2019 Annual General Meeting
September 19th, 2019
JSAs AGM, A Wonderful Evening: The Best Honouring The Best
Written by Bob Markin
How do you say Thank You to special individuals who tirelessly and humbly strive to better the lives of so many people in the community? Jewish Seniors Alliance’s answer is an Appreciation Dinner, part of its AGM event—a tribute to three conscientious community personalities; to outgoing President, Ken Levitt; and the introduction of JSAs new co-presidents, Gyda Chud and Larry Shapiro.
Ken Levitt’s leadership was warmly praised by Larry who noted the outgoing president’s “ever-present love-of-life which inspires everyone and brings out the best in each person whom he meets.” Gyda read a moving poem, ‘Captain Ken’, written by JSA honorary life member Binny Goldman, which stated that “You listened with your ear and understood with your heart. Your experience, knowledge and judgement always saw us through successfully – you are a leader, a man above most men.” With his characteristic humbleness, Ken stated that “I accept this tribute on behalf of all of us.”
Anne Kang, MLA for Burnaby-Deer Lake, stressed the ongoing efforts of the B.C. government to advocate strongly for seniors’ needs and rights, including improved long-term-care assistance, including training of care workers, and the overseeing of buildings and streets, to ensure that they are more accessible and safer for seniors.
Jack Altman, master-of-ceremonies, began the honourees ceremony with the tribute to Tzvia Estrin, nominated for the honour by Yaffa House.
Tzvia’s son Avie recounted the dedicated efforts of his mother and late father Aaron, who tirelessly worked for 10 years to establish Yaffa House, opened in 2001 as Western Canada’s first home dedicated to housing the community’s mentally ill in the context of a Jewish living environment.
Avie, Yaffa House’s president, emphasized that “nobody could have achieved what Tzvia has attained and continues to do for the most vulnerable segment of our own community.”Yaffa House presently oversees four homes across the city including a newly-opened women’s facility—all dedicated to helping people. Yaffa House’s mandate is to provide permanent non-transitional housing. It is Western Canada’s only dedicated Jewish mental health housing with in-house support. It takes people off the streets and, most importantly, keeps them off the streets; and the food is kosher.
Tzvia warmly expressed thanks on behalf of herself and her late husband Aaron and son Avie. She read an inspirational poem, ‘Don’t Turn Your Back’, which emphasizes the importance of taking the time to compassionately listen to others’ needs and to help them as lovingly as one is able. Cindy Charkow, a director of Yaffa House, emphasized the outstanding, much-needed service which it provides to the community, and stressed that “without Tzvia there wouldn’t be a Yaffa House.”
The second of the three honourees, Jack Wizenberg, was honoured for his outstanding work on behalf of the Tikva Housing Society, which helps financially-needy Jewish people find affordable housing. He stressed that “seeing Jewish individuals and families who are alone, struggling and having to rely on social insurance and the food bank to survive, touch my heart.” Jack served on the Tikva Board for six years, bringing to the position his extensive knowledge of 41 years work in property management as well as a life-long involvement in a range of Jewish organizations and causes in Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver.
He stated that he felt “extremely moved” when reading a Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver ‘Housing Needs Study’ indicating that in 2015, 16-percent of the Jewish population in Greater Vancouver were living below the poverty line “and in all likelihood those numbers have increased over the last four years.” He emphasized that things beyond their control prevented these people from working and in a-blink-of-an eye they found themselves in need, and relying on social assistance to survive. He chose to join an organization of committed individuals motivated to making changes in our community.
Jack began his service at Tikva helping with maintenance and tenant issues at the Dany Guincher House. He related that since the first 11-suite apartment building in Marpole was purchased in 2008, Tikva has made available 18 units of mixed single and family housing in the Diamond Residences in Richmond and another 32 family townhouses will be available in the Ben and Esther Dayson Residences in the Vancouver Fraserview area. Last year 100 individuals were helped by the Esther Dayson Subsidy Program, which provided those in need with adequate funds to allow them to continue living in their current accommodations.
Society president Shelley Karrel stressed that Jack seemed to have a passion for property management and often joined the property management and/or fire-safety group when doing extensive walk-throughs in order to see the building’s conditions and what needed repairs. Whether it was as treasurer, building committee head or acquisitions committee head, Jack cared deeply, keeping his fellow board members up-to-date.
“He was always seeking to ensure the best for Tikva, the buildings and its tenants. He is a person who respects others, is very organized, and a great team player. We are blessed to have Jack as a board member and friend.” Jack responded, with sincerity and humility, emphasizing that “by honouring me tonight, you are really honouring Tikva Housing Society, their volunteers and donors for the outstanding work they do in the community.”
Evening honouree Maurice Moses, whose beautiful tenor singing voice has brought joy to countless individuals and numerous organizations throughout the Jewish and general communities for over six decades, was introduced by JSAs president-emeritus Serge Haber.
We’re honouring people who love community”, Serge stressed. “Maurice has helped seniors so very much by enthusiastically and nobly giving his special talents, his outstanding voice to the community, and particularly to seniors.”
Maurice told of the pleasure he receives by entertaining, and especially in doing so for senior citizens, emphasizing that “our precious seniors should be entertained and respected for their countless contributions to life in the community. The only way that I can thank seniors for all they have done is through my singing. It gives me great satisfaction to see their smiling faces, their faces ‘lighting up’, when I see them react to a song familiar to them.” Maurice has lived those words, as he recounted his many religious/concert participations for seniors, including his singing for 17 years at Shabbat services at Louis Brier Home and Hospital.
Maurice related that his enduring love for seniors was developed by his interactions with the late Beth Israel Cantor Murray Nixon, who constantly stressed the importance of treating older people with respect. “I am so pleased that this evening is taking place at Beth Israel, truly ‘my home-away-from-home”, where I served in the Synagogue’s Choir for 66 years under seven different Cantors and six different Rabbis—and with ‘Pucky’ Pelman, my mentor for 45 years.”
His choral participations include the JCC Choir, the Shiron Singers with Elizabeth Wolak and Muriel Morris, the Vancouver Jewish Men’s Choir, the Kol Simcha Choir (composed of members from all synagogues), and most recently, the PALS Performing Arts Lodge Choir. Over the decades, he has enthusiastically performed at services and/or in choir/concert presentations at numerous Lower Mainland Synagogues, including in addition to Beth Israel and Louis Brier, at Temple Sholom services with Cantor-Emeritus Arthur Guttman, at Beth Hamidrash Sephardic Synagogue, and in Richmond at Beth Tikvah Synagogue and at Chabad Richmond with Cantor Steve Levin.
Maurice extended appreciation to his ‘guest of honour’, his daughter Melissa, “who has ‘been by my side through three bouts of cancer, making me drink lots of water, eat healthy foods, and go on long walks at the Southlands.”
He expressed “a most sincere thank-you” to a number of people: “My 35-years wonderful Partner-in-Song’ Arnold Selwyn, who has been with me at Louis Brier, Beth Israel and Vancouver Jewish Men’s Choir; my dedicated accompanist for the past 55 years, Muriel Morris; Miriam Breitman, with the Rinat Ensemble and now the PALS Chorus, PALS formation executive Bill Harvey; Binny Goldman, for her help at Louis Brier services; Stan Shear, VJMC musical director; Cantor Yaacov Orzech with the Kol Simcha Choir; and Jonathan Berkowitz of B.I. ‘Purim Shpiel’. And what better way to end this portion of the evening than by hearing Maurice beautifully render ‘Lets Sing Again’, and with Arnold Selwyn, a stirring rendition of Adon Olam.
An excellent documentary video on Jewish Seniors Alliance’s outreach activities, produced by Cory Bretz of Heirloom Films, was screened to appreciative response and applause.
The event was co-chaired by Tammi Belfer and Larry Shapiro; with committee members Tamara Frankel, Helene Rosen, Marshall and Marilyn Berger, and JSA staff Elizabeth Azeroual and Rita Propp. Catering for the delicious kosher meal was provided by Nava Creative Cuisine; the photographer was Susan Curtis.
Truly, a wonderful evening…the best honouring the best!
Meet Our Honourees
A life in song and performance, Maurice has produced TV shows and shared his talent with the Jewish Community for the past 50 years.
Jack worked in property management for 41 years and served on the Board of Tikva Housing Society for six years.
Actively contributing to the society since 2001, Tzvia is the longest-serving volunteer Director at Vancouver Yaffa Housing.
JSA AGM PRESIDENT’S ADDRESS, SEPTEMBER 2019
Written by Kenneth Levitt: JSA President 2016 to 2019
Eight years ago I joined the Board of JSA as a 74 year old rookie, under the mentorship of the venerable Serge Haber. The more I got involved the more I began to understand the niche that JSA had been carving out like no other organization of its kind. In particular as I began to understand the complexities of our Peer Support Services, I became a believer and an advocate of these unique services. We also publish Senior Line Magazine three times a year. We produce the Empowerment Series, a Spring Forum and a Fall Symposium which many of you attend.
My personal goal for JSA was that we would become the “go to” agency in Greater Vancouver for Peer Support services. Today, we are that ‘go to’ agency. We have been approached by other agencies to train their volunteers. Volunteers are a precious commodity and trained peer support volunteers are an even more precious commodity.
I have been part of an extraordinary organization, Jewish Seniors Alliance of Greater Vancouver. And, as a volunteer, I have worked with a dedicated Board of Directors, a competent and devoted professional staff and overworked support staff. Let us not forget our trained volunteers, the ones who work in the trenches.
I am pleased to inform you that JSA is currently in negotiations with Vancouver Coastal Health and Arbutus Shaughnessy Kerrisdale Friendship Society (ASK). We will expand and deliver our Peer Support Services and Outreach programs in order to train more volunteers to serve more isolated and lonely older adults. We will also assist in finding resources for persons with special needs who are being discharged from hospitals.
I want to especially thank my wife and partner of 57 years Leah for her advice and wise counsel; for telling me things that I did not necessarily want to hear but which made me a smarter and a better President of JSA. In closing, please stay tuned. The best is yet to come!
Review of JSA’s Annual General Meeting
Written by Shanie Levin
The thirteenth Annual General Meeting of Jewish Seniors Alliance was held on September 19th, at Beth Israel Synagogue. Ken Levitt, the outgoing president, welcomed the over one hundred fifty supporters. Rabbi Jonathan Infeld, rabbi of Congregation Beth Israel, gave the D’var. He stated that we needed to remember the past in order to guarantee our future. He commended JSA as we set the foundation for remembering the past and our obligations to our fellow seniors. We then stood up to honour the JSA supporters who have passed away during the last year.
Michael Lee, MLA, gave greetings from the provincial government. He lauded JSA for bringing together other groups to help seniors through the Peer Support Program. Shelley Rivkin from the Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver stated that JSA is the only organization for seniors run totally by seniors. She praised our website and our advocacy and outreach work.
Larry Meyer presented the treasurer’s report. He talked about the different aspects of the JSA programs—Advocacy, Education and Peer Support—and how funds are divided between them.
Pamella Ottem reported on Peer Support Services. Peer Support volunteers take a fifty-five hour training course prior to being assigned to a client. The friendly visitors’ volunteers have a fifteen-hour training course. The other parts of the programme are friendly phone calls, a bereavement group and a referral line.
Presently 70 volunteers serve 128 clients and there is a waiting list. A new initiative this year was our training of volunteers for a Japanese seniors group so they could provide visiting volunteers for their senior community. We have also been approached by an Indigenous organization.
The membership report was presented by Binny Goldman. She urged everyone to keep up-to-date in their dues as receiving the magazine is not a guarantee of membership. JSA presently has 574 members/supporters. We need everyone’s support to “keep seniors stronger together”.
Ken Levitt then presented the president’s report. Marilyn Berger, chair of the nominations committee read out the names of the nominees for the upcoming board of 2019-2020 as follows:
Remaining for a one-year term: Tammi Belfer; Shanie Levin; Ken Levitt; Pam Ottem; Rita Roling
Remaining for two year terms: Marilyn Berger; Gyda Chud, Marie Doduck; Serge Haber; Toby Rubin, Dolores Luber.
Nominated for two-year term: Lyle Pullan
Nominated for three-year term: Larry Meyer; Larry Shapiro; Jackie Weiler; Tony DuMoulin; Eireann O’Dea; Frances Belzberg; Tamara Frankel; Helene Rosen
Ken Levitt then adjourned the meeting and invited everyone to the dinner and the awards ceremony to follow.
Photography by Susan Curtis