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Some questions about how the Jewish Foundation decided who should get assistance during the pandemic


There was an interesting message sent out recently from Joel Lazer, President of the Jewish Federation, in which he offered special praise for Becky Chisick, Executive Director of the Gwen Secter Centre, for the incredibly important effort Becky and her tiny staff have been making in getting meals out to Jewish seniors during this entire period of isolation.

I’ve been writing repeatedly about how fantastic a job Becky and her two kitchen staff workers, Galina Melenevska and Cathy Koltowski, have been doing turning out those meals. Just to give you an idea how much Galina and Cathy have stepped up to fill a vital need in our community, here’s what I wrote in our May 13 issue: “In our April 15 issue we had reported that the kitchen staff at Gwen Secter had produced 60 meals for Jewish seniors from March 30-April 3, all delivered free of charge. Since then, the staff has increased production of meals to the point where they sent out 194 meals the week of May 4-8.”
Now, here’s the most recent update we have on how much more Gwen Secter has been doing – in the form of a series of emails I received from Becky Chisick on May 21, in response to questions about how the meal program has been going:
First, here’s what I asked Becky: “Have you received any extra funding from either the Foundation or the Federation beyond whatever the Foundation gave you in that initial cheque the Foundation sent you – along with all the other organizations?”
Becky responded: “Both JFM and JFW recently opened their emergency application grants so it will be a little while until we hear back.”
I then asked her how the meal program has been going of late?
Becky answered: “The meal program is going very well. I have hired a part- time volunteer meal program coordinator, Laurel Cogan, to help with the organization of routes, volunteers and clients. She also calls all of the clients twice a week to help continue more personal connections. A HUGE help! We are now delivering over 270 meals weekly. I thought we’d be eventually up to (around) 120 meals!!”

I then sent Becky the following email: “Of the 270 meals you’re delivering, how many times a week would someone get a meal? For instance, is it 270 seniors getting one meal a week or 135 seniors getting 2 meals a week?
“Also, is it still volunteers from the GROW program who are delivering the meals?
“What you’re doing is absolutely fantastic Becky. I hope you’re getting extra funding from the Jewish Foundation for what you’re doing. Frankly, a lot of the organizations they’re helping do not need help and some do not deserve any help at all.

Becky answered: “On the ‘full’ program 2 meals are delivered twice per week. Some opt to only receive meals once per week. As of today, we have 73 people on our list with 3 taking meals once per week. So in fact we will be sending 286 meals out this week. GROW Participants are delivering on 3 of the routes. We now have 7 routes. I have student volunteers and a couple board members delivering. Some volunteer both days and some one day/week.
“I’m very excited that we are confirmed to receive $25,000 of government funding allotted to seniors via the United Way. These funds have been specifically earmarked for the meal program.”

While the Gwen Secter Centre certainly stands out as having risen to the occasion and filled a desperately needed role in our community, one might well wonder just why it was that the Jewish Foundation necessary to rush out cheques to 28 differerent “Jewish” organizations (and I put quotation marks around the name Jewish because one would think that the Canadian Institute for the Study of Antisemitism would be considered an “academic” organization, not a Jewish organization, per se).

There are other organizations that have found themselves under incredible pressure – and we have written about those organizations, but  you have to wonder about the approach the Foundation has taken in providing financial assistance to so many different organizations.
It took a while to receive a list of all the organizations that received emergency funding from the Foundation, but when I asked how much was given to each organization, I was told “due to a variety of unique circumstances currently faced by individual organizations, at this point, we will leave the disclosure of the amount they received to their discretion. Soon we will be positioned to paint a clear picture of the impact these distributions are making in the community with the imminent onset of Phase 2.”
Notwithstanding the Foundation’s reluctance to make public how much it has given to each organization, that information should be disclosed. The Foundation has been supported by thousands of different individuals and organizations over the years and the Foundation owes it to the public to be more transparent with what it is doing during this emergency situation – and will be continuing to do as it hands out more money to organizations.

There are 11 different synagogues listed among the recipients of emergency funding from the Foundation. Are they all in emergency situations?
As well, two organizations – The Canadian Institute for the Study of Antisemitism and the National Council of Jewish Women would hardly seem to be needing emergency assistance – for what? To pay salaries? That should hardly qualify as an emergency. The Gwen Secter Centre, the Rady JCC, Camp Massad, and BB Camp are all in dire straits. Was it really necessary to send cheques out to every conceivable Jewish organization? Of course, since we don’t know how much any one organization has received (other than what I’ve been told anecdotally by directors of certain organizations), it’s really difficult to know what criteria the Foundation used in providing the initial stage of financial assistance.
At the same time, if something like the The Canadian Institute for the Study of Antisemitism is worthy of financial assistance, then why not an organization like the Group for Yiddish Heritage? (I was told that in order to qualify for financial assistance an organization would need to be a registered charity, but The Group for Yiddish Heritage is a registered charity – and they have received funding from the Foundation in the past, so if the criteria that are necessary to receive emergency funding from the Foundation are that you need to have received funding from the Foundation in the past and that you are a registered charity, then why not the Group for Yiddish Heritage – whether they need “emergency funding”or not? I’m sure that other readers can think of other organizations that would also be equally deserving.)

By the way, I had approached the Foundation with a proposal that would have satisfied their criteria and would have enabled it to provide our paper with some assistance – not through direct funding, but in a different way. I was told that unless our newspaper were a “not for profit business”, then we couldn’t receive any help from the Foundation. I’ve always been prepared to transform this newspaper into a not for profit corporation, but I’m not going to spend a lot of time pursuing that avenue. If someone wants to take the initiative to turn the JP&N into a not for profit corporation without share capital, and appoint a board of directors to run the corporation, then you would receive my full cooperation.
I might note, however, that the Canadian Jewish News was a not for profit corporation – twice, and that didn’t turn out too well for them. I actually had a conversation with the former president of the CJN – Elizabeth Wolfe, during which I asked her whether she’d ever consider getting back into helping to revive a Jewish newspaper in Toronto and she quite quickly demurred, saying she’ll leave that to others now.
It still puzzles me that a city with the size of Toronto’s Jewish community can’t sustain a Jewish newspaper, but I’ll leave that to Torontonians to figure out.

I see too that the Jewish Federation is still working out the details of how it will provide emergency assistance to Jewish organizations.
On May 19 I asked Adam Levy, Public Relations & Communication Manger of the Federation, “Are you able to provide any new information re the emergency campaign, such as how much you’ve raised so far and where the money is going?
“Has any of what you’ve raised thus far been distributed to anyone?”

Adam responded: “As of now, we’ve raised about $50,000 and we have some donors who are still figuring out how much they’d like to give to this campaign.
“So far we’ve received 5 applications with a total of over $200,000 requested. With allocations happening next week many of our beneficiaries are focused on that, and we are expecting more applications to come in following that.”

I asked Adam a follow-up question: “Are these requests coming from beneficiaries who have also received grants from the Jewish Foundation?
“If so, do you know whether the Foundation be taking that into account in its next round of grants?”

Adam responded: “As part of the application process, we have asked for information on all of the other grants that organizations have applied for.
“We are working closely with the Foundation to ensure that we are responding to the needs of Winnipeg’s Jewish organizations together.”

Given that there’s going to be a fair bit of money continuing to flow to Jewish organizations (some of which probably didn’t need money as a result of the pandemic, but hey, let’s be honest: Who’s going to turn down mannah from heaven?) one might well ask: How rigorous are the Jewish Foundation and the Jewish Federation going to be going forward when it comes to scrutinizing requests from organizations for financial assistance? Let’s hope that it’s not a case of which organizations have the most powerful supporters lobbying on their behalves – which is often the way things work in our community.

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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:
-demilitarizing Gaza;
-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; 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.

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Who knew? Former Blue Bomber great Willard Reaves’ father was Jewish – and is buried in Israel

left: Willard Reaves at the Simkin Centre Aug. 11; Johnny Reaves composite

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:

“Hi Avrom,
“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 –

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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 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,, 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.

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