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Manitoba Legislature recognizes May as “Jewish Heritage Month”

Attendees at the Manitoba
Legislature on May 31
To read a full list of names
in the photo, click on Read more

By BERNIE BELLAN The Manitoba Legislature passed a motion unanimously on Tuesday, May 31 that recognizes May as “Jewish Heritage Month” in Manitoba.
In a press release describing the motion, it was noted that “Springfield-Richot MLA Ron Schuler was pleased to present Bill 240, The Jewish Heritage Month Act, which would make each year’s month of May Jewish Heritage Month.

The Bill was first read on Monday, May 30, and was debated on Tuesday May 31. Many prominent Jewish community leaders and organizations watched from the gallery.
“ ‘Jewish people have persevered throughout human history, and throughout Canadian history as well,’ said Schuler. ‘We will never forget the atrocities committed during the Second World War and the Holocaust. As Canadians, we need to learn from our past and do our part to ensure that these events never happen again.’

Jewish Heritage Month 750 pixelsPictured in the above photo are: front row (l-r): Jon Gerrard, MLA, River Heights; Elaine Goldstine, CEO, Jewish Federation; Ron Shuler, MLA, Springfield-Ritchot (and presenter of the bill); Gustavo Zentner, President, Jewish Federation; Carol Duboff, board member, Jewish Federation; Andrew Micklefield, MLA, Rossmere (and seconder of the bill); Shelley Faintuch, former Community Relations Director, Jewish Federation; Haskel Greenfield, U of M Judaic Studies Program Coordinator
second row (l-r): Adam Levy, Communications & Public Relations Director, Jewish Federation; Belle Jarniewski, Executive Director, Jewish Heritage Centre of Western Canada; (behind Belle) Patrick Elazar, Member, Jewish Federation board; Stan Carbone, Director of Programs & Exhibits, JHCWC; Ruth Ashrafi, B’nai Brith Manitoba Regional Director; John Diamond, CEO, Jewish Foundation of Manitoba;
third row, (l-r): Gray Academy students Emery Rosen, Max Eilberg; Adriana Glickman, Winnipeg Program Coordinator, B’nai Brith; Gray Academy student Eden Avimelek; Judi Price-Rosen, Gray Academy staff representative

Following is the text of the act:
WHEREAS Manitoba is home to a strong and vibrant Jewish community;
AND WHEREAS Manitoba’s Jewish community is the fifth-largest Jewish population in Canada;
AND WHEREAS Manitoba’s Jewish community reflects the vibrant history and diverse culture of the Jewish people;
AND WHEREAS the Jewish community has made significant contributions to the growth and prosperity of Manitoba while overcoming tremendous obstacles;
AND WHEREAS the month of May is meaningful for the Jewish community;
AND WHEREAS celebrating the Jewish community in Manitoba will provide an opportunity to educate future generations about the inspirational role that Jewish Manitobans have played and continue to play across Manitoba;
THEREFORE HER MAJESTY, by and with the advice and consent of the Legislative Assembly of Manitoba, enacts as follows:
Jewish Heritage Month
In each year, the month of May is to be known throughout Manitoba as Jewish Heritage Month.
Following passage of the act, various representatives of the Jewish community,along with some students from Gray Academy, met with members of the provincial government, including MLA Ron Schuler and MLA Andrew Micklefield.

Jewish Federation President Gustavo Zentner then read remarks describing the history of the Jewish community in Manitoba.

Good morning,
My name is Gustavo Zentner, and I am the President of the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg, the representative body of Manitoba’s Jewish community.
I would like to begin by extending sincere thanks on behalf of our community to The Honourable Andrew Smith, Minister of Sport, Culture, and Heritage, as well as The Honourable Ron Schuler, for inviting us here today to participate in today’s dedication.

We applaud the Province of Manitoba for the introduction of the Jewish Heritage Month Act, declaring May as Jewish Heritage Month in Manitoba. The Federal designation of the month of May as Canadian Jewish Heritage Month was passed unanimously by Parliament, and since then, other provinces such as Ontario and British Columbia have followed suit.
I wish to recognize the work and leadership displayed by Senator Linda Frum for her work in getting the Canadian Jewish Heritage Month Act passed in 2018. I had an opportunity to meet with Senator Frum last week and was particularly humbled to reflect on the importance of Jewish Heritage Month and its implications for Canada.

We are pleased to count Manitoba among the provinces that celebrate the contributions of its Jewish citizens, who have a long and storied history in this province.
It is from that position of strength, community building, and positive engagement that I bring remarks to mark this momentous occasion. Let me be clear: the Jewish community is joined by many other ethnic groups and faith-based organizations that have made significant contributions to our province.
Deeply rooted in Jewish values, we celebrate and promote inclusion, equality, and diversity as reflected by the Jewish community delegation accompanying me here today.
Our Jewish community has played a leading role in the development of this province and, throughout our history here, has partnered with Manitobans and others to make this a prosperous and welcoming province for all.
In 1877-1878 the first known Jewish residents of Manitoba arrived. By the dawn of the following decade, more Jewish immigrants began to arrive in Manitoba, establishing themselves as merchants, peddlers, and traders. By 1881, there were 33 Jewish families in Manitoba, and the total Jewish population numbered about one hundred.
Early settlers of Jewish descent had a profound impact on our business community. I reflect on the life of Max Goldstine, a Hudson’s Bay factor at Fort Qu’Appelle during the Riel Rebellion. He moved to Winnipeg in 1880, married Jennie Cohn from Lexington, Kentucky and in 1883 established a clothing and general merchandise business, The Manitoba Clothing Company. One full century later, his great-grandson, Dr. Ian Goldstine, my friend, led the Manitoba Medical Association, now Doctors Manitoba, in 1993, and led the Jewish community as President from 2001-2003.
In the early 1880s, Alexander II, the Czar of Russia, was assassinated in St. Petersburg. The Russian government quickly pointed the finger at the Jews of Russia for his assassination. This caused its population to revolt against Russia’s Jewish population, who began to face unprecedented antisemitism through violent antisemitic attacks known as pogroms.
This caused a mass exodus of Jews from Russia. Seeking a land of opportunity free of antisemitism, many of them chose Manitoba as their new home, leading to the tripling of the Jewish population here to over 300 by 1882.

All was not bright for Jews once they arrived here, however, as many struggled to adapt to new cultural, political, and socio-economic conditions.
However, they persevered, and by the late 1880s land was assigned to Jewish farm settlers within Manitoba, in locations such as Niverville, Bender Hamlet, and Camper. Closer to Winnipeg, several Jewish farmers set up dairy farms.
In the decades that followed, rampant antisemitism began to tear through Europe, which led to the influx of Jewish immigrants to Manitoba continuing. By the turn of the century, the Jewish population here had increased to just over 1,500. By 1921, it had grown to over 16,000.

Standing here with you today is a privilege I do not take for granted, and I believe it is only fitting to reflect on some of the individuals who have built the core of our community and province.
A recently published book called “Healing Lives, A Century of Manitoba Jewish Physicians,” narrates the contributions made by Jewish doctors to our province. It was in Portage La Prairie that, in 1883, Jewish doctors started to engage in a variety of medical practices, primarily internal and respiratory, led by Dr. Cherniack. With growing cases of tuberculosis, Dr. Earl Hershfield led a practice in Northern and Aboriginal communities.
It is fascinating to reflect on the fact that, despite the ‘numerus clausa’ in place at that time – to ensure that the “right people” practiced medicine, members of our community continued with their commitment to build community and serve to the greatest extent possible…such as Dr. Ruven Lyons, who retired at the age of 82 from his obstetrics practice, and who also served as President of Shaarey Zedek Congregation.
That commitment was further carried on by Dr. Edward Lyons, whose leadership has included his role as President of the Canadian Association of Radiology and the International Society of Radiology and Ultrasound.
This is reflective of how Manitobans are in having an impact at national and international levels. Dr. Lyons, my friend and mentor, was also a former President of Congregation Shaarey Zedek and a Past President of the Federation.

Members of our community have also played vital roles in the judicial system, advocating for the rule of law, and occupying many notable positions within the judicial system in Manitoba.
It was in the decades that followed the first migration of Jews to Manitoba that Jewish people began to make an indelible mark on the historical fabric of Manitoba, through their increased participation in social, business, and political spheres.
Unfortunately, partly as a byproduct of their further integration into society, many experienced antisemitism. As late as the 1930s, Jews were excluded from private clubs and popular vacation spots here in Manitoba.
Undeterred, they continued to flourish. In the early 1960s, the Jewish population of Manitoba peaked at 21,000 and then began to decline. In 1990 Winnipeg’s Jewish population had fallen to less than 16,000 due to an aging population along with younger members of the community leaving to find opportunities in larger Canadian cities.

That is when leaders of our community took charge and undertook a series of actions to reverse that worrisome trend. The first was the opening of the Asper Jewish Community Campus in September 1997 – which still serves as the beating heart of our community to this day. Our Federation’s GrowWinnipeg initiative followed shortly thereafter, focuseing on the retention of our local Jewish population, and active recruitment of Jewish immigrants from all over the world.
Key to these efforts was outreach to the Jewish communities of Latin America, especially Argentina. In 1998, their Honours, Gary and Janice Filmon led efforts to open Manitoba to members of the Argentinean Jewish community, who were encouraged to consider moving to Manitoba and starting new lives here.
As a result, our Federation organized a program to actively recruit Jewish families from South America, which was quite successful in our revitalization efforts. Over the next several years, close to 500 South American Jewish families moved to Winnipeg, where they became a prosperous contingent of our local population. I am proud to say that I am here because of the initiative shown by certain individuals and humbled to play a leadership role standing on the shoulders of remarkable Manitobans.

For nearly 150 years, Jewish people have contributed to the social, political, and cultural vibrancy of Manitoba. Notably, members of our community’s leadership have paved the way to enable our province to reach international heights while building a strong community in Manitoba and across Canada. The late Izzy Asper was one of our leaders who played a prominent role in government, leading the Manitoba Liberal Party, developing a strong legal and business practice, and becoming the cornerstone of philanthropy in our province by establishing the Asper Foundation. One of his most accomplished legacies is the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, which he envisioned by drawing on Jewish values and a commitment to Tikkun- Olam, a Hebrew phrase meaning ‘repairing the world’.
With us today, we are surrounded by representatives of the Asper Jewish Community Campus, home of most of Manitoba’s Jewish institutions.

Our community’s commitment to heritage is highlighted by the Jewish Heritage Centre of Western Canada. Our sports and experiential Jewish life are enabled by the beautiful and vibrant Rady Jewish Community Centre; and our youth camps, B’nai Brith Camp and Camp Massad, leading our experiential Judaism and delivering youth programs in Manitoba.
The Jewish Foundation of Manitoba, established in 1964, has surpassed $150 million in endowments, and plays a key role in enabling and sponsoring activities within and outside the Jewish community. I am proud to serve on its Board of Directors and can see first-hand the impact its contributions make.
The Jewish Federation of Winnipeg’s mandate is to enable a secure, connected, and safe community for all. We celebrate this month and look to the future by ensuring Jewish education, as exemplified by the Gray Academy of Jewish Education and other Hebrew and Jewish programs at other schools across our city, providing formal education for generations to come.
We are vigilant in monitoring the rise of antisemitism across Canada; I recognize the work done by B’nai B’rith Canada to eradicate racism and hatred.
Our clergy and others not only serve roles in our Jewish synagogues, they also engage in cross-communal and inter-faith activities, contributing to a prosperous and connected province, based on Jewish values and deep connections with other communities in Manitoba. I recognize the work done by the Manitoba Council of Rabbis with other faith groups in our province.

As I stand here today, I can’t help but wonder what those first Jewish immigrants who arrived here in Manitoba would think of the active, thriving community that we have built – and what they would think of us, standing here today, celebrating the contributions of Jewish people in the Province of Manitoba, in partnership with our elected officials, at the invitation of the Government of Manitoba to the Manitoba Legislative Building. Today, The Manitoba Government has unanimously passed the adoption of Bill 240, The Jewish Heritage Month Act.
In this month of May, we recognize, remember, and reflect on the horrors of the Holocaust -Yom HaShoah. We remember and honour the Israeli soldiers and those who have fallen in defense of the State of Israel and the Jewish world (Hebrew: Tzvah’ Haganat Israel), the Israel Defense Forces, or IDF.
And we celebrate the great State of Israel, a sovereign democracy, home of the Jewish people wherever they reside… a country committed to supporting humanity around the world, (Hebrew: Am Israel Chai; Eretz Israel Chai) The People of Israel Live, The State of Israel Lives.


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Shabbat Unplugged returns for seventh year with increased participation

115 students from four different provinces participated in this year's Shabbaton January 26-28

By MYRON LOVE This year’s second annual – post Covid lockdown – Shabbat Unplugged on the weekend of January 26-28 – had a different feel to it in the shadow of the dark events of October 7 in Israel (events that are being felt by, Jews worldwide), notes Shabbat unplugged co-ordinator and Winnipeg Hillel  Director Raya Margulets.

“My sense is that there was a much stronger feeling among our participants of shared community,” she comments.

She reports that this year’s Shabbaton attracted 115 students,including participants from Edmonton, Calgary, Regina and Toronto.

Among the participants this year were a number of non-Jewish university students – StandWithUs Emerson Fellows from across Canada – who spoke about how they have come to develop a sense of solidarity with Israel.  As Shabbat Unplugged co-founder Dr. Sheppy Coodin observed, these non-Jewish students were disturbed by the anti-Israel and antisemitic actions on many university campuses.  They were angered by what they viewed as a double standard where Israel was concerned and have chosen to make common cause with their Jewish contemporaries.

As usual, the weekend began with a candle lighting, Kiddush, and a traditional Shabbat dinner.  Following the Shabbat service led by Coodin, a long time Gray Academy science teacher,  and some of the students, there were presentations (in addition to the non-Jewish students) from representatives of the Canadian Jewish Political Affairs Committee (CJPAC) and StandWithUs Canada and a presentation by Emily Kalo, immediate past president of the Winnipeg chapter of Students Supporting Israel (SSI), outlining measures which are being taken to  counter anti-Israel and anti-Semitic activity on university campuses.

As noted earlier, Shabbat Unplugged was started in 2016   by Coodin, a science teaher at Gray Academy, and fellow Gray Academy teacher Avi Posen (who made aliyah in 2019) – building on the Shabbatons that Gray Academy had been organizing for the school’s high school students for many years. 

The inaugural Shabbat Unplugged was so successful that Coodin and Posen did it again in 2017 and took things one step further by combining their Shabbat Unplugged with Hillel’s annual Shabbat Shabang Shabbaton, which brings together Jewish university students from Winnipeg and other Jewish university students from Western Canada.

“It was a pleasure working with Raya again,” Coodin said, noting that Margulets is also  a former student of his who took part in the 2017 Shabbat unplugged as a student.  “Raya worked incredibly hard to make the weekend a success,” he noted.  “There were a lot of details to be worked out for 100-plus students as well as the presenters. She is just fantastic.”

Margulets observed that the weekend was funded in part by grants from the Jewish Foundation of Manitoba, CJPAC. the JNF, and StandWithUs Canada, along with a generous gift from the Asper Foundation.,

“We are looking forward to having even more students joining us for Shabbat Unplugged next year,” she says.     

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“Festival of New Yiddish Culture opens to rave reviews

Beyond the Pale performed in front of a large crowd at the Berney Theatre on Thursday, Feb. 8

By SHARON LOVE The Festival of New Yiddish Culture ‘Put A Yid On It’ is on from February 7th to the 11th, 2024. As stated in the program, movies, music and more is what it’s all about.

As of Friday morning (Feb. 9) we are at the halfway point of the festival. Two Yiddish films ‘Yiddle With His Fiddle’ and ‘The Light Ahead’ have both played at the Berney Theatre.

On Wednesday evening at the Handsome Daughter Cafe, a standing room only crowd took in the book launch of ‘Yiddish Cinema:The Drama of Troubled Communication’. Co-authors Jonah Corne and Monika Vrecar along with moderator Simone Mahrenholz provided an interesting discussion about the thoughts, philosophy and research that led the authors to write this text. Of special note is that Corne, Vrecar and Mahrenholz are all on staff at the University of Manitoba.

What would a Yiddish festival be without music? And lively musical as well! The opening concert was held at the Berney Theatre on Thursday evening and featured ‘Beyond The Pale’. This Toronto based acoustic ensemble which has been around from the late ‘90s started out playing classic Klezmer music. Over the years they have broadened their scope to include Balkan, Reggae, Romanian music and much more, in their repertoire. This award winning group has travelled the world while performing at music festivals and concerts. Members of the ensemble are leader Eric Stein on mandolin and vocals (Yiddish and English), Bret Higgins on base, Martin Van De Ven on clarinet, Milos Popovic on accordion, and Brigette Dajczer on violin. These musicians had smiles on their faces all evening. They seemed to enjoy making music together as much as the audience of about 150 people enjoyed being at the concert. It was pointed out that this was Brigette’s first gig with this band. No one in their wildest dreams would have suspected this. She played with energy and enthusiasm all evening and never missed a beat!

Eric Stein, who is presently the Artistic Director of Toronto’s Ashkenaz Festival, introduced the numbers on the program and had a delightful rapport with the audience. During the concert he paid tribute to Winnipeg’s own ‘Finjan’ who are definitely pioneers in the revival of klezmer music and Yiddish culture.

The program was eclectic and included both material from years back as well as numbers from their newest CD. The playful tune ‘Turkish Delight’ is their original piece, in tribute to the late Irving Fields (Yitzhak Schwartz) who was a well known pianist and lounge artist. Another number, a combination of a Hora and Bulgarian music was very melodic. ‘Ruckus in Ralia’ with its strong beat was written in memory of the group’s trip to Serbia. Chazan-ja is a mix of klezmer and reggae music and traces of the Yiddish song ‘Dei Muzinke Oysgegebn’ could be heard.

Speaking of Yiddish numbers, the first song was early in the program. It was a comical love song written by Aaron Lebedeff, a Yiddish song writer and actor. ‘A Glezela Yash’ a cute drinking song and an old favourite ‘Az Der Rebbe Zingt’ had people humming along. A song about Shabbes in remembrance of Yiddish theatre star and singer Mina Berne was also on the program. With Stein on vocals these numbers added to the versatility of this group and their emphasis on reclaiming the Yiddish language through music.

As the program was coming to an end the music kept getting livelier. If, after close to two hours on stage, with a short intermission, you would have thought that these performers would be toning down, you were definitely wrong. The final number, a medley of Bulgar music, featured Van De Ven on clarinet who thrilled the crowd with a very very long held note.

After the standing ovation the encore number was a high energy series of Jewish wedding tunes. You could feel the excitement in the air! This is the third time in almost twenty years that Beyond The Pale has performed here and judging by the reaction from the audience, they will be welcomed back anytime!
The second half of this festival is also jam packed. Two more films will be shown, and the second concert features Montreal based Socalled(Josh Dolgin) in performance at the West End Cultural Centre. Bagels and a Bisl Yiddish with Prof. Itay Zutra is on tap for Sunday morning. An I.L.Peretz Folk School Alumni mini reunion will wrap up the festival late Sunday afternoon.

Kudos to Shira Newman, the Festival Producer as well as the Coordinator of Arts and Older Adult Programming at the Rady J.C.C. Shira had a vision to mount a Yiddish festival and it has now come to fruition. Thanks go out to the Rady staff and volunteers and to Lionel Steiman, Rochelle Zucker, Itay Zutra and Sharon Love of the organizing committee. The support from sponsors the Asper Foundation, the Jewish Foundation of Manitoba, the I.L.Peretz Folk School Endowment Trust and the Rady J.C.C is very much appreciated. This festival has provided an opportunity for Winnipeg audiences to celebrate the richness of the Yiddish culture and language.

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Tom Traves: From the north end to the presidency of several Canadian universities

Tom Traves

By GERRY POSNER There haven’t been lot of Jewish presidents of Canadian universities.
To be clear, there have been some, but not as many as one might expect – given how many Jewish academics we’ve had in Canada over the years.
One person who made the short list of Jewish university presidents in this country has been none other than a former Winnipegger – right out of the north end of Winnipeg: Tom Traves. Now retired, Traves had a long and distinguished career in the university setting as President of Dalhousie University in Halifax, serving for 18 years in that position.
Traves’s tenure as Dalhousie president followed a four-year term as Vice- President of the University of New Brunswick. But, if you read the CV of Tom Traves, you can understand how this came to be.
Tom was a graduate of the University of Manitoba with a B.A. ( Hons.) in 1970, followed by an M.A. from York in 1973, and a Ph.D., also from York, in 1976.
Tom began his teaching career at York (where he spent many years) in 1974 as a lecturer, then as an associate professor, from 1976 to 1991. From 1981 to 1983, Tom was the Chairman of the Division of Social Science at York. He was soon appointed, in 1983, as Dean of the Faculty of Arts, where he served until 1991. From York Tom moved to the University of New Brunswick, where he became both Vice President (Academic) and a Professor of History, from 1991 to 1995.
Then, in 1995, Traves was invited to be the President and Vice- Chancellor of Dalhousie University for a six year term. When that term ended, Tom was appointed again for another six year term. And still later, in 2007 – for yet a third term of three years. When that ended, he was renewed for another three year term. Would you not agree that Tom Traves and Dalhousie had a strong connection, to put it mildly? Just to lend credence to this statement, it was during the Tom Traves tenure that enrolment at Dalhousie grew by over forty percent and external research grants and contract income increased by over three hundred percent. Now, those are impressive statistics. Perhaps the most telling assessment of Traves during his time at Dalhousie is a comment made by a former member of the University’s Board of Governors, who noted that Traves had been at the centre of a fund raising campaign which raised over $250 million during his time at Dalhousie, the highest total in the history of the province. When asked about Traves and his successor, Richard Florizone, this board member called them both remarkable individuals: “I would hire them for my company in a minute, and they would make me money.”
To read through the list of books, articles and other credits of Tom Traves is more than the Jewish Post & News could put on its website, as it might overload the system. But for sure some of the highlights of his career (aside from all the boards he has sat on across New Brunswick and Nova Scotia), would be the awards and honours that have come his way. He was the recipient of an award not commonly given to Canadians: the Filosofie Hedersdocktor Honoris Causa, from Umea University in Sweden in 1997, and the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Commemorative Medal in 2000. Not to be forgotten was Tom’s inclusion on the list as one of the top 50 CEOs in Atlantic Canada in 2005, 2006 and 2007. There were so many other major awards, culminating in 2014 when he was appointed to the Order of Canada.
With all of that, Traves was still in demand when he retired and moved back to Toronto in 2016. He was asked to be the Interim President of Brock University in 2016 while that university sought out a long term person to fill that position. Once he completed that role, he semi-retired, taking on consulting activities over the last number of years.
How did a quiet unassuming boy, son of Sam and Marjorie Traves (Kay), brother to the late Nancy Traves, a product of West Kildonan, advance so far and so fast? Did he show signs of this kind of superior level of scholarship and leadership in his early days? Some might answer that it was his time spent at West Kildonan Collegiate that spurred him on to greater heights. Was it perhaps his days as an undergraduate at the University of Manitoba (from 1966-1970?) No one can say for sure, but the truth is that Traves had a speedy trajectory upward and even in retirement he has moved along at a decent clip. He is quite active these days, playing Bridge, golf, and now Pickleball. In large part, he and his wife Karen (Posner), my first cousin, (and that connection to the Posner family might be the real reason for his great success) have focused time and attention on their grandson Ben, son of his daughter Julie. There are also trips to the Washington D. C area, where his son Will and his wife live, along with his oldest grandson, Daniel.
In short, the Tom Traves story is just another Winnipeg success story – if the city wishes to lay claim to it: North End Jewish boy makes good in the east. The best part of the whole story is that, if you know Tom, or just met him, you would never have an inkling of his accomplishments, so unassuming is he. That is Tom Traves.

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