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Yehuda Friedberg and the Mriya Report

By Martin Zeilig

Since the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, the team behind Mriya Report has been broadcasting live, 24/7, on Twitter Spaces—the modern equivalent to live global radio.

(Ed. note: Twitter Spaces is “a way to have live audio conversations on Twitter. Anyone can join, listen and speak in a Space on Twitter for IOS and Android.To find out more about how you can listen to Capt. Friedberg and his many guests simply Google “Twitter Spaces.”)

Founded by Yehuda Friedberg (Yehuda@yamzallagh), a captain in the Canadian Armed Forces, in early 2022, the space has become an indispensable source of information on the illegal and unprovoked war of aggression being waged by the Russian Federation against democratic Ukraine.
Akaash Maharaj, Ambassador-at-large for the Global Organization of Parliamentarians (GOPAC), is a regular guest on the MR. He leads GOPAC’s project on international prosecution of Crimes against Humanity, its work on reconciliation in post-conflict states, and its efforts to strengthen integrity in the global sport system. He is a Fellow of the Royal Canadian Geographic Society, a Senior Fellow of the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy, and Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.

“The Mriya Report is an extraordinary source of first-hand and expert information about the war in Ukraine,” Mr. Maharaj, a graduate of Oxford University, said in an email to this reporter.

“The speakers have included soldiers and civilians on the ground in Ukraine, military and diplomatic experts, political leaders, and humanitarian workers. It has given people across the world an unfiltered window into the realities of the war, and access to the kind of deep insights and analysis that are rare outside of universities and government situation rooms.”

Capt. Friedberg, who lives in Toronto, Ontario, consented to an email interview with The JP&N.
JP&N: What are the origins of the Mriya Report?
YF: It is surprising for most that so many people, from various backgrounds and walks of life, managed to find one another online and create this amazing information space. It is just as surprising to myself and the Mriya Report team.
We are a team of friends of Ukraine, volunteers from around the world, providing round-the-clock news and commentary on the Russian invasion of Ukraine. We work to keep Ukraine front of mind.
Collectively, we support a charity organization formed in the wake of the full-scale invasion by a number of Canadians and Ukrainians from all walks of life.
For me it all began with the NATO mission winding down in Afghanistan by mid-2021. I was a 44-year-old father with a young family living in Toronto. My daily routine was as normal as most who have toddlers: Wake up, get kids ready, work, pick up kids, prepare dinner, relax, and sleep; then repeat.
When it became apparent that there would be an exodus of Afghans fleeing the Taliban, I think many people became concerned about what would happen to the generation of Afghans who grew up learning about democracy, the freedom of expression, the right to believe what you want. I, like many others, felt helpless to really do much about it. All we could do was watch.
This is when the story gets interesting.
So my day job is a little different than most perhaps. I am an officer in the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF). I will take this time to make it very clear that everything I have done and continue to do in my personal time, is strictly voluntary, and does not represent the CAF in any capacity. However, my beliefs are in line with the ethos that any reasonable, just, and considerate person should hold.
It started with a pizza deliveryman, whom I befriended and who then told me his mother was the last Jew in Afghanistan. He said her life was in danger for hiding the remaining Jews before her, and asked if I could do anything to help. That story in itself is another matter. I was able to facilitate the family of 35 in leaving Afghanistan for safety.
Over the last year and a half, I have assisted in the evacuation of 1500 Afghan refugees, translators, female leaders and other vulnerable persons. This includes the last Jewish Afghan family, who are now in Canada except 10 members still stuck in the UAE.
During the course of my work I grew a considerable network of like-minded people.
When the situation in Ukraine started to become clear, Lieutenant-Colonel Melanie Lake and I created an NGO called Mriya Aid. This group provides non-lethal support for the government of Ukraine. Simultaneously, I created an online podcast through Twitter, called the Mriya Report.

JP&N: How many people worldwide listen to the MR?
YF: The Mriya Report has had over 150 million impressions, and we operate 24/7 week for 8 months, an information campaign to assist and support Ukrainians. In that time I have built a team of 40 volunteers worldwide, journalists, audio engineers, and former military officers etc… The following is a partial list of who I have had on our show, many of whom are on daily now as expert analysts:
· Lt Gen Ben Hodges (On our show weekly) and Lt Gen Mark Hertling (both former Commanders of the US Army in Europe);
· Anton Gerashchenko – Advisor to the Minister of Internal Affairs of Ukraine;
· Maj Gen Mick Ryan AM (Commander of the Australian Defense College);
· Maj Gen Pekka Toveri (former Chief of Finnish Military Intelligence);
· Lt Col Rup Rawlings; Retired USMC officer;
· Lt Col Alexander Vindman, and a wide number of other experts – including foreign policy researchers, elected officials, energy policy experts, and even an astronaut (Cdr Scott Kelly);
· Col John Spencer, West Point professor and world’s foremost Urban Operations specialist. (He is on daily); and
· Lt (N) Chuck Pfarrer, Former Navy Seal commander, Seal Team 6. He brought to justice the terrorist who killed Leon Klinghoffer on the Achille Lauro. (He is on daily)
We have also promoted a number of Ukrainian voices, including human rights advocate Taras Ratushnyy; Dariia Tsykunova (partner of Ilya, an Azovstal defender imprisoned by Russians and now released); Alexander Kamyshin, the CEO of Ukrainian Railway; Valentyn Nalyvaichenko, who formerly Headed the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) and is now a Member of the Verkhovna Rada; Ministers;
Plus numerous Ukrainian Cabinet ministers, Presidential advisors, medical specialists, psychologists and surgeons.

JP&N: What else would you like to share with our readers?
YF: We are also in the process of setting up several unique processes to assist the Ukrainians in their efforts, and anti-fraud organizations for NGOs to best deliver goods, and a logistics hub in Kyiv to facilitate efficient transfer of non-lethal goods with even greater fidelity.
As well, members of Harvard and Stanford universities have reached out to me in the information space, and we began a project to produce a digitalized map of Ukraine, with input from geo technicians worldwide, both professional and amateur, in conjunction with satellite imagery companies.
The intent is to create a corpus of digital data that can be used currently and for future studies and investigations. It will include damage to cultural and heritage sites, civilian infrastructure, possible locations of war crimes atrocities, exit route for human trafficking, and a multitude of other uses. The geo spatial lab at Harvard has obtained blessings from its provost to create a plan in order to create this collaboration, which would be stewarded by the major institutions of higher learning. We meet weekly to discuss this roll out and to bring on relevant stakeholders.
This endeavour will ultimately be stewarded by these major institutions of higher learning.We have also received buy-in and support from several major medical/hospital groups in North America to treat Ukrainian civilians and soldiers, either free of charge, or at cost. We are currently working with Natalia Kalmykova at the Minister of Veterans Affairs Ukraine to assist in the triage for those patients.

Additionally, I would be remiss if I didn’t ask for more help from our audience.  If you are able to assist in any of the above efforts, we would be glad to take on more volunteers.

I want you to know that our team and I do this for one reason: To help Ukraine. To stop a genocide. We see growing movements of totalitarianism and authoritarians on the rise worldwide.  We want to do something about it.  It starts with me, it starts with you.

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Features

Remis Lecture Group at Gwen Secter Centre attracts large crowds to hear from two well-known speakers

Mayor Scott Gillingham speaking to the Remis Lecture group at the Gwen Secter Centre Thursday, May 16

By BERNIE BELLAN On two successive Thursdays in May (May 16 and 23), the usual fairly small number of attendees at the Remis Lecture Group luncheons more than doubled in size as large numbers of guests came to hear two well-known speakers: Mayor Scott Gillingham (on May 16); and Doctors Manitoba President Dr. Michael Boroditsky (on May 23).

The Remis group is open to anyone to attend, but anyone who is not a regular member of the group is asked to notify in advance that they will be attending by calling 204-291-4362.

I thought it might be interesting to provide readers with snapshots of what both Mayor Gillingham and Dr. Boroditsky had to say, despite my writing for a Jewish newspaper (and website) and trying to think desperately how I could tie in either speaker to a Jewish theme. How about if I mention that the mayor said he really enjoyed the kosher meal provided by the Gwen Secter Centre, which featured kugel as the main dish?

In a separate article I’ll write about Dr. Boroditsky’s talk. (I have posted about his having said that a new association of Manitoba Jewish physicians has been formed. You can read that article at https://jewishpostandnews.ca/faqs/rokmicronews-fp-1/jewish-physicians-in-manitoba-form-association-in-response-to-antisemitism/: )

Scott Gillingham began his remarks by telling the audience that he was born and raised in Brandon, where he honed his skills as a very good hockey player. First elected to Winnipeg City Council in 2014 and reelected in 2018, in 2022 he ran for mayor.

Readers might remember that former mayor Glen Murray had entered that race and was, at first, considered the heavy favourite to win the election.

Gillingham told this amusing story about election night, which was October 26, 2022: Apparently CTV News had called the election in Murray’s favour shortly after the polls had closed at 8:00 pm.

But, as events transpired, CTV was quite wrong, and it wasn’t long before Gillingham took the lead for good. As he noted to the Remis group, “By 8:30 I had lost and won the election all within a half hour.”

Gillingham explained to the audience of 38 that, as this year is the 150th anniversary of Winnipeg’s incorporation as a city, he wanted to give them a brief history of the city.

The first mayor of the city was Francis Cornish, Gillingham noted, elected by a total of 398 people who voted in our city’s very first election. The Gillingham family’s own history of settlement in Manitoba began in 1907, he said, when the first Gillinghams arrived from England, “and headed as far west as they could go until they ran out of money.”

The key event in Winnipeg’s history, he suggested, came when businessman J.H Ashdown convinced the federal government of the day to route the first trans-Canada railway through Winnipeg rather than Selkirk. Ashdown was instrumental in Winnipeg’s quickly building a bridge across the Red River, which turned out to be decisive in the government’s eventual decision. “That kind of vision and action built the city that we love,” Gillingham suggested.

Continuing on the theme of building upon that which has been laid down already by visionaries in the city’s past, the mayor said: “The fortunate thing for me is stepping into this role has afforded me the opportunity to inherit what’s already in place.”

For that, Gillingham thanked the many generations of entire families that have contributed so much to “the health and welfare of this city. Yes, we have challenges,” he admitted… “we have struggles, we have potholes,” but we still have a great city, he insisted.

He pointed to two specific projects in Winnipeg’s history that came about as the result of great vision and determination: the building of the gravity-fed aqueduct from Shoal Lake and of the Winnipeg Floodway. Gillingham also noted former Mayor Stephen Juba’s role in the building of City Hall in 1962 as another example of vision, as was the construction of the Manitoba Legislative Building in an earlier era.

“As we look back over these past 150 years,” Gillingham said, “we realize there’s a lot to inspire us.”

Turning to some of the more immediate problems that continue to fester here (as they do in almost all major urban centres), the mayor admitted “we don’t have enough housing…I’ve challenged our staff to approve 8,000 units of housing in 2024.” (He added that, as of the day he was speaking, 3,500 units had already been approved, so the goal of 8,000 was well within reach.)

He noted, as well, that new census figures for Winnipeg are about to be disclosed “next month” – which means they may already be out by the time this is read, and the anticipated fairly large increase in Winnipeg’s population is only going to add more pressure to build more housing.

As Gillingham put it, “I love my kids, but I don’t want them to live with me forever.”

The mayor also referred to some of the improvements in technology that are underway in the delivery of certain services to the public. He referred specifically to an enhancement to 911 service that will allow anyone calling that number to send a photo to the 911 operator, which should lead to a much better understanding of what type of emergency situation is being talked about. (By the way, Gillingham noted, the very first 999 service – which was the antecedent of the current 911 service, began in Winnipeg, under Mayor Juba, in 1959.)

Gillingham spoke of the need to challenge the Chamber of Commerce to come up “with an actionable set of recommendations which Winnipeg should focus on.”

He noted, as well, that in meeting with business leaders throughout North America, he has learned that they are specifically “interested in Winnipeg – and not Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver, or Calgary” and each time he’s asked them “what it is they’re looking for and how we can provide it in Winnipeg?” Later in his talk he returned to this topic and elaborated on what it is that business leaders are looking for, saying they’re looking for “skilled labour and are we connected to markets?” As well, he noted, many are looking for “green energy and a quality of life for their employees” which, he suggested, Winnipeg has in abundance, with “world class arts, pro sports, universities, a diverse population, and cottage country within an hour and a half.”

At that point the mayor began to field questions from the audience. The first question posed was “Whether, in concentrating on growth for the future, are the needs of the inner city being ignored?”

Gillingham answered that there is currently a major investment in housing in the downtown. “There is $122 million in federal funding” earmarked for downtown housing, he said, of which “$30 million has already been received – which will lead to 600 new units of housing downtown.” He added that there will also be “new spray pads in the north end” this year.

The mayor also noted the creation of a new “concierge service” for anyone wanting to build something, whereby if “you call one number you can correlate all the housing requirements,” rather than having to contact a number of different city departments.

He also mentioned the next “round of funding” from the federal government, which “will focus on transportation infrastructure for rapid transit.”

Someone asked Gillingham to define what the term “affordable housing” actually means?

The mayor answered that it would be “80% of the market rate,” so that if housing is renting for $1,000 then $800 would be affordable. He pointed to new housing that will be going up where the old Public Safety Building once stood. “It will include units for less than $1,000 a month,” he said. “If a builder can include at least six units of affordable housing we’ll give them money to offer those,” he added.

Another question was about the Arlington Bridge and what will happen to it?

The mayor answered that “we’re waiting for a consultant’s report.”

I posed a question about cycling, noting that both the mayor and I are ardent cyclists, but for anyone who wants to take their bike downtown, it is extremely difficult to find a secure are in which to leave it. I suggested that the city ought to take one of the many vacant lots downtown and build a secure (above ground) compound, in which cyclists could leave their bikes. I even proposed to the mayor that it could be called “Gillingham’s Island.” (For anyone under a certain age that reference might be totally lost, but lucky for me the Remis group – and the mayor, are of sufficient age to have got the joke.)

Gillingham did address the issue of bike thefts in the city (and I just had another bike stolen not too long ago), saying that anyone can register their bike for free by going to 529garage.com. It would help police in locating the owner of a stolen bike if it’s recovered.)

The final questions were about Portage and Main. The first questioner wondered why this time around the mayor was in favour of opening up Portage and Main whereas in 2018 he was opposed?

Gillingham responded that “something happened between the plebiscite (whether to open Portage and Main to pedestrian traffic) in 2018 and today that’s shifted people’s attitudes.”

He was also asked “When you open Portage and Main will you be closing the concourse?”

The answer was “No, more information is needed.”

Finally, someone wondered whether the skywalk system could be extended to connect the west side of Portage Avenue to the east side – and thus to the skywalk system which connects east of Main Street.

Gillingham said that “We’re open to the conversation. The only date we have in mind is the reopening of the street at street level.”

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Features

Connecting the Dots: Ari Posner- Meet Ari Posner

Ari Z. Posner, son of Barry and Bebe on the left and Ari P. Posner, son of Gerry and Sherna with the cap on the right

By GERRY POSNER I suppose we are not the only family to have inter-related connections. At least, not in the old days of the shtetl. What I do know is that finding my way through these family relationships took me years to figure out and understand. Recently, the dots got connected once again.

It all started (at least as far back as I can go) when around 1905, one Isaac Posner married one Kayla Shulman. They were living at that time in the same shtetl or at least close to the same shtetl of what was then known as Propoisk (now Slavgorod) in present day Belarus. From this marriage emerged three children: a daughter, Lillian Posner – later Romalis;l a son, Samuel L. Posner; and another son, Solomon Posner. That was simple enough. As it turned out, Issac Posner was an older brother of my grandfather, Herman Posner. Isaac’s wife, Kayla, was the sister of my other grandfather, Harry Shulman. Even that was not terribly complicated. In short, my father’s uncle Issac, married my mother’s aunt Kayla. That marriage linked the Posners to the Shulmans in Round 1.

When Isaac and Kayla’s kids married, a son, Sol, married a woman from Iowa City Iowa, named Rhea Markovitz. Not long after, in December, 1937 a son of Herman Posner (my grandfather) – Samuel R. Posner, (my father), married a woman named Rhea Shulman ( my mother) also from Iowa City, Iowa. She was a daughter to Harry and Anna Shulman of Iowa City. Thus, in Iowa City there were two first cousins – Rhea Shulman and Rhea Markovitz, born less than a year apart and both of whom later married men from Winnipeg, both with the initials SP – one Sol Posner and one Sam Posner. Of course, the marriage of my mother, a Shulman, to my father, a Posner, created Round 2 of the Posners and the Shulmans joining together. Are you still with me?

When, in the course of time, Sol and Rhea and Sam and Rhea began to have children, they created a relationship for their children in what might be considered by some to be almost incestuous. Rhea and Sol had two sons, Barry and Craig (of blessed memory), both of whom were and are likely still known to many readers to this day. My parents had Linda, my brother Michael, and me. We were, and still remain, cousins to Barry to this day. I was, and still am related to Barry and Craig in no less than three ways. Why? First of all, Barry’s father Sol was a first cousin to my father Sam. Secondly, Barry’s father was a first cousin to my mother Rhea. Thirdly, Barry’s mother Rhea was a first cousin to my mother Rhea. So the ties are deep. Confusing as well.

Of course, what solidified these roots even further was the fact that Sam and Rhea, my parents, and Sol and Rhea, Barry and Craig’s parents, all lived for the rest of their lives in Winnipeg. So, there were two S. Posners – three in fact, as Sol had a brother, Samuel L., a pharmacist. But, let’s not get sidetracked. The two Rheas were very close and I suspect there had to be much confusion about these two women with the same name and almost the same age. Moreover, the two families shared similar experiences each summer. That was because Rhea Posner – Barry and Craig’s mother, took her kids to Iowa City to spend part of the holidays with her parents, while my mother – Rhea, would also take my siblings and me to visit her parents in Iowa City, Iowa. My cousin Craig and I were the same age (born one month apart ) and hence spent much time together, both in Winnipeg and Iowa City. I never could quite get the picture as to why I saw him in both locations. All I knew was that he was my cousin.

Well, we all grew up with this similar history and genetic connections. When Barry married the former Bebe Melmed, three kids followed. The eldest son was Ari Z. Posner, who grew up in Montreal – where Barry and Bebe lived. When I married Sherna Bernbaum, we also had three kids, the eldest of whom was Ari P. Posner. The fact that these boys had the same name – Ari, was more of a fluke as they were not named for the same person. Oddly, (or maybe not given the past history) Ari Z’s middle name is Zvi, the same name as my son, only in the case of my son, Zvi is his Hebrew middle name. Ari Z. is about 5 years older than Ari P. That difference is about the age difference between Barry and me.

Recently, and to my delight, my son Ari had a good reason to go to L.A. to receive a music award and, to my greater delight, he expressed an interest in seeing the other Ari, whom he had never met. L.A. is where the other Ari Posner resides. As it turns out, their names were not the only dot that connected them. Both have made a career in the arts, Ari Z has done it in writing, creating and producing for TV primarily – and has been very successful in his field. Ari P. is a composer. He is not that far removed from the other Ari since he often writes music for TV in the US and Canada.

I think of grandfather Herman Posner and his brother Isaac. Would they not be amazed at this connection? Or better yet, what would my great-grandfather Shmerya and wife Yudasha have to say about two of their descendants now – approximately 170 years after their births, meeting and reinforcing the family ties. As much as so much has changed, this little bit of Posner history is the same.

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Features

New website for Israelis interested in moving to Canada

By BERNIE BELLAN A new website, titled “Orvrim to Canada” (https://www.ovrimtocanada.com/ovrim-en) has been receiving hundreds of thousands of visits, according to Michal Harel, operator of the website.
In an email sent to jewishpostandnews.ca Michal explained the reasons for her having started the website:
“In response to the October 7th events, a group of friends and I, all Israeli-Canadian immigrants, came together to launch a new website supporting Israelis relocating to Canada. “Our website, https://www.ovrimtocanada.com/, offers a comprehensive platform featuring:

  • Step-by-step guides for starting the immigration process
  • Settlement support and guidance
  • Community connections and networking opportunities
  • Business relocation assistance and expert advice
  • Personal blog sharing immigrants’ experiences and insights

“With over 200,000 visitors and media coverage from prominent Israeli TV channels and newspapers, our website has already made a significant impact in many lives.”
A quick look at the website shows that it contains a wealth of information, almost all in Hebrew, but with an English version that gives an overview of what the website is all about.
The English version also contains a link to a Jerusalem Post story, published this past February, titled “Tired of war? Canada grants multi-year visas to Israelis” (https://www.jpost.com/israel-news/article-787914#google_vignette) That story not only explains the requirements involved for anyone interested in moving to Canada from Israel, it gives a detailed breakdown of the costs one should expect to encounter.

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