NO: What kinds of volunteer work have you done in the past?
DM: Volunteer work? Well, I worked for approximately eight years with Beth Tikvah in the capacity of President, past-President, involvement in education committees and various other committees over a period of eight to ten years.
NO: When was Beth Tikvah founded, what year?
DM: Well Beth Tikvah was started originally as a Jewish community in Richmond and that was in 1970/71 and after four or five years as a Jewish community association it became a synagogue, and was originally started in 1970. In the summer of 1970 on of the rabbis in Vancouver by the name of Harold Rubin, he was the rabbi of the Temple Sholom, he was living in Richmond and he found that his children were discriminated against when they missed school to go to the synagogue for Jewish holidays, so he was quite concerned that the community was not aware of Jewish holidays in the area. So he proceeded to send out notification tall the Jewish families that he knew of in Richmond for a meeting, and this took place in June of 1970. And from that meeting a loosely arranged group of families got together over the summer and met to try and form a community association. In the fall of 1970 we had a meeting here at the Jewish Community Centre in Vancouver at which there were about sixty or seventy families and we got together and formed Richmond/Delta Jewish community association. I was chosen first President because I had kept notes over the summer and nobody else wanted to take on the job. So from the fall of 1970 we met regularly in different members’ homes to develop a constitution, to set up various committees; we had a President, vice-President, secretary, treasurer, social committee, education committee, ways and means committee, we had a welcoming committee who would welcome new families into the community and this is how we started. The first fund-raisers occurred in the fall of ’71 and our goal as the time was to set up a pre-school and an after-school Hebrew school, so in the fall of ’71 we had a bazaar and we had a raffle, we built a playhouse for children and we raffled this off and we also had a bazaar at the same time and we raised money towards setting the school up. Finally in the fall of ’71 we were able to set up this pre-school.
[Board member, Robert Levin, reminiscences about the formation of the community and the building of the Centre with Jean Gerber.]
RL: I moved to the Okanagan, to the city of Kelowna in July of 1980, and much to my surprise, within a couple of months of moving here, someone let me know that there were other Jews in Kelowna. I had expected there would be maybe 5 or 6 others, but I would probably never find them. But lo and behold, there was a small community already active here consisting of Lil and Lou Feldberg, a fellow by the name of David Singer, a fellow by the name of Sid Freedman, Marcy and Ray Turner, Stephen Finkleman, and there’s Bob and Sumi (?) Bidner, and Max and Anne Bidner, Bob’s parents. By then the Okanagan Jewish community, this was in the fall of 1980, were meeting for high holiday services in the Parish Hall of St. Michael’s Anglican Church, which later became warmly known to us as St. Moishe’s, and was actually where we continued to hold our services, for the most part until building this building about 5 years ago.
One the first events I remember, was being at a picnic in City Park in Kelowna. I’m not sure whether this was the summer of ‘80 or ‘81. It was organized, as I recall, by meeting at the Feldberg residence and then we carried on to City Park, played baseball, and swam and just met each other. We would often met for social occasions at the Feldberg residence; they had a big rec room over the garage or car port if I recall. That was one of the informal places that we would meet.
The community formed itself into an organized society, registered as a society in 1983. I’m one of the signatories to that first constitution, as is either one or both of Lil and Lou, as is Ron Gold, Ray Turner, and the first meeting of the society was - I just looked at the minutes which we have mounted on the wall of the community centre here - May 29, 1983. It was held at the Lodge Motor Inn, which is a motor hotel here. The first elections were held. Tommy Hiller was the first president elected for the Okanagan Jewish community. He was a retired divorce lawyer from LA who had moved here with his wife and was a leader, the first logically to be our leader. David Singer was the elected secretary and his hand written minutes are the minutes we have preserved on the wall. I was elected the treasurer, which I recall was one of the most time-consuming jobs I ever did.
And from there the community just gradually grew and held more and more events. By the time I came here in 1980, those who come here before had already discovered a wonderful rabbi, an orthodox rabbi, a survivor from eastern Europe who had lost family members in the Holocaust, by the name of Emil Klein, who had come to Okanagan thinking he was retiring until the people who had moved here found him in Winfield, and he became voluntarily, always, our rabbi. And we were very fortunate that way.