Spotlight on Sonia Jacobs- Board Member

I hail from the town of Swift Current, Saskatchewan, where my parents settled when they immigrated to Canada from the UK in the 1950s. Before I was five years old, we lived in Israel and England before finally returning to Canada and residing in St. Catharines. You could say I caught the travel bug since in my early adult life. I studied in Toronto and France and then traveled and worked for two years in Israel before landing permanently back in Toronto. I have enjoyed a fulfilling career in healthcare and a wonderful life with my English husband of 26 years and our two children, both of whom (surprise!) are pursuing their next academic adventures in England this year.

I was invited to apply for a Board position by Hy Eliasoph, incoming Board Chair at the time. Having no older relatives in Toronto, I hadn’t heard about Betel, but the more I learned, the more I wanted to be part of this thriving Centre that was making such a difference in the lives of our community. That was 11 years ago, and I’ve never looked back!

Many people don’t realize that Board members are volunteers. Aside from the “business” of governance and the learning opportunities, I’ve loved participating in the many activities that bring our community together, such as UJA Telethons and the annual Walk with Israel, as well as Betel’s 50th anniversary celebrations. One of my favourite events is the annual Volunteer Recognition Dinner, where the impact of Betel’s hundreds of volunteers gets real! One year, I got off a 6-hour international flight and drove straight to the dinner!

I have the greatest admiration for the staff, who consistently meet and exceed the expectations of our members, even in the most challenging of circumstances, as the past two years have shown us. In December 2020, I went into the Centre to pick up my order of latkes (if you haven’t had Betel latkes, you don’t know what you’re missing!), and I saw staff from all the different programs working together on Meals on Wheels preparation. That’s what was needed, so that’s what they did. It brought tears to my eyes.

My background is in quality and risk management, so I have primarily been involved with the Board Quality Committee, which has oversight of overall agency performance and supports our Executive Director Gail Gould and the team in ensuring the Centre is meeting (or exceeding) performance goals established by our funders, as well as achieving the Centre’s strategic goals. I think that is where I have been able to share my expertise with the Board and the Management team.

I am excited about Betel working towards “accreditation,” a formal recognition by an external body of excellence in the quality and value of its programs and services. I was also pleased to support the Centre’s affiliation with North York Toronto Health Partners, a meaningful strategic relationship.

I’ve also loved being on the Strategic Planning Task Force and the Board Nominations Committee for the past few years. And I’m excited to be working with a fantastic group of volunteers on the Tribute Event Gala, honouring Dr. Eileen de Villa in support of the Centre’s Meals on Wheels program, taking place November 24, 2022, at the Centre.

Betel is like a home away from home. Every time I walk in, I see a hub of thriving activity that brings friends and neighbours together to enjoy hobbies like Mah Jongg, arts & crafts, and folk dancing, or to learn new skills and ideas. I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity to make even a small contribution to such a vital community hub and look forward to “coming home” for many years to come.

I am also a life member of CHW – Canadian Hadassah Wizo – and have been actively engaged in Chapter and Regional fundraising events for nearly 25 years. For over 15 years, I canvassed for the Kidney Foundation of Canada and served on my professional college’s GTA Chapter Executive Committee for six years. In 2021, I was invited to join the Service Excellence Committee of Community Living Toronto as a non-Board member volunteer, where the world of Developmental Services has been opened up to me.

I was inspired by my parents, who were both active community volunteers. I’m a firm believer that you get out of life what you put into life. From my earliest exposure to Tikun Olam – Repairing the World – through United Synagogue Youth to the present day, I have endeavored never to take my privilege for granted but to use it for good purpose. In this regard, I can’t think of any better purpose for my time and energy over the past 11 years than the Bernard Betel Centre.

I wish the Centre continued growth and success in achieving the Centre’s vision of “Enriching Quality of Life for All. For Life.” Through all the incredible changes I’ve seen in my time here, Betel remains committed to making a meaningful difference in the lives of the people in our community. I wish the Centre “Ad Me-ah v’Esrim – Till 120”!

This story was originally posted in the September 2022 E-Newsletter

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