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Cancercare Manitoba Foundation Challenge for Life adapts to changed circumstances

Nancys Nightingales edited 1By MYRON LOVE

The 13th annual Cancercare Manitoba Foundation Challenge for Life 20KM walk (or 200-minute workout) has a new look this year – as a result of COVID 19 – with a smaller number of participants and lower expectations.

And, instead of thousands gathering on the second Saturday in June, participants this year are walking in small groups covering the same distance over a three-week period from August 1-20.
As usual though, several members of our Jewish community are making their presence felt.
Leading the way in more ways than one is Steven Kroft, who is both one of the leading individual fundraisers taking part in the Challenge for Life campaign and an active participant. (See related profile.)
This year, the top-ranked “Jewish” team is Nancy’s Nightingales with close to $16,000 as of August 13 – good for second place in the team rankings. This year, long time team members Connie Botelho, Joanne Katz, Harriet Lyons, Louise Raber, Heather Cram, and Susan Lipnowski were joined by second year member Rhonda Youell.
The“Nightingales” were named after a nurse – a cancer survivor – who is a friend of Louise Raber’s. They have been part of the Challenge for Life since the beginning.
“It is certainly a little more difficult this year because of the pandemic,” Raber says. “And we didn’t do the 20km in one day. Rather, we walked 10 km on August 14 and another 10 on the 15th.”
Cancercare Manitoba Foundation has reduced the minimum pledge for each walker to $250 rather than $1,000 this year in light of the current situation, she notes. Nonetheless, she expects that “Nancy Nightingales” will raise more money than ever before due to the larger number of team members this year.

Team Schvesters – also one of the original teams – is the only other team with a significant Jewish contingent among the top ten fundraising teams this year. The team was founded by the “Greenfeld girls”: Benji 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 and Deb, Kim Gray and Jody van de Vijsel. “While Les has not participated for the last few years, she continues to make very generous financial contributions,” Harvey says.
Benji, Deb and Kim all did a 15 km walk, 30 minute upper body core workout and 30 minute yoga stretch.
Jody is also having a garage and bake sale.
Team Schvesters raised just under $7,000.
“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 dynamos Serratus Superstars have also been walking in 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 $370,000.00 since 2008 – through donations, garage sales, concerts, and bake sales.
This year’s team makeup however is much reduced from previous years. Last year, there were 25 walkers under the Serratus Superstars banner. This year, the team numbers six – returnees Moser and her husband Jeff Itzkow, Sharon Goszer-Tritt, Harriet Zimmer and newcomers Bernie Rubinstein and Sheila Kercheff.
Moser, however, remains undaunted. Her own personal goal, she says, is to raise $2,000 and the team’s goal is $10,000. “We want to raise much more though,” she adds.
The bake sale has long been a part of Team Serratus’ fundraising efforts. This year, as reported in the last issue of the Jewish Post & News, Moser has made arrangements with Rachel Nedelec and Madi Spence from Flour and Flower to sell Moser’s popular almond roca, with proceeds from sales being donated to Cancercare. The chocolate almond toffee cost $10 a batch and delivery is free.
“They have already sold over 80 batches,” Moser says.

Retired Provincial Court Judge Rocky Pollack has also been a long time participant in the Challenge for Life. He knows first-hand the ravages of cancer, having lost his wife, Sharon, to the disease eight years ago.
(While Sharon fought cancer for a number of years, she was also a leader in community fundraising activities for Cancercare Manitoba. Rocky has taken up where Sharon left off to a degree. He currently serves as chair of Cancercare’s Community Connection Committee.)
This year, Pollack is captain of Team No Judgment, which includes 12 of his colleagues. “It was a little easier this year having 20 days to complete the challenge,” he notes. “Some of us walked while others also did aerobics, kayaking and other exercises.”
Team No Judgment raised just under $6,000 this year for cancer research.

Sister Act also has a smaller contingent this year. “It’s just me, my mother (Pearl Rosenberg) and my sister, Cindy (Yusim)” says Brenda Dahle.
Pearl Rosenberg, may well be – at 86 – the oldest participant. She has lost two daughters (and Dahle and Yusim, two sisters) to cancer within about a year of each other. Naomi Palansky passed away in 2010 and Michelle Moyer in 2011. Dahle notes that Naomi walked with her family in the first Challenge For Life Walk.
(Readers may aso 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 writes in an email. “I continue to take part in the 20 k walk with my mom and my sister, Cindy Yusim, in memory of our sisters Naomi Palansky and Michelle Moyer, whose love, strength, and courage continue to inspire us. Money raised will remain in Manitoba and will be used for research, clinic trials, and to support individuals and their families fighting cancer.
“With this being a virtual walk,” she continues, “we are being creative in reaching the goal. I have gone on two 6 k hikes and continue to walk 3 k on a daily basis. I also plan on joining my mom on her morning walks in Kildonan Park. I have been doing regular hikes as well as walking with my mother and Cindy.”

Dahle reports that Sister Act’s fundraising goal this year is lower than it has been in the past due to the coronavirus effect. “In the past, my fundraising goal was $1000.00,” she says. “This year, I only reached out once to my former donors, as everyone’s circumstances are different, and with the ongoing pandemic, didn’t want to offend or upset anyone. “
Dahle notes that donations are still accepted at .

Annual Kick Butt fundraiser also going virtual

participants in last year’s “Kick Butt” walk

As with the Challenge for Life and every other former group event, Kick Butt, the annual fundraiser which aims to raise awareness of colorectal cancer, has also gone the virtual route.
Sid Chapnick, Kick Butt’s founder, is once again taking charge of organizing the event – now in its 13th year.
Chapnick notes that colorectal cancer is one of the three most commonly diagnosed cancers among both men and women. He points out that all funds raised stay in Manitoba to support colorectal cancer research, genetic research for Lynch Syndrome, as well as to raise awareness and advocate for the needs of people who have colorectal cancer.
Participants are urged to wear boxer shorts, pajamas or bathing suits, with prizes for the best Butt Cover.
Since 2016, Denny’s Restaurants has been the main sponsor. Chapnick reports that this year, Denny’s is contributing a lump sum rather than a portion of proceeds from restaurant operations.
The event this year is scheduled for Saturday, September 12. In the past, the 3-5km walk has been held at Kildonan Park. Due to Covid, this year participants can walk anywhere.
Readers can sign on to the Cancercare Manitoba Foundation website to register for the event: www.cancercarefdn.mb.ca

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From Argentina to Winnipeg – creating opportunities in the IT sector for marginalized groups

By BERNIE BELLAN The following article about Pablo Listingart borrows heavily from articles written by Rebeca Kuropatwa in 2019 and 2021 for The Jewish Post & News. It is also based on a recent phone interview I conducted with Pablo, as well as material we received from a publicist.
Back in 2012, husband and wife, Pablo Listingart and Solange Flomin began seriously thinking about leaving Argentina.
This, explained Listingart, was “because of the political situation and other aspects [that] were degrading. We also wanted to have the experience of living in another country.”
So, the couple began traveling to explore other countries. They went to the U.S., but did not feel it was a good fit. Then, they went to several countries in Europe, but with a similar result.
Next up was Canada. “My wife had a cousin living in Vancouver and she spoke really highly about Canada,” said Listingart. “We started doing our research and sent emails to several Jewish communities. A couple answered, but communication with Winnipeg was more responsive.”
In October 2013 Listingart visited Winnipeg (while Flomin was pregnant with their first child). “After only two days, I fell in love with the city, the brown of the trees, how quiet it was,” said Listingart. “So, I called Sol and told her that this was the place.”
When Listingart returned to Argentina, he and Flomin started working on their application. The process took 10 months, as their son was born in the middle of the process.
The family made their move to Winnipeg in early March 2015.
Flomin and Listingart feel at home in Winnipeg. “We feel more Canadian than Argentinean, with cultures, values, and everything,” said Listingart. “That is the reason we are here, actually. We did not come for economic reasons. We didn’t feel that comfortable in terms of values and principles back there. Once I came here, I fell in love with the Canadian culture and values.”

Listingart had started up a charity in Argentina in 2011 that taught participants how to do software development. In Winnipeg, Flomin urged him to create the same kind of start up.
Today, Listingart’s charities, called Comunidad IT & ComIT, have operations in Latin America and Canada.
As an immigrant himself, Pablo explains that he started ComIT after immigrating from Argentina to Manitoba and seeing a gap in Canada’s education system. He noticed many individuals working survival jobs to help support their families, unable to get the training they wanted to better their positions.

In response, he developed a market-driven curriculum that he initially delivered to students by covering expenses himself. In 2016, Pablo Listingart became the founder and executive director of ComIT, a Canadian non-profit organization that offers free technology and professional skills training to unemployed and underemployed Canadians, with a focus on Indigenous, immigrants, visible minorities, and underserved communities. The charity aims to develop a community that links people struggling to overcome employment barriers with companies looking for skilled workers.
Women take up the majority of his enrolment. Many of them feel they can’t enter into a traditional program to enhance their educational skills due to barriers like limited access to funding, training locations, professional requirements, also family obligations, and lack of childcare. ComIT’s curriculum is designed to appeal to people who fall into that category by being free of charge, available online, and taught for only parts of the day.

Listingart and Flomin began running the charity together around raising their two kids.
“I had worked for several companies, like Microsoft, IBM, and others,” said Listingart. “Back in 2011, I thought about giving back to the community and society, and so I decided to start this charity. Those years back in Argentina were kind of busy and, with all the political issues over there, we decided to migrate here to Winnipeg.”
With the perpetually expanding operation of their growing charity, Listingart, as the charity’s executive director, was kept busy, and for the first few years of operating ComIT he even found time to build mobile applications and websites, but these days Listingart says that running ComIT takes up his full time.

ComIT in Canada began by running pilot programs in Winnipeg and in Kitchener-Waterloo. In Winnipeg, Listingart ran the classes with the support of ICTAM (now TechMB), and, in Kitchener-Waterloo, two of the main Canadian sponsors were Communitech and Google.
“That went really well, in terms of people getting jobs, so I kept doing it,” said Listingart. ComIT jumped from offering two courses to 22 courses per year – covering all the Canadian territory.
By 2023 Comunidad IT and ComIT had helped 4500 people find jobs (1200 in Canada). “Unfortunately,” Listingart explained, “people drop out for different reasons through the process, so we are not able to help everyone who joins the courses.” During our phone interview Listingart said that his charities have now trained over 6,500 students altogether.
“About 70 percent get jobs within six months of the training,” said Listingart. “We follow up with them, help them with their resumés…We have a free platform companies can access and see the resumés.”
Training is conducted in classrooms and online. “The impact is always bigger in person”, said Listingart. “We started developing content to be delivered online prior to the pandemic, mostly for Latin America, as a way to reach people we couldn’t physically reach, not having the funds to go to 15 countries, and then during the pandemic we developed even more content to continue running our training.”
While Listingart would love to be able to operate everywhere around the world, financially, that is not yet viable, but he was able to expand what he offers to all of Latin America and across Canada.

Listingart is no longer teaching in the program, due to a lack of time, though he does visit the classes when he is able. While only two years ago, ComIT was training 300 people a year in its courses in Canada, it has now grown to the point where 600 people a year are taking courses from ComIT.
As Listingart told me, “We actually doubled the number of students we had when I talked to Rebecca (in 2021). What happened, he explained, was “we were in the middle of the pandemic and we moved all the training online due to COVID. We are still running courses online, and that has allowed us to reach out to more people.”
“So nowadays we have students from Prince Edward Island to the Yukon,” Listingart added.
I asked Listingart where the funding for ComIT comes from?
He answered that most of it comes from the private sector, but a portion comes from a federal government agency known as PrairiesCan.
So, how exactly does ComIT conduct classes? I wondered.
Training is conducted by instructors in classrooms or online, where they reach their students via Zoom.
At ComIT, all training is provided free of charge. Trainees can hold a full-time job, while training in the evenings or mornings for only a couple of hours a day for three months.
While right now ComIT is conducting eight different classes, Listingart explained,\ – “with eight different instructors,” because “we run different topics along the year, it’s usually between 12 to 15 people that get involved in teaching courses.”
And what do students learn in those courses?
The program consists of three months of intensive instruction in various fields related to software programming.
“Most of the people that we train go on to be programmers,” Listingart said, adding that the majority of our graduates become software developers or website designers,” adding that “some are working in cybersecurity or other hardware related fields.”
The minimum age to register for a ComIT program is only 18 and there is no prerequisite level of education required.
While a good many of ComIT students are immigrants who may lack the kind of English language skills necessary to be hired by many employers, ComIT also has many Indigenous students as well as non-indigenous Canadians who are struggling.
Still, as Listingart says, students in the program have to be able to communicate. They “don’t need perfect English,” he adds, “they don’t even need a mid-level English,” but they do need “some basic communication skills.”
But it’s not simply a matter of someone applying to take ComIT courses and being automatically accepted, Listingart explained.
“We ask them (prospective students) a lot of questions,” he said. “We ask them what their goals are, like, if they are pursuing a career in IT or if they are interested in that… many things to gauge their interest. Those conversations help us understand whether these people can communicate with others.”
When it comes to finding jobs for graduates of the ComIT program, Listingart says that he and other members of his team meet with local employers who are looking for IT talent and discuss their exact needs within the industry.”
“We train them in what companies need right now,” said Listingart. “So, let’s say I go to Saskatoon and I talk to 10 or 15 companies over there…about 70 percent get jobs within six months of the training,” he noted. “We follow up with them, help them with their resumés…We have a free platform companies can access and see the resumés.”
Skip the Dishes, for instance, was on the fence for a very short time. They hired five out of seven ComIT trainees almost on the spot after they were interviewed – and soon after, the company became one of the charity’s local sponsors. To date, Skip the Dishes has hired 55 ComIT-trained students.
“My goal, so to speak…is to give opportunity to people who can’t afford other types of training and give them a first chance,” said Listingart. “We mention this at the beginning of every course. They only have one chance with us. We don’t give second chances. If they drop out for any reason, regret it, and want to come back, they can’t. I have hundreds of people on the waiting list to take courses. For me, this is a way to teach the value of work and, while doing it, you have the chance to work a job that pays well, that you can grow and learn…And, it’s not just for nerds, it’s creative work.
“My goal also has been to make the biggest impact that I can and …I’m happy with the results.”
If you are an employer interested in finding out more about ComIT or you know someone who might benefit by taking the program, visit

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Honest Reporting Canada’s Mike Fegelman delivers Kanee Lecture

Honest Reporting Canada executive director Mike Fegelman (Keith Levit photo)

By BERNIE BELLAN Mike Fegelman is the executive director and editor-in-chief of Honest Reporting Canada. Honest Reporting was founded in 2000 in the United Kingdom. It describes its mission as “to ensure truth, integrity and fairness, and to combat ideological prejudice in journalism and the media, as it impacts Israel to ensure truth, integrity and fairness, and to combat ideological prejudice in journalism and the media, as it impacts Israel.”
On Sunday, April 7, Fegelman was the keynote speaker at the Jewish Heritage Centre of Western Canada’s annual Sol & Florence Kanee Distinguished Lecture Series.
Fegelman told the audience of about 250 at the Adas Yeshurun-Herzlia Synagogue that, before he was hired as Honest Reporting Canada’s executive director, “I knew nothing about Israel. I was hired because I was objective.”
Honest Reporting Canada “monitors news media 24 hours a day,” Fegelman said. With only a staff of six (including Fegelman), he said that they field on average 600-700 inquiries a day about alleged instances of media bias within Canadian media.
When HRC sees instances of what it perceives to be instances of unfair or biased reporting about Israel, it attempts to contact the journalist responsible for that “misinformation” or, as was the case with a particularly odious cartoon in La Presse of Israel Prime Minister Netanyahu depicted as a vampire, the paper itself was contacted and asked to issue a retraction of that cartoon and apology. (The cartoon has since been removed from La Presse’s website and La Presse did issue an apology.)

While Honest Reporting Canada might make the claim that its mission is to monitor news media in Canada for bias toward Israel and what it would regard as “unfair reporting,” however, after listening to Fegelman’s 45-minute talk – and especially to some of the responses he gave to questions from the audience following his talk, one might question the degree to which he himself is as “objective” as he claimed to be.
One particular subject was mentioned several times: the reporting by the Gaza Health Ministry on how many Palestinians have been killed in Gaza since Israel launched its retaliatory war following the Hamas-led massacre of 240 Israelis on October 7.
At one point Fegelman said that “we have to point out the fact Hamas provides no evidence to corroborate their claims (as to how many Palestinians have been killed). Media should at least acknowledge Israel’s claim that 15,000 of those killed are terrorists.”
Various reports, however, have cited Israeli intelligence officials as confirming that the Israel Defence Forces actually accept the Gaza Health Ministry’s figures for the number of casualties in the ongoing conflict. For instance, there was this report about what was reported on a Hebrew-language website in Israel: “Two Israeli intelligence officials who spoke to the Hebrew-language Local Call news website said the health ministry is mostly ‘reliable’ and their main source of statistics on civilian deaths in Gaza.”
Fegelman said that when it is reported that “33,000 Palestinians have been killed,” as reported by the “Gaza Health Ministry,” that health ministry “doesn’t distinguish between civilians and combatants.” Further, Fegelman asked: “Are some of the children killed actually child soldiers?” The problem is, absent any verifiable information from the IDF on this point, how do we know?
The problem, moreover, which Fegelman didn’t address, is absent any contradictory information coming from Israeli sources themselves about civilian deaths, what are media supposed to report?
So, when a questioner later said to Fegelman, “All people see on TV is dead babies. Can you give us some language to use in response?” Fegelman admitted “there isn’t an easy answer for the things Israel has had to do.”

My bringing this up is not to begin engaging in a series of “fact checks” on what Fegelman said during his talk. Rather, it is to show that “bias” and “unfair reporting” is something that can be continually argued – and perhaps by entering into a dissection of every instance of what Honest Reporting Canada might regard as anti-Israel bias, Fegelman – and the audience members who so strongly applauded his remarks, are all missing the larger picture, which is that Israel has, and is taking a terrible beating in world public opinion – not because of bias or distorted reporting, but because of the huge losses in both lives and property that Palestinians in Gaza have suffered – and the images that are there for the entire world to see.

One might argue that Israel had no choice: It had to deal such a severe blow to Hamas that the amount of destruction that has occurred in Gaza is justified, but to argue that “the war for public opinion is no less important than the war on the ground,” as Fegelman suggested at one point – well Mike, if that’s the case, then Israel has lost that war. The more honest assessment would be that, in an existential battle for survival, which is what some would argue is a fair description of the war in which Israel is currently engaged, then public opinion matters very little to Israeli decision makers.

Before entering into a more detailed description of what Fegelman had to say, I have to enter a particular objection toward what both he and several audience members had to say about the supposed “anti-Israel bias” exhibited by the Winnipeg Free Press. This subject has become one that has been raised quite a bit over the past few months within certain circles within the local Jewish community – especially after a controversial column by Jen Zoratti.
But, to say, as Fegelman did, that “the Free Press has an anti-Israel narrative on its op ed pages” – without providing any specific examples to warrant that accusation, is nothing more than an instance of Fegelman engaging in the kind of bias that Honest Reporting Canada accuses Canadian media outlets of exhibiting when it comes to reporting on Israel.

Still, in the interest of attempting to give readers the flavour of Fegelman’s talk, I will offer some of the remarks he made without entering into any further discussion whether what he had to say had merit.
Fegelman began by claiming that “media commentators are often parroting Hamas and are, in effect, becoming stenographers for this group.” He suggested we “need to challenge misinformation and disinformation.”
While Honest Reporting may have originated in the United Kingdom in 2000, “its genesis (in Canada) was just a few blocks away,” Fegelman explained. “We were founded (in Canada) by the late Izzy Asper,” he noted.
With specific reference to the Toronto Star, Fegelman suggested we have seen instances “of Canada’s largest paper calling for Israel’s annihilation” on its editorial pages by advocating for a one-state solution.

In reporting on the current Gaza war, Fegelman argued, “it’s increasingly difficult to tell who is the arsonist and who is the fire fighter?”
‘The media want to run with the most sensational story,” he said, “but part of our mandate is to educate journalists.”
“The sympathy for Israel following the October 7 massacre lasted all but a few minutes,” he suggested.
“This is a war between barbarism and civilization,” Fegelman said.
He referred to a famous remark made by Golda Meir with reference to the Yom Kippur War in 1973: “The world hates us when a Jew lashes out. The world loves us only when we are to be pitied.”
“The world is horribly indifferent to Jewish blood being spilled,” Fegelman observed.

We are making sure that when there are those who seek to libel the Jewish people, we have to fight back,” Fegelman said, “but knowing how to challenge disinformation is enormously difficult.”
Still, he argued, “We cannot let our opposition have a monopoly on discourse.”
“The war for public opinion is no less important than the war on the ground. If we lose, Israel will go down as the perceived villain.”
When it comes to civilian casualties, however, Fegelman claimed that “Israel deplores each and every innocent life that is taken.”
Saying that, in some ways, “Hamas is worse than ISIS,” Fegelman argued that “when hate becomes normalized, it becomes weaponized….We are in a genocidal propaganda war the likes of which we have never seen….Too many media outlets, whether it’s out of malice or of ignorance, have been spreading misinformation.”
When it comes to fighting back though, Fegelman argued, “We are not just passive victims – but like a muscle, if you do not use it, it becomes atrophied.”

Turning to the subject of social media, Fegelman observed that “Yesterday’s bigots used to be on the margins of mainstream social media; now they’re in the mainstream.”
“We cannot be afraid to tell the world what Hamas’s raison d’etre is – which is to seek an Islamic caliphate.”
But, what then “is the answer to media bias?” Fegelman asked. “We cannot rely on the old playbook,” he said.
Instead, he proposed five pillars of action:

  1. “We cannot project fear. We have to project resilience and instil Jewish pride.”
  2. “We must demand that we procure consistency” (from our elected representatives). Fegelman referred specifically to the recent resolution passed in the House of Commons when, among other things, Members of Parliament voted to restore funding to UNWRA.
  3. “We must demand that people speak up and speak out” against media when the media demonstrate indefensible behaviour. As an example, Fegelman pointed to the photograph of Hamas victim Shani Louk’s badly mutilated body in the back of a Hamas truck, which won a prestigious photography award. (It should be pointed out that Shani’s own father defended the photo as a “symbol” of an era.)
  4. “We have to make an alternative view impossible to ignore.”
  5. “We must avoid self-imposed limitations on our advocacy. We must not only project strength, we must possess it, too.”

As a result of “the obsessive magnifying glass being put on Israel,” Fegelman suggested, “terrorism is being accepted as a legitimate means of statecraft.”

Although many Jews may be in a state of despair these days, Fegelman told this story to illustrate how Israel has endured bleak situations before: When President Biden was a senator, he had occasion to visit Israel shortly before the Yom Kippur War, when he met with then-Prime Minister Golda Meir. After being shown maps which showed how precarious Israel’s security situation was, apparently Biden’s face showed how worried he was.
“Don’t look so worried,” Golda told Biden. “We have a secret weapon: We have no place else to go.”

In describing what Honest Reporting Canada has been able to accomplish, Fegelman said, “We have 60,000 subscribers.” (To subscribe to HRC’s reports, simply go to its website at https://honestreporting.ca and click on the “subscribe” button.) “We all have the power of agency,” he added.
“We may not see the elimination of antisemitism in our lifetimes,” he said, “but we have to push it to the margins.”
“If not now, when? The answer is now.”

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Did Israel make a mistake by invading Gaza?

By BERNIE BELLAN While the war in Gaza remains top of mind for almost everyone within the Jewish community, there is a disconnect between what is happening in Israel and how many in our community are reacting.
The impression I have is that much of the established Jewish community is in a constant defensive posture – continually reacting to what is perceived to be an unfair piling-on on Israel. Thus, when the House of Commons debated a resolution calling for a ceasefire in Gaza several weeks ago and a restoration of funding to UNWRA (along with a call to recognize a Palestinian state – which was removed from the resolution), voices from within the usual Jewish establishment circles, including CIJA and B’nai Brith, along with Jewish federations across the country, were quick to react negatively toward that resolution (which, by the way, had no practical effect).
And then, there has been the continued exchange of letters to the editor of the Winnipeg Free Press, with individuals ostensibly representing our community writing in response to other letters that are deemed to constitute unfair criticism of Israel. (My advice is not to react to letters to the editor by writing letters in response to something with which you disagree. It just leads to more letters from the other side.)
This past week, however, we witnessed what, to this point, is the worst blow to Israel’s image that has happened during what are now the five months of war in Gaza, when an Israeli missile (or a projective fired from a drone – it’s not clear what happened) killed seven workers who had been delivering food aid to Palestinians.
Is that the tipping point in this war? It might be too soon to know, but President Biden has to be wondering what can he possibly do to force Israel into accepting a cease fire? I know that many would argue that a cease fire will only give Hamas a victory, but the alternative is for Israel to be engaged in a prolonged and ever more dangerous war, not only with Hamas, but Hezbollah as well.
As I scour media around the world for insights into what is likely to happen in the coming days, the consensus is that Bibi Netanyahu wants the war to continue for his own selfish reasons: It will allow him to remain in power in Israel. A major part of his strategy is to point to his defiance of the US and say to Israelis that “we won’t be bullied by anyone.”
I had written shortly after October 7 that Israel was entering into a prolonged war similar to what the Iraqis, along with their Kurdish and American allies, had entered into during a nine-month campaign to remove ISIS from Mosul in 2017. I quoted from various military experts at the time who warned of the dangers of a total ground invasion of Gaza – how it would bog Israel down and inevitably lead to Israel having to reoccupy Gaza, but without achieving its ultimate goal of eradicating Hamas.
Those warnings have proven true. What Israel should do is withdraw from Gaza, yet continue to target Hamas’s leadership. It’s quite interesting that, in any talk of a ceasefire Hamas has apparently backed down on demands for the release of large numbers of Palestinian prisoners held within Israeli prisons, but has held firm on its demand that Israel promise not to target its leaders. That, more than anything, says what Hamas is really all about.
In the meantime, back here in Winnipeg, there isn’t any sort of open discussion within the organized Jewish community about how badly Israel’s image has suffered. Instead we’re called upon to show full support for Israel. Yet, as much as we might want to distinguish between support for the people of Israel, which most of us want to give, and support for what Israel is doing in Gaza, many of us are torn.
If only there were some way for our established Jewish organizations, especially the Jewish Federation, to allow for an open airing of the critical views of Israel that many of us hold – which may not be palatable to many others to hear. The alternative is to pretend that our Jewish community is unified (which it isn’t) and alienate even further, members of the community who feel disaffected by the entrenched preoccupation within established Jewish circles to defend Israel against what is perceived to be unfair criticism.

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