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Congregation Etz Chayim’s new program director very happy to be living in Winnipeg

Monica Neiman

By MYRON LOVE Monica Neiman, Congregation Etz Chayim’s new Program and Engagement Director, comes to her new role with impressive credentials.  For the past seven years – up until she landed here in June – she served seven years at her home congregation –Temple De Hirsch Sinai in Seattle, Washington – as Assistant Director of the congregation’s religion school.

With about 1600 member families, she notes, Temple De Hirsch Sinai is the largest Reform Congregation for the Pacific Northwest in the United States.  The K-12th Grade religion school has an enrollment of approximately 350 students divided between two campuses.
(Monica notes that Seattle has a Jewish population of about 70,000.)

Her duties included developing the Judaica curriculum and programming for students and families, supervising and creating professional development for the teachers,
coordinating logistics for large school events and programs involving both campuses; organizing the transition to online learning at the start of the COVID-19 Pandemic program; involvement in school budget decisions: teacher hiring and monthly payroll submissions and involvement in student and new family registration.              

So, what led Neiman to leave her family, community and dream job and move halfway across the continent to our fair city? The answer is “love”.

In early 2019, Neiman was in the midst of spring break – one quarter away from finishing her first year of graduate school at University of Washington – when she connected through a Jewish Dating App called JSwipe with Javier Gore, a recent immigrant to Winnipeg from Argentina. 
Initially, Neiman recalls, she assumed that Gore was living in Seattle but, in fact, the former University of Winnipeg HR student was only in Seattle to visit a cousin.  Although Neiman was skeptical about the prospect of a long-distance relationship, her new suitor persuaded her to exchange numbers and they started texting. After a week, they arranged to begin meeting via FaceTime and liked what they saw.

In June, 2019, Gore flew to Seattle to meet Monica in person and things progressed from there in a positive direction. In January, Neiman came to Winnipeg to marry Gore in a civil ceremony – a traditional Jewish family wedding is scheduled for next summer – and she began the six-month process of becoming a landed immigrant through spousal sponsorship.
She officially arrived in Canada on August 15 and started in her new position at Etz Chayim on September 20. 
“I learned about this opening at Etz Chayim,” she says, “from Lori Binder (Gray Academy of Jewish Education Head of School and CEO) who is a very good friend of Tracy Kasner (Etz Chayim’s cantor).  With my background, it seemed to be a good fit.”

In her new role, Neiman will be organizing and co-ordinating programming that encompasses adults and children and families.  “We are working on bringing back a modified, in-person Chanukah dinner and other Yom Tov celebrations throughout the year,” she reports.  “We are also planning some new educational series every couple of months.  In November, for example, we will be starting our next Beit Chayim online education series with a Talmud scholar and, starting during Holocaust Education Week, we will also be offering a three-part series focusing on Jewish art during and after the Holocaust.’

She says of her new home city that she is enjoying the slower pace of life.  “I have told my husband that I feel more relaxed and calmer here,” she observes.  “The vibe here reminds of what life used to be like in Seattle when I was growing up.  I appreciate that people in the neighbourhood still say “good morning” to you.”
Socially, she notes that she and her husband have many friends among Winnipeg’s Argentinian Jewish community.
“We also enjoy outdoor activities,“ she says of herself and her husband, such as picnics at Assiniboine Park and hikes.”
She is also looking forward to visiting our city’s museums, taking in some Jets games and signing up for art classes.
Monica adds that she and Javier are both foodies and enjoy cooking together and trying out different restaurants.
And, while neither has any family here – her parents and siblings are all in Seattle while his parents are in Argentina and he has a sister in Miami – there is always Zoom and other online means of face to face communications.
Then, of course, there is a wedding to prepare for – by which time it is to be hoped that most Covid restrictions will have been lifted.

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Jewish Foundation about to surpass the $100 million mark in total grants distributed since its inception 60 years ago

By BERNIE BELLAN The Jewish Foundation of Manitoba had a very successful year in 2023, with almost $7 million distributed in grants. And, sometime in 2024 the Foundation will have distributed its 100 millionth dollar since its inception in 1964.
Those were two of the take aways from the Foundation’s 2023 Annual Report, which was released on Monday, June 17, also the same day as the Foundation’s Annual General Meeting.

Other highlights of the Annual Report:
The Foundation now has 4500 different funds under its management.
In 2023 the Foundation received $5.8 million in contributions. It now has over $160 million in assets under its management, an increase of $13.5 million from 2022.
A large part of the growth in the Foundation’s assets was attributable to its investment portfolio showing a growth of 12.3% in 2023 (net of fees).
The Foundation also changed the manner in which it distributes funds to grant recipients. In his report Foundation CFO Ian Barnes noted that “grant disbursements (now) occur prior to the commencement of a particular project, rather than the previous method of disbursing only after the project is complete and invoices submitted. Trust agreements are entered into with each recipient, and project invoices must be submitted upon project completion. This philosophy provides the recipient with a more appropriate cash flow over the project’s life.”
As well, Barnes wrote that “the Foundation is committed to increasing its annual distribution rate to 5.0% over the next few years (currently 4.4%). This will put more dollars into the community sooner rather than later, which is a priority for the Board.”
Of the almost $7 million in grants given by the Foundation, $5,532,147 were in the form of designated grants, while $1,453,215 were decided by the Foundation’s Grants Committee.
In their own joint message, Foundation Chair Bonnie Cham and Foundation CEO John Diamond wrote that “The Foundation had a terrific year, seeing 66 new funds opened, awarding scholarships to 63 students, and distributing $6.98 million in grants. Just as we have done since1964, we maintained the stable framework our community knows it can rely upon.”

Of the designated fund recipients the largest grants given were:
Combined Jewish Appeal – $812,815
Saul & Claribel Simkin Centre – $600,714
Jewish Federation of Winnipeg – $560,929
Jewish Child & Family Service – $509,286
Gray Academy of Jewish Education – $455,638
Asper Jewish Community Campus – $454,082
Jewish National Fund – $363,688
Rady JCC – $143,477
Jewish Heritage Centre of Western Canada – $129,420

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Who was Saul Feldman and why did he leave $2.6 million to the Jewish Foundation?

By BERNIE BELLAN Each year that the Jewish Foundation releases its Annual Report, I scan the report looking for unusual items. During the course of my scanning the Foundation’s 2023 Annual Report – as I was looking for names of new funds, one name jumped off the page for me: Saul Feldman – whose estate gave $2.6 million to the Foundation in 2023.
Who was Saul Feldman, I wondered – and why hadn’t the Foundation made any sort of an announcement that it had received such a huge gift in 2023?
I contacted Drew Unger, Director of Marketing & Communications for the Foundation to ask whether he could shed any light as to who Saul Feldman was – and why had the Foundation not publicized such a huge gift?
Drew replied: “It is a fantastic gift that is going to benefit the community greatly!
“As you know, we are very cognizant of donors’ wishes regarding the recognition and publicity of their gifts, and that is the process we are currently engaged in.
“We hope to feature the gift in the future, but we are still doing our own due diligence on Mr. Feldman.”

In a subsequent conversation that I had with Drew, he explained that the Foundation actually knew very little about Mr. Feldman. I asked whether he would mind if I did my own digging, as a gift of this size – coming totally out of the blue – reminded me of several similar gifts that had been made in the past to Winnipeg Jewish organizations. In 2020, for instance, I had reported on a gift of $725,000 made to the Simkin Centre by the estate of Myer and Corrine Geller – who had lived in San Diego. After a fair bit of investigation I discovered that Myer Geller must have had a mother who lived in what was then the Sharon Home for a time.

In 2015 the Gwen Secter Centre itself was saved from having its building sold by the then-owner, the National Council of Jewish Women, when an anonymous “angel” stepped forward with a gift of over $900,000. I was able to find out the name of that donor, but as that person had wished to remain anonymous, I never reported their name.
But the case of Mr. Feldman is quite different. Here we have an individual allocating a huge amount of money to the Jewish Foundation, but without any apparent reason why he decided to do that.
I was able to find his name in an old Henderson’s Directory, which I’ve held on to for years. Mr. Feldman lived at 400 Enniskillen Avenue. There were two others living there in 1993, along with Saul Feldman: His mother Rae and his brother Jack.
I also found a reference to Mr. Feldman in a 1946 Jewish Post, where it was noted that he had graduated as an electrical engineer from the University of Manitoba that year.
A search of the Jewish Heritage Centre archives showed that Mr. Feldman died in March 2023.

Through a search of the Manitoba online court registry I was able to find that Mr. Feldman’s estate had been probated in April 2023 and the name of the lawyer who had handled the estate was given. It was a name well know to me, so I contacted Mr. Feldman’s lawyer and asked him whether he could give me the name of Mr. Feldman’s executor? The lawyer said he would get back to me, but rather than wait for his answer, I decided to head down to the Law Courts to ask to see Mr. Feldman’s will. (As a matter of interest, anyone is allowed to see anyone’s will, but you have to attend in person at the Law Courts to see a will.)
I discovered, upon reading Mr. Feldman’s will, that I knew his executor, and I was able to find a phone number for him in an old 2010 phone book I’ve kept. (I was surprised the number was still active and the voice message indicated that the person I was trying to reach still used that number.) I left a message, saying I was trying to find out anything I could about Saul Feldman – and perhaps what had prompted him to leave his entire considerable estate to the Jewish Foundation?

Mr. Feldman’s executor was good enough to call me back the next day and he told me quite a bit about Mr. Feldman.
Apparently Mr. Feldman had worked for Winnipeg Hydro for years. He was “very intelligent,” I was further told and, at his funeral (which is available to watch on Youtube), it was noted that he had participated in the building of the Alaska Highway.
Mr. Feldman never married and had lived with his parents and a brother in the Enniskillen home for many years. Mr. Feldman was a very quiet man, I was told, who took care of his elderly parents for years, also his brother, who was very sick.
Mr. Feldman had another brother, who had moved to Toronto, and that brother was designated as Mr. Feldman’s beneficiary, with the provision that were Mr. Feldman’s brother to predecease him, his entire estate was to go to the Jewish Foundation.
As it was, Mr. Feldman’s other brother did pass on – and Saul Feldman lived to be 99. According to his executor, his final years were spent at the Shaftesbury Park Retirement Residence. The only organization to which he belonged, I was also told, was the Reh-Fit Centre on Taylor. (Apparently he was an original member of the Reh-Fit.)
He had very few friends, I was also told, but his closest friend had been the father of his executor – which explains how this individual came to be appointed executor.
From what I could see in the will, all of Mr. Feldman’s holdings were held in accounts at TD Bank and RBC.
He had led quite a frugal life,”who gave no thought to his own life…who never spent that much energy on himself,” it was said at his funeral (by the brother of the executor).

I suppose it’s not hard to imagine why an individual such as Mr. Feldman, who apparently had no other living relatives, would donate his considerable estate to an organization such as the Jewish Foundation. With over 4500 funds now in place at the Foundation, it has certainly established a very high profile within not only the Jewish community but the community at large as well..
When I contacted Drew Unger to inquire about Mr. Feldman I said that one of the reasons I wanted to single him out for attention was to inspire other people – who might be in similar circumstances as was Mr. Feldman, i.e., no apparent beneficiaries, to consider making the Jewish Foundation their beneficiary.
It would be interesting if anyone reading this who knew Mr. Feldman might want to contact me. As I’ve noted, the Jewish Foundation would like to honour his memory, but other than the information provided here, they don’t have much to go on.

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“Anti-Zionist” Jews Disgrace Themselves

By HENRY SREBRNIK Is so-called “anti-Zionism” antisemitic? It was not always so. Prior to the Holocaust and the creation of a Jewish state, many Jews did consider Zionism – a return to the Land of Israel — unworkable, unnecessary, even wrong-headed. In the United States, prior to the Holocaust, Reform Jews in the American Council for Judaism were committed to the proposition that Jews are not a national but a religious group. Jewish socialists and others on the political left, including the influential Jewish Labour Bund, were opposed to what they thought was an ideological “bourgeois” error.

But these were internal debates in the Diaspora, and in any case most non-Jewish people had little say about them — if they even bothered to pay any attention to these internal arguments within Jewish circles. Nor, obviously, did those politically against the Zionist movement ally with pogromists who slaughtered Jews.

All of that is history, really part of a vanished Jewish world. Yes, there are remnants of that past, in sectors of the haredi world. The Satmar Hasidim are the most visible. They are theologically committed to a reading of Jewish history that considers that the recreation of a Jewish nation must await the Messiah. They are “anti-Zionists” in the legitimate sense of the word, but no one thinks they want to kill the Jews in Israel or elsewhere.

That’s a different matter than today’s Jewish anti-Zionists, who are largely uninformed about Judaism, Jewish history and culture. They are a fringe group, allied with states and ideologies that want to eliminate the existing Jewish state of Israel and perhaps even murder most of its Jewish population and expel the remainder. Today’s version has more to do with pre-war German Nazi eliminationism than with long-forgotten intra-Jewish disputes.

Assimilated into left-wing movements and doctrines, these Jews are in most cases little more than Jews through genealogy, “Jews in name only,” making political use of that on behalf of those wishing to destroy Israel. Their “anti-Zionism” is part of the larger antisemitic movements arrayed against us, and they serve, to use a well-known term, “useful idiots.” They make use of general slogans, identity politics and symbolic statements like wearing a keffiyeh, with minimal complexity and knowledge. 

They are producing vast amounts of simplistic one-sided literature and media. One example is the film “Israelism,” the story of two young American Jews “raised to defend the state of Israel at all costs” who “join the movement battling the old guard over Israel’s centrality in American Judaism, and demanding freedom for the Palestinian people.” Call them “Jewish shields” for the pro-Palestinian left that is glorifying the post-October 7 pogrom by Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

“Antisemitism in Canada and abroad is primarily presenting itself through the prism of anti-Zionism, which, in my opinion, is the most pervasive form of antisemitism, and the most perverse in a number of ways,” remarked Casey Babb, a senior fellow with the Macdonald-Laurier Institute and the Institute for National Security Studies. I guess our Jewish “anti-Zionists,” wilfully blinded by the company they keep,  refuse to see what’s in front of our eyes.

Fortunately, here in Canada, despite the noise they make, such anti-Zionist Jews are a tiny and marginalized group. Professor Robert Brym of the Department of Sociology at the University of Toronto and probably Canada’s most eminent Jewish academic, on May 30 released an addition to his lengthy “Jews and Israel Survey 2024” published in the spring 2024 issue of the journal Canadian Jewish Studies.

To his question “Do you believe Israel has the right to exist as a Jewish state?” 91 per cent of his Canadian Jewish respondents answered in the affirmative, six per cent said they don’t know, and only three percent said no.

We know the difference between legitimate criticism of Israel and antisemitism. The belief that the Jews, alone among the people of the world, do not have a right to self-determination, or that the Jewish people’s religious and historical connection to Israel is invalid, is inherently bigoted. When Jews are verbally or physically harassed or Jewish institutions and houses of worship are vandalized in response to actions of the State of Israel, it is antisemitism. 

Expressions of anti-Zionism include downplaying or negating the historic and spiritual Jewish connection to the land of Israel, and the insistence on holding Israel to unreasonable standards when viewing its response to threats in comparison to the actions of other members of the international community.

Now many of these Jewish anti-Zionists don’t necessarily agree with everything listed above. But by associating and collaborating with those who do, they are at the very least, to use an old-fashioned phrase, “fellow travellers” allied to these antisemitic movements. And they can be paraded before the media as Jews who have seen the evil that Israel causes. What better evidence?

Some of Canada’s most disruptive actions and blockades have been coordinated by groups with U.S. funding and organizational links. For example, the Tides Foundation, a San Francisco-based “social justice” non-profit has supported Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) and IfNotNow, among others, in the United States. Both have been perennial organizers of anti-Israel rallies and blockades.

The Canadian affiliate of JVP, Independent Jewish Voices Canada, calls itself a “grassroots organization in Canada grounded in Jewish tradition that opposes all forms of racism & advocates for justice and peace for all in Palestine-Israel.” It calls Zionism “the political ideology that has provided the basis for Israel’s settler-colonial project and unfolding genocide in Palestine.” 

They are indeed “useful,” and antisemites know it. On May 27, for instance, a representative was on Parliament Hill holding a press conference insisting that the country’s network of pro-intifada campus encampments was not antisemitic.

On June 10 the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC), one of Canada’s largest public sector unions, which is actively engaged in Pro-Palestinian activities, held a discussion “Addressing Islamophobia and antisemitism in the Workplace.” Of course no Jew supporting Israel was invited, not even Deborah Lyons, Canada’s Special Envoy on Holocaust Remembrance and Combating Antisemitism, and a former ambassador to Israel. 

The panelists were Amira Elghawaby, Canada’s Special Representative on Combatting Islamophobia, and, on the Jewish side, Avi Lewis, a former Al Jazeera correspondent and now an associate professor of “social and political change” at the University of British Columbia (UBC). 

However, Lewis, scion of a prominent family that has been for decades active in the New Democratic Party – grandfather David led the federal NDP and father Stephen was head of the Ontario party — is an active “anti-Zionist,” a member of the anti-Zionist Independent Jewish Voices Canada, and a co-founder of the UBC chapter of the Jewish Faculty Network.

Richard Marceau, vice president of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, said the union’s efforts at doing something about antisemitism were disappointing.

“Inviting someone like Avi Lewis — who is not an expert on antisemitism, who is a marginal figure in the Jewish community and who is viciously opposed to Israel — to train union members on antisemitism shows how unserious PSAC is about combatting Jew-hatred,” he stated.

Yes, Jews can be Jew-haters too. (The term “self-hating Jew” is silly; they hate other Jews, not themselves.) Such Jews now face anti-Israel sentiment of unprecedented ferocity, often couched in the language of social justice, critical race theory, and so-called intersectionality. It is sustained by the hegemonic hold of a theory of “settler colonialism,” now ubiquitous in Canada’s universities, and one which deems Israel an illegitimate colonial settler state. 

And Palestinian academics known how to use this terminology to make their case. Typical is an article by Joseph Massad, a professor of modern Arab politics and intellectual history at Columbia University, New York. In a May 30 oped, “Instead of Recognizing ‘Palestine,’ Countries Should Withdraw Recognition of Israel,” published on the website Middle East Eye, he uses all the correct buzzwords, referring to “Israel’s illegality as an institutionally Jewish supremacist racist state.” He considers the very establishment of this “settler-colonialist” state “an illegal act and in violation of the very UN resolutions that proposed its establishment.” 

Massad therefore advocates the “dismantlement of Israel’s racist structures and laws” in favour of “one decolonised state, from the river to the sea, in which everyone living within it is equal before the law and does not benefit from any racial, ethnic, or religious privileges.” Only the end of the Israeli “settler-colonial state” will lead to a “decolonised anti-racist and democratic outcome.”

Massad’s analysis and prescription is the true bedrock Palestinian position, as presented for western ears. (Hamas’ creed is a different matter.) The theoretical construct behind it is one that fits completely within today’s liberal-progressive ideology espoused by the intellectual elites in western countries now. The “anti-Zionist” Jews reading them usually know far less about what the Jewish people have gone through historically. This makes them easy prey for our enemies. 

Natan Sharansky, currently Chair of the Institute for the Study of Global Antisemitism and Policy (ISGAP), and McGill University history professor Gil Troy, in a June 16, 2021 Tablet article entitled “The Un-Jews,” asserted that these people “are trying to disentangle Judaism from Jewish nationalism, the sense of Jewish peoplehood.” And the voices of these “inflamed Jewish opponents of Israel and Zionism are in turn amplified by a militant progressive superstructure that now has an ideological lock on the discourse in American academia, publishing, media, and the professions.”

We hear it from progressives like the author Naomi Klein, who is professor of Climate Justice at the University of British Columbia (and married to Avi Lewis). Klein’s Passover message in the April 24 British Guardian newspaper was headlined “We Need an Exodus from Zionism.”  She told readers that “we don’t need or want the false idol of Zionism. We want freedom from the project that commits genocide in our name.”

For Klein, Zionism “takes our most profound biblical stories of justice and emancipation from slavery– the story of Passover itself — and turns them into brutalist weapons of colonial land theft, roadmaps for ethnic cleansing and genocide.”  The creation of the State of Israel, and the entire Zionist movement, was a ghastly mistake and Jewish life is best led in exile. 

“Arguing for the purity of exile and powerlessness, and demanding abandonment of the now-impure Jewish State,” Elliott Abrams, currently a senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, observes sadly that “we have indeed been watching the young American Jews who helped build those campus tent cities and joined the denunciations of the Jewish State.” 

In “American Jewish Anti-Zionist Diasporism: A Critique,” in the May 2024 issue of the British periodical Fathom, he sees them following the lead of “the hundreds of Jewish professors who wish to proclaim their virtue by lining up against the Jewish State.”

Finally, there are the many Jews like Rabbi Elchanan Poupko, the president of EITAN–the American Israeli Jewish Network, whose anger at anti-Zionists is palpable. In “Anti-Zionist Jews, Have You Seen the Mirror?” a blog published on the Times of Israel website, May 28, 2024, he points out their hypocrisy. 

“The people who were angry at Birthright for taking them on a free, all-expenses paid trip to Israel without taking them to Gaza, Ramallah, and Sheikh Jarrah were somehow unable to utter the words Kibbutz Be’eri, Sderot, Metula, Kiryat Shmona, or the massacre at Nova music festival. Those who were angry at their teachers for celebrating Yom Ha’atzmaut with no mention of the Nakba were suddenly unable to speak about the Hamas charter calling for the killing of Jews worldwide.

“Yet perhaps worst of all, was not what anti-Zionist Jews said — or did not say — but rather the company anti-Zionist Jews have chosen to keep. Over the past few months, anti-Zionist Jews have stood shoulder to shoulder with masked and uniformed individuals in public places, physically blocking off ‘Zionists.’”

 They exclude their fellow Jews from public spaces in universities, side with terrorist organizations that call for the annihilation of all Jews in the world and make partnerships “with what is objectively the most antisemitic movement since the Holocaust,” he writes.

Rabbi Poupko lives in New Haven, Connecticut. The region is home to Yale University, Quinnipiac University, Albertus Magnus College, the University of New Haven, and Southern Connecticut State University, making it a hub of higher education – and, of course, pro-Palestinian protests. “I got to see firsthand what anti-Zionism in Jewish spaces meant. A group of anti-Zionist Jews shared to their social media videos with cheers like ‘there is only one solution – intifada revolution,’ which is a call for deadly violence.”

As Iran began shooting ballistic missiles and drones carrying hundreds of tons of explosives at Israel’s civilian population, “many anti-Zionist Jews were there to explain why Iran was justified in its attacks on Israel. Jewish Voices for Peace posted a photo of Houthis in Yemen praising the pro-terror mobs on campus.”

He concludes by noting the irony of anti-Zionist Jews siding with the mobs behind the greatest push for Diasporic Jews to move to Israel. “Those who want you to believe Jewish safety should not depend on the State of Israel have helped make much of the diaspora unsafe for Jews and Jewish life.” When the people you march with “are the reason countless synagogues, JCCs, and day schools are hiring more security, you probably don’t get credit for making Jewish life in the Diaspora more appealing.”

Such Jews are betting their present and future will be outside the confines of the Jewish people, and they will do anything to gain the acceptance of the antisemitic circles in which they traffic. “When anti-Zionist Jews hold signs that say: ‘this Jew is against genocide,’ besides for defaming other Jews as being for genocide, they also often forget the truly genocidal company they keep, company that would like to eradicate the State of Israel. It is time for anti-Zionist Jews to take a look in the mirror.”

Bottom line: Whatever we call it, and however they can be distinguished, both terms, antisemitism and anti-Zionism, are in today’s context simply manifestations of Jew- hatred.

Henry Srebrnik is a professor of political science at the University of Prince Edward Island in Charlottetown. 

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