LIFE & LEGACY Spotlight: Jenny Belzberg
by Maxine Fischbein
Jenny Belzberg appreciates the security of knowing that her LIFE & LEGACY gift in support of Beth Tzedec will be managed by capable and reliable individuals representing the Synagogue, Calgary Jewish Federation and the Jewish Community Foundation of Calgary.
Jenny was among the first congregants to designate Beth Tzedec as a beneficiary of her after lifetime gift which, like all LIFE & LEGACY gifts, will support her Synagogue family in perpetuity.
“Beth Tzedec means a lot to me,” says Jenny, whose family has deep roots in the congregation dating back to one of its two predecessor congregations, Beth Israel.
Jenny remembers the move from the old Community Centre on 18th Avenue to the new Beth Israel Synagogue in 1960, an event she was invited to participate in as an emerging young leader. She helped to maintain and build her Synagogue community as she took on increasingly significant leadership roles, serving as Sisterhood President and later as Northwest Region Branch President of the Women’s League for Conservative Judaism, positions that helped her to develop impressive leadership skills.
Then, as now, Jenny was motivated by the need for strong Jewish organizations that would benefit future generations. She felt strongly that Calgary Jewish youth, including her own children, needed an educational and spiritual base from which to grow.
All three of Jenny and Hy Belzbergs’ children went to the Conservative movement’s Solomon Schechter Camp in Olympia Washington and their son, Brent, was the first-ever president of the local chapter of United Synagogue Youth (USY).
As a LIFE & LEGACY supporter, Jenny continues to act upon her conviction that Beth Tzedec is a primary Jewish institution and an important hub for Jewish continuity.
“The Synagogue has to be here for everyone, including those who do not regularly attend. It needs to be there for all of life’s important times, like High Holidays, weddings, funerals and other milestones. I don’t get there as often as I’d like because I live at a distance, but it is very important to me to continue supporting Beth Tzedec.”
Jenny’s commitment is based, in large part, on her embrace of Conservative Judaism.
“The Conservative movement provides a middle path, one that doesn’t go to one extreme or another. It provides a Jewish experience that makes sense to me.”
Well known for her track record of leadership within and well beyond the Jewish community, Jenny’s expertise has, in particular, benefitted the arts for many years now, both locally and nationally. Among many other accolades, she was named a Member of the Order of Canada in 1997 and inducted into the Alberta Order of Excellence in 2000.
“Through it all, Beth Tzedec has been my anchor,” says Jenny.
Yasher koach and todah rabah, Jenny, for paying that experience forward through your generous LIFE & LEGACY commitment in support of Beth Tzedec!
LIFE & LEGACY Spotlight: Josh Inhaber
by Maxine Fischbein
At first glance, the generous participation of 31 year old Joshua Inhaber in Jewish Calgary’s LIFE & LEGACY program seems counterintuitive. After all, individuals of his age are less often assumed to have the interest or the means to commit to after lifetime gifts in support of the community that raised them.
Yet Josh was among our first congregants to commit to a legacy gift benefiting Beth Tzedec. Other key community organizations that have been named by Josh in his gift to the future include The Calgary Jewish Academy, the Calgary JCC, Jewish Family Service Calgary and Calgary Jewish Federation.
“These organizations are meaningful to my life and story,” says Josh. “They are the places that helped form who I am today.”
“I was born and raised in Calgary. My family has been at Beth Tzedec for three generations. It is important to me to carry on the tradition and make sure there is a shul in the future. That is the reason I participate on the Board and Executive of Beth Tzedec, and it is why I am leaving a legacy gift.”
Josh currently serves as Beth Tzedec’s Vice President of Finances, a position that dovetails nicely with his profession as an already-respected Chartered Public Accountant. Earlier this year, Josh – a University of Lethbridge (Calgary Campus) graduate – was recognized by CPA Alberta with an Early Achievement Award that celebrates those … who have had their accounting designation for 10 years or less and have rendered exceptional service to the profession or whose achievements in their careers or in the community have earned them distinction and brought honour to the profession.
Josh’s contribution to Synagogue life and his charitable efforts on behalf of other organizations in the Calgary community at large are some of the reasons he was saluted by his peers.
While carrying out his duties on behalf of Beth Tzedec with wisdom and dedication seemingly beyond his years, concern for the future of his contemporaries in Synagogue life is never far from Josh Inhaber’s thoughts.
“I think we are starting to see that the cost of membership at Beth Tzedec may be a barrier to some. We need funds in perpetuity that allow memberships not to be a barrier to entry for so many. It will take a long time to realize the funds, but it is of vital importance to the future of the Synagogue. Whether we use [endowment] funds for subsidizing membership or re-visioning our building, the funds will help to keep Beth Tzedec relevant to future generations,” Josh says.
Josh, who himself is a member of Beth Tzedec’s inaugural LIFE & LEGACY Team, is embracing the future in more ways than one! He and his fiancée, Yanna Klimenko, plan to marry this February. Both have been active and enthusiastic participants in daily life at Beth Tzedec, supporting daily minyanim and attending the many classes that have, most recently, been offered via Zoom, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Josh says that a silver lining of the pandemic has been the ability to participate in programming that was previously more challenging for them to access due to distance and their professional commitments.
“I believe Beth Tzedec is relevant to our generation. I’d like to see more of my peers involved. It is easy to say no, but some of us are involved and saying yes.”
While Josh has not yet formalized his LIFE & LEGACY gift, he is considering the gift of an insurance policy, allowing him to maximize his future legacy at minimum current cost.
“This is more affordable for me at this point in my life,” says Josh. “I don’t have a lump sum now, but my gift can grow in a big way over time. It is nice to know that I can make the commitment now knowing that I will be in that position later in life.”
Yasher koach, Joshua Inhaber, on your commitment to Synagogue and community life, and on your participation as a LIFE & LEGACY donor and team member.
Wishing you and Yanna a bright future together and thanking both of you for your commitment to Beth Tzedec and Jewish Calgary!
LIFE & LEGACY Spotlight: Lorne Pearl
by Maxine Fischbein
When Lorne Pearl opted to make his gift to the future through LIFE & LEGACY, he chose Beth Tzedec and Jewish Family Service Calgary as future beneficiaries.
At the relatively tender age of 40, Lorne – who joined Beth Tzedec shortly after moving to Calgary from Ottawa in 2007 – has an astonishing record as a Beth Tzedec volunteer. A former Beth Tzedec President (2011-13), he has served in a variety of other capacities including two stints as Ritual Chair and his current role as a Vice President.
While he is anchored in the here and now, Lorne has set his sights on the future when it comes to his philanthropic goals.
“Beth Tzedec isn’t just for today, it needs to be here forever,” says Pearl. “Our community needs to sustain itself for our children and our children’s children . . . . The religious values we share as individuals and as a community need to be maintained.”
Lorne Pearl believes that letters of intent pledging after lifetime support of the Synagogue through LIFE & LEGACY provide a lifeline to future generations.
“Beth Tzedec is where our children learn how to be Jewish in a religious sense. Their shared experiences of Shabbat services, Havdalah, High Holidays and their Bnai Mitzvah is where they learn how to bring Judaism into the future.”
Pearl adds that when he participated in the SULAM program for incoming Synagogue presidents, the shared ritual experiences he had had growing up in his previous Ottawa Synagogue gave him the Jewish literacy that paved the way for some very special moments with his peers.
“I felt a sense of connection with people I’d never met before due to the shared experiences we had because of growing up in shul.”
A strong belief in Jewish self-sufficiency has also prompted Lorne’s support of Jewish Family Service Calgary through his LIFE & LEGACY gift.
“Like Synagogues, Jewish Family Service is devoted to tikkun olam [repairing the world],” says Pearl, adding that the need to maintain confidentiality often means the work done by JFSC gets less public profile than that afforded other key community organizations.
Pearl says he is grateful to Calgary Jewish Federation and the Jewish Community Foundation of Calgary for having brought 10 of Calgary’s key Jewish organizations into partnership to raise endowment funds that will keep on giving in perpetuity.
“LIFE & LEGACY is an amazing initiative in that it links so many organizations in a common cause,” says Pearl. “The strength of community permeates through all the participating organizations.”
Yasher koach to Lorne Pearl and to all members of the Beth Tzedec family who have joined with him to ensure support of Beth Tzedec and Jewish Calgary dor l’dor – from generation to generation.
LIFE & LEGACY Spotlight: Beth and Rob Ordman
by Maxine Fischbein
For Beth and Rob Ordman, a LIFE & LEGACY after-lifetime gift in support of Beth Tzedec just makes sense.
“It’s the Shul that we attend,” says Rob. “It’s where our kids were Bar and Bat Mitzvahed. We view it as a pillar of the Jewish community, so it’s important for us to support it.”
Hailing originally from Red Deer and Winnipeg, respectively, Rob and Beth moved to Calgary in 1987 and joined Beth Tzedec in 1992 when it was time to name their first-born, Hannah. Jonas and Sophie soon followed . . . and the naches of a bris, another baby naming, two Bat Mitzvahs, a Bar Mitzvah and memories of good times spent at Beth Tzedec with Rob’s mother, Mary, and late father, Dr. Alfred OrdmanZ”L.
Beth fondly recalls a “legendary” evening in the company of her father-in-law at one of the Synagogue’s most unique and popular social gatherings, the Robbie Burnstein Dinner.
In addition to their Letter of Intent designating Beth Tzedec as a beneficiary of their after-lifetime gift, the Ordmans chose to support a number of other Jewish organizations in Calgary.
“We want to be able to give back,” says Rob, who is the owner and president of ServiceMaster Restore in Calgary.
As a successful businessman and a former WHL hockey player – he played for the Brandon Wheat Kings – Rob knows a thing or two about the power of team work, a value that is shared by Beth and reflected in her professional work at ServiceMaster Restore and in her volunteer commitments.
“It came along at the right time for us,” says Beth of the LIFE & LEGACY program, an initiative that she first became aware of as a Jewish Family Service Calgary volunteer. Having recently concluded a three year term on that agency’s board of directors, Beth multiplied her own family’s mitzvah by participating in legacy conversations with potential donors as a member of the JFSC LIFE & LEGACY Team.
The Ordmans, who are empty nesters, have spoken with their adult children about legacy giving, thus helping to extend the atmosphere of tzedakah that has always been a feature of their family life.
“We’ve had the conversation with them about when they might feel comfortable [giving] and how they’re going to know or start the conversation,” says Beth.
“I really think one of the most important things about LIFE & LEGACY is that the structure is there and easy for people . . . if somebody has an idea that they want to give, hopefully there is enough awareness that the program is there, that they don’t wonder, ‘How do I start?’”
“LIFE & LEGACY is a vehicle that allowed us to do that without having to go out and figure everything out on our own which could probably get complicated and bog us down,” says Rob.
Beth says she looks forward to a time when after-lifetime giving will be as “imbedded” in Jewish communal life as giving to the annual United Jewish Appeal Campaign. When thinking about after-lifetime gifts, she suggests that potential donors visualize the length of time they would hope to continue empowering the organizations they currently support with annual gifts.
Thanks to donors like Beth and Rob Ordman – who were among the first to step up as LIFE & LEGACY supporters – the future looks bright for Beth Tzedec and Jewish Calgary.
LIFE & LEGACY Spotlight: Ellen Magidson
by Maxine Fischbein
“The longer I live, the more appreciative I am of the work and generosity of community members that have come before me. They’ve created a community my family is proud to be a part of,” says Ellen Magidson. “We have an obligation to carry it forward by giving generously.”
Toward that end, Ellen has chosen to support Beth Tzedec Congregation and Jewish Calgary with an after-lifetime gift through the LIFE & LEGACY program.
When her husband, Stan Magidson, was considering a professional opportunity in Calgary, Ellen’s first question was whether this city had a Jewish critical mass that could support her family’s Jewish aspirations.
Taking a look at the Calgary Beth Tzedec website, Ellen’s immediate reaction was one of relief.
“These folks know what they’re doing. The foundation is there,” she thought.
When the Magidson family made their move from Toronto to Calgary in 2001, they visited each local Shul.
“The culture and the warmth of Beth Tzedec really spoke to us as a family,” recalls Ellen, who saw the Synagogue as a place where they could daven as a family, enjoy lifecycle events and experience the community.
“It became an integral part of our Jewish life in Calgary,” said Ellen who, together with Stan, regularly attends Shabbat services.
Their children, Jordan and Kaylie, participated in B’nai Mitzvah lessons and other youth programming at Beth Tzedec that supplemented the education they received at The Calgary Jewish Academy.
“They are proficient in Jewish liturgy because of the good teaching they benefited from at Beth Tzedec,” Ellen said.
Beth Tzedec has been there for the Magidson family in other important ways over the years.
“We have been comforted knowing our Beth Tzedec family has been there for us in times of sorrow,” said Ellen, recalling the kindness and caring with which clergy and congregants responded when she and Stan experienced the painful loss of parents and siblings.
In addition to naming Beth Tzedec Congregation as a beneficiary through a bequest in her will, Ellen has also chosen to support The Calgary Jewish Academy, Calgary JCC, Calgary Jewish Federation, Camp BB Riback and Jewish Family Service Calgary via the LIFE & LEGACY program.
“We live jewishly in a collective that strengthens families. Being part of the collective means taking care of one another,” Ellen said.
“Each of us has the responsibility to do our best.”
Ellen expresses unmitigated gratitude for the visionary folks that built her Synagogue and community, people like the Sheftel, Waterman and Belzberg families.
“It’s a beautiful legacy they have left to us. We have to appreciate and honour it.”
Ellen honours that legacy through generous annual charitable giving, her LIFE & LEGACY after-lifetime commitment and volunteer work in the Jewish community. She currently serves on the board of directors of Calgary Jewish Federation which brought the Harold Grinspoon Foundation’s LIFE & LEGACY program to Calgary in partnership with the Jewish Community Foundation of Calgary – another organization she once served as a director.
The Magidsons have always made a point of modeling charitable giving for their now-grown children, knowing that the virtue is often more effectively caught than taught. Ellen encourages others to do the same.
“We must all encourage our kids to become givers,” says Ellen Magidson. “We need to help them understand that this isn’t someone else’s responsibility. It is ours.”
LIFE & LEGACY Spotlight: Bob and Cheryl Shiell
by Maxine Fischbein
For Cheryl and Bob Shiell, an after-lifetime gift is the perfect extension of lives devoted to community participation and Tzedakah.
Active volunteers and donors at Beth Tzedec and beyond, Cheryl and Bob had already included a bequest in their will in support of Beth Tzedec when they first heard that Calgary Jewish Federation and the Jewish Community Foundation of Calgary had teamed up to bring the Massachusetts-based Harold Grinspoon Foundation’s LIFE & LEGACY program to Calgary.
One of 10 local LIFE & LEGACY partners, Beth Tzedec has held a special place in both Cheryl and Bob’s hearts since the mid-1980s when they became part of the congregational family. Even before he could officially become a congregant, Bob enjoyed attending services together with Cheryl and, eventually, studying toward his 1993 conversion to Judaism.
“I was never made to feel like an outsider,” recalls Bob, who says he felt warmly embraced by the congregation.
Ever since, Bob has given back with generous financial support and as an avid volunteer. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, he was Beth Tzedec’s official greeter, making sure congregants and guests got a warm welcome when they came to the Synagogue for Shabbat services.
“I miss my door duty on Saturday mornings,” Bob says. In turn, he is missed by Synagogue regulars.
Cheryl has served on countless Synagogue committees and ascended to the presidency, serving a two year term between 2003 and 2005. Since then, she has continued to serve the congregation in multiple capacities. Currently the longest continuously-serving board member, Cheryl serves on the Beth Tzedec LIFE & LEGACY team.
“It is something I absolutely believe in,” says Cheryl.
“We want to be part of things while we are living . . . and after we are gone.”
Bob appreciates the ease of the LIFE & LEGACY program.
“It is a very simple way to ensure that the organizations we care about are looked after in the future,” says Bob. “If you believe in something, you want to see it grow and continue.”
Tzedakah is a pillar of the Shiells’ family life.
“We involve our kids in the things we do,” says Cheryl, who takes pride in her daughter Sharon’s charitable work, most recently as chair of the Calgary Real Estate Board Realtor Charitable Foundation.
Cheryl and Bob have the future of their children Michael and Sharon, son-in-law Darren and their grandchildren Haley, Joey and Justin in mind when it comes to LIFE & LEGACY. That is because the Shiells’ after-lifetime gift – together with those of fellow congregants and community members – will continue to fund the community institutions that support their kids and grandkids throughout their Jewish journeys.
Top of Cheryl and Bob’s list is the gift of Jewish education m’dor l’dor – from generation to generation. So, in addition to naming Beth Tzedec as a future recipient of their LIFE & LEGACY gift, they have also designated The Calgary Jewish Academy – where Michael and Sharon are alumni and Joey and Justin currently go to school – as beneficiaries. The Shiells have also named Jewish Family Service Calgary and the Jewish Historical Society of Southern Alberta as beneficiaries of the bequest they have provided for in their wills.
While charitable giving is part of the DNA of their family, Bob says that the COVID-19 emergency has added more urgency to the responsibility of supporting the Synagogue and other worthwhile charitable causes.
Endowment gifts via LIFE & LEGACY can help to ensure financial resiliency for the community’s most cherished organizations in the face of any future crises like the pandemic.
Cheryl and Bob want their Beth Tzedec family to know that they are happy to discuss their thoughts on LIFE & LEGACY with anyone who is considering their own gift to the future.
“We are all in this together,” Cheryl says.
LIFE & LEGACY Spotlight: Cheryl and Jason Gurevitch
by Maxine Fischbein
Support for the community where they have lived and raised their children is bred in the bone for Cheryl and Jason Gurevitch who have committed to an after-lifetime gift through LIFE & LEGACY.
Jason comes from a family well known for their active participation and philanthropy at Beth Tzedec and in the greater Jewish and Calgary communities. His grandfather, Leo Sheftelz”l, was a co-founder and president of the Shaarey Tzedec Synagogue and a generous philanthropist. His parents, Sheila and Ralph Gurevitch, continue that tradition by, among other things, funding the Beth Tzedec Rabbinical Chair in memory of Leo and Goldie Sheftel.
Cheryl, who was born and raised in Vancouver, also comes from a family that values community participation and support. Her great-grandfather, Charles Waterman, was perhaps best known for his avid leadership and generous support of the eponymous Charles Waterman Talmud Torah (now known as The Calgary Jewish Academy) where Jason went to school. Following a move to Calgary some 24 years ago, Cheryl – a graduate of the Vancouver Talmud Torah – was a well-respected teacher at Akiva Academy.
“When you support LIFE & LEGACY you support the community,” says Cheryl who, together, with Jason, designated Beth Tzedec as a beneficiary of their legacy gift.
The values that the Gurevitch family and their community strive to uphold are encapsulated at Beth Tzedec, say Cheryl and Jason, pointing to the Synagogue as a place not only of prayer, but of education, celebration, cultural enrichment and commemoration. They are proud that their Synagogue is a welcoming and inclusive place where the community gathers for such annual highlights as the Beth Tzedec Congregation Jewish Film Festival and important commemorations like Yom Hashoah and the community vigil that took place following the 2018 mass shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh.
Life cycle events including a bris, baby naming and b’nai mitzvahs have given Cheryl and Jason – and their children, Jacob and Gabrielle – some indelible memories. Some of Jason’s favourite moments include the tradition of attending Erev Yom Tov services with his father, brother, uncle and cousin and participating (at least in the pre-COVID world) as one of the Shabbat greeters that always gives congregants and guests a warm welcome. Jacob and Gabrielle have often participated in leading Shabbat services, following in the footsteps of their grandfather, Ralph, who has frequently leined haftarah.
While Cheryl and Jason’s generous support of LIFE & LEGACY may begin at Beth Tzedec, it certainly does not end there.
“It is important to us to support the community in its entirety,” Cheryl says.
Toward that goal, Cheryl and Jason’s LIFE and LEGACY Letter of Intent names a number of organizations encompassing a broad range of causes within and beyond the Calgary Jewish community including social services, arts and culture, Jewish education, summer camp, anti-racism and Holocaust education, Israel, international aid, and animal rights.
Jason says that as he and Cheryl were working on their wills, they began generating a list of organizations that they wanted to support beyond their lifetime.
“It gave us an opportunity to reflect on what is important to us and to set an example for our kids,” recalls Cheryl.
Giving to both Jewish and secular causes is “very straightforward and easy” through LIFE & LEGACY, says Jason who adds that it is possible for donors to focus on one, a few or many organizations when making their gift to the future. Similarly, as one’s priorities change, it is possible to adjust allocations and to add new beneficiaries.
Like all LIFE & LEGACY commitments, Cheryl and Jason’s generous gift to the future means they can support – in perpetuity – the organizations and causes that matter most to them and their loved ones.
LIFE & LEGACY Spotlight: Cantor Russell Jayne
I want to tell you all what a privilege it is for me to be your spiritual leader as I continue to work toward my Semicha – Rabbinical ordination. And I want you to know that the faith you have placed in me is returned to you each and every day as we continue to build our kehilla kedosha – our sacred community – together.
While COVID-19 has certainly put us to the test individually and collectively, I am proud to say that the Beth Tzedec family has continuously risen to the occasion. We have managed to strengthen our daily prayer minyanim via Zoom, and our virtual classes and programs for both youth and adults have been going strong. We’ve had to be creative in pivoting to online holiday celebrations, but those who have participated can attest that we are succeeding. Congregants have stepped up to help in every corner of Synagogue life and I know that we will emerge from this health crisis with strength and resiliency.
I am writing to you to ask for your help in ensuring that Beth Tzedec can remain strong for generations to come. Toward that end, I am urging you to join me in generous support of Beth Tzedec and the Calgary Jewish community through the LIFE & LEGACY program.
An initiative of the Harold Grinspoon Foundation, LIFE & LEGACY is organized locally by Calgary Jewish Federation and the Jewish Community Foundation of Calgary. It is a tremendous community building endeavour through which 10 partner organizations here in Calgary have already raised commitments of more than $14 million in support of our community. To date, congregants and friends of Beth Tzedec have designated after-lifetime gifts nearing $1.5 million.
I recently signed a Letter of Intent designating Beth Tzedec as a beneficiary of my after-lifetime gift. I did so because I believe in Beth Tzedec and in the central role that it plays in Jewish life in Calgary both today and tomorrow.
The pandemic has reminded us that life can be uncertain. More, perhaps, than ever before I have a keen understanding that we must plan for the future and collectively ensure enough endowment funds to serve our community in perpetuity.
In Pirkei Avot our sages ask “If not now, when?”
I believe that now is the time to build for the future by leaving a gift to the community. Your gift costs nothing today. All that is required is your commitment to remember Beth Tzedec – and other charitable organizations that are dear to your heart – in your will, trust, retirement account, or life insurance policy.
Click here for the fillable LIFE & LEGACY Letter of Intent form. Please join me by saying hineini – here I am – and returning your signed LOI to the Synagogue, either in person or at email@example.com, or to Diana Kalef at Calgary Jewish Federation at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you have previously named Beth Tzedec as a beneficiary, it does not preclude your participation in LIFE & LEGACY. It just means that you have already formalized your intention. By signing the LOI, you can ensure that the funds you have earmarked for the Synagogue and other charitable organizations of your choice will be protected in an endowment that will support Beth Tzedec in perpetuity.
Finally, please note that Beth Tzedec needs to collect just eight more LOIs by March 31st in order to receive a benefit incentive from the Harold Grinspoon Foundation of up to $10,000.
I remind you of the words of the great Maimonides, “If a person does even one Mitzvah, no matter how small, they may tip the scales and bring about salvation.”
Let us take these words to heart. If each of us undertakes to make this commitment we could tip the scales and make a real difference not just for Beth Tzedec, but also for our larger Jewish community and maybe even the world.
I therefore ask that you join me and the 33 other individuals and families at Beth Tzedec who have already invested in the future of our synagogue and Jewish Calgary.
If you have questions about the LIFE & LEGACY program, feel free to contact me, Congregational President David Inhaber, Executive Director Max Lipsman, or any member of the Beth Tzedec LIFE & LEGACY team: Maxine Fischbein, Josh Inhaber, Lorne Pearl and Cheryl Shiell.
I look forward to seeing you online for our rapidly approaching Purim and Pesach celebrations. Thank you for helping to ensure that similar festive moments will continue to inspire the generations to come!
LIFE & LEGACY Spotlight: Marnie and Darren Bondar
by Maxine Fischbein
They have had the time of their lives at Beth Tzedec, say Marnie and Darren Bondar, who have designated their shul as a beneficiary of their after lifetime legacy gift.
Born respectively in Edmonton and Saskatoon, Marnie and Darren both grew up in Calgary, benefiting from the support of their closely-knit Jewish community.
A successful entrepreneur, Darren has deep roots at Beth Tzedec, dating back to Beth Israel Synagogue which merged with the Shaarey Tzedec Synagogue in 1986 to form Beth Tzedec. His grandfather, Sam Katchen, was one of the founding members at Beth Israel. Darren’s mother, Annabelle Bondar, celebrated her Bat Mitzvah at Beth Israel, and she was married to Michael Bondar there 50 year ago.
Bondar family simchas have taken place at Beth Israel and then Beth Tzedec ever since, including Marnie and Darren’s wedding in 1998. As these words are written, the Bondars are celebrating their 23rd anniversary. They are the proud parents of Chloe and Jonah, who celebrated his Bar Mitzvah at Beth Tzedec in 2018.
Darren has happy memories of his own Bar Mitzvah under the guidance of Cantor Morris Lang, a long-serving and fondly remembered clergy member at Beth Israel and Beth Tzedec. In addition to joyful memories of their wedding, Beth Tzedec is the place where the Bondars have enjoyed the weddings of many friends and the numerous simchas that have followed over the years, including brises, baby namings and b’nai mitzvahs of the children who followed.
“Our connection to the synagogue isn’t unique,” says Darren. “Our story is repeated over and over again in the community. That in itself is very special.”
Although Marnie’s parents, Esther and Sam Plucer, are affiliated elsewhere, Marnie says Beth Tzedec was a source of comfort for her mother when she lost her parents, Winnipeg Holocaust survivors Elka and David Peltz.
“She wasn’t even a member at Beth Tzedec, but my mom was welcomed and felt good while she was saying Kaddish there,” recalls Marnie who added that shul regulars went the extra mile when it came to kindness, support and even a bit of fortifying schnapps.
When the Bondars chose to become LIFE & LEGACY donors, it was a commitment they discussed with their kids. In Jonah’s Bar Mitzvah program, the family had made a point of emphasizing the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai and the passing of that legacy m’dor l’dor – from generation to generation.
“That is a big deal for us,” says Marnie. “Jonah and Chloe are the great-grandchildren of Holocaust survivors. It is amazing that we are even here . . . and we don’t take anything for granted.”
Becoming LIFE & LEGACY donors is a natural extension of that philosophy for Marnie and Darren. As community leaders they know firsthand that the financial stability of the community is critical when it comes to ensuring a Jewish future for their children.
“We chose to support organizations that are critical to building community now and in the future,” says Darren of their LIFE & LEGACY commitment.
The Bondars named a wide range of charitable causes in their LIFE & LEGACY letter of intent, including Camp BB-Riback, Holocaust Education, the JCC and The Calgary Jewish Academy amongst others.
Darren and Marnie prove the adage that it takes a village to raise a child. They both benefited from Jewish day school educations, Darren at the I. L. Peretz School and the Calgary Hebrew School (now The Calgary Jewish Academy) where Marnie also attended. Both attended Camp B’nai Brith (now Camp BB-Riback) where Darren subsequently worked for seven years. He then served as camp director in 1998 and 1999 and later joined the camp board, serving as treasurer and chairperson.
The current president of B’nai Brith Lodge #816, Darren also served for four years on the board of the JCC, including two years as president. He had previously been a leader in the B’nai Brith Youth Organization (BBYO) International #31, serving as president in 1989.
Marnie was an active volunteer at The Calgary Jewish Academy, where she served on the board of directors. She currently co-chairs Calgary Jewish Federation’s Holocaust and Human Rights Education and Remembrance Department. She and her co-chair Dahlia Libin are bringing new energy and vision to Holocaust programming, creating partnerships with major community organizations including the Calgary Public Library and the Glenbow Museum. Their current labour of love is a photo exhibit and book featuring local Holocaust survivors; Here to Tell: Faces of Holocaust Survivors exhibit will be launched at the Glenbow Museum this spring.
“We feel very fortunate and are in a really great position to be able to give back to the community,” Darren Bondar told Alberta Jewish News in an interview earlier this year. “Both of us are taking a lot of pride and passion in what we’re doing.”
The Bondars’ after lifetime gift means that the programs and organizations they take pride in today – including Beth Tzedec Congregation – will continue to prosper for generations to come.