By BERNIE BELLAN
Earl Barish is a man who seems to thrive on taking on challenges – whether it’s resurrecting a troubled business or finding a way to fill the void in charitable donations to four of Winnipeg’s hospitals that is one of the byproducts of the current pandemic
With his “Pay it Forward” campaign involving Barish’s Salisbury House chain, he has come up with a thoroughly imaginative way that provides a real incentive for Sals customers to help out hospitals here (as well as individuals living in DASCH community homes) at the same time as they can still enjoy a meal from Sals.
With the typical organizational skill and attention to intricate details that mark Barish’s long and storied career as a businessman and philanthropist, he laid out his latest charitable endeavour for me during a phone conversation we had August 20th.
Here are the components of what Barish is doing, as he explained to me during our phone conversation:
“There are two things we’re doing,” Barish said. “One is Salisbury House focused, the other is B’nai Brith focused.”
“The B’nai Brith one is ongoing through the month of August, so every day there are one or two or three charitable institutions that are receiving lots of gifts.”(We’ll have a story about the B’nai Brith initiative in our next issue.)
But it’s been the Salisbury House “Pay it Forward” promotion of which Barish is particularly proud – since it was a totally new concept that involved a lot of brain storming and ingenuity to come up with a plan that not only provides a great deal of help to specific organizations, it also rewards donors to the program in a variety of ways.
Here’s how Barish describes the Pay it Forward program: “It’s a blend of business and charities working together to pay it forward and it’s a win-win-win for everybody that’s involved.”
“It does have two parts to it,” Barish explained. “The first part is the purchase of a gift card, so a person would go to one of the Salisbury House locations and buy a gift card for $25. For every $25 gift card that they purchase they can direct $7 to one of five charities.
“I reached out to charities in this city that wanted to partner with Salisbury House in this promotion,” Barish continued, “ and to be fully vested in this promotion – so that we didn’t want agencies that would just say: ‘Send us some money.’ “
The five charities that are participating in the program are: Health Science Centre Foundation, The Children’s Hospital Foundation, CancerCare Manitoba Foundation, St. Boniface Hospital Foundation, and the DASCH Foundation (Direct Action in Support of Community Homes).
The second part of the program is “what’s happening at the restaurants,” Barish said. “We’re a food source after all.”
“At the restaurants we have a special menu created that has six new items, two long-time favourites from our current menu, and two pick-up items – so there are 10 possibilities – and whenever you purchase anything off that menu you have a choice of directing $3 to one of those five charities. The serving staff can’t even ring up your order unless they designate which charity gets the $3.”
By the way, “you don’t have to use the gift card for that $3,” Barish explained.
“But, if you do buy a gift card for $25, $7 goes to the charity…you go to Salisbury House and order from the special menu…three more dollars go to the charity, so fundamentally $10 of the $25 you paid for the gift card has now gone to the charity.” (Barish adds there’s no expiry date on the gift card.)
On top of all that, since most meals, along with a beverage, are going to cost you a lot less than $25, not only are you contributing $10 to a charity, you’ll still walk out with some change in your pocket.
The program began on August 9 and will continue through October 3.
There is another component to the gift card program, which Barish explained:
“You buy a card, but instead of keeping it, you give it to somebody else; it could be a neighbour, a friend, maybe the caregiver who’s looking after your elderly parents.” Sals will still donate $7 to one of the five charities you can designate.
Finally, Barish said, there’s an entirely different aspect to the Sals Pay it Forward program – this time as a complete charitable donation. And – the person who is administering this program is none other than Earl Barish himself. Here’s how it works, in Barish’s words:
“Let’s say you decide to donate $100 to the Health Sciences Centre.” You call Earl himself at 204-837-8687. “You make the donation; you are entitled to a receipt because that $100 will be converted into four Salisbury House gift cards and those gift cards will go from the Sals to the charity. It’s considered a ‘gift in kind’. Your name will go with the gift cards and you’ll get a tax receipt.
“So, your $100 donation is costing you much less than $100 – depending on your tax bracket.”
“When the four cards are given to the charity, a further $28 now goes from the Sals to the charity” (the same way as if you had bought the cards to keep for yourself).”
Barish then explained why the charities would want the gift cards: “They cannot take money that has been donated without specific direction (from the donor) and buy gift cards from the Salisbury House – or anybody. And yet, they have frontline workers, caregivers, transporters, maintenance people – in the hospitals – doing all these things through COVID, and they have no way of rewarding them other than saying ‘thank you’ – and they probably do say thank you, but there’s nothing more that they can likely do for their workers because they have no funds to take from to give to them.
“So, they’re actually quite thrilled to get these gift cards. The gift cards cost them nothing because they’ve been donated by someone – and they got $28 more in cash in the process.”
Even though this particular aspect of the program hasn’t been publicized in the media the same way the other component of the Pay it Forward program has, Barish said that various individuals had heard about the gift card donation program and contacted him.
“I had two calls yesterday from people,” Barish said, from people wanting to donate gift cards – “one for $1000, one for $1500, and today another for $1,000.”
In some cases it’s a combination of the two programs, Barish explained. Individuals buy some cards for themselves and give some to the charities – thus generating a tax receipt.
(In the specific case of the St. Boniface Hospital, that institution has actually set up on their website a link whereby an individual can make a donation and indicate that they want that donation to be used to buy a Salisbury House Pay it Forward gift card. It’s quite a long link so the simplest way, if you’d like to go to the St. Boniface Hospital website, is Google “make a gift to St. Boniface Hospital”. The other four charities do not have websites set up to buy Salisbury House gift cards.)
At that point I asked Barish whether all the Salisbury House locations are open.
“Nine of them are open,” he answered. “All of our full-serves are open. There are three of what we call ‘quick serves’ that aren’t open because we had no capacity for people. Unfortunately, Main and Matheson (a Sals that’s dear to the hearts of so many north enders and former north enders) is not open and one in Transcona isn’t open.”
A third quick-serve location – on King Edward, next to the Sals commissary, has been converted to a full serve restaurant, Barish noted. “It will now be our bulk wholesale location where individuals can get large dinners. Since we’ve introduced what we call our ‘heat and eat’ dinners…we have 17 different dinners on that menu; there are dinners that can serve from four to six people.”
At the end of our phone conversation Barish offered the following additional insight into what he is doing with the Pay it Forward program: “Most restaurants are looking for more ways to get subsidies and so on. I’m taking a completely different approach to this and saying ‘Look, we’re 89 years in this community, there’s no chain like ours – that’s Manitoba-based only, and I want to reach out to the community and have the community reach out to Salisbury House in return.’”
Three organization join forces to mount Mission to Israel in May
By BERNIE BELLAN In response to many requests received from members of Winnipeg’s Jewish community to organize a volunteer mission to Israel, for the first time ever three different organizations have joined together to organize just such a mission – from May 20-28.
Titled “HINENI 2024,” the mission is being mounted by the Jewish National Fund, Jewish Federation of Winnipeg, and Bridges for Peace.
The mission will include five days of intensive volunteering and visits to various sites in Israel. It will also include three meals a day and ground transportation.
There will be an information night at the Asper Campus on February 28 but, in advance of that information night, we contacted JNF Manitoba-Saskatchewan Executive Director David Greaves to ask whether he could provide some details about the planned mission prior to that information meeting and describe how it all came about.
Greaves said that both the JNF and the Federation were thinking of organizing missions in May, so it was only natural that they would combine efforts.
“The Federation has organizational experience, and they’ll be able to handle the registration process,” Greaves explained, while “the JNF will be able to handle the logistics on the ground,” such as arranging accommodation, transportation, and meals.
And Bridges for Peace was able to step up and negotiate some very good pricing for air fares for anyone who would want to fly on specific flights – details for which will be announced in the coming days. (Greaves noted that flights have not been included as part of the package as many individuals indicated that they wanted to make their own arrangements getting to Israel.)
Yet, unlike any other mission that the JNF has mounted in years past, Greaves wanted to make it clear that the May mission will be a “volunteer” mission, during which participants will be expected to “be on their feet four-five hours a day” engaging in tasks whose exact nature is still being formulated – in conjunction with various Israeli organizations.
“We’re looking at volunteering primarily in the south,” Greaves said, including picking fruit and vegetables. As of this moment, he added: “We’re still investigating various volunteer possibilities.”
Included in the mission tentatively, accordiing to Greaves, will be visits to the site of the Nova music festival, where 364 primarily young Israelis were massacred (along with 40 abducted), as well as visits with families of hostages and a visit with the mayor of Sderot.
As far as accommodation is concerned, Greaves wanted to make it clear that mission participants will not be staying in four or five star hotels.”Most likely they will be three star hotels,” he noted. And, when you take into account the cost of providing three meals a day along with bus transportation and other ancillary costs, Greaves suggested that the mission cost, which will be no more than $3,000 (exclusive of air fare), is quite reasonable, especially when you take into account typical costs associated with visiting Israel and the relatively low Canadian dollar. As well, Greaves said that couples travelling together will probably pay somewhat less per person – around $2500 per person, he suggested is likely.
I asked Greaves how many people they were hoping to have participate in the mission. He said that they’re looking at around 40. Although it would be great if there were a larger response, he added, the logistics of having to hire an additional bus would make it difficult to plan a mission with two buses unless the number of participants warranted that.
“If response is overwhelming, we’d get a second bus,” he added though.
I asked Greaves whether there are JNF missions of a similar nature being planned in other Canadian cities and he said there were – “in Toronto and Vancouver,” but he also wanted to emphasize that they are both being planned locally – unlike every other JNF mission, which has always been planned at the national level – until now.
In addition to the combined organizational efforts of the JNF, Jewish Federation, and Bridges for Peace, five Winnipeg congregations are also lending their support to the mission, helping to promote it among their respective congregants.
If you would like to obtain further information about the mission and are unable to attend the February 28 information evening, contact either David Greaves at the JNF at firstname.lastname@example.org or Abby Flackman at the Jewish Federation at email@example.com.
Free Press coming under criticism for supposed “anti-Israel” bias
By BERNIE BELLAN
“The attack on Oct. 7, it was vicious (and) really brutal. But it happened in a certain context of this region of years and years of dehumanizing people from both sides.
Do you know who said that? Not a Free Press columnist. It was Yonatan Zeigen – one of former Winnipegger Vivian Silver’s two sons. Zeigen was quoted in an October 29 Canadian Press article – prior to the discovery that his mother had actually been killed on Kibbutz Be’eri during the October 7 massacre, and was not taken hostage to Gaza – which is what was first suspected.
That same story also said that Zeigen “noted that his perspective has prompted backlash inside Israel, which he chalks up to people rejecting projects his mother helped run that call for a fundamental shift in how Israelis relate to Palestinians.
” ‘I don’t really talk … to the Israeli press because I see a lot of poison being directed at her because of her activities,’ he said.”
Compare that with what Free Press columnist Jen Zoratti wrote in an opinion piece that was published January 26, two days after an event focusing on the brutality that had been inflicted on Israeli (and other non-Israeli women) during the Hamas massacre of October 7: “Everyone who took the mic on Wednesday kept saying, ‘all women matter’ and ‘women everywhere matter,’ but I couldn’t help but wonder — which women? There wasn’t even a cursory pass at solidarity or even an acknowledgment of the gender- based harms currently being experienced by Palestinian women, who also feel abandoned by global feminism.”
Zoratti’s column did describe the horrors that had been unleashed on Israeli women on October 7 and she did refer in some depth to remarks made by Israeli lawyer and women’s rights expert Ayelet Razin Bet Or during that January 24 event at the Human Rights Museum, but she tried to place what happened on October 7 within a larger context of the ongoing degradation of women in war situations.
That one single comment in Zoratti’s column about “harms currently being experienced by Palestinian women” has apparently unleashed a torrent of criticism, which has been leveled not only at Zoratti and the Free Press for having the nerve to print her column, the backlash has even extended to Free Press Faith reporter John Longhurst, who has been caught up totally unsuspectingly in a blistering attack written by the publisher of a Jewish Winnipeg website.
Apparently Longhurst had written just two words on “X” (previously Twitter), with reference to Zoratti’s column: “good column.”
In response, Rhonda Spivak, publisher of Winnipeg Jewish Review, wrote:
“Did he not understand that in raving (emphasis ours) about Zoratti’s column that painted a picture of Israel as an apartheid state, accusing the Israeli speaker of spouting propaganda (emphasis ours), and calling for a ceasefire without even mentioning the necessary release of Israeli women, children and men held hostage in Gaza, he would not be bridge building but damaging his relationship with the Jewish community.
With his little tweet, Longhurst has set back interfaith relations .What makes things worse, is that Longhurst actually interviewed the Israeli speaker, sex crimes prosecutor Ayelet Razin Bet Or and the program’s moderator Gail Asper for the Winnipeg Free Press and also for the Canadian Jewish News in advance of the program held at the CMHR. If Longhurst harbored these views, would it not have been fair to present his views, and give Razin Bet Or the opportunity to respond?
“Longhurst is a freelance writer who writes regularly in the Canadian Jewish News, but I do wonder what the latter’s readership would think of his insensitivity displayed towards the Jewish/Zionist community (emphasis ours).
”How does Longhurst propose to repair that which he has damaged (emphasis ours)?”
In defense of Longhurst, it should be pointed out that he written extensively about the local Jewish community. He was also the only local reporter to attend the major conference on anti-Semitism held in Ottawa in October. He also interviewed both Ayelet Razin Bet Or and Gail Asper for a story that was published prior to the event at the Human Rights Museum on January 24.
However, reaction to Zoratti’s column has been heated and calls have grown on social media to organize campaigns against the Free Press. We have been made aware of pressure being exerted on Free Press co-owner Bob Silver to influence the editorial position of the paper. We have also been told (although admittedly anecdotally, without being able to verify to what extent it has happened) of individuals cancelling (or threatening to cancel) their subscriptions to the Free Press.
But, it’s not only Zoratti’s column that has raised the ire of many individuals toward the Free Press. As with any large daily newspaper, the Free Press receives many letters to the editor. In recent weeks the paper has printed letters from Jeff Lieberman (CEO of the Jewish Federation) and Paula Parks (President of the Federation), along with an opinion piece by Gustavo Zentner (the newly appointed CIJA representative for Manitoba and Saskatchewan), all of which made the case for Israel in various respects.
Yet, the Free Press has also printed many letters highly critical of Israel’s actions in Gaza. On Tuesday, February 6, while there was one letter written in defense of Israel, there were also three letters highly critical of Israel. We have been contacted by individuals complaining that their own letters written in defense of Israel have not been printed.
In defense of the Jen Zoratti column that set off a firestorm of criticism of the Free Press – and a letter explaining why that column so upset so many people
By BERNIE BELLAN As an editor myself I know what it’s like to be accused of bias. As such, I would argue that the anger at the Winnipeg Free Press for what many in our community perceive as an anti-Israel bias is totally unjustified. If any of the paper’s critics actually takes a close look at that paper they will see a vast amount of coverage devoted to local Jewish events. Not only does John Longhurst do a great job covering many events (and he is a far better reporter than I could ever hope to be), the paper also features Sharon Chisvin writing about local Jewish happenings on a regular basis.
One would think that, based on the amount of ink that the Free Press devotes to news of interest specifically to the Jewish community that there was a vast number of Jews in this city. That’s why, when I asked Free Press editor Paul Samyn, when he was speaking to the Remis group at the Gwen Secter Centre last year, just how many Jews he thought there were in Winnipeg, and he guessed “45,000,” he was quite astounded to hear from me that, at best, there were only 12,500 Jews in Winnipeg. (I also said to Paul that there were over 72,000 Filipinos in Winnipeg, but you don’t see nearly as many stories about that community in the paper as you do of the Jewish community.)
So, Jen Zoratti wrote a column that had one particular paragraph that inflamed the minds of many Jews (a lot of whom don’t even read the Free Press, based on what I’ve seen on social media). Not only are many individuals furious at Zoratti – and the Free Press, for even daring to publish what she wrote, even as fair minded and professional a writer as John Longhurst has had his name dragged through the mud. (If you don’t know what I’m talking about read https://jewishpostandnews.ca/faqs/rokmicronews-fp-1/free-press-coming-under-criticism-for-supposed-anti-israel-bias/
For a community that’s long railed against the idea of boycotts being used against Israel (as in the BDS movement – Boycott, Divest, Sanctions), isn’t it a bit much to be calling for individuals to cancel their subscriptions to the Free Press over one column? And as someone who, until this week, had been a newspaper publisher for almost 40 years, I know what it’s like to have pressure put on your to slant coverage in a newspaper. While some newspaper publishers like to get involved in dictating editorial policy, from what I know Bob Silver has been steadfast in remaining apart from that. I personally sent notes offering encouragement to Jen Zoratti, John Longhurst, and Paul Samyn. I didn’t weigh in on whether I thought what Jen wrote was out of line or not (which, by the way, I didn’t). I simply wanted to affirm the importance of freedom of the press –and of columnists, to write without fear of monetary retribution. Heck, Israel has been on the receiving end of that kind of campaign for years. Are Jews going to begin to emulate the tactics of the BDS movement?
In response to the above we received a letter from Cathy Moser, in which she explains the anger that many in the Jewish community are feeling toward the Free Press:
I respect your humane approach to reporting on the war in the Middle East – I don’t think that you will find too many people in the Winnipeg Jewish community that would revel in knowing that thousands of innocent women and children in Gaza were killed in the effort to eliminate Hamas Terrorists. If Jen Zoratti had written a column on the Palestinian women and children whose voices have been deadened – what she said may have been relevant. However – she wrote an OpEd on a talk called HEAR OUR VOICES, with the Voices referring to the women and children who were raped, tortured and killed in Israel on October 7th. It was as inappropriate to talk about the Gazan women in this article as it would have been to talk about the Israeli women and children if she was reviewing a talk given by the Palestinian community on Palestinian women and children. Or if, when newspapers in the 40’s described bombing Nazi headquarters and strongholds, had included in their OpEds the fact that thousands of innocent German civilians were killed by the Allied Forces and they are inhumane.
The problem with Jen Zoratti’s article was well summarized by Mike Federer in his article in the Free Press, January 7th, 2024 – it takes a very special skill to attend an educational event bringing attention to Hamas’ misogynistic and murderous sexual assault of Israeli women during its genocidal October 7 massacre in southern Israel, and turn it into an anti-Israel hit piece. However, that’s exactly what Jen Zoratti managed to accomplish in her January 26 opinion column in the Winnipeg Free Press entitled: “The battlefield between feminism and rapes of war.”.
By the way, there would have been no need to appeal to Bob Silver had the Editor published any one of my letters providing an alternate understanding of some of the issues. Prior to the deluge that was received after the Jen Zoratti article, the Winnipeg Free Press had very one-sidedly published letters to the Editor that were anti-Israel and misleading in facts. I will send a few for your perusal if you are interested. Since the Zoratti ‘affair’, there have been many more letters published that elucidate both sides of the story, as well as articles to the point (e.g., Saturday, Feb 18, 2025 article by Dr. Ruth Ashrafi).
It seems that the volume of letters to the Editor and Owner after the Zoratti article has served its purpose. Perhaps there was a critical look at the past month’s content to determine whether the letter writers’ claims were valid. Freedom of speech is critical to a healthy democracy; however, if those that publish the speeches are biased, there is no freedom.