By BERNIE BELLAN A story in the Monday, April 27 issue of the Free Press says that the Jewish Federation has launched an emergency fund for organizations that have taken a financial hit as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
But there are many questions raised by what the Jewish Federation is doing, foremost among which is: Why?
As well, without any clear goals in mind, just what is the game plan for the Federation?
The Free Press article says that “About 30 Jewish organizations that have taken a financial hit because of the novel coronavirus will be able to access a relief fund set up by the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg.”
Thirty Jewish organizations have taken a financial hit? Are there even that many in Winnipeg? I sure don’t see it, unless you count organizations that maintain chapters here, such as Hadassah, National Council of Jewish Women, etc.
But Jewish organizations that maintain offices and might have been affected financially by the coronavirus? Thirty? Come on.
We’ve contacted several organizations, including the major synagogues in Winnipeg, and none of the ones which responded (three out of four) said they they had asked for any financial help. On top of that, the Jewish Foundation has been sending out cheques to various organizations that didn’t even ask for them.
Here is an excerpt from the text of an email sent by the Jewish Foundation to various Winnipeg Jewish organizations:
“…To offer our support during this critical time, emergency funding has now been distributed to every one of our Jewish community organizations.”
Again, one might ask: Why send out cheques when you haven’t even been asked for them?
As for Jewish organizations needing help, there are two in unique situations: The Rady JCC and the Gwen Secter Centre.
The Rady JCC has taken a huge financial hit as a result of the cancellation of programs. Rob Berkowits, Executive Director of the Rady JCC, told me weeks ago that in the first few days following the closure of the Rady JCC, staff in the finance department had processed 1900 refunds, including refunds for memberships, programs, and the day camps. On top of that the cancellation of the sports dinner will also be a heavy financial blow to the Rady JCC.
The Gwen Secter Centre is in a different situation from every other organization. With a minuscule staff it has been turning out a huge number of meals for seniors who have found themselves confined to their homes – and were unable to access Meals on Wheels (which stopped taking new applicants shortly after the province went into lockdown mode).
So, when we read on another website that Joel Lazer, President of the Jewish Federation, says that “At the moment there is no goal (for this emergency funding campaign). We know there will be needs. We just don’t know how much…Almost no one has a need for funding today…” – one wonders: Just what prompted this emergency campaign – and how much will it cut into the upcoming Combined Jewish Appeal campaign?
We posed some questions to Elaine Goldstine, CEO of the Jewish Federation. Following are the questions and Elaine’s answers:
JP&N: Why do any organizations need emergency funding at this point – other than perhaps Gwen Secter, which is providing meals gratis to seniors?
Elaine: Though we cannot know with certainty the course of this pandemic, it is clear that the needs will evolve and grow in the coming weeks and months. Once we begin receiving applications for funding, we will have a good sense of what the financial needs of our community are and will be able to set a goal. Even after the pandemic is over, there may be after effects that are hard to forecast. We are helping them prepare for all possible scenarios by raising money .
JP&N: Shouldn’t all the other organizations have sufficient funding from allocations they received for the 2019-20 year?
Elaine: We are still sending allocations cheques, but with regard to their specific situation you would have to ask the agencies. Some agencies have had additional expenses due to COVID-19 but may not have applied for new funds yet.
(Ed. note: So, they may have had additional expenses, but they haven’t applied for funds. Then, how do you know they have additional expenses?)
JP&N: I can see synagogues being in trouble meeting expenses such as general upkeep. Are those the organizations that are being helped?
Elaine: All Jewish organizations in Winnipeg are eligible to receive funds from this campaign, including synagogues. All funds raised will remain in Winnipeg.
(Ed. note: It is not clear whether any synagogues asked for any help. I heard from three of them – Shaarey Zedek, Temple Shalom, and Adas Yeshurun-Herzlia. None of them had asked for help nor did they say they needed financial assistance. Despite several emails sent to Jonathan Buchwald, Executive Director of Etz Chayim Congregation, I did not receive a response.)
Later, in a phone conversation I had with Elaine Goldstine, I asked her whether any Israel-based organizations would be eligible for this emergency financial assistance. She said they would, “so long as the money remained in Canada”. I can think of only two organizations that might qualify: The Jewish National Fund and Canadian Associates of Ben Gurion University. But what help would they need other than paying rent, perhaps? I suppose the JNF is in a bad spot as a result of the cancellation of the Negev Gala, so maybe they’re in need of help, but other than payroll for staff and rent for the office, what expenses would they incur? The money they raise is intended to go to Israel, so the impact of the cancellation of the Negev Gala will be felt most strongly in Israel, not in Winnipeg.
The organizations that are housed at the Asper Campus may be in a bit of a bind when it comes to paying rent to the campus. I can see BB Camp and Camp Massad being in that situation with the summer camp programs likely canceled. But, other than that, it will be staff personnel that will be affected by the cancellation of programs – and they will all be eligible for government assistance of different sorts. And we have heard that the Asper Campus is showing flexibility with its tenants.
Again, this emergency funding seems to have been put together without much planning aforethought. Yes, there are Jewish organizations all over North America that are bleeding heavily as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. (See article elsewhere on this website at jewishpostandnews.ca/final/8-features/422-jewish-nonprofits-are-struggling-how-should-donors-try-to-rescue-them .)
But, here in Winnipeg that doesn’t seem to be the case. Other than the Rady JCC, which laid off 160 staff in the middle of March (then brought back 30 to staff the day care at the campus), there isn’t a single Jewish organization that’s laid off any staff.
So – where’s the emergency? The Jewish Federation and the Jewish Foundation both want to be seen as pro active – and one can understand their motivation. But, if they hadn’t been asked for financial assistance, then why offer it?
Schmoozer’s now under management of Shaarey Zedek Catering
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).
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.
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.”