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NCJWBy REBECA KUROPATWA

The National Council of Jewish Women Canada (NCJWC) recently celebrated 120 years with a plaque being installed at the site of the original chapter office in Toronto. And, while it all started in Toronto, Winnipeg has played a significant role in the organizations success over the years.


To help celebrate the 120th milestone, The Jewish Post & News connected with three past national presidents from Winnipeg who helped shape NCJWC into what it is today.

Marjorie Rady Blankstein, a pillar in the Winnipeg community, served as the national president of  NCJWC in the late 1970s. She first became involved with the Council after someone from the organization asked her to help at the Golden Age Club (The first Golden Age Club in Canada was in Montreal.) at the Hebrew Fraternal Lodge on Selkirk Ave – pouring tea out of huge kettles.
A mother of five children and nine grandchildren, Blankstein was also involved in teaching English as a second language to newcomers, doing so in the basement of the Shalom Aleichem School (which was at 410 Pritchard Avenue).
“When I was president, in the late 70s, our administrative priorities were membership and fundraising – basic to the life of the organization,” said Blankstein. “Our program priorities were citizen impact – involving and motivating our members to participate, to discuss issues related to the future of Canada – stressing the importance of exercising the power of our vote in elections.
“We began to discuss ageing, the increase in the number of older people, human rights and responsibilities, and women’s issues. We became involved with other national volunteer organizations concerned with the same issues – such as, the National Volunteer Organization (NVO), NAC Status of Women, Canadian Committee for Soviet Jewry, Jews in Arab Lands, and Canadian Jewish Congress.”

Sharon Mondell Wolchock took over the national helm of the NCJWC in 1993. Joining the organization in the 1970s, she quickly learned that the monthly meetings were far more than simply social gatherings. Wolchock also very much enjoyed being able to participate in both the Jewish and general communities. She began volunteering weekly at Knowles School for Boys, reading to young children at an inner city school, engaging with seniors at the Golden Age Club on Selkirk Ave, and serving at the Section building on Pritchard and Salter.
“In addition to ongoing projects, the development of the Gwen Secter Creative Living Centre (formerly known as the Golden Age Club) was the central focus,” said Wolchock. “It was a monumental undertaking and so many NCJW members worked tirelessly to see this project come to fruition. The GSCLC became a model for senior programming throughout the province.”

In 1977, Wolchock joined the Council’s national board and held a variety of positions. “Chairing the Israel Family Counseling Association (IFCA, now called, ALUMA), our only project in Israel, is one of my fondest memories,” said Wolchock. “From 1993-1997, I served as national president. Travelling to the Sections, from Vancouver to Montreal, was an important part of my job.”
Wolchock enjoyed meeting with members and seeing the variety of projects they started up.
In 1997, she led the Centennial Celebration, with the NCJWC having a lot to celebrate through their three pillars of Education, Service, and Social Action.

Immediate past national president of the NCJW, Sharon Raber Allentuck, became connected with the Council via her sister, Elaine Goldstine. Allentuck tongue-in-cheek joked that it seems the passion for the NCJWC is in her DNA, with her mother, Sadie Raber and three of her aunts (Bunny Gurvey, Dora Sandell, and Mona Juravsky) also having been active members of Winnipeg Section.
“Bunny [Gurvey] became national president in the 1980s and her daughter, Brenlee Gales, did so in the 1990s,” said Allentuck. “I became president in 2014, feeling that I could hold that position, since I was retired.
“Advocacy was a big part [of the NCJWC] – Refusniks, Syrian Jewry, pension rights for women, equal rights for women in the workplace, Jewish genetic testing, organ and tissue donation, health education and learning project, advocating against human trafficking, coalition of Jewish women for the GET, lobbying against genetic testing discrimination, and much more.
“Winnipeg women are and were a driving force, nationally and locally. I think the size of our Jewish community may be a factor.
“Women of all socio-economic groups work well together. Winnipeg Jewish women are also a caring group, not only within our Jewish community, but also in the general community. The NCJWC’s women have also been leaders in other organizations, both Jewish and non-Jewish.”
Insofar as her term as national president is concerned, Allentuck is proudest of a few things that were accomplished, including the creation of a Council website and Facebook page, as well as building a leadership succession and representatives on the board from all across Canada.
“During my term, we lobbied against genetic testing discrimination, which was passed by the Senate and the House of Commons,” said Allentuck. “Winnipeg Section’s work impacted thousands of Winnipeggers, from kindergarten children who had their hearing tested in all the public schools in Winnipeg, to seniors who attended the Golden Age Club/Gwen Secter Creative Living Centre, to recipients of Shalach Monat packages delivered to JCFS clients.”

Current local Council president Carolina , shared that the Winnipeg Section, on Nov 13th, held a successful Getting to Know Us event, with over 50 attendees, who voiced interest in participating in current programs and also proposed some new ideas that are now being evaluated. “One of our main focuses now will be supporting the JCFS addictions centre,” said Fridman.
“On December 5th, we will be delivering books to Rossbrook House. And, in February, which is Psychology Month, we have booked Dr. Mike Teschuk to speak on Parenting Adolescents on Tuesday, February 6th. We are partnering with the Gray Academy for this event, which will be at the Berney Theatre.”

For more information about NCJWC, visit ncjwc.org.

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