Edmonton JNF Negev Gala honours Rosemary and Stan Kitay

Edmonton Negev Gala honourees Rosemary and Stan Kitay with gala co-chairs Esther and Howard Starkman. (Photo courtesy of JNF Edmonton).

By Deborah Shatz

(AJNews) – The JNF Edmonton Negev Gala was held on June 25th at the Beth Israel “family shul” and it was a huge success. Two hundred and thirty friends, family and JNF supporters were treated to a warm, welcoming, relaxing and thoroughly enjoyable evening that celebrated the dedication and contributions of Rosemary and Stan Kitay. It was the first “in person” Negev Gala celebrated in Edmonton in several years and it was truly a joyful and haymashe event that included a delicious meal as well as the hilarious stand-up comedy of Joel Chasnoff and a remarkable presentation by Elan Isaacson, head of security for the Eshkol Region of Israel.

JNF Canada President Beth Price kicked off the evening, lauding the Kitays – “a dedicated couple with an unwavering commitment and love for their community and Israel. They epitomize the values of community service and Jewish continuity. We are thrilled to have them join a circle of hundreds of other honourees over the past 7 decades from across the country.”

Negev Gala co-chairs Esther and Howard Starkman said that the Kitays are “stellar members of both the general and the Jewish communities in Edmonton. Their commitment… as volunteers working for the betterment of Edmonton and to enhance our community’s relationship with Israel is worthy of recognition and praise. Kudos to the JNF for selecting this incredible, dynamic duo for this significant honour.”

JNF co-presidents Sharon Bookhalter and Laurie Mozeson added, “Mazel Tov to our honourees! Since arriving in Edmonton in 1991 with their family from South Africa, the Kitays have been active in the Jewish community, serving and supporting institutions and causes that are important to us all. Through word and deed, Rosemary and Stan have been unwavering in their support for Israel.”

In addition to their commitment to community and Klal Yisrael, the Kitays shine as wonderful role models for their children on the importance of strong family love and values. As Rosemary and Stan learned from their parents, family and community are central to everything. Andrea, Nikki and Marc all spoke glowingly about the bonds that were formed in their early years that have continued into their adulthood. They emphasized that they are so appreciative of the lessons and the values that they learned from their parents.

On the subject of family values, Rosemary explained why she and Stan chose the Beth Israel as the venue for the Negev Gala. She said, “Twenty-eight years ago, our family joined Beth Israel Synagogue after settling in Edmonton. This family centered Shul and community became central to our lives. We are proud to have celebrated life’s milestones, Chagim, attended services, engaged in various programs, and forged long lasting friendships within its warm embrace. Hence, when deciding upon the location for this event, the choice of Beth Israel was immediate and resolute.”

Proceeds from the Edmonton Negev Gala will support the construction of the Eshkol Educational Activity Centre located in the western part of the Negev bordering with Egypt and the Gaza Strip. The centre will provide students with a much-needed secure place to take part in educational activities.

“As you are well aware, the communities face many security challenges,” explained Stan. “Despite these challenges, the population continues to grow demographically, with many young families choosing to locate there…This project is very essential as a means to protect and support the growth of a strong vibrant community for these vulnerable families. It is incomprehensible for us living in the diaspora, to conceptualize what it is like living under these life and death conditions, and the impact that it has on mental and physical health, causing increased anxiety and post-traumatic stress.”

“Elan, I would like you to take the following message back to Eshkol,” added Stan, speaking directly to Elan Isaacson. “Our community stands with you during your times of crises and escalations. While we cannot control the security challenges you have to endure, we are grateful to make a difference in your physical and mental wellbeing.”

Volunteering has been an important part of Rosemary and Stan’s lives. “For us, volunteering came naturally,” explained Rosemary. “We witnessed our parents and grandparents volunteer for various organizations that mainly benefited Israel and our Johannesburg community at large.

“We are eternally grateful, having been afforded the opportunity to begin anew in Edmonton in 1991. We chose to offer our three children a safe life… [and] we felt the need to give back to our community. We have participated in a wide range of activities, including assisting non-profit organizations, and community projects. Overall, volunteering embodies compassion, generosity and solidarity, which highlights the power of individuals coming together. We have acquired valuable skills, and strive to create positive change to help build a better world for K’lal Yisroel and the diaspora.”

“To be chosen as Negev Gala honourees is an extraordinary distinction, one that fills us with a deep sense of humility and profound sense of honour,” added Stan. “We are humbled not only by this award, but also by the inspiring individuals, and cause that surrounds us this evening. This accolade is not just about us; it is a tribute to every individual who has collaborated, contributed, and shared their invaluable support along this journey. It is also a tremendous acknowledgement to be held in the same esteem as the many honourees who have stood at this podium during previous Negev galas.

“As we revel in the joy of this moment, let us pledge to use this glory as a catalyst for future endeavours. Together, we can shape a future that is brighter, more inclusive, and filled with endless possibilities.”

Together Stan and Rosemary thanked the many people who worked hard to make the gala campaign a success – organizing and planning every aspect of the event.

“Thank you for being a part of our recognition and may our shared commitment to JNF continue to make a difference,” they concluded. “May this 2023 Negev Gala be an evening of inspiration, celebration and limitless hope.”

Click here to view a photo gallery.

If you’d like to contribute to this important project, you can still donate here: https://bit.ly/3CEZVL0

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