By BERNIE BELLAN I’ve been writing about Jewish population trends in Winnipeg for many years now, but never more so since the 2016 census produced wildly inaccurate results for the entire Jewish population of Canada. (I’ve explained numerous times why the figures from the 2016 census were so out of whack. Simply put, it was because “Jewish” was no longer listed as a choice for respondents in answer to the question about ethnic origin. Instead, one had either to write in “Jewish” or else choose a different ethnic origin.)
But now that the 2021 census has provided the most complete information ever obtained about the ethnic and religious composition of Canada, one would expect that Jewish federations throughout the country would be eager to analyze those results almost immediately.
It may be time consuming for someone to begin analyzing data from the 2021 census, but statisticians from statcan are very helpful when it comes to providing data that cannot be readily extracted simply by taking a look at the statcan 2021 census site. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be any great rush for Jewish federations across the country to begin analyzing data from the 2021 census, especially as it relates to Jewish populations in different cities.
When I asked a spokesperson from our own Jewish Federation whether they’d be interested in having statcan produce specific data as it would relate to our own Jewish community I was told that all Jewish federations across the country have hired one individual to analyze all data. You would think though that, considering our federation has long employed an individual whose ostensible responsibility included “planning,” that the federation here would be eager to analyze the data that statcan has now produced.
So, instead of waiting for who knows how long for one individual working for all Jewish federations across the country to begin to analyze census data, I took it upon myself to work with a statistician from statcan and begin analyzing the data.
Why have I been so interested in analyzing data about the Jewish population of Winnipeg, you might ask? It’s simply because I’ve never trusted the data that our Jewish Federation has been reporting for years. For so long the Jewish Federation here has been reporting various figures for the size of our Jewish population – always in the neighbourhood of 16,000, but without any empirical evidence to support that figure. My own analysis of available data showed that the true figure was in the 12,000 range.
I could never get anyone from the Jewish Federation to provide empirical date that would substantiate a figure of 16,000 for our Jewish population here.
For instance, when I interviewed Faye Rosenberg Cohen, who was then the Chief Planning and Allocations Director for the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg, I posed this question to her: “…can you put your finger on how many new immigrants have come here over the years?”
Faye responded: “I can honestly say when I look at those numbers it’s somewhere around 1/3 of the community.”
JP&N: “So you’d say it’s somewhere between 4-5,000?”
Faye: “I think it’s more than that.”
Based upon that answer, the Jewish population of Winnipeg would have to be at least 15,000, but as I’ve shown since information about Canada’s ethnic and religious composition was released this past November, it is simply impossible that Winnipeg’s Jewish population could be more than 14,270 – at an absolute maximum, and is very likely much smaller than that, because many of those 14,270 individuals reported that while, one of their ethnic origins may have been “Jewish,” their religion was something else entirely. I suppose one can still identify as “Jewish” when one’s religion is Christian, but I would submit that would be a real stretch for most people to accept.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise though that the Jewish Federation here would want to embellish the size of our community; it serves to bolster the federation’s case that it has been so successful in attracting immigrants here. And, it has been very successful in doing that.
But, back in August I asked Faye Rosenberg Cohen what I described as a key question: “Does anyone keep track of how many immigrants actually stay here?” The answer, unfortunately, is no. So, even if the Federation has been quite successful in attracting Jewish immigrants here, it is not only possible that a very high proportion of those immigrants have left Winnipeg, it is very likely the case. Otherwise, the data from the 2021 census would have shown a great many more individuals as reporting they were Jewish, either by ethnic origin or religion.
Further, as my story on page 1 of this issue demonstrates, individuals who identify as “Jewish” by religion are now spread out throughout the entire city. There are now only 1,035 Jews living west of the Red River and north of the CPR tracks. There are more Jews living east of the Red River than in that entire area north of the tracks – which was once home to 90% of the Jewish population as recently as 1961, when the Jewish population here almost reached 20,000.
Clearly, the move to newer neighbourhoods – especially in Charleswood, Bridgewater and other parts of Ft. Garry, St. Vital, and Transcona, is being spurred by the arrival of new immigrant families in seek of lower-cost housing, but what are the implications for some of the bedrock organizations of our Jewish community, especially the Rady JCC and Gray Academy?
We’ve already seen one of the results of the drastic decline in the Jewish population north of the CPR tracks with the decision by Etz Chayim Congregation to move to a much smaller facility on Wilkes Avenue. It will be interesting to see whether that leads to more members deciding to join that congregation once the move takes effect this summer.
One of the other significant aspects of the continued movement of individuals away from the entire area north of the CPR tracks and west of the Red River has been the concentration of seniors in apartments, assisted living facilities and personal care homes all south of the Assiniboine River. With the aging of our community, in which a full 23% of our Jewish population is now over 65 – the highest proportion it’s ever been in our history, one wonders what the long-term consequences will be for that trend.
With a high number of Jewish seniors now living in Crescentwood, especially in apartments on Wellington Crescent and neighbouring streets, that certainly portends well for the Shaarey Zedek once renovations are complete there in 2024. But, just as the Rady JCC has seen quite a large drop-off in membership ever since the onset of Covid, one wonders whether many seniors will be as anxious to return to attending synagogue in person once the Shaarey Zedek returns to its traditional home.
The combination of population shifts along with the Covid epidemic has drastically altered the preferences of large portions of what is now our Jewish population in terms of which Jewish facilities they choose to use. Are our organizations doing enough to take into account those very significant changes in our Jewish community? That remains to be seen.
Turning to another story on page 1 – about the passing of Harvey Rosen, I was always interested in reading Harvey’s columns, both for the information they contained, and for his unique turns of phrase. I was especially fond of his use of the expression, “a member of the Hebraic persuasion,” which he used instead of simply saying someone was Jewish.
Myron Love references Harvey’s determination to find Jewish athletes, particularly in professional sports. I remember Harvey describing his going up to a hockey player by the name of Jayden Schwartz who, at the time was playing for the St. Louis Blues, and asking Jayden whether he was “Jewish?”
Harvey said that Jayden very politely answered that he wasn’t Jewish, but he didn’t seem offended that someone might think he was Jewish. On the other hand, Harvey did seem obsessed with f inding out the parentage of many athletes, as Myron notes in his story.
We still carry the occasional story about Jewish athletes, but those stories comes from our news agency, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, and they tend to focus either on American or Israeli athletes. Where Harvey truly excelled was in finding local Jewish athletes. I always found it remarkable that, if there was a Jewish youngster who excelled at a particular sport here, Harvey would find them.
Although we occasionally get contacted by someone who informs us of a particular athlete whose story would be of interest to our readers, I’m sad to say that doesn’t happen very often. In looking back at old issues of The Jewish Post I saw that, prior to Harvey coming on board in 1976, the paper relied upon Leible Hershfield for sports stories, but Leible’s interest was in the athletes of yesteryear – when he himself was our community’s most famous athlete.
Harvey, though, excelled in finding the up and coming future stars of our community. And, to think he produced over 2,000 columns over the years – I wonder whether there’s another sportswriter for a Jewish paper anywhere who could match that total?
An Arab Trusteeship Council for Gaza
By Prof. BRYAN SCHWARTZ Oct. 17, 2023 (Originally posted to The Times of Israel)
1 No peace is possible with Hamas. It is genocidally antisemitic. This position is foundational, not rhetorical or mutable. Waiting for the emergence of a “pragmatic” version of Hamas is suicidally naïve.
2 Peace and cooperation are possible with most of Israel’s non-Iranian neighbours. They are militarily threatened by Iran, not Israel. For many in those countries, Iran’s version of Islam might be more problematic from the religious perspective than Israel’s Jewishness.
3 Hamas’ attack was partly to prevent a Saudi deal and a long-term economic cooperation
4 Israel has no territorial claim to Gaza and no material, religious, or ideological interest in running it.
5 Israel has vital moral and material interests in the emergence of a peaceful, demilitarized, and prosperous Gaza. If that can occur in the medium term, a long-term reconciliation of the Palestinians with Israel is achievable.
6 As and when Hamas is evicted from power, Gaza will need some new form of government.
7 The Palestinian authority probably cannot be trusted to take over Gaza. It is corrupt and lacked- and probably still lacks- credibility with a majority of the population in Gaza.
8 There used to be a concept called trusteeship in international law, whereby foreign powers would govern a territory in its best interests until its final status is clarified at the wishes of its own people.
9 The United Nations cannot be trusted to administer Gaza – any more than it has shown to be trustworthy to maintain strategic security in Southern Lebanon or to operate UNWRA in a manner that is effective for Palestinians and not hostile to Israel.
10 Consider this alternative. After Hamas is evicted from power, there is an interim period- say five to seven to ten years -of governance over Gaza by an Arab trusteeship council. The Council members are appointed primarily by Arab states sympathetic to Israel and eager to see the people of Gaza thrive. This Council could include local Gaza representatives and a representative of the Palestinian Authority but the majority would be representative of states like Egypt, Morocco, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia.
11 The trusteeship agreement would be formal, agreed to by Israel, and unequivocally state its objectives, including:
-defining the sole purposes for which outside reconstruction and development money can be spent and requiring strict accounting
-ensuring that the education system in Gaza is not contaminated by antisemitic hatred;
-promoting sound administration of Gaza, including providing for transparent and non-corrupt government, with significant safeguards for human rights, and conformity to the rule of law;
-promoting the development of a real economy for Gaza, not one fuelled primarily by international subsidies.
13 No state could participate in the Council without having a peace agreement with Israel.
14 In fact, the creation of the Council and Saudi participation in it could be part of a peace deal with Saudi Arabia. The deal could involve a reconstruction package from the Saudis for Gaza, which would help secure the support of the people of Gaza for the Council arrangement as an interim measure.
15 Policing would be carried out by a force composed of Palestinians and members of the police forces of Trusteeship states, under the direction of the Council.
16 The net effect would be to remove Gaza from Iran’s influence and establish temporary control by a consortium of mostly Sunni states. The latter would be chosen from among those that are at least reasonably friendly to Israel and genuinely committed to good governance in Gaza.
17 The definitive solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict can only be achieved in a series of steps. Compromises are even more painful if they are framed as permanent. But if practical peace, stability, and some prosperity can be achieved in the medium term in Gaza and the West Bank, an amicable and enduring resolution should be achievable with the Palestinians.
18 While Israel is under severe military menace right now, it is not too early to think about how a positive political outcome can be achieved after the necessary and painful battle is concluded.
19 The current catastrophe is a so-far successful attempt by the regime in Teheran to disrupt peace negotiations involving Israel, the United States, and Saudi Arabia. Political vision along with military force might enable Israel to turn around the situation and complete and consolidate a lasting peace with almost all of its Arab neighbours and to set the stage for a formal and enduring peace with the Palestinians. The Teheran regime would be isolated, diminished in prestige, and more likely to be replaced from within.
About the Author
Bryan’s Jewish-themed musical “Consoulation: A Musical Mediation” premiered in the Spring of of 2018; https://consoulation.com His new album will appear in the coming months. Bryan Schwartz graduated with a doctorate in law from Yale School and holds an endowed chair at the University of Manitoba Law School. He is the author or editor of over thirty books and collections of essays. Bryan also created and helps to deliver an annual summer program at Hebrew University in Israeli law and society. He has served as a visiting Professor at both HU and Reichman university. . As a practising lawyer, Bryan has argued a number of cases at the Supreme Court of Canada, advised governments, and served as an arbitrator at the provincial, national and international level.
Who knew? Former Blue Bomber great Willard Reaves’ father was Jewish – and is buried in Israel
Usually when I write my column in The Jewish Post & News titled “Short takes,” I focus on one or two themes. This time, I’m departing from that style. Instead, I’m going to offer a series of true “short takes.”
To begin with, I have to admit my surprise at a story that Sid Halpern related to me – about former Winnipeg Blue Bomber great Willard Reaves. Reaves, who is running once again for the Liberals in the upcoming provincial election in the riding of Whyte Ridge, against another former Blue Bomber great, Obby Khan, was speaking at the Simkin Centre at a current events program that Sid runs (and which I occasionally host as well).
At that recent program, Reaves told the Simkin Centre residents who were gathered to hear him that his late father was Jewish and that he was buried in Israel.
When Sid related that story to me my reaction was – and I’m sure it would be the same for anyone else who knows who Willard Reaves is: “You’re kidding. What’s the story behind that?”
So, I contacted Willard and asked him to fill me in. He told me that his father, whose name was Johnny Reaves, had been a brilliant engineer who worked for General Dynamics in Fort Worth, Texas. Willard said that his parents separated when he was young and that he grew up in Flagstaff, Arizona, although he and a brother of his did spend half a year living with their father in Fort Worth.
According to Willard, his father was interested in finding out about different denominations, including Judaism. Eventually, Johnny Reaves converted to Judaism and, in 2016, he moved to Israel, saying “good bye to me,” Willard said, adding that his father also said “I will die in Israel.”
It was in Israel that Johnny Reaves took the Hebrew name “Tzadok Avraham,” Willard added. He also became fluent in Hebrew, Willard said (in addition to four other languages he spoke). In 2021 Johnny Reaves – or Tzadok Avraham, as he was then known, died. Willard said that he had wanted to fly to Israel for the funeral, but was told that his father was going to be buried the next day – which wouldn’t have given Willard enough time to make it there for the funeral.
Quite the story, but to give equal time to Obby Khan, about whom I’ve written in the past, when he sponsored a floor hockey tournament at the Rady JCC in memory of Obby’s late mentor, Richard Tapper, Obby will also be appearing at the Simkin Centre in September – and when he does, we’ll try and grab an interview with him as well.
The movie “Golda” has received fairly awful reviews from critics – and deservedly so. It’s hard to understand why this movie was even made. Aside from having an A-list star, Helen Mirren, in the title role, honestly, how many people out there who aren’t Jewish and of a certain age would be interested in seeing a movie about Golda Meir?
It’s the kind of movie that you might expect to have been made for a streaming service rather than be given a theatrical release. It’s quite dark – and despite the action revolving around the Yom Kippur War, there’s no dramatization of any battle scenes nor, for that matter, is there much in the way of actual footage from the war – which could have easily be integrated into the film.
Like a lot of others who have already commented on “Golda,” I’m trying to figure out what the motivation was of whoever was behind it?
By this time of year one would have expected to see the report of the Jewish Federation’s Budget and Allocations Committee. That particular committee is tasked with divvying up funds for the 13 beneficiary agencies of the Jewish Federation and, although I’m told each agency has been informed by now what the allocation they will be receiving will be, the Federation’s fiscal year begins September 1, and in the past we’ve been able to report on the allocations either in June or July at the latest.
There have been a series of changes at the top level of the Jewish Federation this past year, including the most recent one – which, of course, we’ve given major attention, that being the hiring of Jeff Lieberman as the Federation’s new CEO.
But the awful slowness in receiving the report of the Budget and Allocations Committee points to how much the Federation has been missing the absolutely key contribution that Faye Rosenberg Cohen made in her capacity as the Federation’s Chief Planning and Allocations Officer. Faye, who had been an employee of the Federation since 1994 – up until her retirement this past December, was largely responsible for drawing up the report of the Budget and Allocations Committee.
And, although the committee always has a number of experienced volunteers serving on it, nothing can replace the type of experience that a seasoned staff member such as Faye was able to bring to the job. Sharon Graham has been hired as Faye’s replacement and, although we’re sure that Sharon will prove fully capable of filling Faye’s shoes, replacing someone with 29 years experience in a job can’t happen overnight.
In addition to Faye’s retirement, there have been two other notable departures from the Federation in recent months. In June we announced that Rebecca Brask was leaving the position of Chief Development Officer for the Federation. Rebecca’s replacement is Graciela Najenson, who has been with the Federation since 2017. The fact that Graciela had been serving as Development Director makes her transition to the role previously held by Rebecca somewhat easier.
And, just recently Carlos Benesdra moved on from being Chief Financial Officer of the Federation to CFO of Gray Academy, while Shannon Slater has moved over from the Asper Jewish Community Campus to take over as Federation CFO.
Those are four major moves within a three-month period. Based on my recent experience of not being able to get information about the all-important allocations that our Jewish agencies are going to be receiving, I can only surmise that the Federation is in a state of flux.
The success of the Israel pavilion continues to reverberate. As I note in my look back at the early days of the Israel pavilion on page 1, back in 1970 it would have been impossible to anticipate how important both Foklorama – and the Israel pavilion, would become. As David Greaves writes in his paean to the Israel pavilion on page 16 of this issue, the role that the Israel pavilion now plays in boosting Israel’s image is immeasurable.
The sale of the Etz Chayim is not yet complete. Although there is an offer on the table, nothing has been finalized, according to congregation president Avrom Charach.
Here is an email exchange I had with Avrom on August 23:
“I’ve heard that the building has been sold – again. Can you confirm?
Avrom responded (less than an hour after I emailed him. That could be a lesson for some other Jewish organizations in this city, where respondents often don’t respond or take an interminable amount of time to respond):
“We accepted an offer within two weeks of the previous deal not closing.
Their due diligence period has not yet finished but we are getting close to the day when it does.
“As such I can confirm we are conditionally sold but nothing more than that.”
otage from the war –
Will the affable Jeff Lieberman be able to make tough decisions in the years to come?
By BERNIE BELLAN The hiring of Jeff Lieberman as the new CEO of the Jewish Federation got me to thinking about how long I’ve been with this newspaper. I started with The Jewish Post two years before Bob Freedman was hired as Executive Director of what was then the Winnipeg Jewish Community Council.
As a matter of fact I did an hour-long interview with Bob in 2021 (that can still be viewed on Youtube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i66AyZ8x60k) in which he looked back over his long career with both the WJCC and the Jewish Federation. Be warned, however: Bob had quite the potty mouth during that interview.)
Bob Freedman though, had quite a grasp of how to run the Jewish Federation – which could occasionally lead him to knocking heads with members of the community, especially when it came to him telling various leaders of organizations that they weren’t going to get what they wanted from the Federation.
I especially recall when the Gwen Secter Centre was in a very precarious situation – when the building that had been the home for that centre was going to be sold by the National Council of Jewish Women. (Does anyone remember the reason that the NCJW gave for wanting to sell that building? I do. It was to raise money for something to do with addictions. I’m still waiting for that to happen – more than seven years after the NCJW received over $900,000 for the building as the result of a gift from an angel donor – whose name I have kept secret all these years, as I was asked to do.)
It was a tough time to be the CEO of the Jewish Federation – and to turn down a request to step in and help keep the Gwen Secter in its Main Street home, but Bob Freedman had the strength to say no. Was he right to do that? That’s for others to judge, but since that near-death experience for the Gwen Secter Centre, it has turned out to play a very important role for the Jewish community, providing a variety of programming that is certainly far above what one would expect from an organization that was hanging on the precipice eight years ago. But Bob couldn’t have known that, so I’ll absolve him of blame on that one.
Certainly the impact that Covid had on so many community organizations is still being felt – and our Jewish community is continuing to evolve a great deal in response to how Covid affected so many community institutions. One need only look at the huge changes that our two major synagogues are undergoing in order to realize how much the Jewish community has changed over the past 20 years – as both the Shaarey Zedek and the Etz Chayim have had to rethink their roles, at least partly in response to how Covid changed how members now interact with synagogues.
Something else that any Federation CEO is going to have to address is the relative decline in moneys raised by the Combined Jewish Appeal in recent years, at least when one takes inflation into account. While the amount raised this past fiscal year was $6.3 million, five years ago it was $5.6 million, but when one factors in inflation (approximately 19.4% cumulatively over the past four years) that means the CJA is raising much less on a relative basis than it was five years ago. The CJA would have had to raise well over $7 million this past year just to keep pace with inflation.
The saving grace for the Federation, as I’ve noted in the past two years, has been the huge increase in the total amount that the Jewish Foundation has been distributing, including to local Jewish organizations. No doubt that has taken some of the pressure off the Jewish Federation to increase what it distributes to its beneficiary agencies, but going forward it is difficult to see how the Federation will be able to come up with the funds that the beneficiary organizations are going to need simply to maintain their present levels of service.
A few weeks back we reported that the Federation had released a strategic plan to direct resources and planning for the next six years, but that plan was couched in such generalities that it seemed more like a wish list with which no one could argue. How, for instance, could one object to enhanced “collaboration with community partners; increased engagement through education and training; strategies to develop Jewish life; developing external relationships with other community and faith-based organizations; and combating anti-Semitism” – among its objectives?
While Jeff Lieberman comes into his new position of CEO saying that his strength is “building relationships” and being “a good people person,”I’d sure like to know whether he has a long-term vision for the community. Bob Freedman presided over what was probably the most exciting period in the history of our Jewish community when he played an instrumental role in the development of the Asper Campus, but that period is over. Does Jeff have a vision similar to what Bob had? I didn’t ask him that when I chatted with him – mostly because that’s the kind of question that is unfair to spring on someone, but I do wonder whether he was asked that when he was interviewed for the job and, if so, how did he answer?
As I attempted to demonstrate in various articles I wrote about the 2021 census, the Jewish community in Winnipeg – if it can even be called a community since it’s now so disparate, is hardly the kind of community that we used to recognize. When only a little more than 6,000 individuals say they’re Jewish both by ethnicity and by religion – well, that goes to show how much the Jewish “community” has changed in the past 20 years – which is when the last authoritative census was conducted.
While the River Heights – Tuxedo-Crescentwood neighbourhoods still contain large numbers of Jews according to the census, there has been a huge shift in where Jews are now living – especially to areas such as south St. Vital, and south Ft. Garry (including Bridgewater). Of course, given how people interact with each other these days, especially through social media, it matters little where people live in terms of how an organization such as the Jewish Federation might want to reach them, but the sense of community that Jews used to have from seeing one another physically cannot be replicated by posts on Instagram, for instance – which it seems is where the Jewish Federation now concentrates a fair bit of its resources.
If there’s anything that I’ve learned over the years, however, it’s that former members of Winnipeg’s Jewish community who have left for other cities still retain a significant attachment to the Jewish community here – perhaps more so than can be said of any other city that Jews would have called home. There is still such an eagerness among ex-Winnipeg Jews to keep informed – and in touch with what’s going on in Winnipeg within our Jewish community, that in many ways it’s helped to sustain this newspaper.
In that vein – I’m pleased to announce that, after an almost two-month period in which our website, jewishpostandnews.ca, was not up, it’s back – and it’s been totally revamped. While I wouldn’t pretend that the website is constantly updating local news – it does have a constinually refreshing news feed provided by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that is proving to be hugely popular with viewers. As well, the website does include all obituaries that appear in the print version of The Jewish Post & News and, as most readers are no doubt aware, obituaries and memoriams are an integral part of what keep former Winnipeg Jews in touch with the community here. In time we hope also to have a section for memoriams on the website – as we continue the process of providing the same experience online as readers can have by reading the print paper (or a pdf version of the paper, which is also available to any print subscribers).
And that’s where I think Jeff Lieberman – and the rest of the Jewish Federation, can take a cue from this paper. It’s all well and good to offer grandiose plans for the future, but it’s still important to remember what made this community great – which was a deep respect for continuing what helped to build the Jewish community here. At the same time though, what always marked the Jewish community here was a tradition of different individuals and groups challenging accepted orthodoxies, be they religious, political, social, or otherwise. However, I’ve never thought of either the Winnipeg Jewish Community Council or the Jewish Federation as being interested in hearing from voices that challenge accepted orthodoxies, especially when it comes to criticizing Israel. And, I don’t expect that’s going to change with Jeff Lieberman at the head. On the other hand, a quirky s-t disturber like me is probably not what the community needs as its head either.