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Naomi and Gerald Brounstein: A life of charity, practicing law and farming!

BrounsteinsBy KINZEY POSEN

Every May, Gerald Brounstein leaves his law practice in Israel, gets on a flight to Canada and makes his way to Kamsack, Saskatchewan where he fires up his tractor, to seed the fields.


He’s been doing it for years……..farming the family farm. Meanwhile, his wife Naomi – back home in Ra’anana, runs a successful charitable organization with her co-founding partner Vivi Mann, paving the way for a brand new approach to helping Israelis in need. Welcome to the lives of Gerald and Naomi Brounstein.
In 1993, while living in Toronto, Gerald, who was born in Kamsack and grew up in Regina, and Naomi, who hails from Hamilton, decided to make aliyah with their three young children. It was a natural move for a couple who both grew up in Zionistic and traditional Jewish homes. Upon arriving in Ra’anana, Gerald went through nine months of articling to be able to practice law in Israel while Naomi, who is also a lawyer, took care of the children and explored volunteering. She also found time to take her master’s in social work at Tel Aviv University.
Fast forward to 2017 – the Brounstein family, still living in Ra’anana, now consisting of six members, with the youngest child serving in the IDF, one an ordained rabbi, another a professional musician, and one a specialist in special education. Three years ago, Noami and her longtime friend, Vivi Mann, came up with a new take on charitable giving – a concept that allows the donor to know exactly where their donation goes and the effect it has on the recipient family. The idea is simple and extremely transparent. It all takes place online, where donors donate any amount they want, up to, but not more than $1500. On the site, donors see specific cases of Israelis-in-need and they decide which of the posted cases they would like to help. It could be the purchase of a fridge, a stove, eyeglasses or medical equipment. These are real items for real people in need. It’s a variation of crowd funding – and a very effective means of raising money for specific needs.
The process starts with  Israeli social workers identifying cases where their clients could benefit and submitting an application and case history to Ten Gav. From there, a committee evaluates the request. The name Ten Gav, by the way, which is Hebrew for give back, is a play on words,  as it can also mean “I’ve got your back” or “You’re protected.”
In a world where many charities are faceless and the donors don’t know exactly where their money goes, Ten Gav ensures that all the money raised goes only to the case the donor identified. There’s also an option to let Ten Gav decide where it would be most needed. The co-founders do not take a salary and administrative costs for two part time employees and rent comes from monies raised from other donors.
To date, Ten Gav has helped 500 families through 900 donors. Over 50% of those who give are Israelis originally from North America. Over time, Ten Gav has developed a caring network of suppliers who are sensitive to the client’s needs and help by waiving shipping costs.
When asked which cases stand out, Naomi recalled the story of an impoverished family whose cupboards and pantry collapsed in their home, almost killing their young son. Ten Gav was able to provide new ones that were well made and safe. Or there was the case of an 84-year-old woman who spent much of her working life as a seamstress, also managing a program to help Ethiopian immigrant women. Her social worker observed that she was suffering from depression and suggested that having a sewing machine might help her. It did indeed.
Naomi says she finds inspiration from being able to assist people who might get lost between the cracks of the Israeli social system and how her efforts bring her in touch with a segment of Israeli society she might not normally interact with. She and Vivi are constantly looking for ways to improve the process and increase donorship. For instance, upcoming Bar and Bat Mitzvahs can work with Ten Gav to find a meaningful tzedakah project that will help them find a connection and a way to support Israel. To learn more about Ten Gav, go to www.tengav.org
Gerald’s career on the other hand, requires him to split his time among three countries. When he’s not practicing corporate and commercial law in Israel and New York City, he’s farming in Saskatchewan. He comes by his love for working the land honestly. Gerald’s great-grandparents farmed in  Ukraine in the late 1800s, but were driven off their land by pogroms. His grandparents and their 10 children made their way to Canada, first arriving in Montreal where they made a living by peddling. From there, they moved to Winnipeg and got involved in the livery business.
Gerald’s grandfather eventually bought land in the Kamsack area of Saskatchewan, just northwest of Roblin, Manitoba, where the Brounstein family ran a mixed farm with cattle, horses and grain. They lived in the town of Kamsack. In 1966, when Gerald was six, his family moved to Regina in order to be closer to a larger Jewish community. Gerald’s dad went on to become the agriculture representative in the area – the liason between the government and the farmers in regard to education and benefits.
Gerald went on to study at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon, then moved to Toronto, where he studied law at Osgoode Hall. While at school, he met Naomi at the Jewish Student Federation. All this timeGerald’s father continued to run the farm. In fact, his dad ran the farm with local help into his 90s. Gerald found himself being pulled more and more back to the farm and realized he had a deep passion and connection to the land.
What does it take to be a successful farmer these days? Gerald says you need to be a computer geek, a mechanic, an agriculturist and be financially savvy as well. Besides the love of working the earth, it’s a business that requires motivation, thought and commitment. These days, Gerald commutes every two weeks between Israel and Manhattan, practicing law. In May, he packs his overalls and arrives at the farm for seeding and returns again in July, staying until September for the harvest. He breaks for the High Holidays back in Israel and then returns to the farm for fertilization. His law practice doesn’t stop, as he fields calls from clients even while driving the tractor – when possible.
Gerald says his lifestyle is not that unusual for some Israelis. He knows of other people who commute to Europe, Asia and the U.S. for their jobs. It’s just the reality for some to in order make a successful living in Israel. When Gerald recites the Hebrew prayer for rain, he’s not kidding.

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Israel

Hamas murdered their friend. Now, they help Israeli soldiers to keep his memory alive

David Newman (right): David died helping to save the lives of others who were at the music festival on October 7 when Hamas massacred hundreds of attendees

By VIRGINIA ALLEN (The Daily Signal) David Newman sent a text to a friend the morning of Saturday, Oct. 7. Something terrible had happened. Word quickly spread among Newman’s group of friends, who had known each other since high school.
Newman, 25, had traveled the night before to the music festival in southern Israel, close to the border with the Gaza Strip. It was supposed to be a fun weekend with his girlfriend “celebrating life,” something Newman, who served with the Israel Defense Forces, was good at and loved to do, friend Gidon Hazony recalls.
When Hazony learned that Newman, his longtime friend, was in danger, he and another friend decided they were “going to go down and try and save him.” Trained as a medic and armed with a handgun and bulletproof vest, Hazony started driving south from Jerusalem.
Hazony and his friend ended up joining with other medical personnel and “treated probably around 50 soldiers and civilians in total that day,” Hazony recalls, but they kept trying to make it south to rescue Newman.

But the two “never made it down to the party, and that’s probably for the best,” Hazony says, “because that area was completely taken over by terrorists. And if we had gone down there, I think we would’ve been killed.”
Hazony later learned that Hamas terrorists had murdered Newman on Oct. 7, but not before Newman had saved nearly 300 lives, including the life of his girlfriend.
When the terrorists began their attack on the music festival, many attendees began running to their cars. But Newman and his girlfriend encountered a police officer who warned them to run the opposite direction because the terrorists were near the vehicles, says David Gani, another friend of Newman’s.
Newman “ran in the opposite direction with his girlfriend and whoever else he could kind of corral with him,” Gani explains during an interview on “The Daily Signal Podcast.”
“They saw two industrial garbage cans, big containers, and so David told everyone, ‘Hide, hide in those containers,’” Gani says. “And so what he did over the course of the next few hours is, he would take people and … he was this big guy, and he would just chuck them in that container. And then he would go in, wait, wait till the coast is clear, and then he’d go back out, find more people, put them in there.”
Newman’s actions that day, and the atrocities Hazony and so many others in Israel witnessed Oct. 7, led Hazony, Gani, and several friends to quit their jobs and set up a nonprofit called Soldiers Save Lives. The organization is working to collect tactical and humanitarian aid for the Israel Defense Forces, or IDF.
According to the group’s website, Soldiers Save Lives has supplied over 20 IDF units and civilian response teams “with protective and self-defense gear.”
Gani, board chairman, chief financial officer, and chief technology officer of Soldiers Save Lives, and Hazony, president of the organization, recently traveled to Washington, D.C., to raise support and awareness for their mission to provide IDF troops with needed supplies.
If you would like to find out more about Soldiers Save Lives or donate to them, go to https://www.soldierssavelives.org/
Reprinted with permission.

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Israel

Our New Jewish Reality

Indigo bookstore in Toronto defaced

By HENRY SREBRNIK Since Oct. 7, we Jews have been witnessing an ongoing political and psychological pogrom. True, there have been no deaths (so far), but we’ve seen the very real threat of mobs advocating violence and extensive property damage of Jewish-owned businesses, and all this with little forceful reaction from the authorities.
The very day after the carnage, Canadians awoke to the news that the deadliest day for Jews since the Holocaust had inspired sustained celebrations in its major cities. And they have continued ever since. I’d go so far as to say the Trudeau government has, objectively, been more interested in preventing harm to Gazans than caring about the atrocities against Israelis and their state.
For diaspora Jews, the attacks of Oct. 7 were not distant overseas events and in this country since then they have inspired anti-Semitism, pure and simple, which any Jew can recognize. Even though it happened in Israel, it brought back the centuries-old memories of defenseless Jews being slaughtered in a vicious pogrom by wild anti-Semites.
I think this has shocked, deeply, most Jews, even those completely “secular” and not all that interested in Judaism, Israel or “Zionism.” Jewish parents, especially, now fear for their children in schools and universities. The statements universities are making to Jewish students across the country could not be clearer: We will not protect you, they all but scream. You’re on your own.
But all this has happened before, as we know from Jewish history. Long before Alfred Dreyfus and Theodor Herzl, the 1881 pogroms in tsarist Russia led to an awakening of proto-Zionist activity there, with an emphasis on the land of Israel. There were soon new Jewish settlements in Palestine.
The average Jew in Canada now knows that his or her friend at a university, his co-worker in an office, and the people he or she socializes with, may in fact approve, or at least not disapprove, of what happened that day in Israel. Acquaintances or even close friends may care far more about Israel killing Palestinians in Gaza. Such people may even believe what we may call “Hamas pogrom denial,” already being spread. Many people have now gone so far in accepting the demonization of Israel and Jews that they see no penalty attached to public expressions of Jew-hatred. Indeed, many academics scream their hatred of Israel and Jews as loud as possible.
One example: On Nov. 10, Toronto officers responded to a call at an Indigo bookstore located in the downtown. It had been defaced with red paint splashed on its windows and the sidewalk, and posters plastered to its windows.
The eleven suspects later arrested claimed that Indigo founder Heather Reisman (who is Jewish) was “funding genocide” because of her financial support of the HESEG Foundation for Lone Soldiers, which provides scholarships to foreign nationals who study in Israel after serving in the Israeli armed forces. By this logic, then, most Jewish properties and organizations could be targeted, since the vast majority of Jews are solidly on Israel’s side.
Were these vandals right-wing thugs or people recently arrived from the Middle East? No, those charged were mostly white middle-class professionals. Among them are figures from academia, the legal community, and the public education sector. Four are academics connected to York University (one of them a former chair of the Sociology Department) and a fifth at the University of Toronto; two are elementary school teachers; another a paralegal at a law firm.
Were their students and colleagues dismayed by this behaviour? On the contrary. Some faculty members, staff and students at the university staged a rally in their support. These revelations have triggered discussions about the role and responsibilities of educators, given their influential positions in society.
You’ve heard the term “quiet quitting.” I think many Jews will withdraw from various clubs and organizations and we will begin to see, in a sense like in the 1930s, a reversal of assimilation, at least in the social sphere. (Of course none of this applies to Orthodox Jews, who already live this way.)
Women in various feminist organizations may form their own groups or join already existing Jewish women’s groups. There may be an increase in attendance in K-12 Jewish schools. In universities, “progressive” Jewish students will have to opt out of organizations whose members, including people they considered friends, have been marching to the slogan “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” and similar eliminationist rhetoric, while waving Palestinian flags.
This will mostly affect Jews on the left, who may be supporters of organizations which have become carriers of anti-Semitism, though ostensibly dealing with “human rights,” “social justice,” and even “climate change.”
Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg took part in a demonstration outside the Israeli Embassy in Stockholm on Oct. 22 in which she chanted “crush Zionism” along with hundreds of other anti-Israel protesters. Israel is now unthinkingly condemned as a genocidal apartheid settler-colonialist state, indeed, the single most malevolent country in the world and the root of all evil.
New York Times Columnist Bret Stephens expressed it well in his Nov. 7 article. “Knowing who our friends aren’t isn’t pleasant, particularly after so many Jews have sought to be personal friends and political allies to people and movements that, as we grieved, turned their backs on us. But it’s also clarifying.”
Henry Srebrnik is a professor of political science at the University of Prince Edward Island in Charlottetown.

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Israel

Former Winnipegger Vivian Silver, at first thought to have been taken hostage, has now been confirmed dead

Jewish Post & News file photo

Former Winnipegger and well-known Israeli peace activist Vivian Silver has now been confirmed as having been killed during the massacre of Israelis and foreign nationals perpetrated by Hamas terrorists on October 7. Vivian, a resident of Kibbutz Be’eri was originally thought to be among the more than 1200 individuals who were taken hostage by Hamas.

To read the full story on the CBC website, go to https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/israel-gaza-vivian-silver-1.7027333

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