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Friday, December 19, 2014

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Canada House to serve diverse community

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From left, Julia Koschitzky, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, and Canada’s Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver dedicate the Canada House community and cultural centre in Jerusalem. 

Dignitaries from the government of Canada and the municipality of Jerusalem gathered in Jerusalem last week to dedicate “Canada House,” a community centre funded largely with donations from Canadian Jews.

Located in the Morasha neighbourhood of Jerusalem, Canada House will serve a diverse population with programming geared to young people, recent immigrants, the elderly and other local residents. The $4-million refurbishment is a project of the Jerusalem Foundation, a non-profit organization with a branch in Canada.

“Canada House will be dedicated to the many Canadians who share the values of coexistence, culture and community with the Jerusalem Foundation. The newly established Canada House will also recognize and honour the warm friendship of Canada towards the city of Jerusalem and her diverse population,” the Jerusalem Foundation in Canada (JFIC) stated in a news release.

JFIC spokesperson Monica Berger said the organization adopted the name “Canada House” in part to recognize the support for Israel by the government of Canada. The facility had been known as the Morasha Community Center.

Dedication of the building took place during the Jerusalem Foundation’s annual International Conference Meetings. Part of the festivities included presentation of the annual Teddy Kollek Award to Henry and Julia Koschitzky.

The award, presented in Teddy Kollek Park, recognizes “significant contribution to life in Jerusalem.” Teddy Kollek served as mayor of Jerusalem from 1965 to 1993. He was instrumental in creating the Jerusalem Foundation.

The Koschitzkys joined the Hassenfeld family from the United States; Sonja Dinner; the Dear Foundation of Switzerland and Israeli Ruth Cheshin in receiving the award.

Julia Koschitzky, immediate past president of the Jerusalem Foundation of Canada, said, “Jerusalem is the heart and soul of the Jewish People. We pray for it every day. It’s a part of our tradition.

“To me, it’s an extension of my own community and it’s the capital and centre piece of the Jewish People.”

Dedicating the community centre as “Canada House” required the permission of the government of Canada, which was granted. “We decided it should, in recognition of the friendship and steadfast support of our government and the Right Honourable Stephen Harper towards Israel… The Jerusalem Foundation stands for the same values of diversity and human rights that Canada stands for,” she added.

The Canada House community centre is located in Jerusalem’s city centre (Lev Ha’ir), to the northwest of the Old City. The neighbourhood, which lay on the border between Israel and Jordan, was largely destroyed during Israel’s 1948 War of Independence, but following the 1967 Six Day War it began to experience revitalization.

Berger said the community centre and Teddy Park, which is located in what used to be an unkempt field near the Jaffa Gate, fit the Jerusalem Foundation’s mandate to improve the quality of life of Jerusalem residents through parks, recreational facilities, educational programs and cultural activities. Such facilities are important in retaining young people and young adults in Jerusalem, she added.

“[Canada Centre] bridges gaps between the population of Jerusalem. It’s a place where everybody can feel welcome,” said Koschitzky.

Canada House is slated to house:

• The Gorman-Shore Learning Centre, providing after-school programs for elementary school children needing remedial help, as well as social and sports activities;

• The Freedman Teen Club and Youth Services, providing education and leadership programming;

• The Springboard Project at the Yaacov Gladstone Leadership Development Centre for Ethiopian Jerusalemites, counselling employment and education options for those completing military service;

• The Weisfeld Computer Centre, offering classes for everyone from kids to seniors;

• The Posluns-Mitz and Holbrook Families “Canada Club,” a neighbourhood coffee house.

Among the dignitaries attending the Canada House dedication were Joe Oliver, minister of Natural Resources; Paul Hunt, Canadian ambassador to Israel; Sen. Linda Frum; Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat; Sallai Meridor, international chair of the Jerusalem Foundation, and Lewis Miz, president of the Jerusalem Foundation of Canada.

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