By BERNIE BELLAN
As is typical these days, the Annual General Meeting of the Jewish Foundation of Manitoba, which would normally have been held in front of at least a few people, was held online via Zoom instead.
(Let’s not kid ourselves though: Annual General Meetings of Jewish organizations don’t usually attract much in the way of a crowd unless they’re handing out a lot of awards.) The Jewish Foundation held its AGM on Wednesday, June 17, emanating largely from the home of Richard Yaffe, Board Chair of the Foundation. Although it was possible to see who else was watching, the faces of only a very few individuals were made visible. (I always get a kick out of seeing people in their homes during these get-togethers. Everyone dresses casually and it’s fun seeing into everyone’s home and what they have in the background. I think it’s the way all AGMs should be held in the future.)
When he began proceedings shortly after 5:00 pm, Yaffe welcomed everyone who was watching, but he also indicated that no questions would be allowed until the very end of the meeting. Further, questions were to be sent in via chat. Would anyone be surprised to learn there were no questions asked?
I don’t know about anyone else who was watching (and from the names that were visible on the screen, they seemed to be mostly representatives of other Jewish organizations), but I sure would have liked to ask for details about how much assistance the Foundation has given to each local Jewish organization that has been allocated emergency funding during the pandemic and how much each of the organizations that will receive assistance in two more “phases” will receive. But, as I reported in the May 27 issue of this paper, the Foundation continues to maintain, as Richard Yaffe put it, that it “To be respectful of a variety of unique circumstances currently faced by individual organizations, at this time, we will leave the disclosure of the amount they received to their discretion.”
Yaffe did add that information will be made public by the Foundation in its 2020 Annual Report – so we’ll only have to wait one more year to find out how much each organization has received and will receive as a result of emergency funding during the pandemic – unless I can get each of the organizations to tell me how much they received back in April in Phase 1 of the Foundation’s emergency funding. I should add that I already know how much some organizations received, but it would be unfair to disclose that information unless I can reveal how much each of the 28 organizations that received funding received.
Turning to the 2019 Annual Report, however, here are some of the highlights, as reported by Dan Blankstein, JFM Treasurer and John Diamond, JFM CEO:
• the Foundation distributed in excess of $5.2 million to the community, $700,000 greater than the previous year.
• During 2019, both individual donors and organizations continued to significantly support the Foundation with endowment contributions in excess of $5.6 million
• The Foundation’s endowment fund’s net assets increased by 14% year-over-year, to more than $137 million
• Gifts to organizational endowments comprised $1.9 million of the 2019 gifts representing an 8.0% increase over the previous year. This increment will result in an additional $80,000 distributed into Winnipeg’s Jewish community annually.
• The performance of the investment portfolio for 2019 was 15.34% before fees. The 5-year and 10-year returns were 7.49% and 7.93%, respectively, before fees. 2019 was a “good year” in terms of investment performance.
The Annual Report went on to note other significant milestones reached by the Foundation in 2019:
• $1,228,930 was distributed in 2019 to Jewish organizations through their organizational endowments
• Since 1964 , the Foundation has distributed $72,676,844 in grants
• 17 planned gifts were realized, totaling $2,134,086
• $176,000 in scholarships were awarded to 76 students
• $33,680 in camperships were given
Of the over $5.2 million that were given in grants, $4,341,498 were designated grants (meaning the donors had specifically designated the recipients of the grants), while $875,745 were undesignated grants.
In discussing the overall performance of the Foundation in 2019, Richard Yaffe observed that “the work we did last year (2019) has put us in a strong position for the future.
“We know that 2020 is destined to be a very difficult year, but in no way will it be a step back” for the Foundation.
With specific reference to the emergency allocations that the Foundation has been able to give – not only to Jewish organizations, but to other community organizations as well, Yaffe explained that the Foundation’s undesignated funds have been and will continue to be crucial: “It is through these funds that the Foundation was able to respond so quickly to the pandemic,” he said.
“By the end of 2020 we will have distributed more than $750,000 in relief funding,” Yaffe added.
Yaffe described the criteria that the Foundation’s board applied when it came to allocating the $268,000 in emergency funding in Phase 1 of the emergency funding – both to Jewish and non-Jewish organizations: “Speed, efficiency, and inclusiveness”.
“Each organization’s financial report and operational expenses dictated how much each organization received,” he said.
In addition to the $68,000 that was given to four community organizations (Agape Table, Winnipeg Harvest, The Main Street Project, and Siloam Mission), an anonymous donor came forward with a further $34,000 gift that was added to the $68,000; thus, the total given to those four organizations came to $102,000.
As well, Phase 1 also included the spring distribution of $30,000 in Women’s Endowment Fund Grants to five organizations “that continue to support our most vulnerable women and children: North End Women’s Resource Centre, Willow Place, Salvation Army, Alpha House, and the West Central Resource Centre”.
There will be two further phases of emergency funding for Jewish organizations, Yaffe noted. In Phase 2, $200,000 will be distributed to 14 Jewish organizations. (Once we are told which organizations have received funding we will publish that information.)
There will be a third phase of emergency funding, Yaffe said, and information about that third and final phase of emergency funding “will be disclosed shortly”.
A recording of the entire 2020 Jewish Foundation of Manitoba Annual General Meeting can be found on the Foundation’s YouTube page.
Beneficiary agencies of the Jewish Federation have received $210,000 less this year than last year as of September 1
By BERNIE BELLAN
For the first time in at least 10 years the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg has reduced the amount distributed to its 12 beneficiary agencies from what had been distributed the previous year. The funds were distributed September 1 for 2023-24.
The total amount distributed this year was $210,000 less than what was distributed in both 2022 and 2021 and is actually $500,000 less than the total that was requested by the beneficiary agencies. (The amount distributed last year was $216,000 less than what the beneficiary agencies had requested.)
In explaining why allocations are being reduced this year, the Federation reported that “Over the past few years, the Federation and community have collectively faced significant challenges, placing a strain on our financial resources. In response to these challenges, the Federation stepped in during our community’s time of need, dedicating over $200,000 from our reserves to sustain our beneficiary agencies.” (In a later explanation it was clarified that $100,000 was taken from Federation reserves in each of 2022 and 2021.)
It was further noted that the decrease in funds to be allocated to agencies represents a 7% decrease over the previous year. Dipping into reserves was described as an “unsustainable practice.” It was also noted that the Federation “notified our beneficiaries of a probable reduction in the amount of funding available well ahead of the allocation request deadline.
In describing the pressures that the Federation’s Allocations Committee faced this year in coming up with its allocations, committee chair Brent Schacter said that “We knew after the budget process last year we were going to be in a bind.” Schacter further elaborated that the two whammies that hit this year were the ongoing repercussions of Covid along with the rapid increase in inflation.
In discussing the pressures that the Allocations committee faced this year, it should also be noted that although the amount raised by the Combined Jewish Appeal – while not much more than the previous year ($6.3 million as opposed to $6.25 million), the negative effects of the drop in allocations are somewhat mitigated by two things:. A good portion of the amount raised by the CJA is in the form of “designated funds,” given by large donors and, while those funds are not available to the B & A committee to distribute, many of the beneficiary agencies did receive large distributions from those “designated funds.”
As well, the Jewish Foundation of Manitoba increased its total distributions this year by $1.3 million over the previous year. While the Foundation’s gifts were spread among a very wide number of recipients, a number of the Federation’s beneficiary agencies did benefit from the increase in Foundation distributions.
Still, the challenges facing the Federation in meeting the needs of the community are leading to a major reassessment of how Federation planners are implementing budgetary planning.
A number of new innovations have now been adopted by the B & A committee, including:
- New application forms – one for agencies requesting more than $250,000 and one for agencies requesting less
- Beneficiaries were asked to state the anticipated outcomes of projects/programs that receive Federation funding, and to develop indicators so that they can measure those outcomes.
- Site visits took place along with periodic meetings with agencies as a whole throughout the year to ensure that the committee gets a more complete picture of beneficiaries’ activities, challenges, and plans.
In describing the process that the Federation undertook to “streamline” the budget allocation process, Federation President Gustavo Zentner said “Lay leadership and management had a responsibility to look at the business model.”
It was determined that the Federation needed “a more effective way of managing the allocations process,” Zentner stated, including “more meaningful communication with the agencies to bring to light their projects.”
Not only does the Federation want to improve its own fundraising process, Zentner continued, “We also want to help agencies to raise funds on their own.”
Despite the reductions in allocations available to agencies this year, Zentner stressed that “we wanted to address the needs of those members of the community who are most in need.”
Brent Schacter added: “We want to see people dig a little bit deeper” when it comes to giving. The Combined Jewish Appeal is now into its fundraising campaign for the 2023-24 fiscal year.
Six members of the community receive King’s Counsel appointments
A total of 17 lawyers were appointed King’s Counsel by Order in Council on August 29. Six members of our Jewish community were among those appointed. Although appointments as King’s Counsel are usually accompanied by biographical information about those appointed, there was no press release issued by the Manitoba Government announcing the appointments. When we contacted the Manitoba Government news room to ask why there was no biographical information available, the response we received referred to KC appointments announced in February (no surprise there – these are bureaucrats we’re dealing with). When we asked again why there was no biographical information available about the most recent batch of KC appointments we were told “the Province of Manitoba is in the middle of an election blackout and department communications are limited as a result. News Room has nothing further to add.”
As a result, we present here photos of Jewish recipients of KC appointments, but without any further information.
Kayla Gordon inducted on to Rainbow Stage’s Wall of Fame
Myron Love It was in the summer of 1984 when Kayla Gordon was appearing in the Rainbow Stage production of “Kismet,” that the long time actor/director/producer/photographer found herself doing her make-up sitting next to Nia Vardalos, the writer and star of “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” fame, who was also appearing in the production.
“We both were playing opposite each other in the comic roles as the Ayahs to the Wazir (the main lead), and we began talking about our plans for the future,” Gordon recalls. “Nia was talking about moving to Toronto and joining the Second City company. As for me, I was in a comedy troupe in Winnipeg and just found out I was pregnant with my first child. My plan was to stay in Winnipeg, even though I was a bit jealous that she was going off to pursue her dream and I was staying put. That was my ‘Kismet’ and I never looked back.”
Rainbow Stage is where Gordon began her career in musical theatre at the age of 17 in a production of “Fiddler on the Roof.” After a career of more than 40 years, both on stage and behind the scenes – it is fitting that one of the leading lights of community theatre in our city has been recognized for her contributions by Winnipeg’s longest-running theatre company. On Wednesday, August 17, Gordon was one of the five inductees to Rainbow Stage’s Wall of Fame under the “Builder” category. The award is given to someone who has been part of nurturing and building our theatre community.
“It was a wonderful surprise,” says the honoree. “It brings my career full circle.” Previous honours for Gordon include the Leadership Award from the Canadian Friends of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Theatre Educator’s Award from the Winnipeg Theatre Awards for her long-time leadership within the arts community.
Gordon reports that the induction ceremony, attended by about 100 friends and family members of the inductees and Rainbow Stage staff, was held just prior to the opening night performance of “The Little Mermaid,”,the second of three shows the company is putting on this summer and early fall.
“It was also special to have one of my grandchildren, my husband Art Maister, my mom Ethel, and my aunt Evelyn Hecht at the induction ceremony,” she adds. (Evelyn also performed at Rainbow Stage in the 1950s.)
Gordon notes that while she appeared onstage in seven Rainbow Stage productions – from 1977 to 1993, she was honoured not for her acting, but for her role as a nurturer of talent through teaching acting and musical theatre at the University of Winnipeg for 18 years, as well as teaching at the University of Manitoba, Prairie Theatre Exchange and The Manitoba Theatre for Young People – also, later as the Artistic Director of Winnipeg Jewish Theatre for over 10 years and Winnipeg Studio Theatre, which she founded in 2006.
“I get a lot of satisfaction watching actors I’ve directed and students I have taught and nurtured performing at Rainbow Stage and other venues in the city,” Gordon notes. Many of them have gone on to work professionally and have appeared across Canada, as well as in Broadway productions. Some of them include: Alexandra Frohlinger (Soul Doctor/Broadway), Samantha Hill (Phantom of the Opera/Broadway), Jaz Sealey (Aladdin/Broadway), Andrea Macasaet (Six/Broadway), and Nyk Bielak (Book of Mormon/Broadway).
Gordon was an actor and high school drama teacher at West Kildonan Collegiate for the first 15 years of her career. By the mid-1990s she found herself becoming more interested in working behind the scenes as a director/producer. In 1994, she became the Winnipeg Jewish Theatre’s second artistic director – succeeding WJT founder Bev Aronovitch – a role she played until 2006. Following her time at WJT Gordon observed that local theatres were not hiring many female theatre directors.
“I realized that if I wanted to work as a director, I would have to create my own projects,” she recalls. So, she started Winnipeg Studio Theatre (WST) in 2006. Soon after forming the company, she invited her longtime theatre associate Brenda Gorlick to run the StudioWorks Academy, a program for emerging artists.
In 2021 she stepped down from her position at WST. “I am still interested in directing – but without the added pressures of being a producer or the full-time responsibility of running a professional theatre company,” she observes. “I like having the freedom to pick and choose the projects I want to work on.” I still plan to work on independent contracts directing theatre and creating entertainment for special events or fundraising activities in the community.”.Last year she produced and directed the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg’s Negev Gala tribute honouring Gail Asper and Michael Paterson. As well, stepping down from her responsibilities with WST has also allowed Gordon to devote more time to her other passion – photography. “I have been interested in photography since I was 15,” she recounts. “My father Ralph had a dark room in our basement.”
Over the past couple of years, she has achieved accreditation with the Professional Photographers of Canada in four different areas of photography: street photography (her favourite), portraiture, performing artists, and figure study. And, last year, she co-authored a coffee table book – “The Murals of Winnipeg,” with fellow photographer Keith Levit as a fundraiser for Take Pride Winnipeg, with 80 pages of photos, which sold out in two weeks and the funds will go to emerging mural artists. (That story can be found on the jewishpostandnews.ca website.)
Kayla is grateful to have stayed in Winnipeg and she sums up her career, and how and why she managed to work in theatre all these years with a quote from Henry Winkler (aka ‘The Fonz’) “I live by tenacity and gratitude. Tenacity gets you where you want to be, and gratitude allows you not to be frustrated along the way”.