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Gray Academy’s mandatory vaccination policy for high school students receives overwhelmingly positive response from parents

Lori Binder
Gray Academy Head of School

By BERNIE BELLAN In our September 1 issue we reported that Gray Academy had become the first school in Manitoba that would be requiring all high school students age 12 and up to be vaccinated in order to attend school this year.

At the time that we reported that decision, which had been made by the board of the school and which had just been publicly announced on August 24, Head of School Lori Binder said that she had received a number of inquiries from parents who were unhappy with the decision to require that all high school students be vaccinated, but she added that it would take some time to assess the full reaction among parents.

We can now report that only 4% of students – a total of 20 out of 485 who had previously been registered to attend Gray Academy this year, have left the school as a result of the mandatory vaccination policy. As well, to this point five new students have been registered in the school following the announcement. Finally, three students who had previously been registered in the school will now be home schooled instead, Lori noted. (Five students who had attended Gray Academy in 2019 were home schooled last year, she added.)
In discussing the ramifications of the new vaccination requirement, Lori explained that “we spent a good week and a half speaking with a number of families” about the new policy. In all, she said, “twelve families departed out of the more than 300 families altogether” who send their children to Gray Academy. Health and safety were our foremost concerns,” Lori noted.

But, when I asked her whether there was any one particular concern brought up by parents who objected to the new policy, Lori answered that “there was a spectrum of concerns.”
She also demurred from answering the question “out of respect for the privacy of the families involved” when I asked her whether the families that were opposed to having their children vaccinated came from a particularly identifiable component of the Jewish community. (To be clear, we have received reports that objections to vaccinations run especially strong within certain members of newly arrived immigrants to Winnipeg.)

“It was very important to speak to these families, hear their concerns, to explain how the decision was made and to support them in all ways possible,” Lori said, adding that “never before has the board had to make a late decision such as this one, but we are in a pandemic and are centering the health and safety of the entire school community”.
While 12 families did decide to withdraw their children from Gray Academy, other families “that had shared concerns about the decision did decide to stay,” Lori also noted.
In terms of total number of students, enrolment at the school this year compares favourably with previous years. There are 76 new students in the school, compared with 58 new students last year.
Perhaps of greater concern to the Jewish community might be the fact that the families of 20 different students have left Winnipeg since the end of the school year last June. (Until we see the results of this year’s census, however, we still will not have a clear idea what the size of Winnipeg’s Jewish population really is.)
Other information reported by Lori Binder during our conversation is that 33 students graduated from Gray Academy in June, and there are 25 students in the graduating class this year.
When you factor out the students who have left Winnipeg, Gray Academy has a “94% retention rate,” Lori said, not including the students whose parents pulled them out of the school because of the mandatory vaccination policy.
Altogether, there are 458 students registered at Gray Academy this school year, which compares with 481 last year (2020), 492 in 2019, 469 in 2018, and 2017, Lori reported.
As far as class sizes go, the two-meter separation between students in grades one to six still remains in place (as it does in all elementary schools in Manitoba), but as a result of having all Gray Academy students in grades seven to twelve now vaccinated , Lori explained that there is more flexibility as to class sizes in the high school.
While still maintaining a meter-and-a-half separation between students in the high school, spaces such as the Multipurpose room can now be used as classrooms that can accommodate far more students with two meters distance, which is the distance maintained in the elementary school.

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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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