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Jewish Foundation of Manitoba steps up to the plate with huge infusion of assistance for Jewish organizations



John Diamond, CEO, Jewish Foundation

Originally posted May 13. Updated May 16

By BERNIE BELLAN The Jewish Foundation of Manitoba has given a major boost to many Jewish organizations that have found themselves in dire financial circumstances as a result of the restrictions placed on their operations during the COVID-19 pandemic.

We were first informed that the Foundation was helping many organizations when we were told that cheques had been sent out to many organizations the last week in April. We contacted several organizations to verify what we had been told had happened and were able to confirm that cheques had been sent out by the Foundation.
But, while we did attempt to gather more information about what the Foundation was doing, it took some time before we received a detailed description from the Foundation of what exactly was going on. We had emailed a series of questions to various individuals associated with the Foundation on May 3, but it wasn’t until May 7 that we received a detailed response to those questions.
That detail came in the form of an email from John Diamond, CEO of the Jewish Foundation, which was received on May 7.

Following is what John Diamond wrote. His email also includes the exact questions that I posed in my May 3 email:
“I know that Richard Yaffe (Chair of the JFM board) has spoken to you and given you some information about the JFM’s planned approach to assisting our Jewish organizations during the Covid 19 pandemic. Since that time our board has met, as has our grants committee, and I can give you some updated information as well as some background.
“Our overall approach is governed by the legislation that created the Foundation, as well as by the JFM’s mission, vision and values.  With this in mind, we saw it as our responsibility to provide at least some level of basic financial support to as many Manitoba based Jewish organizations as possible. We also want to provide further assistance to those organizations that are in particularly dire circumstances as a result of the pandemic. 
“On the recommendation of staff, the JFM board decided to defer all regular 2020 grants. In fact, many of those grants related to projects that could no longer take place as a result of the pandemic. We decided to divide the available funds into three equal parts – each about $200,000.  The funds for this were re-directed from our 2020 Jewish and Community grants.
“Recognizing that many organizations are very thinly staffed and that some are not as adept as others in applying for funds, the first funding (aggregate $200,000) was distributed, based on organizations’ operating budgets, to provide basic sustaining funding to all of the organizations. In addition, we provided an aggregate of $102,000 to four of Winnipeg’s frontline charities (Winnipeg Harvest, Siloam Mission, Agape Table, and Main Street Project). 
“Our grants committee and board are now in the process of finalizing the guidelines for the distribution of the remaining $400,000, which will be done in two parts.
 “I have compiled some points that I believe address all of the questions that you posed along with some additional insights into the process.

“1. Were you asked for assistance from certain organizations?
 “Some organizations have approached the Foundation for emergency funding.  Many have not.
 “2. What was the total amount of money JFM distributed to these organizations?
“In total, so far we have distributed almost $300,000 in relief funding to Jewish Community organizations and frontline charities (approximately $200,000 to the Jewish organizations from our regular grants, and approximately $100,000 from our community grants fund to the frontline community charities).
“3. What was the formula JFM used to distribute the money?

“To distribute to our 26 Manitoba based Jewish organizations, five levels of funding were established based on the operating budgets of each organization.
“4. The Foundation froze all spring grants that it was to have allocated. Can you explain why?
“Many of the projects that the spring grants were to fund were cancelled or significantly altered since the time the applications for funding were submitted. We believe it is our responsibility to take action to help sustain our Jewish organizations, whether or not they have an immediate need and whether or not they have the human and financial resources to apply for funding.
“5. Will the JFM also be distributing more money for the relief of organizations based on need?
 “We know this is not the end of hardships to be endured by our Jewish organizations. Therefore in the next few weeks, more information will be provided to them regarding opportunities to apply for additional relief funding from the remaining $400,000. Our Grants Committee is currently finalizing the process and criteria for organizations to apply.
“To ensure we are implementing processes that will achieve the most impact, the JFM is in constant contact with our Jewish organizations. This includes the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg. As both organizations endeavor to serve the community during this time of need, it will be through our shared information and consistent communication that support is administered where it is needed most.
“Thank you again for helping us communicate our ambition to support our community during this difficult time.”

As a post script to this article, which ran in the May 13 issue of the JP&N, we asked the Jewish Foundation whether they will supply a complete list of Jewish organizations that have received emergency funding from the Foundation and how much each organization has received.

Added May 16: We have now received a complete list of organizations that received help from the Jewish Foundation:

1 Adas Yeshurun Herzlia Congregation
2 Aleph Bet Child Life Enrichment Program Inc.
3 Asper Jewish Community Campus of Winnipeg
4 B’nai Brith Canada – Midwest Region
5 B’nai Brith Jewish Community Camp
6 Camp Massad Manitoba
7 Canadian Institute for the Study of Antisemitism
8 Chabad-Lubavitch of Winnipeg
9 Chai Folk Arts Council Inc.
10 Chavurat Tefilah
11 Chesed Shel Emes
12 Chevra Mishnayes Synagogue
13 Congregation Etz Chayim
14 Congregation Shaarey Zedek
15 Gray Academy of Jewish Education
16 Gwen Secter Creative Living Centre
17 Hebrew Congregation of Winnipeg Beach
18 House of Ashkenazie
19 Jewish Child and Family Service
20 Jewish Federation of Winnipeg
21 Jewish Heritage Centre of Western Canada
22 National Council of Jewish Women of Canada-Winnipeg Section
23 Rady Jewish Community Centre
24 Saul & Claribel Simkin Centre
25 Shalom Residences Inc.
26 Talmud Torah Beth Jacob Synagogue
27 Temple Shalom Manitoba Inc.
28 Winnipeg Jewish Theatre Inc.



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Local News

Beneficiary agencies of the Jewish Federation have received $210,000 less this year than last year as of September 1



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.
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Local News

Six members of the community receive King’s Counsel appointments



New KIng's Counsel appointments clockwise from top left: Laurelle Harris, Fay-Lynn Katz, Sandra Kliman, Bryan Schwartz, Frank Lavitt, Steve Kohn

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.

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Local News

Kayla Gordon inducted on to Rainbow Stage’s Wall of Fame



Kayla Gordon (centre) holding an award she received from Rainbow Stage after having been inducted on to Rainbow Stage’s Wall of Fame in the Builders’ category. Chris Reid (standing beside Kayla) presented the award. Also with Kayla was Brenda Gorlick, Kayla’s long- time collaborator in muscial theatre, who introduced Kayla.

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 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”.

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