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The accidental killing of hostage Alon Shamriz resonated with me in an unexpected way

Alon Shamriz: one of 3 Israeli hostages killed by friendly fire

By BERNIE BELLAN As we near year’s end we are still living through what is arguably the most difficult period in Israel’s history since the War of Independence in 1948. Israelis are caught in between two competing – and probably incompatible goals: to free the remaining hostages held by Hamas and to eliminate Hamas permanently as a threat.
The mistaken killing of three Israeli hostages by the IDF brought home the incredibly difficult task the IDF faces in trying to wage war while at the same time finding and rescuing the remaining hostages.
When I heard the names of the three hostages who were mistakenly tragically shot by a member of the IDF this past week, one of the names immediately caught my attention: Alon Shamriz. Just a week prior, on December 7, I had received a phone call from David Horowitz, editor of the Times of Israel, about Shamriz.
What Horowitz told me was that our website,, had posted a story about Alon Shamriz which, Horowitz said, had to come down immediately. I should explain that our website receives news stories from a number of other websites, which offer news feeds that are aggregated into our own site on a continuing basis – without me actually screening those stories beforehand.
The story about Shamriz, Horowitz explained, had to be removed because it posed a danger to Shamriz, should his Hamas captors happen to see it. The story was headlined: “Taken captive, Along Shamriz eliminated a terrorist before capture.” Shamriz’s family was rightly concerned that, if Hamas were to see that story they would exact revenge upon Shamriz – and kill him.
To be honest, I hadn’t noticed that story in our news feed and it wasn’t on our home page but, as Horowitz further explained, if anyone were to do a Google search for Alon Shamriz that story would appear in the Google search results.
Naturally, I acceded to Horowitz’s request immediately, but I noticed, when I did my own search for Alon Shamriz, that the same story appeared on a number of other websites. (I suppose Horowitz spent some time that day trying to contact every other website that also had the story on their site.) In addition, the next morning I received an email from Horowitz thanking me for removing the story from our site, but also asking me whether I could “scrub” it from Google. His email explained that even though the story was gone, if one did a Google search, the headline for the story would still show up in the search results. So, I set out “scrubbing” the story from Google. (Needless to say, I had to educate myself on that process.)
What all this did is bring home for me in a way that I never expected how intertwined we all are as a result of the internet. To think: A terrorist in Gaza might see something on the website and want to kill a hostage as a result. That was quite unnerving. No matter how inadvertent and unlikely the possibility of that happening might have been, I acted as quickly as I could – and kept my mouth shut about what had happened. And then – word emerged that Alon Shamriz, whose name had just been brought to my attention, was dead – not at the hands of Hamas, which is what I feared might happen as a result of that story, but through the gross negligence of an Israeli soldier who completely disregarded the IDF’s rules of engagement.
Which brings me to the issue of the hostages – and what Israel can – and should do, to free them.
In our October 25 issue I wrote that “revenge is not a good military strategy.” As much as Netanyahu and his war cabinet still seem bent on “eradicating” Hamas, the closest scenario that bears some resemblance to what the IDF is attempting to accomplish in Gaza occurred in Mosul, Iraq, from November 2016 to July 2017 when a number of different forces made up primarily of Iraqis, but also a large number of Kurds, engaged in urban warfare with members of ISIS similar to what is now happening with the IDF and Hamas.
Of course, the Iraqi forces were nothing like what the IDF has. Many of them were poorly trained and overall, they were lacking coordination. The Iraqis and their Kurdish allies took over 10,000 casualties – and here’s something else that’s of tremendous significance: There were over 10,000 civilian casualties in Mosul, as ISIS used civilians as human shields – just as Hamas has always done and is doing as I write this.
And yet, with the war in Gaza now in its third month, and with Israel’s Defense Minister Yosi Gallant saying the war will continue until at least until February, one has to ask: At what cost?
Israel’s image in the world, as a result of thousands of Palestinian casualties, has been tarnished to the point where it has lost support from governments that had previously jumped to Israel’s defense, including our own Canadian government.
But, even worse, what of the ongoing psychological – and physical toll, that this prolonged war, is having on Israelis themselves? As psychologist Orly Dreman writes so eloquently – and passionately, in a piece in this issue, the trauma inflicted on Israelis, which is continuing every day, is immense. As Orly writes: “People are getting chest pain, stomach aches, headaches, back pains all stemming from stress. They obsessively check ten times that the door is locked and sleep with the lights on. We all have a sense of existential threat and that we feel powerless. The whole country was exposed to what happened either directly or indirectly. We are traumatized but being partners to the same fate we desperately cling together for support.”
But, with a failed Prime Minister at the helm who seems to be concerned more with his own political survival than anything else, and who, for weeks on end, avoided meeting with the families of hostages, Israel is faced with an intractable situation: Either continue a war, but with one hand tied behind its back as American pressure to reduce civilian casualties means that the IDF is bound to start taking more casualties of its own, or accept calls for at least a long-lasting truce that could lead to the eventual freeing of all the hostages.
In the meantime, we here in the diaspora are continuing to see the fallout from the displacement and deaths of so many Palestinian civilians. The metaphorical battleground here has been primarily on university campuses and, as we’ve noted in many articles within these pages over the past two and a half months, the hypocrisy of both students and professors in assailing Israel while completely ignoring the barbarity of Hamas is unconscionable.

We were recently sent a link to a Youtube video of comedian – and social commentator, Bill Maher’s most recent “New rules” segment of his weekly show (which aired December 15). In the segment (which we have elsewhere on this website at, Maher offers devastatingly wittingly commentary on the abject ignorance of left wing critics of Israel. Maher is fearless in cutting through the phoniness of dogma, whether it’s coming from the right or, as we’ve seen so continually lately, the left, when it comes to heaping scorn on Israel. In this particular segment, which is about eight minutes long, one by one, Maher points out the intellectual weaknesses of the usual arguments being trotted out to justify condemnation of Israel on the world stage. In one particular clip he hones in on the phrase “from the river to the sea” and asks just where are the Jews in Israel supposed to go? (His suggested answer is quite hilarious, but I’ll leave it to you to watch the entire segment. Just go to Youtube and enter: “Bill Maher: From the River to the Sea.”)

One final note: As I note in another story on this site about the Jewish Federation’s recently held Annual General Meeting (, this past month saw the completion of Gustavo Zentner’s term as Federation President. Our community has been most fortunate to have had Gustavo in that position, not only for the tremendous contribution he has made to streamlining so much of the Federation’s operations and putting it on a very stable path going forward, but in particular, for his having stepped forward to lead this community these past two months in what has been a most difficult period. Gustavo’s eloquence, which has often been put to the test at a series of rallies called to bring us together since October 7, has been inspirational. When events called for a leader, Gustavo Zentner stepped up and we are all in his debt. Thank you Gustavo.

Local News

Schmoozer’s now under management of Shaarey Zedek Catering

Jennifer Middleton of Shaarey Zedek Catering is the new manager of Schmoozer's

By BERNIE BELLAN Schmoozer’s restaurant at the Asper Campus is now under the management of the Shaarey Zedek catering department.
Apparently, according to Curtis Martin, Executive Director of the Asper Jewish Community Campus, the Shaarey Zedek has actually been operating Schmoozer’s since December 1, except for the time it was closed over the winter break.
The Shaarey Zedek officially took over Schmoozer’s as of Monday, January 8. Shaarey Zedek Catering has actually been located in the Schmoozer’s kitchen for some time now – since the Shaarey Zedek closed for renovations in the summer of 2022.
While Shaarey Zedek Executive Chef Joel Lafond is continuing to work at the Asper Campus location, the day to day management of Schmoozer’s is in the hands of Sous Chef Jennifer Middleton. Once the Shaarey Zedek’s renovations are complete, Lafond will move back there, while Middleton will remain at the campus. In addition to managing Schmoozer’s, Curtis Martin says that Middleton will also to continue to provide catering services for “on-site Campus agencies and events.”
One of the main differences now that Shaarey Zedek is operating Schmoozer’s is the expanded hours. Rather than opening at 10 am, which was when Schmoozer’s opened under its previous management, Schmoozer’s will now be open at 8 am, Monday – Friday. It will also be open until 6 pm Monday- Thursday, and until 3 pm on Fridays.
According to Joel Lafond, plans are to have Schmoozer’s open on Sundays as well, beginning in February.
As for the menu, it now features a number of breakfast items, such as bagels and breakfast platters, in addition to the usual lunch items, such as tuna salad, egg salad, grilled cheese, quinoa bowl, pizza, a variety of salads, soup, fries, pasta, and “Beyond Burgers.”
Lafond said that plans are also in the works to expand the menu. He mentioned falafel as an example of something new that will be available at Schmoozer’s in the not too distant future.

While it’s nice to see Schmoozer’s the fact that there have been so many different managers of that particular facility speaks to the difficulty inherent in trying to offer kosher food without running into huge financial problems.
I’m not privy to the financial exigencies that Schmoozer’s has faced over the years – ever since it first opened under the operation of Omnitsky’s – then run by Eppy Rappaport, in 1997. At first, just like everything else associated with the Campus in its early years, Schmoozer’s was teeming with customers. Eventually though, Eppy Rappaport moved to Vancouver. I don’t recall every single manager of Schmoozer’s since, but I know that Barb and Lisa Reiss managed it for quite some time, as did Maxine Shuster – for a very long time, until it was placed under the management of Beth Jacob in 2021.
I certainly wish Joel Lafond and Jennifer Middleton of Shaarey Zedek Catering well, but I’m sure they’re aware how difficult a challenge operating Schmoozer’s in the black presents.
At the same time we haven’t had a really good kosher restaurant in Winnipeg for years, not since the closing of Desserts Plus, maybe Bermax Caffé as well.
You can still eat kosher food at the Gwen Secter Centre, also the Garden Café in the Simkin Centre, but neither of them is the kind of place where you can simply drop in and enjoy a kosher meal (although the Garden Café is open for lunch Monday to Friday).

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Is the high cost of kosher food affecting the quality of food served at the Simkin Centre?

By BERNIE BELLAN From time to time I lead a discussion group at the Simkin Centre with residents there. It was when I was doing that recently that I was told something by one of the residents that quite shocked me. We were talking about the food at the Simkin Centre and I asked the residents how they liked it?
I asked residents how often they get served chicken and I was told “We get chicken, but only dark meat.” According to that resident all that the Simkin Centre serves residents are thighs and drumsticks.
I asked Simkin Centre CEO Laurie Cerqueti about that and she said she’d have to get back to me after checking with the food services manager. I also asked Laurie what the daily allowance is on a per capita basis for all meals? (By way of comparison, when I did a story about kosher food in 2018 I reported that daily allowance for Simkin Centre residents – for 3 meals, snacks, and special dietary needs, was only $8.75 per day per resident.)
Here’s what Laurie wrote back to me, in response to my question: : “The last official number I have for food is from the 21/22 fiscal year and it was $9.64 per day. I know for this year as of the end of October we are over budget on food by $150,000. We must continue to fund any costs on food from our existing annual budget or through fundraised dollars. We have not had any increases from government for any operational expenses in 15 years.”
Insofar as the issue of residents being served only dark meat from chickens was concerned, in a subsequent email I received from Laurie she wrote that white chicken meat is used in chicken schnitzel served to residents.
I know I’m beating my head against the wall when I suggest that the Simkin Centre ought to allow nonkosher food to be served. When I last checked with Laurie Cerqueti, 60% of the residents at Simkin weren’t even Jewish. As for the Jewish residents, for those who would want kosher food, it could be brought in from the Gwen Secter Centre. (By the way, that idea isn’t mine. It comes from a former CEO of the Simkin Centre who also thought it was ridiculous enforcing kashrut rules at Simkin when it mattered to only a tiny fraction of its total residents.)
For that matter, residents are already allowed to bring nonkosher food into the facility, but it has to be eaten either in their rooms or in the family visiting room, so the precedent is there – it’s only a matter of taking it to the next logical level.
But I know: Kashrut is a sacrosanct element of the Simkin Centre, isn’t it? So, even if the Simkin Centre is running a huge budget deficit on food –and that money must be taken out of other operations, it’s absolutely fundamental to the Simkin Centre that it continue to serve only kosher food – even if that means residents only get white chicken meat when it’s served in schnitzel.

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Winnipegger Shayna Wiwierski building up large following as beauty and lifestyle influencer

By MYRON LOVE “Growing up [in River Heights], I was always a girlie girl,” recalls social influencer Shayna Wiwierski. “I loved dressing up and doing my hair, and reading lifestyle and glamour magazines.”
In my experience, childhood interests are a good indicator of adult careers. In Wiwierski’s case, she has parlayed that passion for style and beauty into a position as a social influencer through her online blog, “A Pop of Colour.”
The daughter of Susan Engel-Wiwierski and the late David Wiwierski established A Pop of Colour in 201. Currently she has approximately 30,000 followers on Facebook and Instagram, and another 4,000 on TikTok.
Scrolling through Wiwierski’s Instagram, you will find photos and videos from her most recent vacations, her bridal shower (she is getting married in the summer of 2024), and regular daily leisure activities accompanied by beautiful photography and partnerships with various companies.
“When I started my blog, I was only offering beauty tips,” she recalls. “I have since added content focusing on lifestyle, travel, and fitness.”

In an interview she did with CTV five years ago, Wiwierski noted that, in the beginning, the costs for the beauty products that she promoted through her blog she paid for herself. Over the years though, she, as with sister social influencers, have established working relationships with companies which send her products to promote on her various social accounts.
Wiwierski points out that to be a successful social influencer requires a lot of time for setting up photo shoots, editing and posting of content, as well as monitoring the likes, comments, and overall feedback on the posts.

“I know a lot of people think social media is a super easy job to do, but it really does take a lot of time,” says Wiwierski. “From creating the content, planning the posts, and then seeing what does well and what doesn’t, there is a lot of time and effort involved if you want to be successful at it.”
Content creation isn’t Wiwierski’s full-time job. She says it’s her “5 to 9 after her 9 to 5”, as she is also the editorial director at DEL Communications Inc., a Winnipeg-based trade publication company. The company is a publisher of mostly annual industry and association magazines covering topics in a variety of niche industries.
“Although in high school [Grant Park High School], I originally wanted to be on TV, after I graduated from university in 2010, I had the opportunity to join DEL and I’ve been there ever since,” she says, adding that she has a Bachelor of Communications and Rhetoric from the University of Winnipeg and a diploma in Creative Communications from Red River Polytechnic (formerly Red River College).

For the past few years, Wiwierski has been dividing her time between Winnipeg and Montreal. She met her fiancée – who is originally from Ontario – when he was doing his residency in Winnipeg.
“Montreal is a great city,” she says. “People always ask me which one I love living in more, but I really do love both; they’re so different.”

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