According to the medieval Torah scholar, Maimonides, the greatest act of charity is for one Jew to help another become self-reliant. It is in that spirit that Jewish Immigrant Aid Services (JIAS) offer the third Sidney Wolbrom Award for Newcomer Entrepreneurs.
JIAS is currently accepting applications for the Wolbrom Award, and the deadline for this year’s prize is July 30, 2018. Applicants must be Jewish immigrants who arrived in Canada within the last five years. They must be permanent residents or be going through the approval process. The winner is selected based on the viability of his or her business and on financial need, and previous applicants are welcome to reapply.
The six grandchildren of Sidney Wolbrom established the award to commemorate the 100th birthday of their beloved grandfather. Though Mr. Wolbrom passed away in 2017 at the age of 101, his memory lives on in the spirit of the award.
Sidney Wolbrom’s personal story demonstrates why his grandchildren chose to honor him by providing deserving immigrant entrepreneurs with much-needed financial aid. Born in 1916 in Poland, Sidney was one of eleven children and was raised by a single mother. After surviving the war years in Russian labor camps, Sidney eventually emigrated to Canada and became a successful real estate entrepreneur.
The Wolbrom Award is just one of the ways in which JIAS helps Jewish immigrants become a vital part of the Toronto community. Founded in 1922, JIAS provides services to 8,000 immigrants each year. The organization welcomes newcomers in a variety of native languages and provides much needed assistance in navigating the legal process of immigration. JIAS is a strong and vocal advocate for immigrants, and they offer practical support in helping new arrivals find work, housing, and a new home in a new land.
Both JIAS and the Wolbrom Award exemplify Jewish culture and values. Immigrants face difficult challenges in adapting to a new culture, new surroundings, and a new language, and JIAS helps give immigrants a sense of community based on shared faith.
JIAS clearly recognizes the enormous potential new arrivals bring to the Toronto community. Immigrants bring with them inspiration, new ideas, and a commitment to succeed – all qualities any community should be happy to welcome.
Take the recipient of the 2017 Sidnew Wolbrom Award for Newcomer Entrepreneurs as an example. Nadav Bocher was born and raised in Israel and served as a combat soldier and commander in the Israeli Air Force. With a degree in Environmental Science, Bocher and partners founded Cnature, a company dedicated to revolutionizing agriculture. Bocher and Cnature work to reduce farmers’ reliance on and exposure to pesticides, while simultaneously employing technology to increase crop yields. The result is a decrease in the environmental impact of farming as well as progress toward greater food security across the globe.
Nadav Bocher is an inspiration for immigrants and native Canadians alike, and Bocher’s story is just one of many that celebrate the contributions of immigrants to Canadian culture.
JIAS sees people every day with their own unique stories, and committing to help immigrants integrate into their new home requires a multifaceted approach. JIAS assistance can begin even before an immigrant arrives to Canada. The website offers advice about preparing to immigrate, with suggestions that make the transition easier.
Once in Canada, new arrivals can get help with language courses in both French and English. They can get short-term financial assistance while they look for work, and JIAS’s connection with local employment agencies eases that task as well. JIAS also functions as a social anchor, giving newcomers who may not have friends or family close by a place to celebrate holidays with others of the Jewish faith.
While financial assistance and legal help are critical components in an immigrant’s journey, it is the emotional support that can be the most important part of encouraging people to continue working hard to create a successful new life in a new country.
Naama Blonder, the 2016 recipient of the Sidney Wolbrom Award, explained just how much the prize meant to her: “Beyond the financial assistance in growing the business, the Sidney Wolbrom Award was a reminder for myself during the first year of the business that someone else believed in me.”
An award-winning architect and urban designer, Naama is now a dynamic member of the Toronto community, and her work in planning vibrant, functional spaces benefits the citizens who live and work in Toronto.
Immigrants like Naama and Nadav demonstrate just how vital and beneficial new perspectives can be. The work of JIAS and the Sidney Wolbrom Award for Newcomer Entrepreneurs celebrate the benefits of diversity, while also highlighting the importance of immigrants successfully integrating into the society of their new home.
While some new arrivals may fear losing their old culture and their roots in language and religion, JIAS works hard to nurture what Jewish immigrants all share, a deep connection based on shared culture, tempered with the desire to succeed in a new life and new place.
Both the Wolbrom Award and indeed the entirety of JIAS’s work celebrate the fundamental spirit of Maimonides’ highest form of charity. Aid that helps new Jewish immigrants to become not just self-sufficient, but also a force for positive change is noble and worthy work.