True Stories

Our clients are people who have faced real problems in their lives, challenges that any one of us might encounter in a lifetime. Some have faced greater difficulties than others, but in the end, all of these people reached out to JFSA with a need in their lives, and we were able to help, thanks in great part to the support of our generous donors and our committed staff.

These letters from our clients express the genuine gratitude that they feel. A gratitude that arises from overcoming adversity and great odds to become whole again. To tell these stories of the people we help, the reason we exist as an agency, is to shine a light on what it is we do here at JFSA.

Hopefully, these letters will help to show how JFSA positively impacts upon the lives of individuals and families in our community. This displays how JFSA, through the dedication of the Board, staff and all of our committed supporters, continues the longstanding tradition of Tikun Olam.

The strength of these inspiring stories, and the hundreds more that may never be told, will ensure that Jewish Family Service Agency continues its commitment to caring, Jewish values, ethics and to community, by strengthening and enhancing the quality of life of all individuals and members – in our home and in our family.


Dear JFSA,

Thank you for everything you have done for my family. You saved us. My mother, my wife, my son and I thank you.

In November 2010 my mother a, widow of 5 years that lived alone, had what seemed to be a small stroke. At first we thought, “OK, Ilana, my mother, will be fine in a month”. But time passed and her condition worsened. Every day I drove out to White Rock, an hour each way to be with my mother. I was also trying to keep my business alive, which we needed to feed my family. Forget everything else.

The doctors had no idea what was going on. Some even blamed her condition on her, suggesting she had a bad attitude. If you knew my mother you would know that this was impossible. She grew up in a kibbutz; this woman is a force of nature. She was (and is) a wonderful, positive woman, loved by all that meet her. My mother would do anything to get better. All she wanted to do was be a grandmother again. Before the stroke, Ilana would drive to Vancouver 3 days a week and help us raise our son. She would workout 4 days a week, eat organic food and make beautiful dinners for her friends. If she had a free minute she would do volunteer work in the community. Now she was slowing being reduced to a shell of a woman that would cry half the day from the physical damage caused by the stroke. Clearly this was becoming a major stress on my family and her. I wasn’t seeing my son or my wife and as such it was taking a toll on my life and my family. As my mother’s depression worsened, so did mine.  This went on for close to 10 months. I looked everywhere for help, but every program we found fell short; lots of talk but no action. Then we found Jewish Family Services and Jacqui Sankoff. We love her.

This was the turning point. Jacqui found an affordable place for my mother to live in Vancouver, so she could get care and be closer to her family (me). Jacqui helped my mother find peace in her situation. She counselled my mother in all aspects of her life.  She went above and beyond working closely with my mothers phyciatic team at UBC to make sure she received the correct treatments. Jacqui now knew Ilana better than anyone. This was also huge, as Jacqui convinced the psychiatric team at the University hospital to stop using ECT as a treatment and move back to conventional psychiatric drugs. It turned out to be the correct call. It worked and now my mother and, yes, selfishly me, have a new chance at life.

I’m convinced that Jacque Sankoff and Jewish Family Services saved my mother’s life and my family. I’m now in tears as I write this letter.

My mother has made a miraculous recovery. She still lives at the long-term care facility, but today she and I went apartment shopping together. Yes, she plans to live on her own again, but this time closer to us. Ilana is dancing again at the Jewish Community Centre. She is even doing volunteer work. And she started a program at Cavell gardens where she presently resides. The program is one where the residents meet once a month to share stories about their lives. It’s amazing, just amazing, what she’s doing.

Jewish Family Services counselled and saved me, my mother, and my family; and we could not have done it without them. Thank you, but words cannot describe my gratitude.


R. and Family


Dear JFSA,

The Neighbourhood Connections Program has been a tremendous help to my family.

My mother is 86 years old. A few years ago she broke her shoulder and later her hip and could no longer drive, which has been a great loss to her independence. She has several medical problems and is unable to use the bus or Handydart. I have chronic dizziness and fibromyalgia and am unable to drive her.

We both must use taxis to get to appointments, which has been a major financial burden (even with Taxi Savers), as well as unreliable.

When we found out about the Neighbourhood Connections Program, I contacted Talia Mastai for my mother. We have found her to be warm, friendly and very helpful in arranging rides for my mother to her appointments. The volunteers have been wonderful – friendly, patient, and courteous. Having access to the Neighbourhood Connections Program has been a substantial relief to what is frequently an overwhelming amount of stress, both financial and phsychological.

When my mother is able to receive a ride from a volunteer, I know she will be treated kindly and will be escorted to and from the door. I don’t have to worry about her waiting an hour or more for a cab that may or may not show up. (Just last week she had to climb the stairs (she uses canes and a walker) 3 times in 1 hour to call the cab company because the cab she had booked the night before was over an hour late – coming home the cab driver refused to walker her to the door). She has also had cab drivers be rude to her because she is hearing impaired.

In addition, we suffered a total loss house fire in July (my mother’s owned the house for 45 years) – again, my mother having access to this program has been vital in lessening the increased financial and mental stress resulting from the fire and relocation.

We are very grateful for the Neighbourhood Connections Program and all of Talia Mastai’s help. We believe it is very important that this program continue to receive funding and possibly even be expanded one day to include a wider age range and geographic area.

Thank you for your time.



Dear JFSA,

I lived in Columbia and had a good life, until the armed conflict. The guerillas FARC-EP took me into the mountains, a prisoner, made threats to my family. I left everything I had and came to Canada with my 10-year-old son.

I wanted to live somewhere in peace for my son. I had American Visa but I wanted to live in Canada. Canadians are nice people. I went to Buffalo – waiter there for 20 days to get a visa to enter Canada. We arrived in Welland in the winter. It was extremely cold for me. I wanted somewhere that was more like my country, mountains, the sea, a big Jewish community. I have one sister who lives in Germany. My parents are dead.

I learned about Vancouver JFSA through the Internet before we came to Canada. After we came to this city, stayed at a hostel, contacted the Jewish Food Bank. An older Jewish man was working at the Food Bank. He said come to JFSA for help. Here I met the intake worker – she gave me emotional support, and gave me food, Safeway vouchers. My counsellor came to visit us and took us to an apartment. It was amazing after living in a shelter and sleeping on the floor.

My life changed in a good way. My counsellor gave me the names of some people who come from my country to talk to. In Columbia I felt hunted. At any time I could have been shot in front of my son. I never could have believed I would receive such help. My son is now in Talmud Torah. I am a member of JCC so I can use the Centre. JFSA gave me a bus pass – now I can get to know Vancouver by bus.

Sometimes help is not only money. Talking to someone who has time to listen and give their opinions about your problems and a shoulder to lean on. Starting a new life in new country where you feel safe. I feel like a son of the Jewish Family Services – it is my new mother. Now I feel part of the Jewish community – my new family. I am very, very grateful for all the things that have happened to me.

After school my son comes to the JCC Library – he is safe. When I first came to Canada I felt very alone – but now I know I can count on my family for emotional, financial, invaluable support. JFSA has changed my life because I feel like I am born again. A new life given to me. In Columbia they kill drams. Here I can have dreams again.

It was like being on a boat in the middle of the ocean – you have no choices – then you see a big boat that comes and rescues you – that was JFSA.

With much thanks,



Dear JFSA,

After almost 15 years in Canada, I visited the Jewish Food Bank for the first time.  For 15 years our family has experienced very difficult times (both me and my ex-husband are without work and pension) and we had never applied for help; we like to give and share ourselves.

Today I am alone and many changes have happened in my personal life, included financial instability.

Today, before my first visit to the Food Bank, I was worried about how it would be. But from the moment I entered, I saw volunteers with smiles on their faces.

I saw a big diversity of product, chosen with care and love for families with children, singles, and may be even people with health problems.

Behind one of the tables, a volunteer named David offered me buckwheat kasha and when I translated this word into Russian, he asked me to repeat this word so that he could remember it. At another table, a nice woman gave me homemade jam.  I was so touched, I was almost in tears; that unknown person would take care of me and the others who were coming there. I grew up as one of 3 children: one of them lives in California (Silicon Valley) and he donates monies regularly to in the Jewish Community to help others who are less fortunate.  I am a Leningrad Blockade Survivor and know the price of food and of human efforts, sacrifices and kindness to save the lives of others.

It was not only food, but nice moral environment, friendship and warm-hearted communications among the people. I returned home happy and proud to be Jewish.

Thank you very much.



Dear JFSA & Alan Stamp,

I am writing to thank you for the excellent personal counselling that I have received with you.

In March of 2012, my girlfriend asked me to move out quite suddenly after a six-year relationship, and I became progressively more anxious and depressed through the course of the summer.  I was utterly disconsolate and barely able to perform minimal occupational tasks.  I sought help from Family Services Vancouver, but they informed me that there was an eight-week waiting period. They suggested that I try your organization.   I knew that I needed immediate help, because the emotions and intensity that I was feeling at the time were overwhelming, emotionally crippling, and also new to me.

At our first session, which was an intake interview, your empathy and focus quickly shifted the experience into a positive therapeutic environment for me.  Your questions were sincere and direct, with a clear intention to facilitate both my immediate recovery and long-term mental health and quality of life.

I have sought counselling several other times in my life when it seemed prudent to do so; your natural, unaffected communication style and profound knowledge of the territory inspired trust much more quickly than in my previous counselling experiences.

I have received five one-hour sessions with you to date, and my mood has improved markedly in that timeframe. Thanks to your assistance.  I can now work at my job with enthusiasm again and am no longer obsessed with constant, intrusive thoughts about my ex-girlfriend. I am very grateful to you and your organization for being there in a time of dire need in my life path.  I anticipate further improvement in the quality of my life and relationships as I continue my sessions with you.  Thank you so much for your excellent professional help.


Dear JFSA,

While it has taken me a long time to get to a point to where I write you, but I hope better later than never can apply in this case. I wanted to let you know how appreciated your yearly assistance to us prisoners here at Mountain with bags for Rosh Hashanah, and Passover is.

The reality is without those bags we would have no access to anything to help make the celebration of those Holidays significant. We are unable to order such things even if we could afford it. But more importantly, it is a blessing – a Mitzvot – it brings to each of us the Jewish Community in the fullest of ways impacting us spiritually, emotionally, and mentally. It is transforming for us, it reminds us we still have a connection to the faith community. That people have kindly remembered us, are still willing to help us. With the communities kind gifts and visit from our Rabbi, and volunteers we are reminded that each one of us is important, that each person is precious and in these moments I realize that I am encountering real moments of tikkuan olam  – the healing of the world and a true sense of Shlom – of being whole with ourselves, our neighbor, and with God right here in the prison.

I know that I can speak for all of the other men here who receive this kindness that each of us are eternally grateful and appreciate you keeping us in mind. It allows us to connect or reconnect to a faith community, a place to belong, to be accepted, to establish healthy relationships, and to build trust and begin a healthy road to reintegration. It is because of the encouragement and unconditional acceptance given to all of us by the regular visits of the Rabbi and volunteers and the care of JFSA that each of us are able to experience such healing.

Shalom u’vracha, peace and blessings.


Dear JFSA,

I would like to thank you for the generosity and compassion you have bestowed upon me and my children, 12 and 4 years old. This year has been the hardest I have ever struggled financially and the immense fear I feel when I don’t know how to make ends meet and keep a roof over our heads is debilitating, and only intensifies my mental illness and grief regarding the loss of my mom.
In September, I will be back at my university, working toward my BSW and I want you to know that your help will not be forgotten. When I am able I hope to have the privilege of volunteering my time and service to your organization.
Once again, I thank you for helping me, and most importantly my children. I know my mother was also grateful for your help and support and for that, I am left with feelings too strong to be described as gratitude.
Yours truly,