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Nathan Jacobson


Faith Kaplan


By Faith Kaplan, June 29, 2010

It’s a long standing Winnipeg tradition to honour local sons and daughters who have made good and who reflect well on this community. After decades of honouring local heroes for their philanthropic and professional accomplishments, it’s becoming a challenge for local Jewish organizations to identify honourees who will agree to public acclaim and successfully anchor fundraising efforts. This year’s Y Sports Dinner Committee hit the mark with their inspired choice of Nathan Jacobson.

Over 1100 people attended the 38th Annual  Y Sports Dinner on June 23, 2010 at the Winnipeg Convention Centre, featuring guest speaker, baseball’s Iron Man and Hall of Famer Cal Ripken, Jr.  This is the preeminent sports fan event of the year, unique among community fundraisers for its longevity and permanent chairperson Ken Kronson, and having the distinction of being the largest kosher dinner west of Toronto. Guests are guaranteed an open bar, a beef main course, silent and live auctions, laughter, inspiration, lots of speeches, and a hint of drama as Jewish athletes and teams are recognized for their achievements. 

Of the many speeches that evening, Nathan Jacobson’s was the most satisfying. Born in Winnipeg and raised in River Heights, Nathan insists his success is because he was raised in Winnipeg’s Jewish community, provided with a Jewish day school education at Ramah Hebrew School, Saturday programs at the YMHA, and the ability to participate fully in Jewish community life despite his family’s modest means.  He reminisced about the old Y, the clubs, the sports, the dances and the hot dog specials and reinforced how critical those Saturdays were to developing his Jewish identity. He spoke of the wonderfully generous nature of the Jewish community, and his lifelong friendships. His professional accomplishments are amazing, the depth and breadth of his philanthropy is astonishing, and yet, this humble Winnipegger credits his community. Nathan’s words reminded all of us that our responsibility for each other’s well being is what makes our community great.

Nathan left Winnipeg after high school and entered the Israeli Defence Forces, where he served as an officer in a variety of combat units. Following his military service, he was VP of computer integrated manufacturing for IBM, founded and led the GM distributorship in Russia, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan, and owned the distributorship of Philip Morris for Russia and Kazakhstan.

In 1989, Nathan founded The West Group (TWG), which became a leader in the construction of oil infrastructure and management systems in the emerging private oil sector in Russia and Ukraine and is one of the largest Canadian companies doing business in the Former Soviet Union. He also founded IFG Canada Limited, an investment and development company with offices in Toronto, Calgary, Tel Aviv, Kiev,  Montreal, Panama City and Costa Rica. The company invests in technology, pharmaceutical, financial services, real estate and development projects. Not one to miss an opportunity, Nathan also founded Magen  David Meds, the first internet pharmacy in Israel and Paygea, an international online payment processing company.

In his spare time, Nathan sits on a number of Boards, notably Nefesh B’Nefesh, the Canada –Israel Committee,  Tel Aviv University, the Tel Aviv Foundation, the JNF, the Mackenzie Institute, the Ukrainian Jewish Congress, Canadian Friends of Ukrainian Jewry, Realizing the Dream, B’nai Brith, and the Canada-Israel Chamber of Commerce.  He is a past vice President of the Federation of Jewish communities of Russia.

Nathan lives in Herzylia, Israel and is the current International Ambassador of Jerusalem. Not surprisingly, numerous boyhood friends, business associates, Amir Gissin, Israel’s Ambassador to Canada, and Rami Kleinmann, National Director of the Canadian Friends of Hebrew University flew in to support Nathan’s honour.

When I went to greet him, Nathan thanked me for coming. When I thanked him for agreeing to be honoured, he responded with a shrug. “It’s for the community and all it gave me,” he said. Spoken like a true Winnipegger.
Nathan is happily married to Lindi and the proud father of Katya, who is his inspiration for his efforts at tikkun olam. 

Nathan, Yasher Koach on an honour well deserved.

[Editor’s Note: On behalf of the Winnipeg Jewish Review, the Editor Rhonda Spivak wishes to extend a very hearty Mazel Tov to Nathan Jacobson and his family on his being honoured. The Editor has had the great pleasure of knowing Nathan and seeing first hand how he continues to give back to his community, and to k’lal Israel. Nathan is a man of his word, and in addition, has a heart of gold. The Rady JCC  couldn’t have chosen a more worthy honouree.] 

Kudos as well to all athletes for their commitment to excellence. Mazel Tov to Gray Academy students Baillie Shuster and Josh Kerr on winning the Bert Knazen Best Sportsperson Award. Yasher Koach to Maccabia Hockey League player Sean Assor, this year’s Heart and Soul winner and to Team Show & Save for taking top league honours.

Mazel Tov to this year’s five nominees for the Max and Idy Nusgart Jewish Athlete of the Year Award: Yael Kaplan, who will be playing basketball for the University of Winnipeg Wesmen this fall;  Ezequiel Lubocki, who will be playing soccer at University of Toronto this fall; Daniel Worb, who played Division 1 college baseball at Southwest Community College  in Iowa,  and Kol Hakavod to this year’s winners : Daniel Fainman, who ranked 2nd among high school hockey players and is protected by the Winkler Flyers of the MJL and the Charleswood Hawks of the MMJL  and  Lauren Sera, honour roll student and starting goaltender for the University of North Dakota’s  soccer team for the past 4 years.

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

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