Three generations of my family were active in Jewish life in Thunder Bay, which had a small but thriving Jewish community. In spite of its diminished population, Shaarey Shomayim Congregation celebrated 100 years of Jewish life in 2008.
My parents, Irving and Gertrude Ornstein, moved the family to Vancouver in 1954 to join my grandfather, David Morganstern, and to permit the children to attend UBC.
At UBC’s B’nai Brith Hillel, I was introduced to Vancouver Jewish life, while obtaining an LLB in 1959. I practiced law for 52 years in Vancouver, and community service became an important part of my life. I served as President of each of the Waterfront and Central Lion’s Clubs and Lions Gate Lodge B’nai Brith. I was the latter’s representative in the Brotherhood Interfaith Society, a multi-cultural group consisting of B’nai Brith, Vancouver Chinatown Lion’s Club, Knights of Columbus, Confratellanza Italo-Canadese and Ismaili Muslim Community, which held annual “Person of the Year” dinners for 34 years to honour outstanding Canadians.
We are members of Temple Sholom, where Donna has held executive positions in its Sisterhood and also in the Pacific District of Women of Reform Judaism, volunteering many hours for years. Being aware of the challenges facing Jewish communities in Canada, we established our endowment fund to help ensure the continuance of the Vancouver Jewish community.
Neil and Donna Ornstein