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Elaine Goldstine hounoured at JNF Gala; Stephen Harper opens up about his deep admiration for Israel

By BERNIE BELLAN It had been over 20 years since the Jewish National Fund had actually held a Negev Dinner in Winnipeg. After having used the Concert Hall as the venue for the annual JNF Gala for many years it was a little strange to be entering into the Convention Centre for this year’s affair instead.
But, it was the Convention Centre that was the setting for this year’s JNF Negev Gala on Thursday, May 11, when outgoing CEO of the Jewish Federation Elaine Goldstine was honoured. The fact that former Prime Minister Stephen Harper was also present – and engaged in a lively dialogue with interviewer Steven Kroft, added to the interest level for the some 900 audience members who were present. (By the way, although JNF Executive Director David Greaves referred to the sit down between Harper and Kroft as a session between“the two Steves”, I told Greaves that Harper dislikes being called “Steve.” I had read that years ago when he was first introduced to former US President George W. Bush. Bush liked to give everyone a nickname when he met them. Naturally, Stephen Harper became “Steve,” but our former Prime Minister was not tickled by that.)

In speaking about her being chosen this year’s Negev Gala honouree, Elaine Goldstine noted she had “chosen to allocate some of the funds raised tonight locally and I have chosen Shalom Residences” to receive a portion of the funds.
Anyone who knows Elaine would understand how true it was when she said her credo as CEO has been “Never close the door on anyone.”
And, following a lengthy speech from her husband Ian, who went on at some length describing how he and Elaine first met, along with quite a few stories about their lives together, Elaine demonstrated her wit when, in addressing Ian, she said: “We have been on this journey since I was 15 – as you told my entire life story.”

David Greaves introduced former PM Stephen Harper, saying to him: “It takes courage just being a mentsch to stand with those who stand alone. There has not been a friend to Israel like you ever.”
At that point “the two Steves” took their seats on the podium for what became a 35-minute back and forth during which Stephen Harper was at turns eloquent in describing his passion for Israel, insightful when discussing current situations in the world, and occasionally very funny as he related anecdotes from his past.
Steven Kroft began by asking Harper about the time he became the first Canadian Prime Minister to address Israel’s Knesset, in 2014. Kroft suggested “that speech is widely considered to be one of the strongest speeches in support of Israel by a non-head of state. He asked Harper to talk about his strong support for the State of Israel.
Harper responded that “one of the great honours of my life was to see the creation” of the Hula Valley Stephen and Laureen Harper Bird Sanctuary.
Then, Harper added this: “In Canada we don’t name things after living people so many people who visit the bird sanctuary assume I’ve passed away.”
Harper expounded upon how he came to develop such a strong affinity for the State of Israel, explaining that he “grew up in a household that supported Israel.”
But there was more to it than that, he explained: “I had another reason (to support Israel). Israel is a friend and an ally and is a part of the family of democratic nations. Israel faces the same threats as other democratic nations face, but Israel is much closer to those threats.
“Supporting Israel is unequivocally in the interests of this country and should be in the interests of all politicians,” Harper said.
“But I found that just about every politician is a friend of Israel when they’re speaking to a Jewish audience,” he observed.

Steven Kroft asked Harper whether “we should get worked up when Canada supports one of the resolutions at the UN that are critical of Israel?”
Harper answered that “those resolutions are pro forma and they’re not really indicative of what’s going on around the world. In that sense they’re not something to worry about… But what do you do when Western leaders go along with those resolutions? So what. I’m the only one who expressed an honest opinion.”

Kroft asked Harper what he thinks the impact of the Abraham Accords has been?
Harper suggested that the US and other Western countries have distanced themselves from Saudi Arabia – leading to Saudi Arabia broadening relations with China. He observed that “it’s tough for Saudi Arabia to be an ally of the Western world because we do nothing but criticize them.”
Harper noted a comment that had been made to him by an Arab diplomat, with reference to the behaviour of Western governments: “You sell off your friends and buy off your enemies.”
As far as the Abraham Accords are concerned though, Harper suggested that the leaders of the Arab countries that signed on to those accords (Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Sudan, and Morocco) are interested in bringing their countries “into the modern world.” (Sudan seems to be going through a reversion to civil war, however, something that plagued that country for years. It will be interesting to see whether whoever emerges on top is going to want to remain in the Abraham Accords.)
Harper added this observation about the role that China is now playing in the Middle East: “The Chinese have been a real brake on Iran. They (the Chinese) want them (the Iranians) to live up to the accords they recently signed with Saudi Arabia.”
Yet, at the same time, Harper had this to say about Iran: “I worry more about Iran than any other country in the world because they believe in developing nuclear weapons so that can use them and Allah will come to their aid.”

Kroft asked Harper about “judicial reform” in Israel and whether what’s been happening with moves to weaken the judiciary have affected Israel’s credibility ? He also asked what advice Harper might have for Canadian Jews who want to express their opinions on Israeli government policy?
Harper responded: “Regardless what one thinks of what is going on in Israel today, one should be supportive of Israel…Only in Israel could you give a 100% pro-Israel speech (as Harper did when he addressed the Knesset in 2014) and be heckled by both the right and the left (in the Knesset).”
At that point Harper told a story that was very funny – and was based on a true experience that he had in 2017, after he was no longer Prime Minister.
He was in Australia and one evening he went to a bar with another former prime minister, John Howard, who had been PM of Australia. Who should walk in but another former prime minister, this time Bibi Netanyahu?
That led Harper to tell this joke, based on the conversation he had with Howard and Netanyahu that evening. (He explained that he was changing the story somewhat, substituting the Prime Minister of Great Britain for the Prime Minister of Australia):
Three former prime ministers gather together at a bar.
The former PM of Canada says: “I was prime minister of a country that had 30 million people.”
The former PM of Great Britain says: “I was prime minister of a country that had 60 million people.”
The former PM of Israel says: “I was prime minister of a country that had 8 million prime ministers!”

Kroft turned to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. He asked Harper “What is Putin like?”
Harper said that he had called for Russia’s expulsion from the G8 in 2014 when Russia first invaded Ukraine and seized Crimea.
He continued: “I’ve met many leaders, many businesspeople, many celebrities, but the one person – of all the people I’ve met, who I’m asked to say what he’s like, is Putin.
“It’s because he’s a real life Bond villain…But whenever he came to a meeting and walked into the room he was always extremely well prepared. In many ways he’s very impressive, but he’s also a very evil person.”
Harper went on to say that he hates “when people compare democratically elected leaders with dictators.” He said that, back in 2008, when George W. Bush was President of the US, he and Bush were “prepared to bring Ukraine into NATO, but others weren’t…The failure to do that,” he suggested, “led to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
“There is strength through deterrence,” he added.

“How is it (the war in Ukraine) going to end?” Kroft asked.
“What enough people don’t understand,” Harper responded, “is that Ukrainians are prepared to fight to the last man. They know that the moment they give up they’re going to get slaughtered.”
He also noted that the Government of Canada “should be very proud” of the support it’s given Ukraine. “We did a large amount of the training of their army,” Harper noted.
However, Harper predicted that the war “will go on for a very long time. Putin understands that if he’s not the strongest man in Russia, then he’s a dead man.”

Kroft turned to the subject of anti-Semitism, asking “How is it different today?”
Harper suggested that anti-Semitism was increasing even as far back as when he was Prime Minister. “The fragmentation, the polarization” in society have been contributing factors, he observed, along with the spread of hate on social media.
Nonetheless, he said that he was “optimistic about it (a decline in anti-Semitism) in the long term, but it’s exposed to us the complexity of public opinion. Social media has unleashed a voice that was always out there…What worries me more,” he suggested though, “is the rise of global jihadism.”
Further, Harper said that what “worries me the most is the anti-Semitism that has come out of the left – out of academia, that had led to the BDS (Boycott, Divest, Sanctions) movement.
“The difference is that it (anti-Semitism on the left) tends to make anti-Semitism intellectually respectable. Let’s be under no illusion what it really is…
“By any standard of freedom, of democracy, and of justice, Israel is one of the freest countries in the world.”

And then, with a reference to the protesters who were outside the Convention Centre protesting against the Jewish National Fund, Harper said: “The people outside are not protesters, they’re haters.”
That’s about as unbiased a report that I could write about what Stephen Harper had to say at the Negev Gala. Did I agree with everything he said? No, but the audience sure loved it.

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Reaction to the valedictory address at the medical school convocation ceremony

Ed. note: We have received a number of inquiries, both from students in this year’s graduating U of M medical school class, and from former students (now practising physicians), asking whether we would print responses to what occurred during the convocation ceremony on May 16. In addition to their being published here, they will also be published in the June 5 issue of The Jewish Post.

We will continue to print whatever responses we receive as (and if) we receive them. In the meantime, here’ are the first two responses we received, on May 23:

May 23rd, 2024
Hello,
My name is Gregory Jackson. I am a member of the 2024 graduating class from the
Max Rady College of Medicine.
Our convocation has garnered more publicity than I would have ever thought. The
valedictorian’s address and subsequent aftermath compels me to act beyond my
traditional comfort zone.
A classmate of mine, Dr. Irvine, stated in an interview with the CBC that “from my
perspective, there wasn’t any students that were graduating that were upset with what was
being said”. I happened to be seated beside Dr. Irvine during convocation. Since Thursday, I
have been truly shocked, disheartened and embarrassed by what unfolded and its impacts
on our community. I regret not walking out during the valedictorian’s speech.
Boisterous cheers from emboldened supporters drown out the gasps and stunned
silence during the valedictorian’s address, turning a day that should have been shared joy
into a day of shared embarrassment. While I know that I cannot convince my classmates
on our disagreements in geopolitics, I am dismayed that our convocation was hijacked to
espouse reckless personal and aggressive political views.
I am writing this letter to show support and patience for the Dean, Dr. Nickerson, as
he navigates an appropriate and firm response. Furthermore, I am writing to formally
dissent and dispute the notion that the Class of 2024 is unified when sophistry
masquerades as advocacy. In the current climate of fear and violence, I respect those who
wish to remain anonymous to maintain their safety. Most importantly, I wish to vocalize my
support to my classmates, faculty members, and people living in our community who are
threatened and alienated by such rhetoric; I hope that our community can heal and that we
can re-aYirm an environment in which our Jewish members are safe, respected and loved.
Faithfully yours,

Gregory Jackson

Dr. Peter Nickerson, Dean and Vice-provost, Rady Faculty of Health Sciences
Michael Benarroch, President, University of Manitoba president@umanitoba.ca
Mr. Ernest Rady,  3420 Carmel Mountain Road, Suite 100, San Diego, California, 92121
CBC News, talkback@cbc.ca
Joe Hutchison at Dailymail.com
Roberta Lexier, Associate Professor, Mount Royal University rlexier@mtroyal.ca
Winnipeg Free Press 
letters@freepress.mb.ca

I recall vividly that early morning September 1985 when I sat in my first class of Medical School at the University of Manitoba. The very first words spoken by the professor were ‘Primum non nocere’, which means ‘first do no harm’.

As physicians, we must use every means possible to gather an accurate history, using listening skills in a nonjudgmental fashion, and more often than not, creatively gathering collateral history from many sources. Dr. Gem Newman, to his credit, seems to be a passionate individual who cares about people. Unfortunately, the last few minutes of his speech made it clear that he cares only for some, on the basis of an incorrect history, leading to a disastrously incorrect diagnosis. He failed to take his own advice with respect to acknowledging one’s limitations rather than questioning if his opinion reflects fact. Nor does it seem that he consulted with those with more knowledge of the situation. His valedictorian address last week has caused harm: To the Jewish graduates, their families, as well as the Jewish community in the audience and abroad. To those who choose to believe the distortions of reality pertaining to the history of the region and current conflict. To those of us who know differently. To the truth. 

Sadly, the response by the University and the media did not address specifically why Newman’s speech was so offensive. For that reason I feel compelled to provide the counter arguments, even if the damage has been done by the hundreds of thousands of views of his speech. After all, he’s a doctor. He should know what he’s talking about. Right?

Newman stated: “ I call on you to stand in solidarity with Indigenous people everywhere.” He either does not know or chooses to ignore the undeniable fact that the Jewish people are indigenous to that region of the Middle East for over 3700 years. He insinuated that the Jews are settler-colonizers, ethnically cleansing the Palestinians. Let me be perfectly clear. There have always been Jews living in that area since Abraham moved his family from Mesopotamia. Over the centuries the population had diminished due to invasions of the land resulting in massacres and exile. However, some always remained. Biblical reference, Jewish writings throughout the ages, numerous archaeological findings and even the Qu’ ran support the historical claim of the land of the ‘Israelites’, meaning the Jewish people. Never mind the fact that the term ‘Jew’ comes from ‘Judea’, just as ‘Arab’ from ‘Arabia’. His remark echoes the libelous accusation that the Jewish people are recent ‘colonizers’ who took over land belonging to others.

Prior to control by the British after WWI, the Ottoman Empire had conquered what is now Israel in the 1500’s. By the mid 1800’s the land was desolate and sparsely populated, as numerous published reports of the time have documented. I will provide two examples: In 1881, English cartographer Arthur Penrhyn Stanley wrote: “In Judea it is hardly an exaggeration to say that for miles and miles there was no appearance of life or habitation.” Mark Twain, in the mid 1800’s, wrote that one could walk from one end of Jerusalem to the other in an hour, At this time Jewish people and organizations started buying back the land from absentee Arab landlords at significantly inflated prices. By 1864, the majority population of Jerusalem, where our first and second temples were built dating back over 3,000 years, was Jewish. Following return of the Jews, with the economic, industrial and technological advances brought with them, Arabs began immigrating to the area as well. THAT is how the population increased; both Jews and Arabs began to repopulate the land. Again, written references from that era along with deeds to the land purchased by individuals and the JNF confirm this. 

In 1948, the day after Sovereignty was granted to Israel, five Arab armies invaded Israel with the intent to exterminate all of the Jews and take over the new State. Arabs living there fled of their own volition or left by order of the Arab armies, with assurance that they could return to their homes after the Jews were gone. Lo and behold, Israel won the war against all odds. The 156,000 Arabs that remained became Israeli citizens, whose descendants are now 2 million, with equal rights as the Jews, Christians, Druze and every other citizen. Meanwhile 850,000 Jews were killed or forced to flee from many Arab countries across the Middle East, leaving their property and belongings behind. 

Newman also claims that Israel is waging a genocidal war against Palestinians. The only genocidal attack was perpetrated by Hamas and associated Palestinian terror groups on October 7, 2023. I am not making a false claim. Ghazi Hamad in an interview October 23, 2023, as well as other Hamas leaders have been very clear about their intentions to ‘repeat October 7 again and again and again’. I have collected many interviews and videos from across the globe with calls to Islamist extremists to kill every Jew they encounter, as a religious duty. These calls for ‘Jihad’ and ‘Intifada’ coming from extremist Muslim religious leaders has now spread across the globe, and is even chanted by those who don’t know which River to Sea they want to clear the Jewish people from. Despite these threats of global annihilation of the Jewish people, Israel has sent out 7 million leaflets in Arabic with maps of safe zones, supplementing this with millions of phone calls, text messages and voice mails. The IDF ‘roof knocks’, which is sending a dud bomb as a warning to evacuate the area. Unfortunately, Hamas and UNRWA not only told civilians to ignore these warnings, they stole car keys and even shot civilians trying to leave for safe areas as reported by Palestinians and captured on voice recordings and video. No other military past or present goes to the lengths that Israel does to minimize civilian casualties. 

This war is being fought in an unprecedented extremely complex war zone intentionally designed as such over the past 18 years.  There are over 700 km of tunnels exclusively for Hamas’ use and protection.  These terrorists fight in civilian clothes from hospitals, mosques, schools and civilian infrastructure, all of which lose protective immunity by law if used for such purposes. The referenced doctors, health care workers and journalists Newman insists Israel targets are not all altruistic innocents; many including hospital directors captured are longstanding members of Hamas. Rather than protecting their citizens, Hamas fight from beneath, beside and behind their men, women and children. The billions of dollars in aid funneled into Palestine over the years did not get spent on one single civilian bomb shelter. Despite this, Israel has still managed to achieve the lowest civilian:combatant death toll of ANY urban war hovering at about 1:1. This is even using the original Gaza MoH numbers prior to the exposure of manipulation of data at best, fabrication more likely, which led to the U.N. quietly backtracking and halving the number of women and children casualties. For seven months, those numbers had been broadcast to every news outlet and media source with impunity, and are still being quoted to this day. Not only are the numbers provided by Hamas grossly inflated, there are several analyses of the casualty data churned out by those terrorists that prove the patterns are statistically impossible.

You may also wish to verify the way the IDF conducts military operations with the Chair of Urban Warfare Studies of West Point, Major John W. Spencer. 
Another resource is Colonel Richard Kemp of the British Army. Their opinions regarding whether a genocide is being waged on the Palestinians carry significantly more weight than Dr. Newman’s, I would think. The IDF is not called the ‘most moral army in the world’ for nothing.

On to the ‘famine” in Gaza. As of this writing, Israel has allowed entry of 427,981 tons of food, 59,930 tons of shelter equipment, 541 tanks of cooking gas, 23,260 tons of medical supplies, 34,940 tons of water. COGAT provides daily updates on humanitarian aid that has crossed into Gaza. Plenty of video evidence is available of Hamas confiscating the aid, shooting and killing civilians trying to get aid, and charging up to ten times the value of the aid (intended as donations, not to sell) which many cannot afford. There are estimates that Hamas has made close to $500,000 profit from this despicable abuse. The pier that the US provided has been targeted by Hamas rockets during and after construction. Videos are also posted daily of bustling markets full of produce in Gaza.

Apart from the poor taste the valedictorian displayed by using the last few minutes of his speech to grandstand, the greatest issue I have is that his claims do not contain fact. This is exactly the way the blood libels began, were spread, and continue to be spread. We witnessed the result of this less than a century ago and vowed ‘never again’. Yet here we are on our way to repeating history that apparently was not learned, with the help of people like Dr. Newman. We lost over 1/3 of the world Jewish population in the Holocaust, and 85 years later our census is still lower than it was in 1939; a mere 16 million, whose voice cannot come close to the volume of our adversaries.

I agree with free speech, but there must be accountability. There must be truth.

Annilea Gunn, MD, CCFP, FCFP
University of Manitoba Class of 1989


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Valedictory speech delivered to graduating medical students sets off storm of controversy

Dr. Gem Newman, valedictorian, class of 2024 Max Rady College of Medicine

By BERNIE BELLAN A valedictory speech delivered to the 2024 class of medical school students graduating from the Max Rady College of Medicine at the University of Manitoba on Thursday, May 16, has set off a storm of controversy.

During his 10-minute speech, Dr. Gem Newman, who described himself as a “pasty-faced white man,” veered into a strongly worded criticism of Israel toward the end of his approximate 10-minute speech.
Here are the comments he made with respect to Israel’s war in Gaza:
“I call on my fellow graduates to oppose injustice -and violence – individual and systemic. I call upon you to oppose settler colonialism, both at home and abroad. I call upon you to stand in solidarity with Indigenous people everywhere, here in Treaty One Territory, where an Indigenous man can expect a life ten years shorter than mine – and in Palestine (ed. note: loud cheers erupted at that point from among the students), where Israel’s deliberate targeting of hospitals and other civilian infrastructure has led to more than 35,000 deaths and widespread famine and disease.
“Many medical organizations, including the W.H.O. and Medecins sans Frontiere, and countless unions, including the Canadian Federation of Nurses Union, have repeatedly called for a ceasefire in Gaza, while there has been deafening silence from the Canadian Medical Association, Doctors Manitoba and PARIM (Professional Association of Interns and Residents of Manitoba), and so I call upon you to join me in calling for a lasting ceasefire in Gaza. Join me in calling for unrestricted humanitarian and medical aid in Gaza. Join me in calling for an end to the targeting of medical facilities, medical staff, and journalists.
“I’m sure that some of you here today are worried that you may face censure for speaking out against the genocidal war that Israel is waging upon the people of Palestine, that it could jeopardize your career before it’s even begun. I understand that fear…”
Dr. Newman’s speech was greeted with a standing ovation from his fellow graduating doctors.

Dr. Peter Nickerson, Dean of the Max Rady College of Medicine

The next day, the dean of the Rady College of Medicine, Dr. Peter Nickerson, issued a strongly worded criticism of Dr. Newman’s remarks:

Yesterday, we celebrated the convocation of 106 new physicians. We came together with our friends and family to celebrate a diverse group of individuals who are beginning their career as doctors.
Part of our convocation tradition in the Max Rady College of Medicine is to hear an address from the class valedictorian. This has historically been an encouraging, congratulatory message and not a political platform. The speech is an honour and is meant to highlight, showcase and celebrate the academic excellence, resiliency and determination of every student, no matter their background.
I have heard from individuals who were present yesterday and who were disappointed and alarmed by the political message in the valedictorian’s address. I share these concerns. I, too, am disappointed that the address was delivered in a way that didn’t represent all students and that was disrespectful to some audience members who were there to celebrate and be celebrated. This isn’t the purpose of a valedictorian address and the speech should have better reflected shared experiences, successes and a commitment to serve all communities.
The valedictorian was expressing his own views, and this was not a message vetted or endorsed in any way by the College.
The University of Manitoba is steadfast in its commitment to freedom of expression; both speech and counter-speech are equally protected. However, freedom of expression has limits and comes with responsibilities. It is my view as Dean that a convocation address is different than a classroom setting, different than an opinion piece in a newspaper – it is an academic celebration for a diverse community. Statements made in this address were divisive and inflammatory. They should be taken as the views of one student, and do not reflect the views of the College nor the diverse perspectives of its students.
As we continue our convocation events, may we be mindful of the diversity of our community, our common humanity, and the purpose of these celebrations.
Dr. Peter Nickerson
Vice-Provost (Health Sciences)
Dean, Max Rady College of Medicine
Dean, Rady Faculty of Health Sciences
University of Manitoba 

Ernest Rady, who donated $30 million to the University of Manitoba in 2016


On Monday, May 20, Ernest Rady, who made a donation of $30 million to the University of Manitoba in 2016 – the largest single donation to the university in its history, and whose father, Max Rady, now has his name on the “Rady Faculty of Health Sciences” and the “Max Rady College of Medicine,” sent the following email in response to Dr. Newman’s remarks:

Via Email
University of Manitoba
Dr. Michael Benarroch, President and Vice-Chancellor
Dr. Peter Nickerson, Dean, Rady Faculty of Health Sciences
Re: Max Rady College of Medicine Convocation Speech by Valedictorian
Michael and Peter:
I write to you today because I was both hurt and appalled by the remarks the valedictorian, Gem Newman, gave at last week’s Max Rady College of Medicine convocation, and I was extremely disappointed in the University’s inadequate response. I have been fortunate in my life to be able to support the causes close to my heart, including the University of Manitoba. As you know, when Evelyn and I donated $30 million to the University’s Faculty of Health Sciences in 2016, that gift was in honor of my parents, and in particular, the gift to the College of Medicine was in honor of my father, Maxwell Rady. Newman’s speech not only dishonored the memory of my father, but also disrespected and disparaged Jewish people as a whole, including the Jewish students who were in attendance at that convocation – some of whom I’ve heard from.
My father, born Avraham (Hebrew for Abraham) Radiskevich, immigrated to Manitoba from Russia in 1893. He, like so many other Jews, fled religious persecution, seeking a better life in Canada. He was lucky. Millions of others – whether during the Russian pogroms, the Holocaust, or the countless other purges of my people throughout history – were not so fortunate. Those horrors were made possible because of a set of beliefs (stereotypes and tropes) so entrenched and pervasive as to be taken as fact.
That same set of beliefs allowed the University of Manitoba to justify its decision to impose admissions quotas to keep Jews out. Despite those quotas, my father was one of the very few of his faith to be admitted to the University’s medical school, which is now named in his honor.
And yet, the University allowed the Max Rady College of Medicine’s valedictorian to spew these hateful lies to a captive audience, and now posts that antisemitic rhetoric on its website for all to see. And the University’s only response is a lukewarm message posted elsewhere on its website about differing opinions and appropriateness of setting for expressing such “opinions.”
Having seen where this kind of speech (and the excuses made for it) have led in the past, I cannot be silent. When I make a gift to an institution, I do it because I believe in that institution and I trust its governing body to do important, significant, and good work with that money. I therefore make it a point not to intervene or tell an institution what it should or should not do. But in this instance, by remaining silent, I would be complicit. So I am speaking out now because I must. Because so many like Gem Newman and the students cheering in the audience and the University itself, whose response to what is happening on its campus has been inadequate, may not even realize all the realities of the situation. The issues are far too complex for a mere letter, and I should not have to be the one to point this out; nonetheless, apparently it bears emphasizing. It is very easy for individuals like Mr. Newman to spout slogans and quips like “settler colonialism” and “genocidal war,” but if they do not take the time to understand the very long, complex, and nuanced history behind what is happening in the world today, then not only are they intellectually dishonest, but they are perpetuating the same harms that have existed for centuries. Those words are not political opinion. They are hate speech and they are lies. They espouse the same age-old prejudices about Jewish omnipotence and thirst for domination that have been used for centuries to justify the atrocities committed against this religious group, which makes up less than 0.2% of the world’s population and 1.4% of Canada’s.
By failing to call out Gem Newton’s words for what they are, the University is no better.
Having failed to vet the valedictorian’s speech in advance (despite the patent risk that something like this would likely occur, given what has happened at other universities), I beg that the University of Manitoba step up and finally do the right thing. Take down the convocation video and do not repost it unless the valedictorian’s entire speech is removed. Post a revised letter from the dean, not only on UM News, but on the same page as the edited video. Condemn, in no uncertain terms, Gem Newman’s remarks. Acknowledge that they were not only inaccurate, but flat-out lies, that they were hurtful to the University’s Jewish students and all people of the Jewish faith, and that the remarks do not have a place in any setting at the University. Denounce antisemitism in all forms it takes, even in its latest iteration as espoused by your valedictorian.
Advocating for the protection of one group of people, while in the same breath calling for the destruction and elimination of another, is not advocacy. It is hate. It is the very opposite of the words that your graduates spoke last week when they recited the Physician’s Pledge, vowing not to permit considerations of creed and ethnic origin to intervene between their duty and their patient.
Be as bold as you tell your students to be. Do the right thing: Speak out unequivocally. Take action. Do not be like all of those who came before you, acquiescing to prejudice and hatred because you do not want to ruffle feathers, or worse, because you believe it is justified.
Ernest Rady
Cc: Anne Mahon, Chancellor

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Inaugural Magen David Adom fundraising gala evening  recognizes generous donors Ida and the late Saul Alpern

Ida Alpern

By MYRON LOVE On Tuesday, May 7, the Winnipeg chapter of Canadian Magen David Adom (CMDA) hosted its first ever fundraising gala – billed as “A Night of Appreciation – honouring generous supporters Ida and the late Saul Alpern, as well as recognizing several other individuals who have contributed to the success of the local chapter.
The event helped to raise the profile of MDA in Winnipeg.  In addition to funds raised – going towards the purchase by the Winnipeg chapter of CMDA of an ambulance to be stationed in the northern IsraeI community of  Kiryat Shemona where a MDA ambulance was recently destroyed by a Hezbollah missile, the event also honoured the memory of  the late Yoram (Hamizrachi) East.
Ami Bakerman, the Winnipeg chapter president, reported that, to date, the local group has raised slightly more than $100,000 toward the $140,000 cost of the ambulance.
Over 200 members of the Jewish and Christian communities and other supporters of Israel came out for the evening at Caboto Centre to show their appreciation for the work of the Magen David Adom.
For readers who may be unfamiliar with MDA, the organization doubles as both Israel’s Red Cross and the country’s blood services organization. MC for the evening Kinzey Posen noted that MDA was founded on June 7, 1930 and acquired its first ambulance a year later.  The MDA has over 4,000 staff and has on its roster 26,000 volunteers.  The organization operates over 2,000 ambulances, first responder scooters, helicopters and life-saving boats. 
“It takes 8.2 seconds from the time a MDA dispatcher receives an emergency call to the time that the ambulance reaches the caller,” Posen noted.
The really remarkable fact is that the MDA operates without any financial support from the government of Israel. That is why it is so important that donors such as the Alperns have to step up.
Saul, who passed away in October, 2022, had a particularly strong connection to Israel.  His younger brother, Avrum, also the last surviving family member (the others died in the Holocaust) died fighting for the Jewish homeland in the War of Liberation in 1948.
Alpern published his autobiography – “No One Waiting For me” – in 1961.  Although most Romanian Jews living in Rumania proper were left in place, in 1941 the members of the Alpern family were among the thousands of Jews living in the northern  regions of Bessarabia and northern Bukavina – which had been recently annexed by Rumania – who were deported to neighbouring Transnistria. They were expelled from their homes and forced to walk all the way to Transnistria.   Saul Alpern’s parents and older sister died shortly after their arrival as a result of the hardships of the walk – leaving 12-year-old Saul and younger brother Avrum to fend for themselves.
“No One Waiting for Me” is largely an account of the two brothers’ struggle to survive in a hostile environment and desperate circumstances.\
After the war, while Avrum went to Palestine while Saul found his way to Winnipeg –  where he eventually  met and married Ida (Reiss) and built a successful business as a cattle buyer.
Ida was born in the Jewish farm colony at Edenbridge, Saskatchewan. She was youngest of four children and the own daughter of Ira and Raizel Reiss.  The family moved to Winnipeg around 1950.
In October 2020, Ida and Saul donated $160,000 to the MDA to buy a mobile intensive care unit.  At the time, Saul told The Jewish Post & News that the couple made the donation in memory of his parents and siblings ,who died in the Holocaust.
Saul added that the gift was “an expression of my love for my family and my love for Israel”.
The couple had been donating small amounts to the MDA for years before that.  And, just a few months before Saul’s passing, the couple donated another $170,000 toward the purchase of a second mobile intensive care unit with off-road capabilities.
Speaking on behalf of the family, Ida’s nephew, Cary Reiss, recounted how Sail and Ida met in 1963 and were engaged after just a three-week courtship.  “They were married for almost 60 years,” he noted. “They were a great couple.  They were always there for each other through good times and bad.”
Reiss further noted that he was in Israel last year with his Aunt Ida for the delivery of the second mobile intensive care unit.  He praised the MDA for the great work the organization does in Israel.
He also reminisced about the other focus of the evening, the late Israeli-born Winnipegger, Yoram East, who was a prominent social activist in the wider community.
In Ron East’s description of his father he painted a picture of man who was larger than life – and an individual who overcame early adversity.
Yoram was born in 1932 in Jerusalem to Jewish immigrants from Germany.  He struggled in school due to being dyslexic.  At 16. he dropped out of school and was accepted into the Israel Defense Forces based on false documents.
“In the IDF, he found a home and a purpose,” Ron East recounted. 
He rose through the ranks.  After taking a break from the military to  study art and build a career as a journalist, Yoram rejoined the IDF in the 1970s.  From 1976-82, Colonel Hamizrachi was the IDF liaison with the Christian communities  in southern Lebanon.
“My dad quit the IDF in 1982, when Israel went to war with Hezbollah in Lebanon,” Ron East recalled. “He strongly opposed the war.”
Hamizrachi moved his family to Winnipeg where he continued to work as a journalist – with regular columns on Israel in The Jewish Post.  He also became a social activist and did a lot of work with Indigenous communities.
“Two First Nations communities made him honorary chiefs,” Ron noted. 
In Winnipeg, he helped found the Manitoba Intercultural Alliance and became the co-director of the Winnipeg-based Counter-Terrorism Centre.
In addition to honouring Ida and Saul Alpert, CMDA also recognized several other individuals who have contributed to the growth of the CMDA chapter in Winnipeg – among them:Ami Ba kerman,  Ron East, donors Bill and Judy Mahon, Barbara Reiss (for organizing the event) and John  Plantz who, along with colleague Roy Hiebert – presented a cheque to the CMDA for $10,000 from the Christian Friends of Israel Ministry.
There was much more to the evening.  Sharon Fraiman, CMDA’s director for Western Canada, called for a moment of silence in memory of the MDA personnel who were murdered in the terrorist attack on Israel on October 7.  She also screened several short videos of the actions of heroic MDA staff and their actions on that horrific day in fighting back as well as rescuing those tthey could.
There were also remarks by Sidney Benizri, CMDA national executive  director, and Wayne Ewasko, PC MLA for Lac du Bonnet and interim Opposition leader.
The evening concluded with a half hour show by New York-based stand-up comic Talia Reiss – who happens to be married to the aforementioned Cary Reiss – riffing on Jewish themes contrasting Reform and Orthodox and Sephardi and Ashkenazi differences, reflecting the different backgrounds that she and her husband have brought to their relationship, as well as commentary on parenthood and schooling.  For good measure, she also threw in  some Winnipeg in-jokes.

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