“Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about learning to dance in the rain”
On the eve of Friday, January 6, 2023, longtime Bernard Betel Centre member and volunteer, Evelyn Rabkin passed away peacefully at 104 years old. If you’ve ever attended a Bernard Betel Centre Volunteer Banquet, a fundraising event, or any other special event at the centre, you would instantly recognize the energetic and enthusiastic Evelyn. Evelyn joined the Bernard Betel Centre in 1988, shortly after moving to Toronto from Montreal, searching for a community. At the Betel Centre, she found just that. A community that she was a part of for 35 years.
Throughout the Betel Centre, Evelyn was a household name. She was an active member, dedicated volunteer, and all around amazing person. She was a member of the Bernard Betel Centre’s Board of Directors, Members’ Council, various committees, as well as a passionate speaker in the community on behalf of the Betel Centre. She always lived life to the fullest and was adored by everyone she met.
A few of the staff shared some of their favourites memories of Evelyn:
“One of Evelyn’s favourite sayings was the Nike commercial ‘Just do it!’ She used to say that there were some mornings she just wanted to stay in bed but thought of that saying and that motivated her to get out of bed and live the day to the fullest. One of my fondest memories of Evelyn was how she led a conga line dance with about 150 volunteers at our June 2019 Volunteer Banquet. In true Evelyn style she got everybody up dancing and following her. Another truly memorable time was when I surprised and told her that she would be sitting with Prime Minister Trudeau at our April 2019 Betel community Seder that her cousin David Cohen was leading. Without missing a beat, she commented that if it had been Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau she would have been very happy, but Prime Minister Justin Trudeau? I have a file in my office of what I call “Rabkinisms”…. sayings, quotes that she shared with me each time she came to the Centre. She lived by these sayings. They were as inspirational as Evelyn herself. We were blessed, to have Evelyn as part of the Betel community. She had a zest for life, was truly inspirational, charming, engaging and compassionate. I will miss her terribly.”
– Gail Gould, Executive Director
“Several years ago, as a Betel staffer, I was asked to pick Evelyn up and drive her to a Charity event downtown. There had been a miscommunication and Evelyn was expecting to be driven down by a female colleague. We had not met before and Evelyn was quite upset to be asked by me to come into my car. There began an intense “negotiation” between us, me in all innocence trying to convince Evelyn I was who I said I was and had been sent by Gail our Executive Director, and Evelyn exhibiting the most commendable, appropriate and common sense attitude of ‘There’s no way I am getting into a car with a perfect stranger!’ Eventually, I rang Gail on my phone, gave the phone to Evelyn who was able to be comforted that I was the appropriate driver and agreed to travel with me on the condition we kept Gail on the line and stopped at Gail’s home for final validation of my bone fides!! We became quite close after that episode, which both of us remembered and held dear. A remarkable testament to a remarkable woman. May her name always be a blessing!”
– Mark Adler, Coordinator, Travel & Food Services
“Evelyn was a joy to be around, she often visited me in my office at the Betel Centre to impart her wisdom! I shall miss her. May her memory be a blessing.”
– Dianne Erdos-Rush, Coordinator, Computer Services
“I have many wonderful memories of Evelyn in my 11+ years at the Betel Centre, but one that stands out for me is her and I working with Toronto Police to put together a PSA video on seniors pedestrian safety. I remember her welcoming myself and Toronto Police staff into her apartment on a warm spring day before TPS filmed her for their video. As usual she was full of fun and energy and loved showing us all her family photos. Here is the video she was a part of: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Xjei_7JNgE. She will be greatly missed!”
– Katie Mohr, Director, Communications, VP Development
“Evelyn was inspirational each and every time she stepped through Betel’s doors. She loved to come to the centre, and would go to the chiropody office and reception to share some jokes. At reception, she would always hand Marina, a piece of paper with a joke or saying, and ask her to give it to Gail. More recently (that is, before Covid), I remember seeing Evelyn in the hallway at the Betel Centre and saying it was nice to see her. Her response? ‘It’s nice to be seen!’ I have fond memories of Evelyn joining us for the Toronto Challenge, a charity walk to raise funds for the Betel Centre back in 2017, when she was 100 years old! During this charity walk, Maria announced Evelyn’s age to a volunteer and the volunteer, amazed, said ‘Can’t wait for you to join us next year!’ and in true Evelyn quick and witty response, she said, ‘Next year? I don’t even buy green bananas!’”
– Sharon Chodirker, Coordinator, Lifelong Learning and Intergenerational
Evelyn will be incredibly missed by the Bernard Betel Centre staff, volunteers, members, and community. To read Evelyn’s obituary, click HERE. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that a donation in her name be sent to the Bernard Betel Centre. To donate, click HERE.
Evelyn sitting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the 48th Annual Community Passover Seder hosted by the Bernard Betel Centre in April 2019.
Executive Director, Gail Gould, presenting Evelyn with an award in recognition of her 30 years of service at the 2019 Annual Volunteer Recognition Dinner.
Evelyn and Cheryl Besner, Manager, Volunteer Services at the 2017 Toronto Challenge fundraiser walk, where she was (proudly!) the oldest walker in attendance!