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Purchase of Town Island by Nature Conservancy of Canada through the efforts of BB Camp now finalized

satellite image of Town Island

By BERNIE BELLAN For several years now we have been reporting on the uncertain future of Town Island, home to BB Camp, as a result of attempts by the City of Kenora to elicit interest in having that portion of the island that is not already owned by BB Camp sold. There have been many twists and turns in this story.

In February 2020 we reported on the attempt by the City of Kenora to elicit expressions of interest from anyone interested in buying that portion of Town Island that did not belong to BB Camp.
Back then we wrote about a proposed partnership between BB Camp and the Nature Conservancy of Canada in an attempt to eliminate once and for all the possibility that the City of Kenora might sell the 200 acres of Town Island that did not belong to BB Camp to a private developer who, in turn, could subdivide the island into private lots.

Here is some history of what led to the precarious situation for BB Camp, as sent to us by a group known as the “Friends of Town Island:”
“Over the last six decades, BB Camp has been fortunate to use this beautiful property. Historically, BB Camp leased Town Island from the City of Kenora and the land’s primary use arrangement continued until the mid-2000s. Since that time, this arrangement has been threatened with potentially negative consequences for BB Camp.  The proposed partnership with the NCC provides a unique opportunity to protect Town Island in perpetuity for the continued use of BB Camp and its campers.
“In 2008, the City of Kenora proposed a potential development plan to subdivide the approximately 200 acres on Town Island into cottage properties or other developments. In 2014, through the efforts of the BB Camp Board of Directors and countless friends of the Camp, the Camp was able to secure and purchase our footprint on the Island (approximately 30 acres) while the remaining 200 acres of the Island would become Crown-owned land as the proceeds of a land swap program with the Province of Ontario, allowing BB Camp to continue operations as we had been for almost 60 years.”

As it turned out however, the proposed land swap between the City of Kenora and the Province of Ontario never led anywhere. As a result, we quoted from a communication received from the Friends of Town Island in January 2020: “In the fall of 2019, the City of Kenora was once again looking to use the approximately 200 acres of undeveloped land to generate revenue for the City. Though our main campsite will remain unharmed as of the 2008 purchase, the remaining land, including the nine camping areas on the “back side” of the Island, which are instrumental to our program and history, were being considered to be sold and redeveloped as cottage properties.”

In January 2020 we wrote, however, that the City of Kenora had failed to elictit a single expression of interest in purchasing the 200 acres of Town Island that it was interested in selling:
I wrot then that “I am now glad to report that, at least for the time being, the sale of Town Island has been averted – not because the City of Kenora dropped the idea of selling it; rather, it was because Kenora did not receive one single ‘expression of interest’ in buying the island, according to an email I received from Kenora’s Manager of Development Service, Adam Smith.”

In September 2021 we reported on a fundraising campaign embarked upon by BB Camp to raise $2.85 million by August 2022 to buy back part of Town Island from the City of Kenora on behalf of the Nature Conservancy of Canada
We noted then that the City of Kenora had issued a deadline to the Nature Conservancy of Canada of August 2022 to come up with $2.85 million to buy the rest of Town Island.
We wrote that “the Nature Conservancy has turned to BB Camp for help in raising the necessary funds. Following is part of a communication received from BB Camp which outlines the situation:”
“BB Camp has called Town Island home since 1954. The Island and BB Camp’s use have been threatened on several occasions over the past few decades. The City of Kenora has finally agreed to sell the “back side” of Town Island to the Nature Conservancy of Canada (“NCC”). BB Camp is partnering with the NCC to help raise the funds for the purchase. We are reaching out to you to ask for your financial support in our efforts.
“In the early months of 2020, the hard work and tireless efforts of the Friends of Town Island, an advocacy group made up of concerned and committed cottagers, and camp alumni (from both BB Camp, and our neighbours at YMCA’s Camp Stephens), resulted in a deal struck between the City of Kenora and the NCC for the NCC to purchase the land from the City. The NCC is Canada’s largest environmental NGO with a main mission to conserve and protect natural lands by their purchase or by the establishment of conservation easements. 
“The agreement between the City of Kenora and the NCC is contingent on the NCC raising the $2.85m required for the purchase and associated administrative costs, which include funds for long-term maintenance of the property and payment of property taxes.  These funds are required before August 2022 or the lands revert back to the City of Kenora. It is unlikely that the agreement can be completed without the support and assistance of BB Camp, especially in this case given the short timelines. The NCC and BB Camp are entering into a memorandum of understanding to confirm the mutual commitment and intent to work together to raise funds and protect BB Camp’s access to the Island. In the event the purchase from the City of Kenora is not completed, the NCC will return any and all donations made as part of this fundraising effort.”
 The campaign to raise $2.85 million was led by Anita Wortzman and Leah Leibl.

This past week we received the news that the fundraising campaign had achieved its goal. We received this communication, which explained that the campaign had culminated in success:
“Our plans for Town Island have been realized and we are very pleased to share with you that the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) finally purchased the remaining 82 hectares of Town Island from the City of Kenora on July 14, 2022!
“Thank you to everyone who supported the efforts to secure the conservation of Town Island for the future. The combined forces of the NCC, our many lake neighbours, our valued donors, including the Asper Foundation, and the community at large, were able to meet our fundraising deadline and protect Town Island for the future. It has been a long-term goal of BB Camp to secure the preservation of Town Island. We acknowledge this monumental event as a path to honouring the principle of Tikkun Olam.
“The successful purchase allows BB Camp, in partnership with the NCC, to continue to maintain and expand our current programs and provide for the education and stewardship of the Island.”


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Working with late night talk show stars Colbert and Stewart dream job for former Winnipegger

By Myron Love When the Jewish Post last touched base with Raffie Rosenberg in the summer of 2020, she was back in Winnipeg for a few months during the Covid lockdown reconnecting with her father, Lewis Rosenberg (her mother, the late Dr. Fran Steinberg passed away ten years ago) and other relatives while looking forward to returning to New York in the fall to continue her studies at Columbia University.

As far back as she can remember,  she noted in that earlier interview, she has had her sights squarely set on a career in the entertainment industry.   “I started dancing lessons when I was two years old,” she recalled.  “I loved it.”

She added that her interest in the theatre was also stimulated by her parents, both of whom had been involved in the arts. Prior to pursuing a career in medicine, her mother studied at the Royal Winnipeg Ballet.  She also taught dancing and further studied dance at York University.  Her dad also has a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree – Theatre Design and Technology – from the University of Minnesota.

Having graduated previously (in 2016) from Western University’s  Ivey School of Business, Rosenberg earned her second degree – an MFA – with a focus on theatre management and producing –  from Columbia in 2022.

And she is very happy to report that, over the past two years, she has had the opportunity to work behind the scenes with two of her heroes in the entertainment business – none other than the king of late night television, Stephen Colbert, and his predecessor, Jon Stewart.

She got on with Colbert’s “The Late Show” as a production intern during her final semester at Columbia shortly after graduation from Columbia for a five-month period (January-May, 2022) and followed up on that coup by being hired as a production assistant on Stewart’s return to the air waves via Apple TV with “the Problem with Jon Stewart,” a weekly series featuring hour-long single subject episodes.  The show launched in the fall of 2021.  Rosenberg joined the production team in the fall of 2022. 

(The show was recently cancelled.)

Those were my dream jobs,” Rosenberg notes – “to work with both Stewart and Colbert on televised shows that include elements of live theatre (such as a studio audience and band).”

She points out that entertainment internships are difficult to get – especially in late night. “The team at Colbert is really proactive about interviewing a huge number of candidates and taking a look at people from the online applicant portal,” she reports. “I got lucky and the timing was right for that internship.” 

She notes that, being in an entry level role at The Late Show and at The Problem, she didn’t work with either host directly.  “The staff of The Late Show is over 100 people and at The Problem there were around 60 of us,” she says, “but both Jon and Stephen are incredible bosses. They’re kind, focused, and great leaders. Even though I never worked with either directly, being able to work on their shows was a huge highlight and definitely a childhood dream come true.” 

Her role was different for each of the shows – reflecting the different responsibilities in her job titles and the fact that Colbert is nightly and Stewart’s show was weekly.

As a production assistant, I was more involved in areas such as research, working on the podcast and deeper dives into current events ,” she points out.  “Also, we were working with a longer lead time on Jon’s show – which gave us more room to expand on individual subjects.”

In her independent work as a creative producer, she points out, she is more involved in sourcing funding to help get the project off the ground, crafting the narrative, working with the script writers and hiring lead actors and the director.

For the past two summers,  Rosenberg has produced the Arts in Action Festivals for the Broadway Advocacy Coalition.  The BAC was founded in 2016 by a group of actors and activists with the goal of using the arts to try to create as a vehicle to help create a more just world.  The two-day Arts in Action festivals present workshops, performances, panels and screenings in furtherance of its goals.

With the conclusion of production for the “The Problem With Jon Stewart” last fall, Rosenberg is open to new projects – one of which is a collaboration with a couple of other Jewish artists on a coming-of-age comedy.

It would seem that Raffie Rosenberg has a bright future to look forward to in theatre and film production.   

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Husband and wife team of Russel and Rori Picker Neiss bringing different aspects of Jewish learning to Limmud Winnipeg

Rori Picker Neiss (left) and Russell Neiss

By MYRON LOVE Rori Picker and Rusell Neiss say they are excited about their upcoming first visit to Winnipeg.  The couple, Jewish educators – originally from New York, who have been living and working in St. Louis for the past ten years – will be here on the weekend of March 9-10 – as presenters at our community’s 14th annual Limmud Fest.

Russel Neiss is promising Limmud attendees that those attending his presentation will be in the first audience to view the digitized version of “The Story of Purim,” an award winning Jewish educational filmstrip which is part of a recently rediscovered lost cache produced by the NY Bureau of Jewish Education in the 1950s.  

“We’ll view the slides and table-read the script together as we see how much the field of Jewish engagement and education has (and hasn’t) changed over the last 70 year,” notes Russel Neiss.

Russel is a 2005 graduate of City University of New York.  The recipient – in 2020, of the prestigious Covenant Award (which recognizes educators who have made a noticeable impact on Jewish lives through innovative educational practices and models), served for several years as vice-principal of a Jewish day school in the New York area.

In 2014, Russel changed careers. He became a software engineer specializing in the development of software programming for Jewish educators for an organization called Sefaria.  The nonprofit organization is dedicated to digitizing the entire body of Jewish religious writings in order to make them available so that anyone can engage with the textual treasures of our tradition.

“A couple of years ago,” he reports, “I came across a cache of film strips produced by the New York Bureau of Jewish Education in the 1950s.  These films would have been shown to students in the 1950s and ‘60s. They have not been viewed for more than 60 years.”

At Limmud, he will be showing a film called “The Story of Purim.”  “We’ll view the slides and table-read the script together as we see how much the field of Jewish engagement and education has (and hasn’t) changed over the years,” he says.

His second presentation – on Sunday afternoon – will focus on “what the atheist computer scientist Richard Stallman can teach us about how Torah learning can thrive in the world today while delving into the interplay between Hacker Culture, the Free Software Movement and the teachings of great Jewish thinkers like Rabbi Akiva, Rabbi Moshe Feinstein and Rebbe Nachman of Breslov.”

Rori Picker Neiss will also be doing two presentations – one of which will be a study of leadership as exhibited by Moshe Rabbenu in the matter of the Golden Calf. For those who may not know or remember the story in the Torah, some days after leaving Egypt, Moshe climbed Mount Sinai to commune with Hashem. After some time had gone by and he didn’t return, the frightened Hebrews, believing that he wasn’t coming back, gathered together everything they had that was made of gold and created a golden calf to worship – an act of blasphemy that resulted in  severe divine consequences – including the Israelites having to wander in the desert for 40 years until the last of the offending generation had died out.

“What we can take away from this episode,” Rori observes, “and what Hashem made clear to Moshe- is that leadership is not about the leader and fame and glory. Leadership should be about doing what is in the best interests of  the people.”

Her second presentation will be an exploration of what the early rabbis thought about Jesus and Christianity as seen through a censored Rabbinic passage.

Rori Picker Reiss has the distinction of being one of the first half dozen  Orthodox women to be ordained  – through the Yeshivat Maharat organization – founded in 2009 – to serve as clergy.

“I welcomed the opportunity to study Talmud and our religious texts,” she says of her decision to enroll in the Maharat program.  ‘My ordination presented me with a number of different ways to serve our community.” 

In St. Louis Maharat Rori served as Director of Programming, Education and Community Engagement at the modern Orthodox Bais Abraham Congregation. She was also Rabbi in Residence at Holy Communion Episcopal Church, chair of the cabinet of Interfaith partnership of Greater St. Louis and a member of the Board of Trustees for the Parliament of the World’s Religions.

Previously, she worked as acting Executive Director for Religions for Peace-USA, program coordinator for the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance, assistant director of Interreligious Affairs for the American Jewish Committee, and secretary for the International Jewish Committee on Interreligious Consultations.  

While there may be some among the Orthodox community who may be uncomfortable with the concept of women serving as clergy, Rori reports that she was generally well-received in St. Louis and was able to build many relationships both within the Orthodox and the wider communities.

Rori and Russel have recently moved back to New York City where Rori has been appointed the Senior Vice-President for Community  Relations for the Jewish Council for Public affairs.

For more information about this year’s Limmud and to register, please visit or contact  or 204-557-6260

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Three organization join forces to mount Mission to Israel in May

By BERNIE BELLAN In response to many requests received from members of Winnipeg’s Jewish community to organize a volunteer mission to Israel, for the first time ever three different organizations have joined together to organize just such a mission – from May 20-28.
Titled “HINENI 2024,” the mission is being mounted by the Jewish National Fund, Jewish Federation of Winnipeg, and Bridges for Peace.
The mission will include five days of intensive volunteering and visits to various sites in Israel. It will also include three meals a day and ground transportation.

There will be an information night at the Asper Campus on February 28 but, in advance of that information night, we contacted JNF Manitoba-Saskatchewan Executive Director David Greaves to ask whether he could provide some details about the planned mission prior to that information meeting and describe how it all came about.
Greaves said that both the JNF and the Federation were thinking of organizing missions in May, so it was only natural that they would combine efforts.
“The Federation has organizational experience, and they’ll be able to handle the registration process,” Greaves explained, while “the JNF will be able to handle the logistics on the ground,” such as arranging accommodation, transportation, and meals.
And Bridges for Peace was able to step up and negotiate some very good pricing for air fares for anyone who would want to fly on specific flights – details for which will be announced in the coming days. (Greaves noted that flights have not been included as part of the package as many individuals indicated that they wanted to make their own arrangements getting to Israel.)

Yet, unlike any other mission that the JNF has mounted in years past, Greaves wanted to make it clear that the May mission will be a “volunteer” mission, during which participants will be expected to “be on their feet four-five hours a day” engaging in tasks whose exact nature is still being formulated – in conjunction with various Israeli organizations.
“We’re looking at volunteering primarily in the south,” Greaves said, including picking fruit and vegetables. As of this moment, he added: “We’re still investigating various volunteer possibilities.”
Included in the mission tentatively, accordiing to Greaves, will be visits to the site of the Nova music festival, where 364 primarily young Israelis were massacred (along with 40 abducted), as well as visits with families of hostages and a visit with the mayor of Sderot.

As far as accommodation is concerned, Greaves wanted to make it clear that mission participants will not be staying in four or five star hotels.”Most likely they will be three star hotels,” he noted. And, when you take into account the cost of providing three meals a day along with bus transportation and other ancillary costs, Greaves suggested that the mission cost, which will be no more than $3,000 (exclusive of air fare), is quite reasonable, especially when you take into account typical costs associated with visiting Israel and the relatively low Canadian dollar. As well, Greaves said that couples travelling together will probably pay somewhat less per person – around $2500 per person, he suggested is likely.

I asked Greaves how many people they were hoping to have participate in the mission. He said that they’re looking at around 40. Although it would be great if there were a larger response, he added, the logistics of having to hire an additional bus would make it difficult to plan a mission with two buses unless the number of participants warranted that.
“If response is overwhelming, we’d get a second bus,” he added though.
I asked Greaves whether there are JNF missions of a similar nature being planned in other Canadian cities and he said there were – “in Toronto and Vancouver,” but he also wanted to emphasize that they are both being planned locally – unlike every other JNF mission, which has always been planned at the national level – until now.
In addition to the combined organizational efforts of the JNF, Jewish Federation, and Bridges for Peace, five Winnipeg congregations are also lending their support to the mission, helping to promote it among their respective congregants.
If you would like to obtain further information about the mission and are unable to attend the February 28 information evening, contact either David Greaves at the JNF at or Abby Flackman at the Jewish Federation at

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