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Chanukah Newsletter

December 2020 - Kislev 5781

Table of Contents

From the Desk of Roxanne Droppo
D'var Torah - by Ilana Krygier Lapides
A Fond Farewell To Albina

CHW Calgary Centre 18th Annual Toy Drive
Volunteers Report
Telling our Story a Different Way
Meet our LIFE & LEGACY Donors

From the Desk of Roxanne Droppo

As we flip our calendars to December and see the end of 2020 in sight, many of us are thankful as it has been quite a year trying to understand the implications of a pandemic and in our case, how to ensure vulnerable Calgarians continue to receive the services they so desperately need.  

December also marks Chanukah. The eight candles of Chanukah are a gentle reminder to pause and reflect on the work we do at JFSC.  The dedication, commitment, and unwavering support from community members to our organization is invaluable. 

The first candle glows with a wish for all the best things in life.
The second radiates the love that’s in our hearts.
The third candle gleams with good luck and success in all you do.
The fourth is a beam for friendships that stay with you forever.

The fifth candle is a ray of closeness for family near and far.

The sixth shines for good health, today and every day.
The seventh candle flickers softly for the joy found in simple pleasures.
The eighth… a tiny beacon of peace, happiness and hope.

The ninth candle known as the Shamash is used to light the eight candles and represents Unity.

As we continue to navigate through these unprecedented times, it is more important than ever that we appreciate not what we want, but what we have. Each candle lit during Chanukah brings us moments of clarity; that what is most important is looking out for one another and finding our own way to share our gifts with those around us. Strength is always with unity and unity represents togetherness. 

In the spirit of unity, JFSC is launching our Family Enrichment Program. This program is bringing together some of our current programs (financial coaching, basic needs, resettlement, community education) while adding additional services of employment resources and in-home family support. We recognize in these difficult times new issues are arising. In being responsive and innovative in our programming, we can address these issues together.

Together we can change the world, one person at a time, one day at a time. 

Roxanne Droppo, MA RSW
Executive Director

When it feels darkest, the tiniest of lights means the most.

By Ilana Krygier Lapides

“There always were two ways to live in a world that is often dark and full of tears. We can curse the darkness or we can light a light.” Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, z”l

When Rabbi Sacks passed away last month it was only one of a number of tribulations we have experienced during this dark and troubled year. As we live under the pandemic’s cloud, praying for the safety of our loved ones, wrestling with our mental, financial, and physical health, and facing a winter season without vacations or family visits, the tunnel’s light feels farther than ever.

And into the mix comes Chanukah. While kids love it, Chanukah gets a bad rap among us adults: its proximity to Christmas, no days off of work, the songs are not great, it can get expensive if we try to keep up with the Goldbergs, and, after eight days of dreidels and frying potatoes, its easy to get latke’d out.

We forget sometimes, that the accoutrements of Chanukah are really just window-dressing to the actual message – Rededication. Chanukah is a commemoration of when the Temple, which had been hijacked and defiled, was rededicated back to G-d. It is when a small jug of oil became the symbol for a great big miracle. Chanukah reminds us that its precisely when it feels darkest that the tiniest of lights means the most.

The material things in our world can be diminished but the light we shine, the kindness we show, the compassion we feel, the wisdom, the laughter, the love – all these multiply when shared.

And even when we feel too depleted and exhausted to create our own light, we can echo the light of others. As Edith Wharton said, “There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.”

During this Chanukah season, let us not get caught up in materialism nor despair in the shadows. Instead, let us do our best to fan the tiny, divine spark that we share, to generously bring a glimmer of light to the darkness, and to have faith in the brighter days to come.

Chag Chanukah Sameach.

Ilana Krygier Lapides is a Rabbinic student with JSLI in New York. She will be ordained in December 2020.

A Fond Farewell To Albina

by Lisa Thomson 

It is with mixed emotions that we say goodbye to Albina Gerov, Team Lead Claims Conference, as she moves to Israel to embark on a new life chapter with her fiancé.  

Eighteen years ago, Albina came to JFSC for her job interview to be the frontline worker assisting older adult newcomers to Calgary. Professionally trained as a nurse, Albina’s passion for helping people shone through as she worked diligently over the years to nurture her clients and build a host of meaningful programs for them. And build she did – when she started, she was the only Caseworker, today this thriving, vibrant area of JFSC has five Caseworkers for 144 Claims Conference clients, and 53 Caseworkers in the Home Care program.  

When asked what she feels is her biggest impact, Albina explains that each client has touched her uniquely and when she impacts just one person, she considers that a big personal success.

Albina knows that JFSC Caseworkers are the voice of their clients, particularly when working with Holocaust Survivors. The relationships are deep and meaningful, the level of trust that develops is precious. “After sunset there is always a sunrise”, says Gerov. “My aim is to be that sunrise for clients who have experienced so much adversity.” Her goal is to ensure clients live comfortably for the rest of their lives. 

There’s always that one person you come across in life who truly touches you, and you always remember them. Albina Gerov is that person to so many. In 2016 she was nominated for the McKillop Award for “Best Frontline Worker”. Her clients got together and wrote a petition for her to win, and she received the award. She invited her clients to come watch, and they filled an entire bus to accompany her to the ceremony and celebrate. This is a testament of her impact on so many and the legacy that she leaves for them. 

“I feel privileged to have been able to work for JFSC”, says Gerov. “The experience and wisdom I’ve gained over the years is incredible. My community is so important to me and although this is a very difficult decision, I know my clients and my community are well taken care of.”  

The JFSC family wishes Albina all the best in her new adventure.

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CHW Calgary Centre 18th Annual Toy Drive 

by Peta Glezerson

The holiday season is an exciting and magical time of the year for so many in our community. It can also be an expensive time of the year. However, for many families in our community, having enough of anything is not just a concern around the holidays, but all year long. 

Before the pandemic, families were already struggling to make ends meet. Now that we are in the pandemic, even more families are faced with tough decisions; pay the rent or feed their family. When families are having to choose whether or not to put food on the table, gifts are most often the first priority to get removed from the list. 

Enter CHW Calgary Centre (CHW) 18 years ago, Linda Barron saw the need and decided to do something about it. Their mandate was simple -“We wanted to give children a gift for Chanukah and more so that they can also have gifts throughout the year, so they can receive a birthday gift or take a gift to a birthday party”.

While the annual toy drive has evolved over the years from a shoebox project to what it is today, what has remained constant, is that children’s lives are being changed. 

After a conversation with Jackie Hamborger and Jeannie Groberman, I understand that they make up the charge to change children’s lives with Arliss Levine and Jennifer Moscovitz rounding out the team. Before I could commend them on their kind-heartedness, I was reminded that it is CHW that should be in the spotlight because the project is done through them. And then it is the toy-drive itself that is to be front and centre because after all, it is the children who are important. 

“We do it for the kids; we do it for our kids”. 

It is safe to say that CHW and the annual toy drive has made a significant contribution to the community. For the women leading the charge, this is a project that is near and dear to their hearts. They are passionate about community, creating local community, creating opportunities for involvement in the community, changing the lives of the children in our community, it’s about building bridges. 

JFSC is so grateful for this lengthy and continued partnership with CHW because in addition to Chanukah toys, children are receiving gifts throughout the year for birthdays. No one is excluded.

Because of the CHW Calgary Centre Toy Drive and the generosity of the community, JFSC is able to provide gifts to children, and because of that, “when children come back to school, they stand as equals when they can share with their peers about their gifts”.

On behalf of all the children who will receive gifts and gift cards this Chanukah we thank you. Here’s to you CHW Calgary Centre. Here’s to the ladies who lead the charge. Here’s to you and all your kind-hearted and generous donors who join you in wanting to put a smile on a child’s face. Here’s to the next 18 years.

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News from the Volunteer Program

What’s the silver lining in this dark pandemic cloud we find ourselves hunkering down under, you ask? Well, it may be that we are being shown a view into a different, more improved way of being in the world. People are being kinder and softer towards each other. Neighbours are helping each other out, offering to fill in the gaps where needed. Families are spending time together in ways they didn’t before. Friends are doing drive-by birthday, anniversary, and graduation celebrations. We’re connecting virtually with loved ones and colleagues far away, thanks to technological innovations. And people still want to make a difference in the lives of others.

While the world around us is adjusting to a new way of being, so is JFSC. We have been hard at work creating new programs that will add another layer of service to the community. One such program is Safta’s Kitchen; a program centered on building connections through food and nourishing the soul through relationships. The aim is to decrease social isolation through active volunteerism of seniors and improving quality of life through the sharing of stories and food. During the month of December, we are adjusting our approach to keep our community safe by delivering meal kits to seniors at home.

We are currently recruiting volunteers for Safta’s Kitchen for the following positions: 
COMMUNITY ORGANIZER - Coordinate group meal preparation events (in-person or online) and establish connections with neighbours who may be interested in volunteering or participating in Safta’s Kitchen.
GROCERY AIDE – Shop and deliver groceries to participating seniors’ homes.
MEAL PARTNER - Join group meal preparation events and deliver portions to seniors’ homes.
STORY CAPTURER - Interview seniors about their favourite recipes and capture their stories.
If you are interested in learning more, please contact Samantha at 403-692-6392 or email her at

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Telling our story a different way

What do Eli Wiesel, Rosa Parks and Terry Fox have in common?

JFSC is proud of our new video showcasing just a few of the programs offered by JFSC to those who require support.

They all did one thing different, and you can too.

Thanks to an anonymous donor, we now have an agency video that shines a light on the impact of the work being done in our community.

You have the power to do something, one thing, different.

Click here to watch the video

Join us, and let’s keep changing the world

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Meet our LIFE & LEGACY Donors

by Peta Glezerson 

Justin Charbonneau

LIFE & LEGACYTM is a partnership of the Harold Grinspoon Foundation (HGF) and Calgary Jewish Federation in collaboration with the 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. As of October 30, 2020, there have been 344 Legacy commitments with an estimated value of $13.3 million.

Justin Charbonneau was raised in a Roman Catholic home in a northern Alberta small town. He is more spiritual than religious and believes in karma. Be a good person, do good in the world, support your community and, good things will happen to you.

In the early part of his career, Justin felt drawn to want to give back to the community in which he lives. He recalls that it was a good friend from the Calgary Jewish community who introduced him to JFSC.

Knowing the history of the Jews and everything the Jewish people have gone through over time made it an easy choice for Justin and a great cause to support, which is why Justin joined the board of directors.

Justin’s board tenure was very positive. He recalls working with great people who were engaged in transforming the agency to create a sustainable future. While he understands that transformation is hard, he is proud of the changes that took place. Recognizing the demographic shifts and implementing programs like Homecare, seemed like a great way to transform the way we provide service.

What matters most to Justin about the work we do is two-fold; honouring the Holocaust survivors and contributing to an agency that aims to improve society. Justin was motivated to provide a Life & Legacy letter of intent because he knows JFSC does great work for the less fortunate, for the Jewish community, and for immigrants who need a hand up.

I asked Justin what makes him feel good about supporting our cause and his answer was simple, helping the less fortunate. Growing up in a small town, Justin knows what it feels like to come from modest beginnings so it feels good to help people when you can; everyone deserves kindness and good fortune. Plus, there is something about a close-knit society, like that in which we live, that Justin finds enviable.

Justin hopes that his after-lifetime gift will continue to help those who find themselves in crisis due to a recession or hard times and to support a sustainable organization. To others who are thinking about becoming a Life and Legacy donor, Justin believes that it is a pretty selfless thing to do. He adds that aside from the tax benefits associated with a legacy gift, he would encourage people to continue contributing to the agency of their choice as well as leave an after-lifetime gift. He went on to add that when you look back at history, we still have things pretty good, considering everything that is going on, and that means we can still share what we have with others.

As Justin is not Jewish, I asked him what he would say to people who are not Jewish but who are thinking of leaving a legacy gift to JFSC. He said that if you look at JFSC, you’ll see a diverse group of people from the top down ... management and board members are not all Jewish, the staff and volunteers are not all Jewish and the population being served is not all Jewish. Before COVID, Canada’s immigration was one of the highest in the G7 for people looking to live a better life. JFSC, with its resettlement program among others, has the ability to ensure immigrants find their feet and live a meaningful life. Being more inclusive with a diverse population especially immigrants just makes sense. Therefore, it only makes sense that donors come from all faiths and cultures.

Justin is a scholar and a gentleman and we are honoured to have him join a group of forward-thinking individuals who see the importance of ensuring a sustainable future for JFSC and the community. And to the good friend who introduced Justin to JFSC, we want to say a hearty thank you. We certainly lucked out when we got to know this man who believes in karma. And we get to count him as one of our Life & Legacy donors.

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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