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Incoming President’s Message

When Serge Haber invited me to join the board of Jewish Seniors Alliance of Greater Vancouver (JSA), he asked me three questions to verify my qualifications. Are you on at least two medications? Yes. Do you have a receding hairline? Yes.  Do you get up at least twice during the night? Yes. To my pleasure I was invited to join the Board of Directors in 2011.

My background

I was born in Edmonton, Alberta, my family moved to Vancouver in 1940. I received a Master of Social Work degree from the University of British Columbia in 1966. My professional experience includes Corrections, Mental Health, Recreation, Public and Child Welfare. In 2002 I retired from Louis Brier Home and Hospital as Administrator after more than 16 years. As a volunteer I served as Chairperson of Habonim-Dror Camp Miriam, Past VP of the Performing Arts Lodge, and board member of the Beth Israel Synagogue.

Leah and I celebrated our 54th wedding anniversary on August 23. We met at the JCC Day Camp at the old JCC in 1960. We have two married children: Dori (Steve) Whiteside, Dan Levitt and Lisa Romalis and four granddaughters; Chelsey, Alana, Dahlia and Aria.

Jewish Seniors Alliance

One of the many things that attracted me to JSA was the fact that the organization was organized and overseen exclusively by volunteers. As a long time bureaucrat and board member I was comfortable with an Executive Director and a medium-to-large infrastructure.

In small organizations like JSA, there is a need to micromanage the organization. Fortunately for me, I was mentored by the venerable Serge Haber, President of JSA during my initial years on the Board. (Serge is President Emeritus). Serge explained:

The JSA is a grass roots organization supporting Jewish seniors through advocacy, information, education, research and peer support. JSA acts as an advocate on behalf of Jewish seniors to ensure their voices are heard within the community and at all levels of government”. I was sold on this summary statement and knew that this was a meaningful organization, with a credible place in the Jewish community and with seniors at large.

For the past two years I have served as 1st Vice President under the presidency and leadership of Marilyn Berger. Marilyn has provided a role model for me, setting a high standard to which I aspire. Throughout my working life I was privileged to work with outstanding persons; professional, technical and clerical. I knew the front line staff made the world better for their clients. My experience to date with JSA is similar in that we have a Board that is truly committed to our ‘raison d’etre’, a professional staff who make us proud every day and a caring, hardworking clerical staff that provides the support necessary to keep the many parts of our organization in one piece.

Looking towards the future

There are no major plans to change what has been a most successful organization with Peer Counselling as the core service. At the same time we cannot say “if it is not broken, don’t fix it”. We need to keep doing the stellar work that has proven successful and to examine how we can make it better.  We need to ensure the funds we receive can be counted on not just for one year at a time. We need to develop our new Foundation to a point where we can count upon it to supplement our budget and to help us extend the services and programs we provide.

Thanks to my family for their continued support and in particular to Leah Esther for her encouragement and for looking after me! I look forward to working with our new Board and Executive Committee so that together we may continue to grow from strength to strength.


Kenneth Levitt