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New group established ‘in the spirit’ of Canadian Jewish Congress



CJCF edited 1By RON CSILAG May 27, 2021 (CJN) Remember the Canadian Jewish Congress? Enough of its former senior leaders do, and fondly- to the point that they have founded a new organization “in the spirit” of CJC.

It was 10 years ago this summer that Congress, then 92 years old and the self-described “Parliament of Canadian Jewry,” was subsumed into a new superagency, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA).
Now, say hello to the Canadian Jewish Community Forum (CJCF).

“It is the prime objective of the CJCF to take lessons from the past and use them to inform communal policy in the present and future, to promote Jewish values of chesed, diversity, anti-racism and embrace harmony within a Canadian context,” says a media release issued May 26.
“In the spirit of the former CJC, it wishes to create a forum for the greater Jewish community to provide input and determine what the current urgent issues are that our own community and society are facing and witnessing here in Canada and globally.”

The group’s origins are somewhat nostalgic: Interest in creating a new Jewish organization, or maybe resurrecting an old one, arose when stalwarts of the old CJC, including several young people, came together in 2019 to mark the 100th anniversary of Congress’s founding, recalled Les Scheininger, spokesperson for CJCF’s steering committee and president of CJC from 1989 to 1992.
The CJCF, Scheininger told The CJN, will address a need for consultation with the grassroots of Canadian Jewry, much like Congress did.
“The original CJC came together as a result of a number of individuals and organizations feeling that there should be a grassroots organization representative of the Jewish community and the sense was there should be consultations with the grassroots and (that) people should have input in discussions,” he said.
Scheininger gently sidestepped a question of whether the new group will challenge CIJA’s turf.
“It’s not a competition,” he said. The CJCF is “a different forum for discussion and debate. There are a variety of opinions and political affiliations in the Jewish community.”

The organization, volunteer-driven for now, is federally incorporated, has a logo, a statement of purpose, and a steering committee comprised of a long list of former CJC officials from across the country.
Indeed, the CJCF says it hopes to engage the former leadership of CJC, as well as new young leaders, “to honour, learn and draw from the legacy of Congress, a body that worked and fought for social justice in Canada. The CJC understood that making Canada a peaceful, inclusive and just society is good for all of its peoples.”
The actual work of the CJCF will be up to those who respond to surveys in the coming weeks and months, Scheininger said.
“The shape and format will be determined as result of consultations and discussions.”
In its words, the organization will “promote participation in, engagement with, and a sense of ownership of the Jewish agenda in Canada by all members of the Canadian Jewish community by the establishment of active, democratic, local grassroots community advocacy groups across the country.”

The CJCF promises that regional representation will be stressed.
Its founding documents recall CJC’s decades of defending civil and human rights, and championing inclusiveness and dialogue among all groups in Canada—perhaps pointing the way toward an agenda that leans to domestic issues of fairness.
But Israel is not ignored. “The safety and welfare of Israel are central and hold a place of supreme importance to us as a Jewish people,” the group says, and it’s also important “that we communicate with the people and government of Israel with respect to our common interests from the Canadian perspective.”
CJC’s legacy of focusing on domestic affairs and its “democratic tradition” will contribute to making CJCF attractive to younger people, believes Henry Paikin, a 27-year-old advisor to Sen. Frances Lankin and a member of the new organization’s steering committee.
“For too long, young Jews in this country have fled community institutions due to their obsession with Israel-Palestine,” Paikin wrote in an email to The CJN. “Bringing democracy back into the mix will correct the out-of-touch narratives perpetuated by existing leadership, and allow us to re-focus our attention on making Canadian society more just.”

Post script from Bernie Bellan:
I was somewhat surprised to see that there is now an effort underway to reestablish the Canadian Jewish Congress, albeit under a new name. I wondered to what extent this new activity might not only add to the actual number of existing Jewish national organizations whose ostensible purposes are to serve the entire Canadian Jewish community, it might actually confuse Canadian Jews.
So, I contacted Martin Sampson, who is a spokesperson for CIJA, to ask him what he thought of this new group. Here is what I wrote to Martin on May 28:

Hi Martin,
I received an email from Israel Ludwig, whom I’ve known for a long time. In his email, Israel said that there are a number of individuals across Canada who are working to recreate the Canadian Jewish Congress.
In my response to Israel, I asked him whether the members of this group are dissatisfied with CIJA. Israel responded that “to answer your question this is not an issue of whether or not we are unhappy with CIJA. We miss what CJC was able to provide for the community. We hope to seek community input on what are the important issues of the day. We hope to establish lines of communication and support to other communities in Canada that experience difficulties as we do such as racism. We would like to sponsor lectures on topics that are of interest not only to our community members but other communities as well. We plan to organize groups of interested persons from our communities in centers across the country. Eventually that will lead to establishing formal regions that will elect members to serve nationally as was done with CJC.”

Frankly, I’m confused by all this Martin. I was under the impression that CIJA had supplanted the CJC.
Would anyone at CIJA care to comment on this initiative to recreate the CJC?

Martin Sampson responded later that day:
Hi Bernie,
Hope you are well during these persistently challenging times.
Having not been involved in the discussions that preceded the launch of this new group, we do not know very much about it beyond what you articulated below. As you know, the Jewish community is diverse. Lots of community members have passionate opinions about a range of important subjects. People have every right to organize themselves to advance ideas about which they care. Indeed, if I understand Jewish values at all, many Jews see it as their duty to get involved. Incidentally, this is one of the many reasons I personally love the Jewish community. Judging by the description below, they will be duplicating much of what CIJA does, but it’s not a bad thing to have more people paying attention to these issues. – Martin

One of the members of the former Canadian Jewish Congress was Winnipeg lawyer Israel Ludwig. Subsequently, I spoke with Israel Ludwig to try to find out more about what this effort to reconstitute the Canadian Jewish Congress, albeit under a new name, was all about.
Ludwig said: “We knew there was a service the Canadian Jewish Congress delivered right across the country – and we don’t see that happening now.
“The organized community was not responding as quickly as it should.”
I asked Ludwig if there were some specific examples to which he could point that might better explain how CIJA has not been responding to the needs of the community as well as it should?
He said: “The CJC played a very important role in educating the local public about antisemitsm.
“The JCC used to reach out to different communities that have also suffered”, such as the Indigenous and Black communities, Ludwig said, and was able to forge effective common bonds.
I said to Ludwig that there has always been a certain amount of tension though between the Jewish community and some minority groups, including minority groups of colour, so I wondered how the CJC would be able to improve upon what other Jewish organizations have been able to do to improve relations between those groups and the Jewish community?
Ludwig admitted “that animosity was always there, but the CJC helped to dissipate it to a certain extent.”
I wondered, too, about the extent to which this new organization might also be overlapping the work that B’nai Brith Canada is doing, particularly when it comes to combating anti-Semitism?
Ludwig said that “B’nai Brith’s handicap is that it only represents its members. It cannot say that it represents the entire Jewish community.”
I asked what the next steps are likely to be for the Canadian Jewish Community Forum?
Ludwig said that the first step will be “trying to find people locally to join (the CJCF) – young people especially. We’re going to establish Chairs in different parts of the country.”
Finally , Ludwig noted, “We’ve also got to fundraise.”

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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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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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