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Larry and Tova Vickar. All photos by Keith Levit.

Premier Greg Selinger

Larry and Tova Vickar

Mel Lazareck


By Rhonda Spivak, June 10, 2010

The Jewish National Fund’s Negev Gala on June 1, honouring Tova and Larry Vickar, attracted  a diverse crowd  of over 1500 people  from  a variety of ethnic backgrounds. It ended with a spirited performance by Israeli musical troupe Groovatron, and will likely be remembered for its finale which left members of the audience joining in and singing together “Give Peace A Chance.” 
Mel Lazareck, the President of the JNF Prairie Region, who was the evening’s emcee, explained  that the funds from the gala are going to a unique project, the restoration of the Alexander River, a polluted  river  that flows from the Palestinian city of Nablus in the West Bank to an estuary of the Mediterranean Sea in Emek Hefer Israel.

Christine Melnick, Manitoba’s Minister of Water Stewardship was asked to stand and be recognized for all of her devoted work in deepening Manitoba’s ties with Israel. Melnick  initiated  the  first Manitoba-Israel Water Experts Symposium in  Winnipeg in August 2008, and was  a key figure behind the  Second  Manitoba-Israel  Water Experts Symposium.

In giving greetings from the Province, Premier of Manitoba Greg Selinger (NDP)   referred to the Alexander River  as flowing from the Samarian Hills in “Palestine” to  the Mediterranean Sea in Israel. He said the project to restore the river is an “excellent one” that will benefit “the  people of Israel and the people of Palestine.” Additionally, The Honourable Phillip Lee  Lieutenant Governor of Manitoba also gave greetings.

In his greetings, Mayor Sam Katz said that he knew the Vickars not only because of their philanthropic involvement in  causes such as the St. Boniface Research Foundation, but because “Larry and Tova Vickar happen to be my neighbors.”

JNF National President Frank Wilson made the audience chuckle when, in mentioning the historic role the JNF played  in the creation of the State of Israel, he said, “We bought the land, and yes, we overpaid.”  Zev Kedem, from Karen Kayemet Le Israel in Jerusalem, who was a shaliach here in Winnipeg some 15 years ago, was also present to give greetings.

Howard and Hope Morry introduced the Vickars, noting that they have the “Vickar touch,” the ability to inspire others and enlist them to join in their cause.  Howard said that the Vickars have helped many “newcomers to our community get a start here”, and noted that Larry was an immigrant from Melfort, Saskatchewan.   "Tova has never forgotten the warm welcome she received when she moved here from Israel," Hope added.


After thanking all those who gave greetings, Larry Vickar made the audience laugh heartily when he said, “Tonight, I’m doing the speaking for both Tova and I. For those of you who don’t know, I’m the HEAD in our family! But also, for those of you who don’t know - Tova is the NECK which turns the head – whichever way she pleases, so, in light of that fact, she has told me what to say and for how long to say it!”

He continued  by asking his parents to stand and be recognized, noting that  his father, Norman Vickar, was the Negev Gala Honouree 10 years ago.

“Tonight, at 93 years young, we’re so pleased to have him and Mom here with so many other family members and friends to share this special evening.”

Vickar noted that “community service” although rewarding  in giving a “feeling of satisfaction for having done the right thing – comes with a price – a price that Tova and I feel is never too high and that should be paid by all of us in at least some small way to ensure our community is somewhat better than we found it.”

Vickar, who  is the  President of  Vickar Community Chevrolet and leads the Vickar Automotive Group, and Tova, who works as a customer liason in all of  the Vickar automotive businesses,  continued by thanking all of their staff  present in the audience.

“In our businesses, in addition to our sons, Sam and Stephen, Tova and I are fortunate to be surrounded by competent and committed management and staff that allow us to actively participate in these extra curricular activities,” Vickar said.

He then thanked all of the couple’s friends “from all areas of our wonderful Winnipeg mosaic with all the diversity they bring to our society, including members of “our original indigenous founding peoples of Canada, the First Nations and Métis”, and “more recent immigrants to this great land.”

The Vickars have built up a strong relationship with the Filipino community, and many were in the audience. The couple participated in a Trade Mission to the Philippines in February 2008.  This led to the building of the Vickar Rotary Transcona Portview village in the Southern Phillipines Province of Mindinao as part of a program that is similar to Habitat for Humanity. Larry is a Past-President of the Winnipeg Transcona Rotary Club, and initiated the building of this Gawad Kalinga village near Manilla by asking the Club to join the initiative.

Aalso present in the audience  were some  members of Winnipeg’s Arab community including   Palestinian Wajih (Moe) Zeid , a Palestinian born near Tel-Aviv who lived in Ramallah before immigrating to Canada.  Zeid, who was present with a number of his family members, first met Larry Vickar years ago when “I went to buy a car from him.”

In his address, Larry Vickar noted how he and Tova “had the privilege of participating in the Second Manitoba Israel Water Experts Symposium, “comprised of  over 20 Canadian and Israeli scientists with the aim of repairing water concerns in both Manitoba and Israel.”
As he said, “JNF, because of their vast knowledge in everything water – was the natural “broker” to make the symposiums possible.  Although they have visited Israel on many occasions, this time “we were exposed to everything that is water – from the lack of it, to its conservation and protection, to its importance for future peace between the countries and peoples  in the area.”

Vickar said that he and Tova chose to allocate the funds from the  Negev Gala to  the Alexander River Restoration Project,  because the project “to use the vernacular from the industry I am in, fires on all cylinders.”

“It involves A) the recycling of sewage water for agricultural purposes. B) The building of a “wetland” for all of its environmental and “wildlife” benefits not unlike what our own “Ducks Unlimited”, which Tova and I support, does here in Canada. C)The restoration and greening of a once “dying” waterway – the Alexander Zaymar River for the benefit of its natural inhabitants as well as the human visitors to its newly created park areas. D)And certainly not the least important – the great example this project gives to cooperation and “God willing” future peace between Palestinians and Israelis living in the region side by side as neighbors, and E)..individuals from Western Canada...have previously played a financial role in the land acquisition [of Emek Hefer, which was bought by the JNF  in 1927, through the raising of  over $1 million dollars from the Jewish communities of Western Canada]–– It truly does ‘fire on all cylinders.”

Vickar closed his address by thanking   Mel Lazareck, the “affable” President of JNF – Manitoba and Saskatchewan, the JNF Executive Director, Erez Rotem, hard-working Development Coordinator, Jacqueline Freedman, board members and Gala volunteers, and the audience for making the evening so special.

The Vickars have been active in both the Jewish and broader communities. They  have  supported numerous institutions though their own initiative or through their auto dealerships (Vickar Community Chevrolet, Vickar Autobody and Glass, Vickar Mitsubshi and Waverley Mitsubishi), such as the St. Boniface Hospital Foundation, The Kidney Foundation, Cancer research, the Transcona Rotary Club, Ducks Unlimited, the Kinsmen,  the Salvation Army and L'Arche  Homes. Together, the Vickars have lead two Jewish Federation Leadership Missions to Israel, and each has been involved in a leadership role in CJA campaigns. Larry is on the Executive of the Jewish Foundation of Manitoba and was the recipient of the Max and Mollie Shore Memorial Award for Community involvement.

Jacqueline Freedman, JNF Development Co-ordinator, said she was thrilled with the success of the Gala. "Our committees, led by our dedicated President Mel Lazareck, outdid themselves in promoting the Gala. We had the largest and most diverse audience in recent memory. The financial success of the Gala has exceeded our goals and we are still receiving donations for the Project for Peace even after the Gala.".

(Editor’s note –a separate article reviewing the music of Hagroovatron will follow in a later edition of the Winnipeg Jewish Review.)

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

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