The annual meeting of the Donald Berman Maimonides Geriatric Centre took place last week amid fanfare and praise for outstanding volunteers, leadership and members of staff. Among those singled out for special recognition is my cousin Larry Nachshen.
Larry’s involvement at Maimonides began about 15 years ago when my great uncle Jack (Larry’s father) was a resident at the centre. Thus began not only a solid relationship between Larry and the centre itself, but Larry’s unswerving dedication and leadership within the greater Jewish community.
Not only did Larry chair the Maimonides foundation and centre board, but he also presided over the Montreal Holocaust Memorial Centre, Federation CJA’s overseas committee linking the Montreal Jewish Community with Beersheva and now as a member of the World Board of Directors of Ben Gurion University of the Negev.
When people in Montreal’s Jewish community speak of Larry, even though they know that he is a successful businessman, they inevitably mention that he is a man dedicated to his community and is a mentsch, an outstanding human being who personifies and puts into action the Jewish precept of Tikkun Olam-Fixing the World.
Larry has visited Israel many times over the last dozen years beginning with his first visit at the age of 66. Each trip has enabled him to forge stronger bonds with the people and with the state’s economic development. He participated on the March of the Living. The sadness of Auschwitz-Birkenau followed by the vibrancy and spirit of “Eretz Yisrael” left a profound impression upon Larry and a deep love for Israel.
Last November, at the onset of the Gaza missile barrage, Larry went to Israel on an Israel Overseas Committee Mission to Beersheva. Larry visited community schools, a local kibbutz and witnessed children forced to seek the safety of a bomb shelter. While en route to attend a meeting at BGU President Rivka Carmi’s office, a siren went off.
“We calmly got out of the van, went inside the gym, heard two rockets shrieking their way from Gaza. One landed in a field, the other was taken out by The Iron Dome”, Larry recalled.
Larry was struck not only by how the community came together to safeguard its citizens but also by the activism of Ben-Gurion University student volunteers. During this week, BGU had to send all of its faculty and students home as it was forced to close.
Despite the danger, more than 600 students left the safety of their homes in the north and returned to Beersheva to help the population during this crisis. They comforted children and the elderly, scrambled from shelter to shelter bringing toys, games and much needed comfort and solace.
This experience gave Larry another “Mission” – to raise funds for Ben-Gurion University’s “Crisis Intervention Project”. Born in crisis with a universal application, this program not only prepares BGU students to work in Beersheva and the surrounding areas but is also a template to be used in crisis situations around the world.
Larry has been happily married to Margaret for forty-five years and is the loving Father of Mark and Jennifer and proud grandfather of Finn, Sophie and Olivia.