors Alliance.
Feldman thanked the JSA as well as L’Chaim for the honour and wished to share a story of a 95- year-old woman who had lost a leg and boldly told him as he entered her room that if he was there to place her in a home, he could turn around and leave; however if he was there to rehabilitate her and teach her how to walk he was welcome. With sheer determination and hard work, she walked out on both legs when she left the hospital. It was difficult to decipher which leg she had been born with. Feldman said he told this story to illustrate that we have to dig deep sometimes to find the strength to turn things around. He, too, has had to face a challenge this year, learning to walk again after a serious illness.
Shanie Levin: Shanie Levin was nominated by our JSA and introduced by President Emeritus, Serge Haber. Levin has been actively involved in the JSA, serving in many capacities from secretary to chair of JSA Empowerment Series. Shanie has accomplished this while staying involved singing with the choir at Peretz Centre and reading stories about Yiddish Literature at the Isaac Waldman Library among many other activities. Although this year, she too had to dig deep to triumph over an illness and has only quite recently returned to full capacity, again able to fulfill her many duties.
Levin thanked the JSA and urged everyone to become involved as it is gratifying and satisfying to both the giver and the recipient.
Jack Altman commented in a closing reflection that the four people being honoured were all connected –all fully committed to the continuity of quality of senior life in, for and by the community.
As a delicious dinner catered by Nava was being served, Caviar and Lace, once more struck chords within us but of a different kind as most of us recalled dancing to the tunes that now were being played. Ralph Eppel, Cissie’s son who plays the trombone, was invited to join in the entertainment, making it all the more special. Food for the body as well as the soul.
Huge thanks to the co-conveners, Barbara Bronstein and Larry Shapiro – an admirable job, well done and much appreciated!
Click here to see the video produced by Stan Shear of the AGM Dinner and Awards Ceremony.
Binny Goldman, a proud JSA founding member