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Shared society in Jerusalem

By SIMONE COHEN SCOTT Last fall a Canadian city tour was arranged for two women from the Jerusalem Business Development Centre (or MATI, as its acronym is known in Hebrew), an Israeli NGO that promotes development of small businesses among under-served communities in Jerusalem. This NGO is a project of the Jerusalem Foundation: The tour, happening in May, is being sponsored by the Asper Foundation, in partnership with the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg. I had the good fortune, in Jerusalem last month, to meet and visit with these two women, Michal Shaul-Valej, Deputy CEO, and Riham Abu Snineh, East Jerusalem Manager. It was enlightening to hear about the sensitive and important work these women are doing, and I’m looking forward to seeing them again and learning more when they visit Winnipeg on May 7th, Sunday morning, 10 a.m., at the Asper Jewish Community Campus in the Multi Purpose Room.

The Jerusalem Business Development Centre began in 1991 with the support of the Jerusalem Foundation, as a way to provide an economic solution to unemployment. Jerusalem, Israel’s largest city, is also the poorest. To alleviate this extreme situation among immigrants and ultra frum Jews, 80% of whom live below the poverty line, and Arabs, 40% of whom also live below the poverty line, it was decided the best solution would be to help these people develop small businesses. So the NGO was formed to provide what would be needed to do this: MATI helps with the forming of the idea for a service or a product: provides the basics of how to begin; the education and training to see it though; a business plan; adaptation of business models; basic budget assessments; arranging loan assumption; and any further guidance; under-girded always by English and Hebrew instruction. Poverty problem solved, right? Nope! What MATI offers is the easy part. It’s what the clients bring that provides the challenge.
There is a depth of work behind the work that requires special sensitivity on the part of the staff and volunteers. An understanding of the various cultures is paramount, and resistance needs to be met with patience and empathy. Michal has been with MATI for 21 years, so she was in at the beginning. We can expect that her professional degrees have been massively enhanced by the challenges brought to the project. It has been said that Jerusalem and its myriad of problems is a microcosm of the planet. Trying to blend peoples’ cultures and histories developed over centuries, while occupying a small geographic space, is not going to be like “Let’s go for a walk in the park.” Actually, even that analogy wouldn’t be easy or maybe not even possible. People tend to stay in the groups where they feel safe. Think of the Haredi or Muslim or Ethiopian communities, all resisting normalization. Each culture has a hesitancy to trust, and it can take a long time for a person to realize the ‘other’ does not have a hidden agenda besides just helping. It would have taken Michal or Riham (who has been with MATI 11 years), patience, empathy, and perseverence, to win that trust, even when a better quality of life is the goal. Every member of the 23 person staff would have to be ultra sensitive, committed, and strong, as modelled by these managers, to do this work. In effect, they would all be mentoring the clients and each other.

Immigrant women are perhaps the most able to see and respond to the professionalism of this organization. With the help of MATI many of them have set up child care enterprises, enabling other women to pursue other occupations. This is the case in all the communities. The solution to the poverty problem could very well come from entrepreneuring women. The next step, reaching across boundaries and interacting with each other, would chip away at the societal alienation going on now. The composition of the staff reflects this propensity of women clients. At present of the 8 staff in East Jerusalem and 15 in the West, only 3 are men. I didn’t ask about the ratio of single mothers. This could be a question for the May 7th meeting.

A tangible difficulty among immigrants is that there is no common language, so explaining aspects of the project to the participants is difficult. Language is an even more severe barrier with Arab groups. East Jerusalem citizens, under the Jordanian education system, are not conversant in Hebrew at all, and in most cases not English either. It is realized that bringing the eastern section of the city into the economic pattern of the west is part of the goal, and for this, to speak English is paramount. Fortunately, English classes are attracting students from various streams. In fact English classes are currently the strongest incentive for members of the groups to mix a little. One point here: As I spoke to these women I realized they would not let themselves get bogged down with regret at what perhaps SHOULD have been done in the past. No, they won’t dwell on that; instead, they look forward and up, putting their shoulder to the wheel to overcome past misjudgments. NOW. MATI has open connections with City Hall which have been very helpful in many ways,

At a point in my visit with Michal and Riham we were joined by Zvia Shelly, the CEO of MATI. She has been with the group two and a half years, but my goodness! What a powerhouse of skills she brings to the mix. She has spent a couple of decades with various organizations where she has gained massive experience with management agencies, local authorities, large scale-budgets, stakeholders, volunteers and staff recruiting, strategic planning, goal setting, immigrant absorption, education and culture, and even agriculture which is hoped will contribute to bridging the gap. This is a formidable trio of women. Perhaps they will be the ones who break-up the log jam that forms that troublesome Jerusalem microcosm.

When the beloved Mayor Teddy Kollek (z”l) began the Jerusalem Foundation he intended opportunities to be available for all society everywhere to help in making Jerusalem truly “….the joy of the whole earth…”. Having just experienced the retelling of our Exodus from Egypt, we long for our Holy City: “Next year in Jerusalem”. Attend on May 7th and hear more from these woman about what’s going on there. You’ll come away enriched.

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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
Reprinted with permission.

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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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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

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