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Aidan Fishman

Aidan Fishman

Aidan Fishman and his mother Michele Feierstein


by Rhonda Spivak, February 12, 2013

Editorial Comment:

The Winnipeg Jewish Review is pleased to tell our readership that one of the writers who has contributed to this website, Aidan Fishman, was awarded the inaugural Blankfeld Award for Journalism this fall by Honest Reporting.

In fact the Winnipeg Jewish Review was the first publication to publish Aidan's articles, and we are very proud that he chose this publication as an entry point for his journalistic talents. (He has since been published in the Jerusalem Post and the Times of Israel)

In establishing this publication, close to four years ago now, it was my hope that it would spark young writers in the community to stimulate discussion about important issues facing our local Jewish community, Israel, and the Jewish world at large.

Personally, I have had a long time interest in issues pertaining to Israel and the Middle East as well as how these issues play out in a Canadian context. As an editor, it was deeply satisfying to receive Aidan's submissions knowing that he was able to use this publication as a vehicle for his intellect and a spring-board to reach a wider audience beyond our city. In the Internet age, we live in a world where quality work can be read and appreciated globally. For this reason, I believe that our community ought to encourage and actively foster quality publications with educational content that will encourage talented writers to come forward to offer their views on issues that interest them and others.

I believe that for this publication to be meaningful, it must not only report on local issues, but also offer quality commentary and opinion on issues of vital concern to our people across the world. Even though this publication is only four years old, articles written by local Winnipeg writers have been picked up by many other websites and publications.

With the Canadian Museum for Human Rights set to open in Winnipeg, it is my firm belief that issues of global importance will be reaching Winnipeg's doorstep at a pace that we are not familiar with, be they issues pertaining to antisemitism, the Holocaust, European politics, conflicts in the Middle East, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or other issues which have significant human rights dimensions. Our Jewish community writers will need to contend with issues that are, in their essence, international in scope and complex in nature.

It is for this reason that I believe our community ought to foster the talent of local writers such as Aidan. I urge our readers who think they may have something to say of significance to email me with their ideas.

Below is a recent interview that I conducted with Aidan, who is a graduate of Ravenscourt, and is currently the co-chair of the Fellowship Program for The Canadian Jewish Political Affairs Committee [CJPAC] and also a former Ambassador for the Shalom Square Israel Pavilion coordinated by the Rady JCC in Winnipeg.


CJPAC is a unique national, grassroots, independent organization, whose mandate is to activate the Jewish community in the political process in order to advance relationships with members of the Canadian political community and foster Jewish and pro-Israel political leadership. The CJPAC Fellowship brings together the top-tier pro-Israel student leaders from Canada's premier political training program. All participants are trained to run political campaigns and are given opportunities to engage at the highest levels. Many participants go on to careers in politics and related fields.

 As Mark Waldman, CJPAC Executive Director says of Aidan, “It has been a privilege to get to know Aidan and watch him grow as a political leader and as a person. He is a true mensch and we are so proud to call him a CJPAC Fellow.”

Eleanor Johnston, CJPAC Director, Western Region & Fellowship adds, "When choosing the co-Chairs for our Fellowship program, we wanted someone to help train the next generation of Jewish and pro-Israel political leaders in Canada and Aidan was the first person who came to mind. His passion and personality have been a tremendous asset and made it a pleasure to work with him this year.”  

Q. Why did you decide to write in and contribute articles to the Winnipeg Jewish Review?
A. As my parents will surely tell you, I've always had a lot to say about Israel, the Jewish People, and the Middle East (as well as a whole host of other issues about which I am far less qualified to give an opinion). I noticed the Winnipeg Jewish Review when it first began publication, and decided that it would be a great forum for me to articulately express my views for a wider audience. Because the Winnipeg Jewish Review is, of course, read mostly by Winnipeg Jews, many of whom I already know, I felt more comfortable initially airing my opinion in its virtual pages, rather than jumping straight to a larger national or international publication.
Q. Tell us about the experience of being a CJPAC fellow and what you like best ?
A. CJPAC is an amazing organization, and it's a great privilege to serve as co-chair of the Fellowship Program this year. For most young politicos joining the CJPAC team, the main highlight is definitely the five-day workshop in Ottawa in early November, where we meet with leaders of the Canadian Jewish community, political experts, and some high-ranking federal politicians. Moreover, the networking value of meeting dozens of similarly motivated and involved university students from across Canada is stupendous.
Interestingly, my favourite aspects of the CJPAC experience concern its variance from AIPAC [American Israel Political Affairs Committee], the largest pro-Israel lobbying organization in the United States. While many people simply assume that CJPAC is the Canadian version of AIPAC, there are some nuanced differences. Unlike AIPAC, CJPAC is not a lobby organization; it does not march up to Parliament Hill to lobby Canadian politicians. Rather, CJPAC's primary goal is to politically activate the Jewish community and other pro-Israel Canadians, regardless of their partisan political stripes. This has the dual effect of encouraging Canadians to stand up for whatever political causes they espouse, not just Middle Eastern issues, and also building more durable support for Israel across party lines."
Q. When did you first get interested in international relations and the Middle East [Aidan is majoring in both International Studeis and the Middle East at University of  Toronto]? Were there any pivotal, formative events?
A. I've been extremely interested in the Middle East and wider international relations for as long as I can remember. I was brought up in a strongly Jewish and Zionist home, and was also educated about Israel and the history of the Jewish People at Gray Academy in my early years. I naturally wondered whether what I was told at school and at home was entirely true, and whether the real story was more nuanced than a Grade 4 Israel Studies class. Predictably, I found that the vagaries of Middle Eastern politics are extremely complex; nevertheless, what I learned by perusing countless books and web pages from both sides largely confirmed my pro-Israel worldview.

Q. What do you like to write about most and why?
A. To be honest, I actually most enjoy writing about Middle Eastern issues not directly related to Israel, such as my articles on the Kurds or South Sudan. Due to the inordinate level of media attention given to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, I have a better opportunity to really educate the public and teach them something new when I discuss non-Israel issues. Frankly, I also find it easier to avoid subconscious bias when I discuss disputes in which I am less emotionally invested.
Q. Do you think the writing and debating skills of yours are connected? [Aidan has been a debating champion]
A. To me, it appears beyond doubt that writing and debating skills are linked in almost every individual. Many high school and university debaters, including some whom I know personally, have gone on to become politicians or professional speech-writers. While I never write out my own debating speeches word-for-word, the ability to quickly craft complex ideas and words into a coherent stream of argument or reflection is the core of both debating and writing. Just as my best public speaking event was always impromptu speaking, my most convincing articles usually tend to be those composed quickly, in as little as half an hour and in one sitting.
Q. What award did you recently receive from the Jewish Foundation of Manitoba?
In 2011, I received the Ruth and Joe Freed Academic Excellence Award from the Jewish Foundation of Manitoba. This was primarily in recognition of my scholastic achievements at the University of Toronto, rather than my publications or any other extra-curricular activities.

It should be noted that Aidan has written about his wonderful experience as serving as an Ambassador for Israel Pavilion, which is being reprinted below at the very end of this article. Anyone interested in applying to be a Folklorama ambassador is encouraged to see the accompanying advertisement from the Rady JCC on this website


With entries from aspiring student writers from around the globe, including the US, Canada, South Africa, Australia and the UK. Honest Reporting staff members and HR Board member Max Blankfeld, the sponsor of the $2000 award, were joined by the Jerusalem Post's Political Editor Gil Hoffman on the judging panel.

Dedicated to the memory of Eli Blankfeld, a journalist who documented Jewish life in Germany after World War II and during the period surrounding the creation of the State of Israel, after having lost his parents and sisters during the Holocaust, the Blankfeld Award for Quality Journalism recognizes aspiring journalists who demonstrate a commitment to the values of objective and honest reporting, specifically in the field of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

It was a unanimous decision to give the 2012 award to Aidan Fishman currently majoring in International Relations at the University of Toronto. Aidan has been a regular contributor to the Winnipeg Jewish Review and has also been published in the Jerusalem Post's opinion section.

On receiving his certificate and a cheque for $2000, Aidan commented:

"I'm really honored and humbled to receive the Blankfeld Award. The Middle East needs journalists who bring objective and informative news to the public, not spin and preconceived "narratives". And that's exactly what HonestReporting encourages and rewards."

HonestReporting's Managing Editor, Simon Plosker said:

"We were extremely impressed with the quality of the applicants' submissions and the commitment shown in their writing. While it was a shame that we could not reward many more of the students for their efforts, Aidan was a stand-out winner and we are confident that he is definitely one to watch both now and in the future."

With over 170,000 subscribers worldwide, HonestReporting is the world's largest media watchdog organization dedicated to ensuring that Israel is represented fairly and accurately in the media. HR monitors the media, exposes cases of bias, promotes balance, and effects change through education and action.

For more background on the Blankfeld Award see:



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 councillors 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 biannually 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.

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