Connect with us

Local News

The Bermax saga takes a new twist – Is returning to Israel the Berents’ next step?



the former Bermax Caffée

As reported in various media on October 6, the three members of the Berent family: father Alexander, mother Oxana, and son Maxim, are all now living in Los Angeles, having gone there in January of this year.

Readers may recall the notoriety surrounding the Berent family in relation to the charges of “public mischief” that were laid against them in April 2019 following the sensational report of what appeared to be the worst case of antisemitic vandalism ever having been seen in Winnipeg to that point, when what appeared to be the targeting of the Bermax Caffé on Corydon Avenue for vandalism drew widespread public attention. (It was also alleged that Oxana Berent had been attacked and rendered unconscious by whoever perpetrated the vandalism.)

In an email issued to various media by lawyer Michael Lazar of the Broadway Law Group on October 7, Lazar notes that he is now acting for Oxana Berent – having taken over from Martin Glazer. (Phillip Cramer is acting for Maxim Berent; Cramer is the only one of the three original lawyers retained by members of the Berent family who is still on the case. Brett Gladstone is acting for Alexander Berent, who was originally represented by James Lowry.)
In Lazar’s email he writes: “In the aftermath of the events (which took place in April 2019) there was a great deal of publicity which exposed the Berent family to ostracism in the community. Compounded by financial difficulties, the Berents lost both their business and their family home.”

the Berent home & Berent Millworks off Highway 8 – mortgaged for over $1.5 million

We searched the title to the Berent home, which is off Highway 8 in the municipality of St. Andrews. The property was listed for sale in July 2019 for $669,000, but remained unsold until the listing expired in July of this year.
There are three different mortgages on the property: one held by the Royal Bank for $249,318; one by the Cambrian Credit Union for $1,000,000; and one by something called Community Futures North Red Inc. for $150,000. In addition, there are various judgments against various Berent-owned companies, including Bermax Design and Bermax Capital, amounting to over $120,000.
There are other claims pending against both Berent-owned companies and Alexander and Oxana Berent personally.
There is also a personal judgment against Maxim Berent from the Royal Bank for $44,000.)
On September 24 of this year the Royal Bank began foreclosing proceedings on the property off Highway 8.

Lazar’s email continues: “They had no community support in Winnipeg, but were offered support by the Chabad movement in Los Angeles. They advised the court of their intention to relocate to California, and were told that they were free to go so long as they maintained contact with their defence lawyers and returned for their trial. They relocated to California in January 2020.

“The subsequent arrival of the COVID pandemic raised difficult procedural issues in the case. Manitoba currently requires people arriving from the United States and elsewhere outside of Western Canada to quarantine for two weeks upon their arrival in Manitoba. This means that the Berents would have to return to Manitoba at least two weeks before the scheduled trial dates and quarantine here for two weeks. They had nowhere to do that, and do not have the means to quarantine in a hotel for two weeks.”

Presumably the Berents entered the United States on what is known as a B2 Visitor Visa, which is normally good only for six months. The Berents entered the United States in January, which means their visa would normally have expired either in June or July. Under certain circumstances visitors can request a further six-month extension of that visa.

Toward the end of his email Lazar also says the following: “The intent here (and this was expressed on the record by the crown attorney and confirmed by the defence lawyers) was that the Berents could return to Winnipeg and report to the police once COVID has receded and the quarantine requirements were removed. They would be released on a new bail and new trial dates would be scheduled. This was a creative and cooperative effort between crown and defence to deal with one of the unique challenges raised by the pandemic situation.”

While we have no way of knowing what is in the minds of the Berents, the option of returning to Israel (where they lived before moving to Canada in 2006) is open to them. While Israel does not necessarily extend the “right of return” to a Jew with a criminal record, (Article 2(b) of the Law of Return asserts that an entry visa will not be granted to a Jewish person if they have a criminal record that suggests they may pose a risk to public safety), none of the Berents have been convicted of a criminal offence.

The following information is taken from an article I wrote about the Berent family in 2013: “Originally from Ukraine, where Maxim’s father, Alex, worked in the design and production of custom-made furniture and cabinets with Maxim’s grandfather and his mother, Oxana, worked first as an engineer – later joining the Berent family business, the family moved to Israel 22 years ago. Of all places to live the Berents ended up in Metulah, Israel’s northern-most location, where they began selling furniture produced for them at nearby Kibbutz Hagoshrim. The family opened a furniture store in Kiryat Shmonah…”

“When the Berent family moved to Manitoba eight years ago (in 2006), settling in the St. Andrews area, it wasn’t long before word of their ‘old world’ craftsmanship spread, and the orders began pouring in. As a matter of fact, Oxana Berent has been nominated for the 2013 ‘Woman Entrepeneur of the Year’ award for her work in developing Bermax into a design and manufacture company of great repute.”

Thus, it would not be difficult to conceive of the Berents re-establishing themselves in Israel – if they should so choose. (Presumably, they could also return to Ukraine if they still hold Ukrainian citizenship.) While Israel does have an extradition treaty with Canada, it hardly seems likely that the Crown in Manitoba would go to the trouble of initiating extradition proceedings with Israel over a charge of public mischief any more than the Crown is likely to do that with American authorities.

Also, given the fact that they have been given help by the Chabad movement in Los Angeles, it is not difficult to conceive of the Chabad movement (or perhaps some other Jewish movement) helping the Berents to move back to Israel – once the COVID epidemic subsides.

Of course, this is all mere speculation on our part. As Michael Lazar makes clear in his email, the Berents say they are quite willing to return to Winnipeg to face trial “once COVID has receded”.

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

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.
Continue Reading

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.

Continue Reading

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”.

Continue Reading

Copyright © 2017 - 2023 Jewish Post & News