By BERNIE BELLAN
It’s been two years since the Jewish Foundation of Manitoba last held an event marking new Book of Life signings.
In 2015 the Foundation celebrated its 50th anniversary and, rather than crowding two major events into the same year, the decision was taken not to hold a Book of Life signing ceremony.
This year’s event marked the 17th time that the Foundation has held a Book of Life signing ceremony. This year’s ceremony was held at the Shaarey Zedek Synagogue on Tuesday, September 20th.
The idea for the Book of Life began in 1998 – the brainchild of then-Foundation Executive Director David Cohen. Signatories to the Book of Life pledge to donate a portion of their estates to the Foundation. At the same time signatories are asked to write something about their lives in the actual Book of Life, which is kept at the entrance to the Asper Campus.
This year’s chair of the Book of Life committee, Ruth Carol Feldman, explained to the audience that over 770 stories are now contained in the Book of Life, and that over $12 million in estate gifts have already been donated to the Foundation. (Some gifts have been donated by living donors who decided to make good on their pledges before their passing.)
Feldman noted that four of the signatories this year are under the age of 40, a relatively new trend that took off when the late Richard Tapper became the youngest-ever signatory in the Book of Life in 2011 at the age 34. (Sadly, Tapper died only a few months later.)
The event this year also spotlighted the donation made by the General Monash Legion to the Jewish Foundation. When the Legion sold its former Main Street home on Main Street in 2015, said Legion member Dave Chochinov to the audience, some of the proceeds were used to establish a $190,000 endowment fund at the Jewish Foundation. There is now a page in the Book of Life recounting the history of the General Monash Legion.
Following the signing of each signatory’s stories, entertainment was provided by performers from Rainbow Stage. Stories from six past signatories were incorporated into musical numbers from Broadway shows. The highlight was undoubtedly the very bawdy song “Be a Dentist”, from the musical “Little Shop of Horrors”. That song was incorporated into the story of retired dentist Leonard Kahane and his late wife, Hope.
I thought I’d end this report by giving you a little taste of the lyrics from that song:
You’ll be a dentist
You have a talent for causing things pain
Son, be a dentist
People will pay you to be inhumane
Your temperament’s wrong for the priesthood
And teaching would suit you still less
Son, be a dentist you’ll be a success
There will be more about the Book of Life event in our October 12 issue (but no more dentists will be defamed in that issue.)