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By Rhonda Spivak, February 1, 2009

Winnipeg-   A controversy has arisen here about the extent to which the Jewish National Fund   has raised  money towards the Israel-Manitoba
Research Partnership formed in 2006  between the Government of Manitoba and the JNF. 

In 2006, the Province made a commitment of $1 million dollars (to be paid over a 3 year period commencing in 2006) to the partnership with the JNF.
That money has been invested with the Jewish Foundation of Manitoba in an endowment fund.

In the 2006 Prairie Region JNF Negev Gala Concert program honouring Premiere Gary Doer, the JNF wrote:

"The Province recently announced a commitment of $1 million in support of the fund, with the JNF targeting to match that amount through fundraising."

Although this statement was made in the JNF Program, in the 2006 Memo of Understanding between the  Province  and the  JNF, the JNF  does not make or purport to make any commitment to raise a specific amount of money towards the partnership endowment fund.

In an interview, Erez Rotem, the current JNF  Director for the Prairie Region, said that the "JNF encourages and will encourage its supporters to donate to the partnership endowment fund." However, there has not yet been any specific  fundraising drive for raising money for the Manitoba-Israel research partnership endowment.

In a telephone interview, Rami Kleinmann, the former national director of the JNF, said that the above statement in the 2009 Negev Gala Concert program was made in good faith in "an advertisement brochure," where the JNF gave an "ideal amount" it would have liked to have been able to raise.

Kleinmann said that, unfortunately, shortly after the Gala Concert in June of 2006,  the  Second Lebanon War  in Israel  suddenly broke out in  July 2006.  With the outbreak of that war, which caught everyone off guard, the focus of JNF's fundraising understandably had to change. The JNF had to raise "emergency funds" to assist the Israeli home front in this "time of crisis."

"When the war broke out, the [fundraising] focus changed and the 2006-2007 campaign was directed towards re-foresting the North of Israel, which had been badly damaged by the war," Kleinmann said.

For most of 2008, after Kleinmann left the JNF, there was no shaliach in the Winnipeg office, until Rotem arrived this past August. 

Kleinmann, who is now the executive director of Canadian Friends of Hebrew University  said that the relationship with the Province is "a precious relationship" and fundraising requires "a lot of patience." 

In 2007, The JNF paid  for the costs of taking a First Nations Delegation from Grand Rapids to Israel to look into advancing a green-house project on the reserve and other  projects using Israeli technology.

Kleinmann added that he believes that the JNF will be able to raise money for the partnership endowment fund at the opportune moment, once there is "a tangible project," around which to build a fundraising effort.  According to Kleinmann, a fundraising effort would be more likely to be successful once the community has had an opportunity to see the kinds of research projects that the endowment fund can support.

Both Kleinmann and Rotem noted that in the upcoming year the JNF will be raising money towards supporting the Manitoba-Israel Water Symposium which is to take place later this year in Israel.  The first such symposium took place in Winnipeg this past August.

Kleinmann added that once there have been two water symposiums, which give potential donors an idea of the kind of scientific collaboration that the partnership endowment fund can support, then "it will be possible [for the JNF] to campaign to raise funds for this fund."


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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.