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WinnipegBy BERNIE BELLAN I've been somewhat obsessed of late by the incredibly large influx of Russian Israelis into Manitoba, I was doing some further research into just how many Russian Israelis have come here in recent years.
I was able to find statistics from the Province of Manitoba for the years 2009-2014 which go to show a snapshot of just how huge the level of immigration from Israel to Manitoba has been.
Here are the figures:
Year    Number of immigrants to Manitoba from Israel
2009    417
2010    532
2011    302
2012    271
2013    291
2014    424
Total    2237    
In 2014, Uriel Heilman, who is the Jewish Telegraphic Agency’s senior writer, wrote an article titled “Seeking newcomers overseas, Winnipeg Jews don’t get what they expected”
Here is the first part of that article:
“When the leaders of Winnipeg’s Jewish federation sat down 13 years ago to try to figure out a way to reverse the community’s decline, they came up with a novel idea: recruit Jews from overseas.
“The idea was pretty straightforward. Capitalizing on the pro-immigration policies of their home province of Manitoba, the Winnipeg federation would seek out faraway Jews — mainly from troubled countries in South America — and bring them to the snow-swept plains of central Canada. The timing coincided with the economic crisis in Argentina, and after a recruiting trip by federation leaders to Buenos Aires in 2001, dozens of Argentine Jewish families arrived.
“But very quickly, following an initial infusion of South Americans, the main source for Jewish newcomers unexpectedly became Israel, even though the federation wasn’t doing any recruiting of or marketing to Israelis.
“In fact, since the inception of the federation’s GrowWinnipeg program in October 2001, some 80 percent of the 4,400 or so newcomers have come from Israel, most with roots in the former Soviet Union.
“In 2013, more than 300 of the 338 new Jewish immigrants came from Israel.” (Ed. note: That figure doesn’t quite jive with the figure that  I was able to find, but it’s not far off the mark.)
In an article written for this paper (which you can find on page 17, both in Hebrew, and with an English translation) by Eka Mednikov, who is an immigration consultant here, also a member of the Rady JCC board, Eka provides quite an honest explanation why it is that so many Russian Israelis have been moving here.
She refers to the security situation in Israel as the primary reason for the mass migration of Russian Israelis here, but Eka also notes the assistance that the Jewish Federation makes available to families that are thinking of moving here.
This is a sensitive issue for the Federation. At the same time that there is a pressing need to grow our Jewish population, the realization that it would be Israel that would be the principal source of Jewish immigration to Manitoba must come as a disappointment to at least some members of the Federation.
Sure, there will be a veil of political correctness in the reaction from anyone working for the Federation as  to what has been happening, along the lines that the Federation does not discriminate against anyone who is Jewish and wants to move here, but gee - whatever happened to the “Zionist dream” that used to posit that aliyah to Israel was the greatest contribution a Jew could make to his or her people?
I actually had the temerity to send an email to the Israeli Embassy in Ottawa, asking whether anyone there had a problem with the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg lending overt assistance to Israelis who might want to come here.
Again, the response - which took some time in coming, was also oh-so-politically correct:
“Israel, as the homeland of the Jewish people is also, like Canada, a vibrant and free immigrant society. We are never happy to hear of people who choose to move, however when they do, we are happy to hear that they are being warmly welcomed by the local Jewish community.”
I want to make it clear though that the Russian Israelis who have been coming here are often talented and will make a great contribution to Manitoba. But, in all honesty, aside from certain individuals who have made a concerted effort to participate in the established Jewish community here, for the most part, Russian Israelis are not involved with Jewish activities. By and large, they are not interested in having their children receive a Jewish education, they don’t attend synagogue and, as I’ve noted quite a bit in the past, they attend community events only infrequently.
So, why then, I wonder, is our Jewish Federation lending any assistance at all to anyone from Israel who might want to move here? I know that this is a troublesome question, but it’s time that, instead of pretending it makes no difference from where Jewish immigrants to Manitoba come, we shouldn’t be making it even more attractive than it already is for Israelis to leave their country. Oh - by the way, do you know how many Canadians have made aliyah since 1948? The answer is: only 10,705.

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