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Update to how various organizations are coping with the pandemic

Shalom Residences’ Micah Kraut & Rabbi Yitzchok Charytan

Ed. note: As part of our continuing effort to report on the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on all Jewish organizations and agencies in this city, we present information about Shalom Residences and Gwen Secter Centre based on email exchanges we had with Shalom Residences Executive Director Nancy Hughes and Gwen Secter Executive Director Becky Chisick. We also present information from Rady JCC Executive Director Rob Berkowits about enhanced amenities at that facility.

Shalom Residences update:

We should note that we were invited to attend a mezuzah hanging event at the newest Shalom Residence at 841 Oxford Street, where Rabbi Yitzchok Charytan attached mezuzahs to every room in the house. Previously there were only mezuzahs on the front and rear door frames. Since I was not allowed into the house myself, I asked Nancy Hughes to take my camera with her and take some pictures inside.

Following is information Nancy Hughes provided us about the situation re Shalom Residences. I had asked Nancy what specific impact the coronavirus and subsequent lockdown has had on Shalom Residences:
We now have six homes rather than seven. This past year, we were saddened by the deaths of two long-time residents. There were some internal moves by residents to fill these vacancies and we closed a two-person rented home.
We now support 21 people living in the six homes, eight people in apartments and three people in outreach.
We have one vacancy in one of the community residences (group homes). We want to be able to offer a home to someone to fill the existing vacancy before we would plan for any new home. As well, currently there is very limited funding available for adults with intellectual disabilities for group living. Provincial government funding is given mainly to people who have a critical need to move.
The area where we anticipate expanding the number of people is in apartment living and outreach in the next while.
The most significant impact of the corona virus for us has been that the day programs attended by most of the people we support have been closed since mid-March.
This means all of those people have had to adapt to a big change in routine and we have had to provide a great deal of extra staffing for weekdays.
Our staff are required to wear masks and for a while also had to wear eye shields. The people we support became accustomed to staff in masks and for the most part have gotten along very well staying home with their housemates. Only the three young people at Oxford St who you saw last week have been attending day programs again.
We are particularly grateful for the support we receive from the Jewish Foundation of Manitoba as well as the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg. Above all, we are grateful to our staff who have worked throughout this challenging time accepting the risks involved in front line care and providing comforting and positive support.
If you would like to contact Nancy Hughes to find out more about Shalom Residences, her number is 204-582-7064.

Gwen Secter update
It seems that each time I check in with Gwen Secter’s Executive Director Becky Chisick to see how many more meals Gwen Secter is producing and delivering for seniors, she astounds me with an ever increasing number.
In our April 15 issue (which was our last print issue for one month) I reported that the Gwen Secter kitchen staff had just turned out 60 meals for seniors the week of March 30 – April 3 – all free of charge. I also noted that Gwen Secter had stepped into the breach left by Meals on Wheels, which had stopped taking new clients as soon as the province went into lockdown mode on March 13.
Then, in our May 27 issue I reported that Gwen Secter had stepped up the production of meals for seniors to 286 during the last week in May, and to 340 meals the first week in June.
In our July 8 issue the figure had gone up to 400 meals (consisting of four meals a week delivered to individual seniors). The Gwen Secter Centre had also brought on Lauren Cogan as a volunteer coordinator for the meal program.
So, it should come as no surprise that when I contacted Becky for an update as to how many meals the Centre was now turning out, and whether Lauren Cogan was still coordinating the meal program, Becky responded (on July 27): “Last week we distributed 520 meals.
“Lauren Cogan is still the meal program coordinator.”
In addition, Becky noted that “We have launched our transportation hotline for medical appointments in partnership with JCFS, thanks to a grant from JFM. The response has been great. We have hired a summer youth, Kendra, through the Canada Summer Jobs program as community development coordinator and she is currently managing the hotline.” (In case you didn’t see the ad in our July 22 issue for the hotline, the number to call for the transportation hotline is 204-899-1696.)

Rady JCC update

We received the following notice from Rady JCC Executive Director Rob Berkowits:
Someone once said to me that we become what we repeatedly do. That means if you want to live a well-balanced life, not only do you need to create positive daily routines, you also need to live them, day-in and day-out.
For many of us, before the pandemic hit, the Rady JCC was an important part of our daily routines. It was one of the many parts of our everyday lives that helped define who we are. Coming to our facility for a swim, a few laps around our track, or a simple visit with friends was as important as the meals we would eat every day.
When we shuttered our doors back in March, everything changed in an instant. Our daily routines we had worked hard to develop were put on hold, including regular Rady visits.
Well, that was then and this is now.
Fast-forward to June 15, and we reopened our doors to our fitness and aquatics facilities. Those who were ready to come back, did so proudly and cautiously. Members who made their return tell us how great it is to have the Rady back in their daily routines. They tell us about how much they missed this part of their lives. How even the simple things like saying hello to our Rady staff as they make their way upstairs for their workouts make their days better.
Many members who haven’t yet returned tell us in order for Rady to be part of their routines once again, we need to add some additional amenities at our facility. Amenities that we temporarily put on hold when we reopened. Amenities that were once part of their routines.
With that in mind, beginning next week on Tuesday, August 4, our men’s and women’s locker rooms will reopen along with access to our showers. We are doing so with proper physical distancing and sanitization measures in effect. Everything we do is done so with the safety and well-being of our members and staff top-of-mind.
So, if your morning routine used to involve getting a workout in before you head straight to your office, this may be the added amenity that will bring us back in your lives.
For some others not quite ready to return: your daily routines do not include Rady right now. We understand and support your decisions. Please know that when you are ready to have us be part of your routines again, we will be ready to welcome you back through our doors.



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Local News

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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Local News

Free Press coming under criticism for supposed “anti-Israel” bias

Free Press opinion columnist Jen Zoratti and Free Press faith writer John Longhurst


“The attack on Oct. 7, it was vicious (and) really brutal. But it happened in a certain context of this region of years and years of dehumanizing people from both sides.

Do you know who said that? Not a Free Press columnist. It was Yonatan Zeigen – one of former Winnipegger Vivian Silver’s two sons. Zeigen was quoted in an October 29 Canadian Press article – prior to the discovery that his mother had actually been killed on Kibbutz Be’eri during the October 7 massacre, and was not taken hostage to Gaza – which is what was first suspected.

That same story also said that Zeigen “noted that his perspective has prompted backlash inside Israel, which he chalks up to people rejecting projects his mother helped run that call for a fundamental shift in how Israelis relate to Palestinians.

” ‘I don’t really talk … to the Israeli press because I see a lot of poison being directed at her because of her activities,’ he said.”

Compare that with what Free Press columnist Jen Zoratti wrote in an opinion piece that was published January 26, two days after an event focusing on the brutality that had been inflicted on Israeli (and other non-Israeli women) during the Hamas massacre of October 7: “Everyone who took the mic on Wednesday kept saying, ‘all women matter’ and ‘women everywhere matter,’ but I couldn’t help but wonder — which women? There wasn’t even a cursory pass at solidarity or even an acknowledgment of the gender- based harms currently being experienced by Palestinian women, who also feel abandoned by global feminism.”

Zoratti’s column did describe the horrors that had been unleashed on Israeli women on October 7 and she did refer in some depth to remarks made by Israeli lawyer and women’s rights expert Ayelet Razin Bet Or during that January 24 event at the Human Rights Museum, but she tried to place what happened on October 7 within a larger context of the ongoing degradation of women in war situations.

That one single comment in Zoratti’s column about “harms currently being experienced by Palestinian women” has apparently unleashed a torrent of criticism, which has been leveled not only at Zoratti and the Free Press for having the nerve to print her column, the backlash has even extended to Free Press Faith reporter John Longhurst, who has been caught up totally unsuspectingly in a blistering attack written by the publisher of a Jewish Winnipeg website.

Apparently Longhurst had written just two words on “X” (previously Twitter), with reference to Zoratti’s column: “good column.”

In response, Rhonda Spivak, publisher of Winnipeg Jewish Review, wrote:

“Did he not understand that in raving (emphasis ours) about Zoratti’s column that painted a picture of Israel as an apartheid state, accusing the Israeli speaker of spouting propaganda (emphasis ours), and calling for a ceasefire without even mentioning the necessary release of Israeli women, children and men held hostage in Gaza, he would not be bridge building but damaging his relationship with the Jewish community.

With his little tweet, Longhurst has set back interfaith relations .What makes things worse, is that Longhurst actually interviewed the Israeli speaker, sex crimes prosecutor Ayelet Razin Bet Or and the program’s moderator Gail Asper for the Winnipeg Free Press and also for the Canadian Jewish News in advance of the program held at the CMHR. If Longhurst harbored these views, would it not have been fair to present his views, and give Razin Bet Or the opportunity to respond?

 “Longhurst is a freelance writer who writes regularly in the Canadian Jewish News, but I do wonder what the latter’s readership would think of his insensitivity displayed towards the Jewish/Zionist community (emphasis ours).

”How does Longhurst propose to repair that which he has damaged (emphasis ours)?”

In defense of Longhurst, it should be pointed out that he written extensively about the local Jewish community. He was also the only local reporter to attend the major conference on anti-Semitism held in Ottawa in October. He also interviewed both Ayelet Razin Bet Or and Gail Asper for a story that was published prior to the event at the Human Rights Museum on January 24.

However, reaction to Zoratti’s column has been heated and calls have grown on social media to organize campaigns against the Free Press. We have been made aware of pressure being exerted on Free Press co-owner Bob Silver to influence the editorial position of the paper. We have also been told (although admittedly anecdotally, without being able to verify to what extent it has happened) of individuals cancelling (or threatening to cancel) their subscriptions to the Free Press.

But, it’s not only Zoratti’s column that has raised the ire of many individuals toward the Free Press. As with any large daily newspaper, the Free Press receives many letters to the editor. In recent weeks the paper has printed letters from Jeff Lieberman (CEO of the Jewish Federation) and Paula Parks (President of the Federation), along with an opinion piece by Gustavo Zentner (the newly appointed CIJA representative for Manitoba and Saskatchewan), all of which made the case for Israel in various respects.

Yet, the Free Press has also printed many letters highly critical of Israel’s actions in Gaza. On Tuesday, February 6, while there was one letter written in defense of Israel, there were also three letters highly critical of Israel. We have been contacted by individuals complaining that their own letters written in defense of Israel have not been printed.

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In defense of the Jen Zoratti column that set off a firestorm of criticism of the Free Press – and a letter explaining why that column so upset so many people

By BERNIE BELLAN As an editor myself I know what it’s like to be accused of bias. As such, I would argue that the anger at the Winnipeg Free Press for what many in our community perceive as an anti-Israel bias is totally unjustified. If any of the paper’s critics actually takes a close look at that paper they will see a vast amount of coverage devoted to local Jewish events. Not only does John Longhurst do a great job covering many events (and he is a far better reporter than I could ever hope to be), the paper also features Sharon Chisvin writing about local Jewish happenings on a regular basis.

One would think that, based on the amount of ink that the Free Press devotes to news of interest specifically to the Jewish community that there was a vast number of Jews in this city. That’s why, when I asked Free Press editor Paul Samyn, when he was speaking to the Remis group at the Gwen Secter Centre last year, just how many Jews he thought there were in Winnipeg, and he guessed “45,000,” he was quite astounded to hear from me that, at best, there were only 12,500 Jews in Winnipeg. (I also said to Paul that there were over 72,000 Filipinos in Winnipeg, but you don’t see nearly as many stories about that community in the paper as you do of the Jewish community.)

So, Jen Zoratti wrote a column that had one particular paragraph that inflamed the minds of many Jews (a lot of whom don’t even read the Free Press, based on what I’ve seen on social media). Not only are many individuals furious at Zoratti – and the Free Press, for even daring to publish what she wrote, even as fair minded and professional a writer as John Longhurst has had his name dragged through the mud. (If you don’t know what I’m talking about read

For a community that’s long railed against the idea of boycotts being used against Israel (as in the BDS movement – Boycott, Divest, Sanctions), isn’t it a bit much to be calling for individuals to cancel their subscriptions to the Free Press over one column? And as someone who, until this week, had been a newspaper publisher for almost 40 years, I know what it’s like to have pressure put on your to slant coverage in a newspaper. While some newspaper publishers like to get involved in dictating editorial policy, from what I know Bob Silver has been steadfast in remaining apart from that. I personally sent notes offering encouragement to Jen Zoratti, John Longhurst, and Paul Samyn. I didn’t weigh in on whether I thought what Jen wrote was out of line or not (which, by the way, I didn’t). I simply wanted to affirm the importance of freedom of the press –and of columnists, to write without fear of monetary retribution. Heck, Israel has been on the receiving end of that kind of campaign for years. Are Jews going to begin to emulate the tactics of the BDS movement?

In response to the above we received a letter from Cathy Moser, in which she explains the anger that many in the Jewish community are feeling toward the Free Press:

Dear Bernie;

     I respect your humane approach to reporting on the war in the Middle East – I don’t think that you will find too many people in the Winnipeg Jewish community that would revel in knowing that thousands of innocent women and children in Gaza were killed in the effort to eliminate Hamas Terrorists.  If Jen Zoratti had written a column on the Palestinian women and children whose voices have been deadened – what she said may have been relevant.  However – she wrote an OpEd on a talk called HEAR OUR VOICES, with the Voices referring to the women and children who were raped, tortured and killed in Israel on October 7th.  It was as inappropriate to talk about the Gazan women in this article as it would have been to talk about the Israeli women and children if she was reviewing a talk given by the Palestinian community on Palestinian women and children.  Or if, when newspapers in the 40’s described bombing Nazi headquarters and strongholds, had included in their OpEds the fact that thousands of innocent German civilians were killed by the Allied Forces and they are inhumane.

     The problem with Jen Zoratti’s article was well summarized by Mike Federer in his article in the Free Press, January 7th, 2024 – it takes a very special skill to attend an educational event bringing attention to Hamas’ misogynistic and murderous sexual assault of Israeli women during its genocidal October 7 massacre in southern Israel, and turn it into an anti-Israel hit piece. However, that’s exactly what Jen Zoratti managed to accomplish in her January 26 opinion column in the Winnipeg Free Press entitled: “The battlefield between feminism and rapes of war.”.

     By the way, there would have been no need to appeal to Bob Silver had the Editor published any one of my letters providing an alternate understanding of some of the issues.  Prior to the deluge that was received after the Jen Zoratti article, the Winnipeg Free Press had very one-sidedly published letters to the Editor that were anti-Israel and misleading in facts. I will send a few for your perusal if you are interested.  Since the Zoratti ‘affair’, there have been many more letters published that elucidate both sides of the story, as well as articles to the point (e.g., Saturday, Feb 18, 2025 article by Dr. Ruth Ashrafi).

     It seems that the volume of letters to the Editor and Owner after the Zoratti article has served its purpose. Perhaps there was a critical look at the past month’s content to determine whether the letter writers’ claims were valid. Freedom of speech is critical to a healthy democracy; however, if those that publish the speeches are biased, there is no freedom. 


Cathy Moser 

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