Jewish Family Service to honour Anna Steinberg at AGM
Friday, 09 September 2011 20:53


a 0033The spontaneous outpouring of emotion over the untimely death of New Democratic Party leader Jack Layton is not only a reflection of the man’s decency and honesty, but it also speaks to the deep seated feeling among many Canadians that life is not just about a forever expanding GDP, but that the true measure of life must be counted in social justice and well being for all.

Layton was one of those rare individuals who had the charisma to lead. As much as he deserves merit for taking bold steps in the public arena, perhaps his passing is an opportunity to remember countless others across the country who take small steps to ensure social justice.

Among those you would include in that category are the people who make up the backbone of one of the most important institutions in the Calgary Jewish community – Jewish Family Service Calgary.

You won’t hear grandstanding political speeches from this organization; quite the opposite. Its work is understated, quiet, behind the scenes – the antithesis of politics.

But what Jewish Family Service Calgary (JFSC) does day in and day out embodies the most basic principles of social democracy and Jewish ethics.

It helps women and children in crisis. It helps put food on the table for some. If there is no table, it provides that too. And a roof to go over that table. It helps individuals find jobs and meaningful connections in the community.  It helps seniors cope with physical and mental health issues. Or teenagers who are lost in the world. For others, who have been abandoned by the world through war or strife, it opens the door for a return to security.

These and more are the daily duties of the men and women who work for Jewish Family Service Calgary, as well as the many volunteers who see the need and pitch in to help. For doing their job, the people at JFSC don’t expect mass public rallies or media accolades. They work on the small picture – the daily hurts and pains of life.

A good opportunity to learn more about the vital role of JFSC in the community is to attend its annual general meeting on September 19 at the Calgary JCC at 7:00 pm. Many people who work at the agency will be there, as well as volunteer supporters, board members and representatives of other community institutions.

One of the highlights of this year’s AGM is a special tribute to Anna Steinberg, who is retiring after 20 years of service to JFSC. Originally an immigrant from the former Soviet Union herself, Anna Steinberg has played a major role in resettling 1200 immigrant families in Calgary from her position as Resettlement and Integration Coordinator at Jewish Family Service Calgary.

After landing in Montreal, Anna, husband Jan and their three children moved to Calgary, where a fourth child was born. The family at first opened a small store to earn a living, but Anna soon joined JFSC as resettlement coordinator. Among her many successes was the “Family to Family” program which linked local families with the newcomers who were escaping oppression in the Soviet Union. This not only fostered friendships but opened the doors to many immigrants to join in Jewish communal life in their newly adopted home.

Her greatest pride is that many children of the new immigrant families assimilated into the Calgary Jewish community, pursued higher education and are now successfully raising families of their own.

In 2004, Anna was recognized in a special event of Calgary Immigrant Women’s Association to celebrate several women who had made a significant and noteworthy impact on the lives of immigrants.  These women were acknowledged as being “especially exceptional because they have helped build a foundation and continue to increase the quality of lives for thousands of newcomers and Calgarians.”

The annual meeting of JFSC is an opportunity for the community to learn more about our heroes – like Anna Steinberg – who have devoted their lives to helping others and in doing so, contribute to a strong, healthy Jewish community.

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