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Adam Levene


Speech by Adam Levene, June 9, 2011

[Editor's note: Adam Levene,  a lawyer at Aikins Macauley & Thorvaldson, received the Max Nathanson Young Leadership Awards   at the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg’s Kavod Evening, a program to honour and celebrate outstanding community volunteers and leadership, that took place on  May 25th, 2011 at  Etz Chayim Synagogue.  It was presented to him by Marty Greenfeld.

The Winnipeg Jewish Review is pleased to reprint Adam's speech in full below. (We will reprint a number of other speeches from the evening in  future issues). Congratulations to Adam and his family.]


Thank you, Marty.  I am deeply humbled to be the recipient of the Max Nathanson Young Leadership Award.  The acknowledged while not expected is much appreciated.

As has been recently chronicled now more times then I can count, in 1996 our NHL hockey team, the Winnipeg Jets, left for Phoenix.  Around the same time, I began to watch as my friends left one by one for Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary or elsewhere.  As much as my now wife Marla and I were committed to Winnipeg, we too began to question if this was the right place for us to be.  Would the Winnipeg Jewish community be the type of place where we would want to raise our children?  Would there be strong Jewish institutions? Other Jewish kids for our children to play with?  Could the Winnipeg Jewish population decline be stopped?

Thankfully the Jewish community leaders of the day were considering these questions long before Marla and I started to ask them.   The centerpiece of the plan to rejuvenate our community,  The Asper Jewish Community Campus, opened in 1997.

Shortly after commencing my law practice, I was asked to sit on a committee to start a young adult division of the combined jewish appeal.  The goal of this committee was to find a way to reach out to young jewish people in our community after graduation from university.  We had many meetings.  All of us were concerned, sceptical – if we ran a program, would anyone come?  How could we ask young people to consider giving back to their community?  Would they give?  After a few false starts, YAD was launched.  YAD, now JPEG, is one of the cornerstones of the federation’s strategic plan to connect people jewishly.

A few years later, my friend and colleague Jonathon Kroft asked if I would consider joining the Federation Board.  I willingly accepted as I felt this would be an ideal place to contribute and give back to our community.  After a year of sitting on the board, I called Jonathon and indicated that the Federation board may not be the right place for me as I did not feel terribly engaged.  Jonathon offered what he thought to be the perfect solution – that I should just join the executive.  Always heeding Jonathon’s advice, I accepted.  Being on the Federation executive has been a wonderful experience for me.  I have had the chance to work with not only the many inspiring, committed and amazing members of the executive, staff and board of Federation but with so many of the agencies which we fund.

We may be anxiously awaiting the anticipated announcement of the return of NHL Hockey to Winnipeg.  However, based on my Federation experience, it is clear to me that we do need to wait for any announcement about our community -- we have already arrived.  The trend has changed – some of my friends have moved back, many more would if their wives would let them.  We have added more then 3000 people to our community in the last number of years, many of them young families.  I understand there will be three grade one classes at the Gray Academy when my son Ethan starts Grade 1 and four junior Kindergarten classes when my daughter Annie goes to her first day of school in September.  The Rady Centre has more then four thousand members.  Many say, we have run out of space at the Asper Campus – who would have thought in 1997.  We have an annual fundraising campaign which raises more per capita then most campaigns in North America.

With all of this success comes new challenges:
- we need more childcare space
- more money for subsidies so that more Jewish children can go to camp and day school
- more money to affiliate the unaffiliated
and we need to find a way to energize the next generation of leaders to carry through on the great successes of our current and past community leaders 

I have been extremely fortunate to have the friendship and guidance of so many that have not only offered their time and expertise but their commitment to developing the next generation of leaders so that we have a sustainable thriving community.  Thank you to you all.

When this award became publicized, many people congratulated me and commented that this award really meant I was spending less hours at my office then I should.  What it really represents however is the sacrifice my wife Marla and my children Ethan and Annie have to make to allow me to pursue my community involvement.  Without their support allowing me to attend many early morning and evening meetings, my volunteer work would not be possible.  Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to do this, Marla, Ethan and Annie – I love you very much.  Ethan and Annie, I have every reason to believe when you are starting your post secondary education and deciding where you want to be, you will be looking at a community that resembles the Jewish Community of today and not that of 1996, - you will be looking at a community that you will be proud to be a part of.

Thank you very much again for this tremendous honour.

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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.