By REBECA KUROPATWA
A story was written by this reporter in the Jewish Post & News back in 2010 about three newcomers who possessed aspirations to lead and thrive in their new home city of Winnipeg.
Those three individuals - Regina Teplitsky, Carlos Benesdra, and Javier Schwersensky – had dreams and were willing and able to do whatever work was needed to turn their dreams into reality.
Here we are, less than seven years later, and they are no longer newcomers. They are leaders who are now guiding our Jewish community and beyond to higher heights. Following is a rundown of what each of the three has accomplished since moving to Winnipeg:
Regina Teplitsky made her way from Russia to Israel before deciding to move with her family to Canada. Teplitsky herself was born in Russia, while her husband, Evgeni Teplitsky, is from Ukraine. Their daughter, Alissya (9), was born in Israel and their son, Ben (6), was born here.
The Teplitskys moved to Winnipeg in 2009 with the help of the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg’s GrowWinnipeg initiative.
Currently, Teplitsky feels she has found a place where she can really make a difference – as the Combined Jewish Appeal’s (CJA) campaign director at the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg. Her role is to provide visionary, strategic, and motivational leadership to the general campaign and to the Women’s Philanthropy team.
Of her and her family’s personal journey to Winnipeg, Teplitsky said, “We’re one of the thousands of Jewish families that made Winnipeg their new home with the help of GrowWinnipeg. We’re very grateful for all the great services the community provided to welcome, support, and bring us on board as new community members.”
Since Teplitsky first arrived in Winnipeg some seven years ago, she has worked in various positions – from sponsored executive with the United Way of Winnipeg, to executive director of Camp Massad, working for Manitoba Start, and piloting successful labour market projects when working at the Alliance of Manitoba Sector Council and the Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters.
“I believe people with a certain mindset can succeed anywhere,” said Teplitsky. “However, there’s something magical about our place [Winnipeg]. I enjoy the nature of Manitoba – fresh air, big backyards...but, more than anything, I appreciate the peaceful and tolerant nature of the people who live here.
“My dream is to see the collective impact of what we do as individuals. I wish to live a meaningful life, to be accomplished as a wife, mother, and professional, and hopefully to change people’s lives in positive ways.
“As a parent, I wish for my kids to be happy, loved, independent, talented, and fulfilled. I hope they’ll grow into this Jewish community and have their own vision to ensure our community remains strong, diverse, and relevant for the coming generations.”
One only needs to take a couple of steps through the corridors of where Teplitsky works to come across another then-newcomer who was featured in the JP&N 2010 story - Carlos Benesdra.
Benesdra (51) today works at the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg as the Chief Financial Officer.
Born in Argentina, Benesdra moved to Winnipeg along with his wife, Silvana Fux. The couple have two kids, both born in Winnipeg: Jeffrey (12) and Ashley (9).
“We found that moving to Canada was a good opportunity to begin a new project and to raise a family in a completely different environment,” said Benesdra. “The immigration process started in January of 2002 with our exploratory visit. We landed in Winnipeg on May 6, 2003.
“Living a Jewish lifestyle was very important in our decision process. That is why we tried to contact different communities all across Canada. It was Evelyn Hecht at the JFW who called me over the phone and said, ‘Hi Carlos. Are you Jewish? We’re here to help. You don’t need to hire a lawyer.’
“From that moment, we received support from GrowWinnipeg.”
According to Benesdra, the efficiency and professionalism of the GrowWinnipeg team made every aspect of the transition much easier. They arranged a meeting with the immigration officer and meetings with local professionals, availing advice on how to manage their professional lives before arriving in Canada.
Today, besides being CFO of the JFW, Benesdra also serves as CFO of the Gray Academy of Jewish Education.
“The immigration process is not an easy one,” said Benesdra. “Canada and Winnipeg in particular have an open arm attitude regarding newcomers. The support received from the Jewish community through its different organizations made things easier.
“We’re enjoying our lives while we see our kids grow. We wish for them to grow in a safe environment. We also hope they can lead a social life by being active members of our Jewish community.
“We know that accomplishments happen only when you dream and work hard for them. But, I don’t think that this could have been possible without the community support.”
The last individual featured in the 2010 story was Javier Schwersensky, who also hails from Argentina.
Schwersensky moved to Winnipeg in October 2001 with his then-wife, Nora Sobel. The couple is now divorced, but Sobel still lives in Winnipeg, working at Red River College.
“I have an 11-year old son, Joel,” said Schwersensky. “I live with Joel and my cat, Spencer. My brother, Daniel, and his wife, Laila, moved to Winnipeg a few years after I did. And, my parents landed in Winnipeg five years ago. So, I have all my close family with me, which is just awesome.”
Today, Schwersensky is working as CEO of the Winnipeg Humane Society (WHS), a role he has had since September 2015. He also teaches online courses on social media for Herzing College.
“My hope is to continue contributing to Winnipeg’s vibrant non-profit sector and to do as much as I can to pay it forward,” said Schwersensky. “I also would like to make sure we continue to be an open, tolerant, and progressive society that’s accepting of all cultures.
“I also would like to somehow contribute to bridging the gap between immigrants and our First Nations people. We’re privileged to have been accepted into Treaty One Territory, yet I do not see a lot of interactions happening. I was told a few years ago, by Lisa Meeches, when attending the Leadership Winnipeg Program, ‘Befriend your aboriginal neighbours.’ I feel I need to do more of that.”
Dalia Szpiro, GrowWinnipeg director who is originally from Uruguay, was herself assisted by the program.
“I’m thankful to this community for enabling our immigration to Canada through the GrowWinnipeg initiative back in 2002, and for welcoming us with open hearts,” said Szpiro. “Very quickly we felt at home.
“In January 2003 I started working for the immigration office of the Jewish Federation. Every week, I have the opportunity to experience and admire wonderful and talented people who are planning a move here, who are in the process of recreating themselves.”
According to Szpiro, the local Jewish community has developed an international reputation as a welcoming, vibrant community and a desired destination for those considering relocation. The inflow of thousands of newcomers from diverse countries since the inception of the GrowWinnipeg strategy in 2001 has had a profound impact on energizing the community.
The JFW’s purpose in developing the GrowWinnipeg strategy was to highlight the advantages that the Winnipeg Jewish community offers, including safety, employment opportunities, and a multicultural society in which everyone has a place and to increase Manitoba’s Jewish population.
“The community is growing and revitalizing through this inflow of families together with the efforts of welcoming, supporting, guiding, and engaging them,” said Szpiro. “It feels great to be part of this process and to get to hear one amazing story after another.”