By Daniel Horowitz-- On Monday, April 12 the new and drastically improved offices of Jewish Family & Child (JF&CS) opened their doors for the first time, making life for Toronto’s Jewish families in need more convenient and accessible than ever before.
Spread out over approximately 15,000 square feet on the first and second floors of the Lipa Green Building for Jewish Community Services on Sherman Campus, the new state of the art headquarters will greet clients of the agency in a warm and welcoming light-filled reception area.
“The new JF&CS offices are an uplifting environment that will honour the efforts of our staff and dignify our clients,” said Richard Cummings, executive director, JF&CS. “This is a compelling message from our Jewish community reflecting the most honourable values to ensure the safety, security and healthy development of the community. Indeed, our new space in the Lipa Green Centre is a vibrant tribute to the leadership and vision of UJA Federation. I also want to thank UJA’s real estate team comprised of David Sadowski, Andrea Gaichuk and Stephanie Olin Chapman for their outstanding support.”
Made possible by a generous gift of $2 million to UJA Federation through the Lewar Estate, the new Stephan and Sophie Lewar Family Services Floor also includes a colourful play area for children; bright, well appointed group counseling rooms, and a residential style supervised family access room and a café-style informal meeting area. The staff office areas are newly furnished with the latest in ergonomic work stations and chairs. A staff kitchen and lounge overlooking the wooded slope of the ravine has been designed to facilitate informal social and collegial interaction and provide a calm respite from the more serious and stressful work of the agency.
“As supervisor of the JF&CS Woman Abuse Program, I can say that our program’s clients come through our doors tentatively and with apprehension,” said Debra Feldman. “They are in a very vulnerable state. They often come without their partner’s knowledge and worry that he will know, will find out and that she will pay the price for this. She also carries the additional burden of shame due to the secrecy attached to woman abuse in the Jewish community. Direct access to our premises means that we will now be more accessible to women.”It is so important for these women to no longer have to be visible to so many, worrying about who has seen them. At our new offices, they can seek help with safety and security.”
“I think the most significant benefit to our clients will be the supervised Family Room,” said Talyah Breslin, supervisor of child protection, JF&CS. “This will allow our clients who have children in the care of JF&CS to visit together in a warm and child-friendly environment. The room will be equipped with a fridge and microwave so that parents can make meals for their children. The room will also have toys and other equipment that will facilitate positive interactions and allow for visits to be more relaxed.”
Stephan Lewar grew up in Warsaw, graduating from university there with a Masters in Economics in 1939, just months before the German invasion. His thesis was on "The Expanding Japanese Economy. The War changed his life forever. His parents were killed in the Holocaust and only he and his brother survived. After the war, with his wife Sophie, he fled to Paris to wait for Canadian visas.
“Arriving in Canada with nothing but his talent and education, Stephan built an exceptionally successful international electronic business, travelling all over the world, but especially to Japan, ironically, the country he had studied in University and where he first partnered with a young company known as Panasonic,” explained Ted Sokolsky, president & CEO, UJA Federation. “Years later, when Stephan passed away unexpectedly in 1998, they established the Heart and Stroke Richard Lewar Centre of Excellence for Cardiovascular Research at the University of Toronto. Richard’s passing in fact triggered a new found desire to repair the world and ultimately in their later years he and Sophie became avid philanthropists providing huge support to UJA, JIAS, the Hospital for Sick Children, Mazon Canada and of course JF&CS.”