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Rosh Hashanah Newsletter

September 2020 - Tishrei 5781

Table of Contents

Message from the Executive Director
D'var Torah - by Ilana Krygier Lapides
Basic Needs & Resettlement Program

Older Adults Program
Shalom Bayit Program

Home Support Program
Claims Conference Program

eTapestry - There’s gold in them thar hills
Meet our LIFE & LEGACY Donors
Richard Bronstein Builds on his Father’s Legacy

Message from the Executive Director

As we reflect back on 5780, it would be very easy to see the challenges that arose throughout the year as opposed to the opportunities. Many days have gone by with little to no contact with our friends, family and loved ones and feelings of fear, isolation and hopelessness took over. It has been six months of wondering ………what’s next.

What did present itself throughout the year though, was an opportunity to slow down and recognize the many things we have to be grateful for. Instead of planning full days of running errands, attending appointments, organizing kids for school and working, we were able to slow down, stay close to home and learn how to do things differently.

Whoever would have thought in 5780 you would be attending medical appointments through a ZOOM call, you would be ordering groceries on line and having them delivered to your home, you would become a teacher in supporting your children through on line schooling and you attended faith services through an on line platform. All social contact became virtual. Opportunity presents itself in every experience and if we lean into the uncomfortable, we will strengthen who we are. And, as we approach 5781, there will be no stopping the possibilities of what could be.

On behalf of JFSC's Board of Directors, Staff and Volunteers, we wish you good health, happiness, peace, and prosperity, today and all through the year. Shana Tova!

Roxanne Droppo, MA RSW
Executive Director

Letting Go – Practicing Ye’ush during the Yomim Nora’im.

By Ilana Krygier Lapides

There is a story of a Rebbe and his student taking a long walk in nature to reflect upon a difficult Talmudic passage. They come to a fast-flowing river and see, standing at the river’s edge, a young woman painfully attempting to cross. Without a word, the Rebbe gently picks her up and carries her safely across. When he returns, the Rebbe resumes their discussion, but the student is shocked at the Rebbe’s breach of modesty. The student contains himself for over an hour but finally blurts out, “Rebbe, how could you do such a thing – carrying that woman over the river?” The Rebbe turns to his student with surprise, “I put that young woman down at the river miles ago. Have you been carrying her all this way?”

The upcoming Yomim Nora’im, Days of Awe, give us the opportunity to practice the idea of Ye’ush. Ye’ush means ‘letting go’. It comes from a tractate in Talmud around claiming lost property. Briefly, in order to claim ‘finder’s keepers’, the original owner must, in words or mind, acknowledge the item as irretrievably lost. For us, during this season of introspection and beginning anew, the practice of Ye’ush can prepare us for the holy work of atonement. It is a healthy moving-forward to ‘let go’ of thoughts, deeds, and mind-sets that are no longer serving us. Like the student in the story, trying to control things we cannot change can be confusing and exhausting. If we can let go, there is liberation and freedom in the joy of new possibilities.

During these Yomim Nora’im, may we have the strength and courage to practice Ye’ush; to shed the judgements and behaviours that keep us from realizing our connection with G-d and one another. Let us treat each other with kindness and compassion and continue our journey with a clear head and a full heart.

Ilana Krygier Lapides has been a Jewish educator in Calgary for her entire adult life. She is attending online Rabbinic School with the Jewish Studies Learning Institute in New York and will be ordained in December 2020.

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Basic Needs and Resettlement Programs

by Inessa Kessel

As a result of COVID-19, the Basic Needs department has changed the way it operates; it is now on wheels, and food is being delivered to homes throughout the city. To eliminate any potential barriers for clients and to protect the well-being of both staff and clients, food packages are being left on the doorsteps of families and individuals in need. This change in program delivery has worked really well especially for those with underlying medical conditions who were trying to eliminate any contact with the outside world

The Basic Needs department purchases food that we do not have in house on a weekly basis. To further supplement the food hampers, we have access to fresh produce from the Spinz-A-Round program, and we are so fortunate to receive a monthly donation of nutritious soup from Soup Sisters. Food from Miriam’s Well (boxes located in three stores) is collected and added to the Wynne Thal Pantry. Being able to provide all this food to our clients has significantly lessened the stress associated with food insecurity.

Between April 1 and June 30, 156 deliveries were made to 83 clients from the Older Adults, Basic Needs, Resettlement, and Shalom Bayit programs.

As for the Resettlement program, clients were helped over the phone. Some of them required food assistance while others, felt a phone call was all it took for them to feel supported.

The pandemic has caused a lot of anxiety in people. Feedback from clients in our Resettlement and Basic Needs programs as well as previous clients is that they were very grateful to know we were open and able to continue providing support in what is very clearly, challenging times.

The goal of the Basic Needs program is to ensure that no-one goes without. We recently received a photograph of a plate of chocolate chip cookies from a client who had received a food hamper. They opened the package and saw that they had everything they needed to bake a batch of cookies, and the young son was so thrilled with his product that he had to send us the photo. 

A few weeks after that, we received a donation of toys from a donor who was once a client. She was so grateful for our support that she wanted to give back to us in a way that was meaningful to her. 
These are just two of the examples that demonstrate the impact the Basic Needs program has on the clients we support. 

For Rosh Hashanah we have put together packages for clients in need – honey and apples, honey cake and round challah and a gift card will be provided to 40 clients so that they too, can celebrate a wonderful sweet New Year. 

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Older Adults Program

by Angela Israel

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, seniors have been experiencing tremendous feelings of loneliness, isolation, and hopelessness. Simple tasks, like going to the grocery store have now become an overwhelming task, with even more barriers than before.

The Older Adults team has witnessed the impact this has had on our senior’s mental health, and in response JFSC has shifted our services to fit this new reality. The Older Adult department has been contacting clients weekly, continuing with outreach support and investing in programs that support their emotional and mental wellbeing. The staff have worked hard at creating a safe environment for clients to share their feelings and frustration and to provide support when needed.

"the work that JFSC does makes me feel connected to the community, I am feeling more secure and stable." ~client

The Older Adult department has also been supporting seniors with food deliveries and most recently, Rosh Hashanah packages. One of our clients expressed gratitude for his care package and let us know that "you are my only connection to the Jewish community, especially now that I cannot have any external connections." 

The JFSC team will continue to provide services to meet its clients' needs. We are proud to support seniors by improving their life with food security, emotional resiliency, and a strong sense of belonging. We want seniors to grow old with dignity and respect and to have the resources that they need. 

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Shalom Bayit Program

by Tanya Muschanov

Even before the pandemic, Alberta’s recession and high unemployment rates were a perfect storm for intimate partner violence. Throw in a pandemic where movement restrictions aimed to flatten the curve and stop the spread of the virus have made violence and abuse more frequent, more severe and more dangerous.

While COVID-19 has caused uncertainty for many, it has also necessitated that non-profits look at innovative and creative ways of providing support for their clients. That is true for JFSC’s Shalom Bayit program that has continued to provide services to clients. During a time when much needed services were being reduced, Shalom Bayit successfully continued to provide support to clients without compromising the safety of clients and our responsiveness and quality of service.

Very often, targets of intimate partner violence want to be around people who understand what they are going through. They need to be heard as they share their story. They crave the physical closeness and empathy and compassion that comes with talking to a trained professional. This is especially significant because in an abusive relationship, abusers work really hard to alienate the abused and as such, it is very common to have burned relationships with family and friends.

Video chat was offered as an alternative to in-person meetings. Some clients expressed that this is a preferable method of contact regardless of the pandemic while other clients expressed a preference to in-person meetings. In both cases, clients report that they benefit from having the opportunity to access the modified services offered. This is especially true for clients whose needs have increased or become more complex due to the pandemic.

The good news is that JFSC is here to empower our community to respond to domestic violence when we see it. According to research conducted in the Jewish communities of the Prairie Provinces, 70% of victims reach out to friends and family for support. During a time of physical isolation and social distancing, it is harder than ever for those living in domestic violence to reach out for support. JFSC, in partnership with Sagesse, offers a webinar as a guide to help understand and talk about domestic violence. It’s not fancy or complicated any more than it is about trying to fix things. It empowers the participants to break the cycle of domestic violence with just a few words. For more details or to book a webinar for your group, contact Tanya Muschanov

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Home Support Program

by Michaela Rafael

JFSC Home Support program focuses on helping individuals with physical and/or emotional limitations that impact activities of daily living. It is our belief that every individual deserves the right to not only have access to the right supports at the right time, they also deserve the right to remain as independent as possible. To support these beliefs, we make sure we have the very best field workers taking care of the varied needs of the clients in this program.

We are proud of our collaborations with other service providers, Alberta Health Services and family members. This approach ensures that we are all working together to meet the needs of everyone. We ensure that the needs of clients are met, and they receive whatever supports they need to make them happy.

Having Home Support workers who are trained to provide personal care and companionship, housekeeping and meal preparation or even respite for primary caregivers, we know the clients are getting the very best service they can get.

There are times when clients, in conversation with the scheduler, let us know they have a hankering for their favourite meal. The word goes out to the team and before long, a Home Support worker is dispatched to rustle up a batch of meatballs, for example, with more than enough to be frozen and the hankering has been satisfied.

Now, that is what good service looks like … keeping individuals and couples independent in their home for as long as possible, while treating them with dignity and respect.

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Claims Conference Program

by Albina Gerov

In March 2020, our lives changed drastically in light of the coronavirus pandemic. This unprecedented situation resulted in significant changes to how we live, work and play. The Claims Conference team is handling these changes with resourcefulness and dedication to ensure continuous essential service delivery to our clients. We are so grateful and appreciative for the tremendous support and partnership provided by Claims Conference.

With the extra financial support, we were able to focus on delivering food packages and gift cards, as well as preparing and distributing personal protective kits to staff and clients. As we provided support to our clients, we made sure to take into consideration and implement all public health measures and precautions.

We heard from our clients that they were facing a lot of uncertainty and their anxiety levels were extremely high. Some shared that they were having nightmares and started feeling depressed while others felt very isolated and lonely, especially as their children were no longer able to visit them. As a result, so we hired two Russian speaking psychologists to address the mental health impacts of the pandemic for this vulnerable population.

With the many restrictions imposed by the health authorities (social distancing and no mass gatherings) we were unable to continue with our social events. However, our team came up with a creative solution to keep the Jewish spirit alive; the Challah Project through Café Europa. Not only does this initiative help the community be stronger, it also allows the Holocaust Survivors to connect at a spiritual level which is especially important given that the synagogues are closed to services.
The COVID-19 pandemic, and all the restrictions that come with it, is a frightening time for many Holocaust survivors who like many older adults are no strangers to the struggles that come with social isolation. After enduring so much tragedy and suffering, along with extreme deprivation and persecution in their younger years, COVID-19 has allowed many memories to resurface. That said, they know that our staff is determined to do everything possible to maintain their health, mental health and safety during these challenging times.

For this reason, it is our moral obligation, especially now that we are required to socially isolate and maintain physical distance, to reinforce the strengths of our existing program to meet the new challenges we encounter during this pandemic. We will continue taking great pride in everything we do, and we will approach each and every situation with an open heart and open mind.

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"There’s gold in them thar hills..."


by Peta Glezerson

Donors play a very critical role in the livelihood of JFSC. It goes without saying that we are where we are today because of the generosity of so many people who have aligned with our mission to enhance lives and strengthen our community. To you all, we thank you. 

A significant challenge we noticed was how to manage all the details about our donors and their giving habits while maintaining all the personal details that are required to track successful relationships. We live in the era of Big Data, which means that understanding why data is important, what data is most meaningful, and how to prioritize data collection and evaluation strategies to help us reach our goals has never been more important.

While JFSC did indeed have a donation record keeping program that was developed specifically for the agency, we felt the need to upgrade to a system that served as both, a donor database and an integrated communication system. JFSC is now using eTapestry© (Blackbaud© product) which will support us in our needs.

We were able to integrate approximately 17 years of data into eTapesty and while that gives us a great snapshot into our donor’s giving history, we know that a database is only as good as the information we enter. 

The learning curve is steep, but we are on track. We are excited for the day when the system is as accurate as we can get it. At that point, we will be able to effectively communicate with donors and further develop great relationships. In the meantime, we are asking for both your patience and your help - if you have moved or changed your email address, please let us know and we can make the necessary change to your record. 

After all, what’s the point of a gold mine if you don’t extract the gold?

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Meet our LIFE & LEGACY Donors

Josh Inhaber

LIFE & LEGACY is a partnership of the Harold Grinspoon Foundation (HGF) and Calgary Jewish Federation in collaboration with Jewish Community Foundation of Calgary. Ten organizations in the Calgary community, including JFSC have made a commitment to work together to support a Jewish future for generations to come.

Born and raised in Calgary, Josh Inhaber is a son, brother, fiancé, accountant, Vice President of the board of directors of Beth Tzedec, up and coming young runner, mensch and he always has a smile on his face that lights up the room.

He is one of the 36 Life & Legacy donors that have made a commitment for an after-life gift and is also one of JFSC’s youngest Life and Legacy donors.

At the beginning of the pandemic, I called Josh to find out a little more about him and to find out what motivated a young guy like him to become a Life and Legacy (L&L) donor.

Growing up in the community, Josh was aware of both the agency’s existence and the need for support. It was of comfort to him to know that the community has an agency where people seeking help and support can turn to when they need it.  

Giving back and making a difference in the community is an important and integral part of what makes Josh the amazing young man he is. He credits his parents, Susan and David, who are also very active in the community for setting the example, so it is not surprising to see Josh as actively involved in the community as he is.

Josh Inhaber and his fiancé Yanna Klimenko

Josh’s decision to become a Life & Legacy donor at such a young age is certainly inspiring. When I asked him about it, he said he is aware of his youth. He also recognizes that he is at the beginning of his career, yet he doesn’t believe that you have to wait 30 years before making a decision to invest in the future.

With legacy donors like Josh making a lifetime gift, the community is well positioned for a strong and sustainable future.

Heartfelt thanks to all our LIFE & LEGACY donors.

If you are interested to learn more about the LIFE & LEGACY program, please call Peta at 403-692-6389
or email her at

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Richard Bronstein Builds on his Father’s Legacy

by Peta Glezerson

The benefits of gardening are as varied and numerous as they are widely documented; everything from reducing stress levels to increased exposure to Vitamin D, from being an enjoyable form of exercise to providing nutritious home-grown produce. These are just some of the benefits to gardening.

Similarly, the benefits to volunteering are varied, numerous and widely documented; everything from connecting you to others, providing a sense of purpose to making you happy, from helping you stay physically active to being good for your mind and body.

Enter Richard Bronstein, volunteer par excellence with a vision
to see smiles on people's faces.

Richard had just recently retired when COVID-19 threw a spanner in the works of his retirement plans. With nowhere to go, time on his hands and a host of tools in his belt, Richard knew that he could be putting his talents to good use.

It bears noting that Richard’s father, Isaac built the garden outside the Bertha Gold Jewish Senior Apartment (BGJSA). So, with a desire to build on his dad’s legacy, Richard and Barbara Davenport, Manager of BGJSA, decided to add four individual raised flower beds to the already existing garden. This would be the perfect opportunity for tenants to claim a flower bed and use it as one would a community garden.

In Richard’s view, building these raised garden beds ticks a number of boxes: it is well within his capability, it puts a smile on the tenant’s faces and although he didn’t tell me this specifically, I know it puts a smile on his face and a song in his heart.

‘When people help each other out, good things happen.’

As we near the end of summer, we know Richard’s newly built raised garden beds have indeed brought a tremendous amount of joy to the tenants, particularly those who claimed a bed, planted, weeded, tended and toiled. The research shows that when you have dirt under your fingernails you have a smile on your face. Richard’s vision is no longer just in his mind, it is being realized by the tenants of BGJSA.

On behalf of everyone at JFSC and certainly the tenants at BGJSA,
we are so thankful to Richard for transforming the garden at BGJSA into a space where people can gather and enjoy for all the reasons alluded to
in this article, and more.

And talking of volunteering, when Isaac built the original garden, Irina Sapigora, now a tenant at BGJSA, was a full-time volunteer. When Isaac passed away, Irina took over and is still taking care of the garden today. She has planted an assortment of vegetables which, when harvest comes around, will be shared with the tenants in the building.

It’s a pleasure for Irina to give back in this way and share
her love of gardening with others.

Now, if anyone would like to volunteer to build a fence, well, there is an opportunity. Reach out to Barbara Davenport at the BGJSA 403-255-8033 for more details.

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