President, Jewish Immigrant Aid Service (JIAS), 1993-1995
1. How did you get involved with your agency and why?
As a very proud second generation Canadian whose family members were involved with Federation CJA and several of the constituent agencies, I decided to focus my attention on JIAS as my Uncle Abe Jassby Z’’L, past President of Federation CJA, would recount stories to me of the need to support and assist new immigrants with integrating into our society through language courses, matching new immigrant families with members of our Montreal Jewish Community, etc. I took up the cause with great zeal, it became my passion – from meeting plane loads of Jews from Morocco, to Jews from the former Soviet Union.
2. What is your fondest memory to date of your time working with your organization?
There are so many fond memories. The one that stands out in my mind was a young Russian couple from Minsk who were determined to learn both English and French, and find good jobs and an apartment. They integrated very quickly. I received a telephone call from them that the wife gave birth to a boy and did I know of a mohel to circumcise their son. A few members of the JIAS Board put some money together and we arranged a brit milah. The parents were overwhelmed with joy and emotion, the father held his son David, he thanked JIAS for giving his son the opportunity to grow up as a free Jew in Montreal. There was not a dry eye in the room.
3. Can you recall a particular moment or event that impacted you profoundly?
The Board of JIAS, as well as the Immigration Department of Quebec, jointly arranged a sponsorship of families from the former Soviet Union. Once the approval was given, I sponsored my cousin from Moldova. Dina was 28 years old, her family felt she should take the opportunity to apply. Once Dina was accepted into the program, it did not take more than a few months before I went to the airport to greet her with a bouquet of flowers and a Canadian flag. Tears of joy and open arms, we greeted each other as long-lost relatives! Dina lived with our family for a year, she went to French language classes, she learned English in our home and found an excellent job. Today, Dina is married with a lovely daughter and she has sponsored her entire family to come to Montreal. Dina is a responsible Canadian citizen and she never forgets to give back to our community, whom she is so grateful to.
4. What advice would you give to the young women following in your community-minded footsteps?
One must remember as a Jew it is our responsibility to help those in need in a loving and compassionate way so that each person can then take their rightful place in our Montreal Jewish Community and also learn to give back in the same way as they have been treated.
5. What is your legacy?
My legacy is that all my three children are involved in the Jewish Community in which they live. Their commitment to their religious beliefs and to Tikun Olam and teaching their children to give of themselves whether they live in Montreal or Israel.