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Gayle Waxman


by Rhonda Spivak, posted January 14, 2019


On Dec 18, 2018 there was a farewell event held for Rady JCC's Gayle Waxman who left the Rady JCC at the beginning of  January to take up  a new position as head of a nation-wide nursing association.(Tamar Barr, Assistant Executive Director will serve as Interim Executive director while the Rady JCC Board commences a search for Waxman's replacement.)


The Winnipeg Jewish Review thanks Waxman for all her contributions to our community and extends its very best wishes to Waxman in all her future endeavours. The Winnipeg Jewish Review's editor Rhonda Spivak had an opportunity to interview Waxman about the accomplishments of the Rady JCC during her 13 year term as Rady JCC's Executive Director, and that interview is below:


Q: What were some of  the highlights of your tenure at the Rady JCC ?


Waxman: One thing that struck me shortly after assuming my role, was the many positive memories of the YMHA that people shared with me.    Those memories inspired me.   Early on, I committed to ensuring the Rady JCC created similar memories for the children, teens and families in our community today.   With the start of a few simple programs – Family Fun Zone, Tweens and Teens, the Family Shabbat Dinners, and eventually Yom Ha’azmaut – we worked hard to build a sense of community belonging I hope will last for years.  Over the past few years, Rady’s board made a commitment to invest more in our youth.  It has been great to see our youth programs – BBYO, Macabbi Games, TAL grow.  This year,  I feel fortunate that I was part of Israel’s 70th Anniversary celebration.   With almost 3000 people, and the participation of almost all Jewish organizations, we exemplified what it means to be a community.  


The JCC is in many ways an organization whose time has come.   It is been my job, in partnership with the board, management and staff to create a strong platform that allowed the JCC to respond to the changes in our community and the world that surrounds us.   I hope that I have achieved that."




Q:What have been some of the greatest accomplishments/successes during your term at the Rady in terms of cultural programming?


Waxman: My role has been to encourage and support the creative program staff at the Rady JCC, led by Tamar Barr.  I learnt so much from them.  I think the thing that stands out most for me was our ability to connect an audience to different expressions of Jewish identity and explore different ideas.  More recently, we have looked for way to attract a younger audience.  That involved finding different venues as well different content.  We took risks and they paid off.  Of course seeing Tarbut start and continue to grow over the years has been very rewarding.  I think we provided that the arts are not just about entertainment, but about making our world better.  One of my favorite moments happened during Tarbut two years ago, when we hosted over 800 students – Jewish and not Jewish at series of workshops.  I will never forget seeing 200 kids from schools across the city – some Israeli and some wearing Hijabs – singing Gesher T’zar Meod in Amharic with the Israeli singer Aveva. 



Q: What has it been like working with your Board and volunteers and staff?


Waxman: Good governance has been a hallmark of the Rady JCC Board.  The discussions at the Board have been honest, respectful and always centered on the community good.   I greatly appreciate the opportunity to have worked with so many outstanding volunteers.  Being President of an organization like the JCC requires exceptional leadership and was fortunate to work with a group of outstanding Presidents - Jeff Lieberman, Murray Gilfix, Morley Hoffman, Eric Sawyer, Danny Stoller, Elliott Garfinkel and Debbie Hoffman.  I have benefited greatly from their wisdom, vision and support.   Lindsay Sawyer will shortly begin her term as President.  I know her intelligence and strength will take the Rady JCC to new heights. 


I have been very fortunate to work with outstanding colleagues who exemplify menchlachkeit, were always ready to take on a new challenge and provided me with exceptional advice.  Coming to work everyday has been a pleasure because the great Rady staff.  I can’t think of a more dedicated, intelligent, hard working and kind group of people. 



Q: How many members are there for the Rady's fitness centre ? (please tell me anything you want about this subject)


Waxman: The Rady JCC’s fitness membership is at about 2700 units or 5500 people.  That is one of the highest membership levels we have ever seen.  The fitness area is unique in that we are a charity competing with private sector companies.  The success of the fitness centre is a direct reflection of our exceptional fitness staff, under the leadership of Mark Spencer and Boris Bursak and membership staff under the leadership of Robyn Lieberman.  Our fitness centre is considered to be one of the three best JCC fitness centres in North America.  That is no easy task.  Our staff keep up with the latest advances in the field, but they do so with heart.   It was not unusual for a member to approach me and tell me how one of our staff had a significant impact on their life.   When I heard that, knowing the staff, I was not surprised.



Q: What achievements have there been in the area of day camps?


Waxman: Our day camp has grown tremendously over the years under the direction of Jamie Kagan.  It did not happen all at once, but we built it gradually, focusing on providing the children with a quality experience.  I always enjoyed seeing the kids come back year after year, eventually as counsellors.  The counsellors are a critical part of the experience.  We placed a strong emphasis on recruiting counsellors that brought enthusiasm and compassion to the role.  Each year I participate in the training of camp staff.  I am always impressed by them.


The summers were once very quiet on Campus.  That is no longer the case.  Between camp, aquatics and child care the building is full of energy.   I think that is what the founders of the Campus envisioned and it felt great to help see that dream fulfilled. 


A few years ago, we really focused on expanding our scholarship and campership programs.  To know that we have been able to distribute $250,000 each year through the generosity of our donors speaks volumes about the kind of community we live in.


Q: What achievements have there been in the area of daycare?


Waxman: There are two programs in particular that speak to the JCC’s commitment to the future.   The Newcomer Outreach Program which began a couple of years ago continues to grow, influencing the way our community responds to those choosing to make Winnipeg home.  Child care has also addressed a significant community need.  And, we created not just one but three child care programs, the Kaufman Child Care Centre, the David and Ruth Asper Early Learning Centre and the After School Program at Brock Corydon.   More than anything, the programs have become known in Winnipeg and across JCCs for the exceptional quality of the programming.   That is a reflection of the commitment of the staff and leadership team that guides our early learning and after school programs –Eleanora Caporalini, Joanna Young, Shirly Pelich and Natasha Slawik.  These programs followed the direction set by the community.   In doing so, these initiatives embodied the values and mission which are at the core of the JCC.   If we have been successful, that is why.



Q: Is the Rady in a strong financial position? (please tell me anything you want about this)


Waxman: The Rady JCC Board, management and staff are very committed to financial sustainability.  The Rady’s budget has grown significantly over the past 10 years to $7.7 million.  And, most of the revenue is earned through memberships, program fees or fundraising.   Achieving this takes a lot of good budgeting, tight financial controls and an understanding that financial sustainability is not an end in itself, but a way to ensure that JCC meets as many community needs as possible.   We have an exceptionally strong finance team at Rady, led by Barry Miller and Vicki Morton.  They and the rest of their team, ensure the other areas of the organization can do their jobs.


Rady however, is also dependent on the Sports Dinner, which was renamed the Ken Kronson Sports Dinner two years ago.   The amount of work it takes to meet our goals each year is astounding.  What is even more astounding is that most of the work is done by volunteers.  Blair Worb took over from Ken Kronson a few years ago.   I feel very fortunate to have worked with both them.  My guess is that they both put in as much time as staff do when chairing the dinner.



Q: Please add in anything you want to discuss even if I haven't specifically asked about it?


Waxman: Someone once said to me that community centres are the great equalizers.  Community centres brings everyone together – because they want to be there.  It has been wonderful to be part of that.  Community Centres are unique in that they have something for pretty much everyone of all ages and backgrounds.  I have so enjoyed meeting so many people and being part of their lives.   I enjoyed seeing our seniors at the centre and meeting so many people who inspired me to want to be active. 

As I look back over the past 13 years, I feel an immense sense of gratitude to everyone who welcomed me into this exceptional organization and supported me along the way.   When I first walked through the doors of the JCC I was not quite sure what I was getting myself into.   But I quickly realized that I was surrounded by friends – friends who were not shy about telling me what they liked and what they did not like.  That marked the beginning of a conversation that lasted over 13 years and helped reshape the Rady JCC into the organization it is today.   

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.