Board of Directors

OFFICERS:

Selma Linzer, Vice-President of External Affairs:

Selma was born and raised in Edmonton, Alberta.  As a young woman, Selma was President of Edmonton Hadassah-Wizo, a member of the Community Council of the Edmonton Jewish Community, and helped organize the first Holocaust Symposium ever held in Edmonton.

Selma’s professional career was in the hotel and restaurant business and later she went on to become the General Manager of West Edmonton Mall, a position she held for over 10 years.  She was then head-hunted a pre-eminent Hong Kong company to work for them on the development of Shopping Centres in China, where she worked for 5 years through the handover of Hong Kong to China. In Hong Kong.  Selma and her husband Jack were members of the Jewish Community Centre of Hong Kong and the Reform Congregation of Hong Kong.

Selma and Jack retired to their lake house in Alberta and then to their new home in Victoria, where it has been a wonderful experience to meet new friends and participate in a new community.

Jeff Kushner, Vice-President of Internal Affairs:

Jeff grew up and lived in Winnipeg where he obtained his Engineering degree from the University of Manitoba.   Upon graduation Jeff moved to Calgary where he was employed in the oil industry, and ultimately held leadership positions in drilling, business process design and implementation, and major project execution.  Jeff and his partner of 25 years, Dr. Randall McGinnis, recently retired to Victoria.

Jeff has always been a strong believer in tikun olam.  He was a long standing volunteer at the Calgary and Drop In and Rehab Centre, doing everything there from cleaning the bathrooms to serving as President and Board Chair.  Jeff was a long time member and supporter of Temple Bnai Tikvah, where he served on the Board of Directors.  As well, Jeff served on the Boards of several neighbourhood community associations.

Jeff has been an active member of the Avodah team at Congregation Emanuel, and has served JFVVI as Treasurer prior to becoming Vice President.

Dr. Aaron H. Devor, Past-President:

Dr. Aaron H Devor is Past-President of the Jewish Federation of Victoria and Vancouver Island (president 2013-2016), has served as a Board member of Hillel BC (2007-2018), as a Jewish member on the Greater Victoria Police Diversity Advisory Committee (2005-2010), and a President, Past-President, VP, and board member of Victoria’s Congregation Emanuel (1999-2003).

Aaron has been a scholar of transgender for more than three decades. He founded and holds the inaugural position as the world’s only Chair in Transgender Studies.  He is the author of many scholarly articles, and three books.  He has delivered more than 20 keynote addresses around the world, is a national-award-winning teacher, an elected member of the International Academy of Sex Research, an elected Fellow of the Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality, and an author of the World Professional Association for Transgender Health’s Standards of Care (2001 and 2012).  Dr. Devor is the Founder and Academic Director of the world’s largest Transgender Archives, a former Dean of Graduate Studies (2002-2012), and a professor of Sociology, at the University of Victoria.

Morris Bleviss, Treasurer

Morris Bleviss was born and educated in Calgary, graduating with a Bachelors of Commerce from the University of Alberta, Edmonton. Morris’ professional life commenced with a public accounting firm, then the pipeline construction industry, followed by real estate. His focus was in financial management, which led to work in Montreal, Denver, Los Angeles and Calgary with a major commercial real estate development company. More recently, Morris was the Chief Financial Officer of a computer software development company.

An active member of Calgary’s Jewish community, Morris served on the Boards of the Calgary Jewish Federation, Temple B’nai Tikvah, Chevra Kadisha, and The Jewish Community
Foundation of Calgary.

Morris relocated from Calgary to Victoria in early 2011. He married Janna Ginsberg, with whom he was a co-chair of the United Jewish Appeal from 2015 to 2017. Morris has served as Treasurer for JFVVIS, and is also the Treasurer of Kolot Mayim Reform Temple.

Sharon Fitch, United Jewish Appeal Campaign Co-Chair

Sharon was born in Belleville Ontario, and grew up in Montreal.  She attended the Jewish General Hospital School of Nursing 1968-71, graduating as a registered nurse.  Sharon married Ed Fitch in October 1971. Ed served in the Canadian Armed Forces for 43 years, during which they moved 14 times, living in Québec, Ontario, British Columbia, Alberta, and Germany.

Sharon joined the Board of JFVVI in the fall of 2015.  In addition to her role as UJA Campaign Co-Chair, she has served as an Events committee co-chair, and as JFVVI Vice President.  Sharon is also the Chabad Light of Shabbat Project co-ordinator (since 2009), a Past President and executive member of Canadian Hadassah WIZO Victoria, a board member of the Jewish Historical Society and has served Congregation Emanu-El in a number of capacities from membership committee member to office volunteer to Bema Theatre production assistant.

Beyond the Jewish world, Sharon is an active volunteer, including her leadership in the Girl Guides of Canada for 44 years, where she is currently president of 2nd Victoria Trefoil Guild.

Michael Tripp, United Jewish Appeal Campaign Co-Chair

Michael served as a Professor of Geography at Vancouver Island University where he taught since 1994.  He has chaired both the Geography and Global Studies Departments and served on the Social Science Faculty Council.  In 2014, he received the Canadian Association of Geographers Western Division Award for Teaching Excellence.  As a consultant, Michael’s clients have included The World Bank, USAID, CIDA, B.C. Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks and CUPE where he successfully organized and directed union certification of the UVIC sessional instructors.

Local community service has included serving on the Boards of the Victoria-Khabarovsk Sister City Association, the Old Cemeteries Society, the Southern Vancouver Island Audubon Society and the Cadboro Bay Residents Association (current).

Within the Jewish community, Michael’s family have held long-standing memberships wit Congregation Emanu-El and the Jewish Community Center.  To date, Michael’s interactions with these organizations have
been largely participatory, most recently as a member of the YomHaShoah – Holocaust Remembrance Day planning committee.  This is Michael’s second year serving as United Jewish Appeal Campaign Co-Chair.

Also on the JFVVI Board of Directors…

  • Harry Abrams – Harry is the JFVVI Social Action Committee Chair and is an active advocate of Israel and defender of Jewish communities against antisemitism and other forms of discrimination.
  • Arlene Ackerman – Arlene is  JFVVI’s connection to the upisland Jewish communities, where she serves as the President of the Central Vancouver Island Jewish Community Society.
  • Mike Goldstein – Mike is the JFVVI PJ Library Chair and a Past-President of Congregation Emanu-El.
  • Larry Gontovnick – Larry is the JFVVI Governance and Nominations Chair, and serves as the President of the Jewish Community Centre of Victoria and Past-President of the Victoria Society for Humanistic Judaism.
  • Tal Katz – Tal is a second-year engineering student at the University of Victoria, and the President of the UVic Hillel Events & Community Connections Club on campus.
  • Isa Milman – Isa has been an active member of the Jewish community since arriving in Victoria in 1996. She has served on the Congregation Emanu-El Board, and was a chair of the Jewish Arts Festival, in celebration of the synagogue’s 150th anniversary in 2013.
  • Barbara Pelman – Barbara is an active member of the Congregation Emanu-El community, serving on the board and as Chair of the “Calling All Artists” project.
  • Jack Shalinsky – Jack is JFVVI’s longest serving board member and the Victoria representative of Canadian Magen David Adom for Israel.
  • Ora Stefanic – Ora was born in Even Yehuda, Israel and immigrated to Canada after her service in the IDF Medical Corps.  She is currently the Director of the UVic Hillel House and runs the Aleph Bet Jewish Montessori Program in Victoria.

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