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Jewish Federation launches new program: “TAP” (Teens and Philanthropy) – to give teens a voice in fundraising

Sam Slutchuk

By BERNIE BELLAN When Sam Slutchuk was still a student at Gray Academy – five years ago, he developed a keen interest in working with the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg.
As he told me in a recent phone interview, “I’ve been connected to the Federation since high school. I began as an intern, then when I started university, I was asked to work for the Federation part-time.”

In the five years since he first began an internship with the Federation, Sam, now 22, has taken on increasingly important roles.
“I was first involved in community outreach,” Sam says. “Then I started working with Dalia Szpiro” (the Federation’s GrowWinnipeg Director, who helps to introduce new families into the community).
Sam also worked with Madeline Lopez Ficher, the Federation’s Creative Director, helping to design the Federation’s revamped website, “jewishwinnipeg.org”, nearly two years ago. Sam was also responsible for managing the “Community Connects” initiative during the early stages of the pandemic, which offered check-in calls to over 4000 Jewish households.

More recently though, Sam has moved into a different role – as a “Development Associate” for the Federation, a role in which he is directly involved in fundraising for the Combined Jewish Appeal.
In addition to working for the Federation, Sam is a student at the University of Manitoba.
How Sam came to be involved in fundraising is itself an interesting story.
“I’ve always been interested in fundraising,” he says. “I enjoy my days spent at the Federation because I am helping raise funds for an organization I care deeply about.”
Part of Sam’s new role involves educating young people, in this case high school students, about the importance of the Jewish Federation to the Jewish community, and concomitantly, the importance of the Combined Jewish Appeal.
As Sam says, “I’m emotionally connected to the CJA and the Federation.”

Now, while many young people have volunteered at one time or another with various beneficiary agencies of the Federation, it’s Sam’s job to prepare young people for future roles with the Federation and the community at large.
As such, Sam has been tasked with running a program called “Teens and Philanthropy”.
A little while ago the Federation sent out a marketing campaign to 500 families of teenagers in the community. The email promoted the TAP program to the teenagers to see whether they might be interested in serving on a committee comprised of 14-17 year-olds that would meet once a month for two hours, and whose members would become educated in the important role that philanthropy plays in the community.
Altogether, nearly 40 students expressed interest in serving on the TAP committee through the CJA. As Sam says, “I am thrilled with the response of our teens and excited to get this project off the ground.”
The students come from a variety of different schools, including Gray Academy, Grant Park High School, Garden City Collegiate, and the University of Winnipeg Collegiate.

I asked Sam whether there was one common denominator that he could identify among the students on the committee, other than their ages? He thought about it for a moment, then said that they almost all had been involved with PJ Library at one time or another – which. by the way, shows how successful PJ Library has been at integrating families into the community.
So, what is it that the students will be asked to do when they’re on the TAP committee?
Sam explains that the committee will be given $3600 to work with. Over the course of the next few months, the committee will research the beneficiary agencies that receive funding from the Jewish Federation. The members of the committee will be asked to allocate that $3600 in a similar way that the Allocations Committee of the Jewish Federation distributes funds to the various agencies.
As Sam notes in an email he also sent to me following our interview, “The purpose of the creation of TAP is for the younger generation of our community to have a hands-on experience in philanthropy, no better way than with real-time and money. I felt it was crucial to begin recruiting members now; teens are looking to make a difference, need to fulfill volunteer hours, and what better way than to form a committee.”

I wondered though, whether the students might have an inherent predisposition to favour agencies with which they might have a greater familiarity, such as Gray Academy or the two sleepover camps, Massad and BB Camp?
Sam says that many of the students might have familiarity with other agencies as well, such as the Simkin Centre, because they have a grandparent there, or perhaps Jewish Child & Family Service, or they will learn of new agencies that may hit close to home.
Regardless, the overall purpose of giving the students the $3600 to allocate is to educate them in the process of decision-making.
“These students will be asked to voice their thoughts and opinions,” he notes.
“We need to bring younger people into the process,” Sam says, in explaining what the objective of the program is. “We want our future generation of the community to feel they have a voice.”

Given the Covid situation, however, the first meeting of the committee, which will take place toward the end of January, will, of necessity, be held online.
Sam says though that the hope is to be able to have meetings in February and March held in person.
“Down the road,” he also says, “I would like the students to sit in on focus groups, potentially work as canvassers on Super Sunday,” and to be given roles that until now would have been reserved for adults.
Once they’ve served on the TAP committee this year, each student will be given a letter of reference which should prove valuable down the road both in terms of applying to post-secondary education after high school or in seeking a job.
“We’ll be testing the waters at this point,” Sam says. But, by asking high school students to familiarize themselves with much of the process that’s involved in the work of the Jewish Federation at this relatively early stage of their lives, the hope is that the end result will be to help prepare future leaders of tomorrow for important roles in the community.
“As Sam says, “we need to bring younger people into the process. We wouldn’t have a community without the CJA.”

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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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