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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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Past President of Doctors Manitoba reflects on Manitoba’s severe doctor shortage

Past President of Doctors Manitoba Dr. Michael Boroditsky

By BERNIE BELLAN As president of Doctors Manitoba for the past year, Dr. Michael Boroditsky maintained a high profile within the media, often being called upon to react to various issues, especially the pronounced shortage of doctors within Manitoba.
Doctors Manitoba is an advocacy group for the more than 4,000 physicians in Manitoba – both active and non-active, engaging in policy development. As Dr. Boroditsky, now the Past President of Doctors Manitoba, said, “We’re more of an advocacy group than a union.
“Our main mission is to strengthen and support doctors in Manitoba,” although not just in the area of “renumeration,”, he explained.
According to its website, Doctors Manitoba “advocates for our physicians, so that they can stay focused on providing exceptional care to Manitobans.
“We strive to work collaboratively with partners to help develop a better health care system for Manitobans. We work to improve health policy so patients have better access to physicians across Manitoba, and so physicians have the supports they need to meet their patients’ needs.
“We regularly connect with the provincial government, Shared Health, regional health authorities and other organizations to ensure the physicians’ voices are heard and have an impact on decision-making.”
On Thursday, May 23, Dr. Boroditsky, who started in practice 25 years ago as an obstetrician gynaecologist, spoke to over 40 attendees at the weekly Remis speakers luncheon group at the Gwen Secter Centre. The focus of his talk was the “physician shortage” in Manitoba.
Using a series of slides that showed graphs detailing just how much Manitoba has slid almost to the bottom of all Canadian provinces when it comes to the number of physicians per capita (only Prince Edward Island has a worse ratio), Dr. Boroditsky was candid in describing the challenges that Manitobans face when it comes to finding doctors.
While the total number of physicians in Manitoba has grown by 21% in Manitoba over the past 20 years, this is actually the lowest growth of any province. Dr. Boroditsky explained that growth hasn’t kept pace with the growth in Manitoba’s population, nor has the number of physicians here per 100,000 (215) kept pace with the national average, which is 247/100,000.
To give an idea how far Manitoba has fallen in terms of physicians per capita, in 2002, we had the fourth highest ratio of physicians/100,000 population, while in 2023 we had fallen to ninth. Manitoba needs 445 more doctors just to get to the Canadian average.
To add even more gloom to the picture, Dr. Boroditsky said that, in a 2023 poll of physicians here, to which one third of active physicians responded, 12% of physicians said they were likely to retire within the next three years; 14% said they were likely to leave Manitoba; and 26% said they were likely to reduce their hours.
He did offer a glimmer of hope though, when he said that preliminary results from the 2024 Annual Physician Survey showed a slight improvement with physicians intending to stay in practice here in Manitoba.
Dr. Boroditsky cited six different reasons that doctors gave in explaining why they were either thinking of retiring or leaving the province. They included: frustrated by the “system”; feeling “burned out” or “distressed:”; don’t feel “valued”; “personal reasons”; “red tape”; or too heavy a “workload”.
While “burnout and distress are still high,” Dr. Boroditsky observed, the situation is “improving.”
“We’re seeing a different tone in government.”
Yet, in another moment of candour, Dr. Boroditsky said, “News flash: It’s hard to recruit (physicians) here in Manitoba.”
When it comes to physician retention, he described the number of years a physician needs to put in before they can begin practising as a doctor (beginning with three years of pre-med studies): For a family physician – nine years; for a specialist – 12 years; and for someone who undertakes a fellowship – 15 years.
Dr. Boroditsky touched upon the area of immigrant doctors – and why doesn’t Manitoba allow more of them?
There are two types of International Medical Graduates (IMGs), he explained: Canadians who have gone overseas for their medical education, to such jurisdictions as Ireland or Australia; and physicians from abroad looking to relocate to Canada.
Until now, the Manitoba government has only offered 20 training spaces for IMGs each year, Dr. Boroditsky explained, but that figure will double to 40 this year. Unfortunately, we need to add 445 doctors here altogether even if we were just to meet the national average, so adding 20 more IMGs to the total isn’t enough on its own to fix the shortage.
Still, there was some good news in the area of physician retention. The average net gain in doctors in Manitoba over the past five years has been 60 a year, Dr. Boroditsky noted. Putting some more flesh on that figure, he said that, on average, 213 new doctors have begun practice here each of the past five years, but 153 have either retired or left the province. This year, however, of the UM medical school graduating class, 79 have committed to doing their residencies in Manitoba, he said. (Manitoba does not have mandatory residency requirements for graduating medical students, he added.)
Turning to other areas where there has been much-needed change to the system, Dr. Boroditsky noted that “cloud storage” now allows doctors anywhere in the province to access the results of blood tests and imaging sessions e.g., CAT scans, MRIs. The one crucial area that still remains to be accessible by doctors, however, remain “clinical notes,” but that’s coming, he predicted.
In the question and answer session that followed, I asked Dr. Boroditsky about a recent Maclean’s Magazine article which analyzed in some detail the dire state of the Canadian medical system. That article noted the increasing privatization of medical services, the proliferation of nurse practitioners in many areas where there are severe doctor shortages, and the advent of what is known as “virtual medicine,” especially in areas where patients find it difficult to see a doctor in person. (I had written an article about a service that began in Manitoba in 2022 known as QDoc, which describes how successful a foray into “virtual medicine” by two Winnipeggers, Dr. Norm Silver, and Dave Berkowits, had been. You can read that article at https://jewishpostandnews.ca/faqs/rokmicronews-fp-1/qdoc-a-new-venture-that-promises-to-change-the-way-patients-interact-with-doctors/)
I asked Dr. Boroditsky whether Doctors Manitoba had a problem with the expanded use of nurse practitioners and what he thought of virtual medicine?
He said there’s been a “significant increase” in nurse practitioners (who are allowed to see patients, diagnose and prescribe in certain limited areas) and fully agreed “that team-based care with providers working with physicians is the way to move forward.” As for “virtual medicine,” Dr. Boroditsky said, “its’ a game changer.”
It was toward the end of his talk that Dr. Boroditsky talked about the heightened antisemitism of which many Jewish doctors have expressed deep concern. His comments can be read in another article on our home page at https://jewishpostandnews.ca/faqs/rokmicronews-fp-1/jewish-physicians-in-manitoba-form-association-in-response-to-antisemitism/

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President of University of Manitoba Michael Benarroch responds to criticisms levelled at university over controversial valedictorian speech

UM President Michael Benarroch

UM president Michael Benarroch issued the following statement on May 24, 2024:
Last week, UM celebrated the convocation of 106 new physicians from the Max Rady College of Medicine. What should have been a joyous occasion for all graduating students was tarnished by the valedictorian’s address. Valedictory addresses should celebrate the accomplishments of the students in the class and provide inspiration to help motivate the graduates in their future careers.  The address should speak to all the students in the class.  Valedictory addresses are not political platforms for one student or a group of students to express their views, no matter how important or relevant the issue.  Universities, including the University of Manitoba, provide many platforms of expression and I believe this is why we have seen so much political activism on our campuses in the past few months.
 
As President, I have felt it important that our university maintains neutrality about the complex geopolitical situation in Israel and Gaza.  Universities are not monolithic institutions made up of groups of people sharing homogeneous perspectives and experiences.  This neutrality however should not be interpreted as inattention, nor should it be mistaken for an acceptance of antisemitism, or any other form of racism.  I have been carefully watching and listening to what has been happening on our campuses – and I am distressed by the escalation in both activity and rhetoric that is causing pain and harm in our community and not moving the world closer to peace in the middle east. 
 
Many universities, including UM, have long and painful histories of systemic antisemitism. You don’t have to look much further than our medical college’s notorious quota system – something our college’s very namesake, Max Rady, had to overcome to gain entry – to find an example. I am saddened to acknowledge that antisemitism continues to exist on our campuses today. I hear far too often from students and colleagues who do not feel UM’s campuses are safe for them.
 
I am and always have been a fierce defender of free speech. As the president of a university, I am keenly aware of my – our – obligation to protect this fundamental freedom.  But with that freedom comes responsibility, and it is critically important for free speech to coexist with the protection of human rights. I fear that the way one perspective is being expressed is resulting in another group experiencing hate.
 
Simply put, UM needs to do better.
 
What I have found shocking in the communications directed at UM in the aftermath of the valedictory speech, is how unaware people are of the systemic antisemitism that exists in the world. Israel is not above criticism, but the insidious nature of antisemitism is such that many cannot even recognize it for what it is.  As a university, we can and will bring our resources to bear to offer much-needed education to our students, faculty and staff.  I commit UM to develop additional anti-racism education resources including antisemitism training for our students, faculty and staff – an effort that is already underway. This training will be made mandatory for students in the Rady Faculty of Health Sciences.
 
I wish I could guarantee you that this type of occurrence will not happen again at our university Unfortunately, I fear that there will continue to be hard times ahead. 
 
I have heard from many people that they are questioning their association with UM in light of recent events.  While I fully understand why you might feel this way, now, more than ever, UM needs you. As President, I rely on UM alumni and friends to add to the rich diversity of thought and perspective that help us navigate challenging times as an institution. I realize there are many organizations and individuals who are hurt and angry, asking you to back off from your support for universities right now.  I’m asking you to lean in. With your voice at the table, we can be stronger, more inclusive, and more responsive. Your voice and the benefit of your wisdom and experience can help us effectively confront antisemitism and grow understanding.  
 
If you would like to discuss this, please do not hesitate to contact me.  I would welcome hearing from you.
  
Sincerely,
Michael
 
 Michael Benarroch, Ph.D.
President and Vice-Chancellor
202 Administration Building
66 Chancellors Circle
Winnipeg, Manitoba R3T 2N2
Phone:  204-474-9345
Email:  m.benarroch@umanitoba.ca

To read the remarks by the valedictorian for this year’s graduating class of the UM medical school, along with subsequent reactions from the medical school’s dean, and Ernest Rady, who donated $30 to the UM in 2016, go to https://jewishpostandnews.ca/faqs/rokmicronews-fp-1/valedictory-speech-delivered-to-graduating-medical-students-sets-off-storm-of-controversy/

To read letters from a graduate of this year’s medical school class along with an alumnus of that school, go to https://jewishpostandnews.ca/faqs/rokmicronews-fp-1/reaction-to-the-valedictory-address-at-the-medical-school-convocation-ceremony/

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Jewish physicians in Manitoba form association in response to antisemitism

Doctors Manitoba President Dr. Michael Boroditsky speaking to the Remis Lecture group at the Gwen Secter Centre Thursday, May 23

By BERNIE BELLAN (first posted May 24, 2024, updated May 27) Jewish physicians in Manitoba have been in the process of organizing as an official organization since October 7 and its aftermath, stemming from the huge upsurge in antisemitism.
According to Doctors Manitoba Immediate Past President Dr. Michael Boroditsky, who has also been actively involved in organizing Jewish physicians here into a group, The Jewish Physicians of Manitoba “will be passing bylaws and electing an executive this weekend” (May 25-26).
Dr. Boroditsky spoke about the Jewish Physicians’ Association at the tail end of a question and answer session following a talk he had given to member of the Remis Lecture group at the Gwen Secter Centre on Thursday, May 23.
In response to a question about the controversy surrounding the convocation ceremony at the U of M medical school on Thursday, May 16, Dr. Boroditsky noted that Jewish physicians in cities across Canada and the U.S. have been forming formal associations in response to heightened antisemitism following the Hamas massacre of October 7.

With reference to the policy adopted by so many institutions of higher learning across Canada and the U.S. to promote EDI (Equity, Diversity, Inclusion), Dr. Boroditsky said: “Our belief is that EDI at the University of Manitoba applies to everybody but Jews.”

On May 27 we were informed that a first meeting of the Jewish Physicians of Manitoba had been held at the Etz Chayim Synagogue Sunday evening, May 26, with 120 Jewish physicians in attendance. (One hundred eighty physicians have signed up to join up the association so far.) A board consisting of ten members was formed


In an article in the Montreal Gazette on April 1 this year, that paper referred to the formation of “the Association des médecins juifs du Québec” this past November. According to the Gazette article, “Founded in November, the association counts some 400 members across Quebec.”


British Columbia has also seen the recent formation of a Jewish physicians association. According to information on the internet, “The Jewish Medical Association of British Columbia was started by family physician Dr. Larry Barzelai in November 2023 as an attempt to get Jewish physicians together to support one another, especially in the current situation of increased antisemitism. The group has almost 300 members.”

Toronto, in contrast, had had a long history of Jewish physicians forming an association. There has been a Toronto Jewish Medical Association since 1925.

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