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JCFS staff and volunteers
Ryan Paul

Sophie Milman performs at JCFS gala
Ryan Paul


June 18. 2012

Heather Leonoff is well aware of the tremendous impact that Jewish social services have had on the Winnipeg community. Much of this awareness is due to the fact that Leonoff just completed a 12 year term on the Jewish Child and Family Service Board of Directors, the last two as president. But it is due as well to the fact that Leonoff has witnessed firsthand the way in which the agency has served as a source of support and comfort to her own extended family. 

As Leonoff eloquently explained in her remarks at the agency`s Century of Caring Gala on May 24, JCFS and its precursor organizations, has been a part of her family for decades. It supported her future in-laws when they stepped off the train in Winnipeg in 1949 “with the horrors of the Shoah etched permanently into their hearts and minds.” It supported her elderly uncle when he found himself unwell, alone, and cut off from community, and it continues to support her cousin who struggles daily with mental health challenges.

“It has been a great privilege for me to have had the honour to serve as Jewish Child and Family Service president for the past two years,” Leonoff said at the gala. “I have been truly blessed with the opportunity to give back to an organization that has given so much to my own family.”

Leadoff’s long association with the agency is not atypical. In fact, as the social service arm of the community and a multi-service ‘cradle to grave’ agency, JCFS has in one way or another, directly or indirectly, touched the lives of every member of Winnipeg`s Jewish community.   Among myriad other services, it has counselled the troubled, consoled the bereaved, facilitated adoptions, relieved loneliness, welcomed immigrants and reunited families. In the course of its 60 years history, it has improved thousands of lives.

Which is precisely why Leonoff and her board of directors decided that it was time to give the community the opportunity to express its gratitude to JCFS and its founders, and at the same time, help ensure that the agency would be able to continue to do what it does so well for decades to come.

This opportunity evolved into the Century of Caring Gala at the Fort Garry Hotel - an elegant fundraising dinner celebrating the 100th Anniversary of Jewish social services in Winnipeg and the 60th anniversary of JCFS.  

“The evening exceeded all our expectations,`` says Leonoff. ``Not only did the money we raised leave a lasting legacy but we helped educate our community about the challenges faced by so many of our members and how JCFS is committed to helping them better their lives.``

These challenges were succinctly illustrated in a moving video premiered at the gala. Faces You Know, Stories You Don’t profiled three disparate local individuals whose lives have been positively impacted by the agency. The video, produced by Stu Slayen Consulting in conjunction with Lank Beach Productions, left many gala patrons in tears. 

The video presentation  was followed by the featured entertainment of the evening, jazz virtuosi Sophie Milman. The Russian born, Israeli raised 29-year-old Milman has twice experienced the turmoil of immigration and integration and, as such, was an ideal and appropriate entertainment choice for the evening.
Milman mesmerized the audience with her evocative interpretations of many jazz and Yiddish inspired classics, and in so doing, enriched what already was a spectacular and extremely successful awareness and fund raising event.

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

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