Winnipeg Jewish Review  
Site Search:
Home  |  Archives  |  Contact Us
Features Local Israel Next Generation Arts/Op-Eds Editorial/Letters Links Obituary/In Memoriam


by Aidan Fishman, August 23, 2011

From July 31st to August 13th, Winnipeg once again celebrated Folklorama, its unique festival of multiculturalism first held to celebrate Manitoba’s Centennial in 1970. And once again, Winnipeg’s Jewish community embraced the event wholeheartedly, most notably at the Israel Pavilion - Shalom Square, a returning Folklorama favourite.

I had the great pleasure of serving as an Ambassador for this year’s Israel Pavilion, along with my enthusiastic compatriots Josh Lieberman and Orly Baisburd, and my mother, Michele Feierstein. As such, I enjoyed a unique bird’s-eye view into the organization of our pavilion as well as the entire extravaganza.

The Israel Pavilion was scheduled in Folklorama’s first week in order to avoid conflict with Tisha B’Av, the sombre fast day commemorating the destruction of both Jewish Temples in Jerusalem. Nevertheless, our pavilion chose to close early on Friday and open late on Saturday out of respect for Shabbat, deviating from the canonical Folkorama show times of 6:45, 8:15 and 9:45. Despite these closures, the Pavilion welcomed approximately 9000 guests, a figure consistent with previous years.

As Ambassadors, my compatriots and I had a very busy first week. Beforehand, we appeared at numerous city events such as the Children’s Festival and Folk Festival in order to generate publicity for Folklorama, quickly forming friendships with other pavilions’ ambassadors. At the Israel Pavilion, we conducted tours of our excellent cultural display for VIPs, welcomed bus tours from Manitoba and abroad and even helped to introduce the show, which featured the legendary Sarah Sommer Chai Folk Ensemble.

This year’s cultural display, designed by Winnipeg’s very own Maxim Berent, featured beautiful panels depicting Israeli sites such as the Negev Desert, Dead Sea, Baha’i Gardens and Jerusalem as well as Israeli contributions in science and technology and a homage to the Jewish State’s multicultural mosaic of peoples and ethnicities. Also in attendance was Oded Grofman, Consul-Tourism Director from the Israeli government's Canadian tourism office.

I personally had the great pleasure of explaining Israel’s rich cultural heritage and diverse technological achievements to local figures such as Provincial Conservative Leader Hugh McFadyen, Liberal Leader Jon Gerrard and Lieutenant Governor Phillip Lee, along with numerous other MPs, MLAs, city councilors and candidates from a variety of parties and ridings.

I was especially impressed by the nearly universal pro-Israel sentiments expressed by Manitoba politicians from across the political spectrum. When one local official seemed skeptical that Israeli Arabs were accorded full voting rights just as Jewish Israelis, I quickly set him on the straight and narrow.

Although the Israel Pavilion has traditionally faced financial challenges due to the need to the high costs of kosher food and the loss of potential revenue on Shabbat, this year’s record-breaking sponsorship haul should brighten its fiscal outlook. All in all, coordinators Tamar Barr, Jeff Lieberman, Roberta Malam and David Rubinfeld did yeoman’s work with this year’s Pavilion, and deserve hearty congratulations for providing such a service to both the local Jewish community and the State of Israel.

All of our Ambassadors were entitled to VIP access for themselves and one guest at the second week's pavilions, allowing us to skip queues, enjoy free food and drink and occupy the best seats in the house. I exploited this opportunity to its fullest extent, visiting 23 pavilions with family and friends by week’s end.

Without exception, we were treated graciously and respectfully at every pavilion, not encountering even a hint of anti-Semitism or anti-Zionism. Indeed, one of the rules of Folklorama is that pavilions are to avoid emphasizing modern or historical conflicts with other ethnic groups, thus providing a neutral, respectful atmosphere for “celebrating diversity and promoting cultural understanding”, as per the organization’s mission statement.

While all of the pavilions proved memorable, each region of the world seemed to bring its own unique flavour to the festival. Pavilions from the Indian subcontinent featured lively musical performances, along with enticing food and orderly cultural displays. Latin American pavilions went above and beyond with their main events, but often left some room for improvement in the realms of hospitality and cultural display tours.

Eastern and Central European pavilions such as those of Ukraine, Romania and Poland were characterized by what could only be described as a very “heimishe” atmosphere, including mouth-watering generosity when it came to drink and food (often in that order). We received a particularly warm welcome at the Russian Pavilion, which perennially relies upon Russian-Israeli Ambassadors and organizers.

Jewish influence was also felt at the Hungarian Pavilion, while the Argentinean Pavilion, which operates bi-ennially and was therefore dormant this year, also showcases local Jewish talent. Amazingly, we encountered Hebrew-speakers even in unheralded locales such as Serbia and Paraguay.


I was truly impressed by the gargantuan efforts of relatively tiny communities to host great events, such as the Ethiopian and Tamil pavilions. Especially heartwarming was the DOTC First Nations Pavilion, which represents an

extremely important step forward in marketing a less stereotyped, more positive image of Winnipeg’s significant First Nations population to the wider public.


All in all, Folklorama 2011 was another great success for our city, showcasing its status as a tolerant, multicultural community and a light unto the nations. As an Ambassador, I had one of the most enjoyable and educational summers of my young life, and look forward to participating again next year in whatever capacity possible.


Note: The opinions expressed herein belong solely to the author, and should not be attributed to the Folklorama organization as a whole.

<<Previous Article       Next Article >>
Subscribe to the Winnipeg Jewish Review
  • Orthodox Union
  • Accurate Lawn & Garden
  • Coughlin Insurance Brokers
  • Munroe Pharmacy
  • Tel Aviv University Canada
  • Booke + Partners
  • Gislason Targownik
  • James Teitsma
  • Janice Morley-Lecomte
  • Obby Khan
  • Artista Homes
  • Fetching Style
  • Ronald B. Zimmerman
  • Chisick Family
  • Stringers Rentals
  • Winnipeg Beach Home Building Centre
  • KC Enterprises
  • John Wishnowski
  • JLS Construction
  • Ingrid Bennett
  • Gulay Plumbing
  • The Paper Fifrildi
  • Joanne Gullachsen Art
  • Laufman Reprographics
  • Levene Tadman Golub
  • Taverna Rodos
  • Holiday Inn Polo Park
  • Bruce Shefrin Interior Design
  • Bridges for Peace
  • Bridges for Peace
  • CVA Systems
  • Chochy's
  • Lakeside Roofing
  • Ambassador Mechanical
  • Shoppers Drug Mart
  • Shoppers Drug Mart
  • kristinas-greek
  • The Center for Near East Policy Research Ltd.
  • Sarel Canada
  • Santa Lucia Pizza
  • Roofco Winnipeg Roofing
  • Center for Near East Policy Research
  • Nachum Bedein
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.