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14th annual Cancercare Manitoba Foundation Challenge for Life returning on August 5

Nancys Nightingales edited 1By MYRON LOVE The 14th annual Cancercare Manitoba Foundation Challenge for Life 20KM walk (or 200-minute workout) is back again at its new time – as a result of Covid 19 – with several members of our Jewish community once more playing an active role.
As with last year, participants this year are walking in small groups covering the same distance over two weeks from August 5-17.

Cancercare participants1
“Nineteen people are diagnosed with cancer every day,’ says participant Jason Gisser. “Fifty percent of Manitobans will be touched by cancer at some point in their lives.”
Gisser has experienced a more intimate and longer-lasting relationship with cancer than many of the other Challenge for Life participants. The son of David Gisser and Freda Steel was first diagnosed with cancer when he was 18. The still young lawyer has been fighting cancer for half his life now. Happily, an oral chemotherapy pill he has been taking for the past two years has controlled his cancer and allowed him to return to living a normal life.
He first took up the Challenge in 2019 as a way to give back for all the help that he has received over the years from CancerCare Manitoba staff. This year, thus far, he has personally brought in over $4,000 while his team – also consisting of Debbie Abraham, Nora Fien, Marcia Knight, Lois Tessier and Candace Weselowski – has raised about $5,600 – good for fifth place overall.
On Saturday, August 8, Gisser will be fulfilling his Challenge obligations with a 20 km walk encompassing Fort Whyte, Assiniboine Forest and Assiniboine Park. He says that he will be keeping supporters up to date as to his and his team’s progress.

Several other members of our Jewish community are also making their presence felt.
“Once again this year’s top-ranked “Jewish” team is Nancy’s Nightingales with about $10,000 raised as of mid-July. “We were pleasantly surprised that many people donated more this year,” says team captain Louise Raber. “We were a little concerned that some of our past contributors may have been inversely affected financially by the pandemic.”
For 2021, long time team members Connie Botelho, Joanne Katz, Harriet Lyons and Louise Raber and third year member Rhonda Youell have been joined by original team members Heather Cram and Susan Lipnowski.
The“Nightingales” were named after a nurse – a cancer survivor – who is a friend of Louise Raber – and have been part of the Challenge for Life since the beginning 14 years ago.

Close behind Nancy’s Nightingales – in third place in funds raised thus far is Team Schvesters. So far, the “Shvesters” have raised about $8,000 – as of mid-July – and team captain Benji Harvey herself has brought in $4,500 in donations –9th most among individual participants.
Since the beginning of the Challenge for Life, Team Schvesters has raised a total of $246,060 with Benjii Harvey accounting for just under $55,000 (including donations received as of mid-July this year.
The team was founded by the “Greenfeld girls”, Harvey and her sisters, Lesly Katz and Debby Lewis. Two of the sisters had been diagnosed with breast cancer.
This year, Harvey notes, the team members are Benji, Lesly and Deb, Kim Gray and Jody van de Vijsel.
Team Shvesters members focus on the 200 plus minute workout as much as the 20km walk. As with last year, the team members will combine a 15 km walk with a 30 minute upper body core workout and 30 minute yoga stretch.
“We are a small but heartfelt team,” Harvey says. “Even though COVID has changed the event there are still lots of teams participating in their own way – which is fantastic.”

Perennial fundraising dynamo Serratus Superstars have also been walking the Challenge for Life since the Challenge inception in 2008. Team captain Cathy Moser reported in an interview with the JP&N last year that the group had raised over $450,000.00 in those years – through donations, garage sales, concerts, and bake sales.
This year’s team makeup however is much reduced from previous years. Two years ago, there were 25 walkers under the Serratus Superstars banner. This year, the team numbers eight – Moser and her husband, Jeff Itzkow, Faren Bernstein, Sharon Goszer-Tritt, Steve Moscovitch, Monica Newman, Bernie Rubenstein and Harriet Zimmer.
Moser however remains undaunted. She has raised over $2,500 thus far and the team as a whole has brought in just under $5,400 – good for 7th place among teams.
“We have raised over $425,000.00 over the past 11 years – and hope to make it to at least $450,000.00 this year,” she says.
She adds that “we are looking for team members – if you want to invest in your future, email Cathy Moser at cathy.g.moser@gmail.com..

Rocky Pollack’s wife, Sharon, fought cancer for 14 years before her passing in 2012. During that time, both Sharon and Rocky came to appreciate the care that she received from Cancercare Manitoba and they both became actively involved in the organization and the foundation. Rocky has served in a number of positions with the organization over the years and has participated in the Challenge for Life for the last several years as well.
Last year, the retired Provincial Court Judge and his Team No Judgment (which included 12 of his colleagues) raised just under $6000. “We are going to be doing a number of mini competitions to provide our team members with additional motivation,” he says. “Our goal is to raise more money than last year.”

Sister Act’s team once again this year is composed of Pearl Rosenberg and her daughters, Cindy Yusim and Brenda Dahle.
Pearl Rosenberg, 87 is most likely the Challenge for Life’s oldest participant. She lost two daughters to cancer within about a year of each other. Naomi Palansky passed away in 2010 and Michelle Moyer in 2011. Brenda Dahle notes that Naomi walked with her family in the first Challenge For Life Walk.
(And, readers may recall that Naomi’s children, Noah and Lexi, started their own team of walkers, “Kids Count”, shortly after their mother received her cancer diagnosis.)
“I started taking part in the Challenge for Life on Team Chai in 2008,” Dahle says. “I continue to take part in the 20 k walk with my mom and sister Cindy Yusim, in memory of our sisters whose love, strength, and courage continue to inspire us.”With the Challenge due to Covid restrictions again being an individual rather than a group effort, Dahle reports that she and her mother will be walking a little bit every day between August 5 and 17th in Kildonan Park while her sister will be meeting her obligations through cycling.
“Our goal this year is to raise $3,000,” Dahle says. “My mother has already raised more than $1,000 herself (as of mid July).”

Readers can make donations to their preferred team by going online to CancerCarefdn.mb.ca and clicking on Challengeforlife.ca.

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Shabbat Unplugged returns for seventh year with increased participation

115 students from four different provinces participated in this year's Shabbaton January 26-28

By MYRON LOVE This year’s second annual – post Covid lockdown – Shabbat Unplugged on the weekend of January 26-28 – had a different feel to it in the shadow of the dark events of October 7 in Israel (events that are being felt by, Jews worldwide), notes Shabbat unplugged co-ordinator and Winnipeg Hillel  Director Raya Margulets.

“My sense is that there was a much stronger feeling among our participants of shared community,” she comments.

She reports that this year’s Shabbaton attracted 115 students,including participants from Edmonton, Calgary, Regina and Toronto.

Among the participants this year were a number of non-Jewish university students – StandWithUs Emerson Fellows from across Canada – who spoke about how they have come to develop a sense of solidarity with Israel.  As Shabbat Unplugged co-founder Dr. Sheppy Coodin observed, these non-Jewish students were disturbed by the anti-Israel and antisemitic actions on many university campuses.  They were angered by what they viewed as a double standard where Israel was concerned and have chosen to make common cause with their Jewish contemporaries.

As usual, the weekend began with a candle lighting, Kiddush, and a traditional Shabbat dinner.  Following the Shabbat service led by Coodin, a long time Gray Academy science teacher,  and some of the students, there were presentations (in addition to the non-Jewish students) from representatives of the Canadian Jewish Political Affairs Committee (CJPAC) and StandWithUs Canada and a presentation by Emily Kalo, immediate past president of the Winnipeg chapter of Students Supporting Israel (SSI), outlining measures which are being taken to  counter anti-Israel and anti-Semitic activity on university campuses.

As noted earlier, Shabbat Unplugged was started in 2016   by Coodin, a science teaher at Gray Academy, and fellow Gray Academy teacher Avi Posen (who made aliyah in 2019) – building on the Shabbatons that Gray Academy had been organizing for the school’s high school students for many years. 

The inaugural Shabbat Unplugged was so successful that Coodin and Posen did it again in 2017 and took things one step further by combining their Shabbat Unplugged with Hillel’s annual Shabbat Shabang Shabbaton, which brings together Jewish university students from Winnipeg and other Jewish university students from Western Canada.

“It was a pleasure working with Raya again,” Coodin said, noting that Margulets is also  a former student of his who took part in the 2017 Shabbat unplugged as a student.  “Raya worked incredibly hard to make the weekend a success,” he noted.  “There were a lot of details to be worked out for 100-plus students as well as the presenters. She is just fantastic.”

Margulets observed that the weekend was funded in part by grants from the Jewish Foundation of Manitoba, CJPAC. the JNF, and StandWithUs Canada, along with a generous gift from the Asper Foundation.,

“We are looking forward to having even more students joining us for Shabbat Unplugged next year,” she says.     

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“Festival of New Yiddish Culture opens to rave reviews

Beyond the Pale performed in front of a large crowd at the Berney Theatre on Thursday, Feb. 8

By SHARON LOVE The Festival of New Yiddish Culture ‘Put A Yid On It’ is on from February 7th to the 11th, 2024. As stated in the program, movies, music and more is what it’s all about.

As of Friday morning (Feb. 9) we are at the halfway point of the festival. Two Yiddish films ‘Yiddle With His Fiddle’ and ‘The Light Ahead’ have both played at the Berney Theatre.

On Wednesday evening at the Handsome Daughter Cafe, a standing room only crowd took in the book launch of ‘Yiddish Cinema:The Drama of Troubled Communication’. Co-authors Jonah Corne and Monika Vrecar along with moderator Simone Mahrenholz provided an interesting discussion about the thoughts, philosophy and research that led the authors to write this text. Of special note is that Corne, Vrecar and Mahrenholz are all on staff at the University of Manitoba.

What would a Yiddish festival be without music? And lively musical as well! The opening concert was held at the Berney Theatre on Thursday evening and featured ‘Beyond The Pale’. This Toronto based acoustic ensemble which has been around from the late ‘90s started out playing classic Klezmer music. Over the years they have broadened their scope to include Balkan, Reggae, Romanian music and much more, in their repertoire. This award winning group has travelled the world while performing at music festivals and concerts. Members of the ensemble are leader Eric Stein on mandolin and vocals (Yiddish and English), Bret Higgins on base, Martin Van De Ven on clarinet, Milos Popovic on accordion, and Brigette Dajczer on violin. These musicians had smiles on their faces all evening. They seemed to enjoy making music together as much as the audience of about 150 people enjoyed being at the concert. It was pointed out that this was Brigette’s first gig with this band. No one in their wildest dreams would have suspected this. She played with energy and enthusiasm all evening and never missed a beat!

Eric Stein, who is presently the Artistic Director of Toronto’s Ashkenaz Festival, introduced the numbers on the program and had a delightful rapport with the audience. During the concert he paid tribute to Winnipeg’s own ‘Finjan’ who are definitely pioneers in the revival of klezmer music and Yiddish culture.

The program was eclectic and included both material from years back as well as numbers from their newest CD. The playful tune ‘Turkish Delight’ is their original piece, in tribute to the late Irving Fields (Yitzhak Schwartz) who was a well known pianist and lounge artist. Another number, a combination of a Hora and Bulgarian music was very melodic. ‘Ruckus in Ralia’ with its strong beat was written in memory of the group’s trip to Serbia. Chazan-ja is a mix of klezmer and reggae music and traces of the Yiddish song ‘Dei Muzinke Oysgegebn’ could be heard.

Speaking of Yiddish numbers, the first song was early in the program. It was a comical love song written by Aaron Lebedeff, a Yiddish song writer and actor. ‘A Glezela Yash’ a cute drinking song and an old favourite ‘Az Der Rebbe Zingt’ had people humming along. A song about Shabbes in remembrance of Yiddish theatre star and singer Mina Berne was also on the program. With Stein on vocals these numbers added to the versatility of this group and their emphasis on reclaiming the Yiddish language through music.

As the program was coming to an end the music kept getting livelier. If, after close to two hours on stage, with a short intermission, you would have thought that these performers would be toning down, you were definitely wrong. The final number, a medley of Bulgar music, featured Van De Ven on clarinet who thrilled the crowd with a very very long held note.

After the standing ovation the encore number was a high energy series of Jewish wedding tunes. You could feel the excitement in the air! This is the third time in almost twenty years that Beyond The Pale has performed here and judging by the reaction from the audience, they will be welcomed back anytime!
festiv
The second half of this festival is also jam packed. Two more films will be shown, and the second concert features Montreal based Socalled(Josh Dolgin) in performance at the West End Cultural Centre. Bagels and a Bisl Yiddish with Prof. Itay Zutra is on tap for Sunday morning. An I.L.Peretz Folk School Alumni mini reunion will wrap up the festival late Sunday afternoon.

Kudos to Shira Newman, the Festival Producer as well as the Coordinator of Arts and Older Adult Programming at the Rady J.C.C. Shira had a vision to mount a Yiddish festival and it has now come to fruition. Thanks go out to the Rady staff and volunteers and to Lionel Steiman, Rochelle Zucker, Itay Zutra and Sharon Love of the organizing committee. The support from sponsors the Asper Foundation, the Jewish Foundation of Manitoba, the I.L.Peretz Folk School Endowment Trust and the Rady J.C.C is very much appreciated. This festival has provided an opportunity for Winnipeg audiences to celebrate the richness of the Yiddish culture and language.

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Tom Traves: From the north end to the presidency of several Canadian universities

Tom Traves

By GERRY POSNER There haven’t been lot of Jewish presidents of Canadian universities.
To be clear, there have been some, but not as many as one might expect – given how many Jewish academics we’ve had in Canada over the years.
One person who made the short list of Jewish university presidents in this country has been none other than a former Winnipegger – right out of the north end of Winnipeg: Tom Traves. Now retired, Traves had a long and distinguished career in the university setting as President of Dalhousie University in Halifax, serving for 18 years in that position.
Traves’s tenure as Dalhousie president followed a four-year term as Vice- President of the University of New Brunswick. But, if you read the CV of Tom Traves, you can understand how this came to be.
Tom was a graduate of the University of Manitoba with a B.A. ( Hons.) in 1970, followed by an M.A. from York in 1973, and a Ph.D., also from York, in 1976.
Tom began his teaching career at York (where he spent many years) in 1974 as a lecturer, then as an associate professor, from 1976 to 1991. From 1981 to 1983, Tom was the Chairman of the Division of Social Science at York. He was soon appointed, in 1983, as Dean of the Faculty of Arts, where he served until 1991. From York Tom moved to the University of New Brunswick, where he became both Vice President (Academic) and a Professor of History, from 1991 to 1995.
Then, in 1995, Traves was invited to be the President and Vice- Chancellor of Dalhousie University for a six year term. When that term ended, Tom was appointed again for another six year term. And still later, in 2007 – for yet a third term of three years. When that ended, he was renewed for another three year term. Would you not agree that Tom Traves and Dalhousie had a strong connection, to put it mildly? Just to lend credence to this statement, it was during the Tom Traves tenure that enrolment at Dalhousie grew by over forty percent and external research grants and contract income increased by over three hundred percent. Now, those are impressive statistics. Perhaps the most telling assessment of Traves during his time at Dalhousie is a comment made by a former member of the University’s Board of Governors, who noted that Traves had been at the centre of a fund raising campaign which raised over $250 million during his time at Dalhousie, the highest total in the history of the province. When asked about Traves and his successor, Richard Florizone, this board member called them both remarkable individuals: “I would hire them for my company in a minute, and they would make me money.”
To read through the list of books, articles and other credits of Tom Traves is more than the Jewish Post & News could put on its website, as it might overload the system. But for sure some of the highlights of his career (aside from all the boards he has sat on across New Brunswick and Nova Scotia), would be the awards and honours that have come his way. He was the recipient of an award not commonly given to Canadians: the Filosofie Hedersdocktor Honoris Causa, from Umea University in Sweden in 1997, and the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Commemorative Medal in 2000. Not to be forgotten was Tom’s inclusion on the list as one of the top 50 CEOs in Atlantic Canada in 2005, 2006 and 2007. There were so many other major awards, culminating in 2014 when he was appointed to the Order of Canada.
With all of that, Traves was still in demand when he retired and moved back to Toronto in 2016. He was asked to be the Interim President of Brock University in 2016 while that university sought out a long term person to fill that position. Once he completed that role, he semi-retired, taking on consulting activities over the last number of years.
How did a quiet unassuming boy, son of Sam and Marjorie Traves (Kay), brother to the late Nancy Traves, a product of West Kildonan, advance so far and so fast? Did he show signs of this kind of superior level of scholarship and leadership in his early days? Some might answer that it was his time spent at West Kildonan Collegiate that spurred him on to greater heights. Was it perhaps his days as an undergraduate at the University of Manitoba (from 1966-1970?) No one can say for sure, but the truth is that Traves had a speedy trajectory upward and even in retirement he has moved along at a decent clip. He is quite active these days, playing Bridge, golf, and now Pickleball. In large part, he and his wife Karen (Posner), my first cousin, (and that connection to the Posner family might be the real reason for his great success) have focused time and attention on their grandson Ben, son of his daughter Julie. There are also trips to the Washington D. C area, where his son Will and his wife live, along with his oldest grandson, Daniel.
In short, the Tom Traves story is just another Winnipeg success story – if the city wishes to lay claim to it: North End Jewish boy makes good in the east. The best part of the whole story is that, if you know Tom, or just met him, you would never have an inkling of his accomplishments, so unassuming is he. That is Tom Traves.

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