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Bob Freedman, CEO Jewish Federation



by Rebecca Walberg, August 1, 2010

The Jewish Heritage Centre has laid off staff in order to downsize and restructure as part of a move toward lowering expenditures.

Fran Barrett, the executive director for the past four years, Carla Divinsky, the Holocaust Education organizer for nine years were given notice.Stan Carbone, Director of Programs and Exhibits, remains at his position.

While this represents a period of transition for the Centre, President Dan Stone  told  the  Winnipeg  Jewish  Review he is confident that the organization will continue to provide valuable programming to the Winnipeg Jewish community, as well as support and provide resources for researchers.  The major impetus for the restructuring is the need to balance the Centre’s budget, to bring it in line with the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg’s policies.  The Federation’s $55,000 grant is expected to be roughly one quarter of next year’s budget.

“Funding for the Jewish Heritage Centre remains stable,” says Bob Freedman, the CEO of the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg.  “All recipients of Federation funds have to balance their books, and this has been an ongoing problem with the Centre, but they’re addressing the situation now.”

The JHC’s Board is aware of the Federation’s concerns, according to the president.  “The Federation wants to know that our finances are under control and we've been working with them to provide a balanced budget,” says Dr. Stone. Expenses are being trimmed chiefly by reducing staff and operating expenses.

In addition to laying off two staff members,the Centre has rebuilt its offices to make better use of space, and reduce the amount of its rent. While the reconstruction will reduce costs in the coming years, the  Jewish Heritage Centre has remained a financial burden this past year, although the restructuring
is now complete.

According to Dr Stone, the high level of activity of the JHC this year is in part responsible for deficits. The Centre also provided research and production assistance for Allan Levine’s history of Jewish Manitoba book, Coming of Age.  Many of the photos and documents reproduced in the award-winning book were supplied by the JHC which was of course an expenditure.

In addition to ongoing support for the Asper Human Rights and Holocaust Study Program, the Centre also hosted seven events in the first half of 2010, including the book launch of Belle Millo’s Voices of Winnipeg Holocaust Survivors, a lecture by former Israeli ambassador to the UN Dore Gold on the threat presented by Iran, and lectures and discussions about anti-Semitism in Winnipeg, Jewish burials in Manitoba, and the need for a dedicated Holocaust gallery at the Canadian Human Rights Museum currently under construction.  The centre also serves as a resource and provides presentations to Holocaust educators in the city, and in May held its 8th Annual Holocaust Symposium at the University of Winnipeg with more than 1300 students from grades 9 through 12 in attendance.

The Centre decided some years ago to make a transition from operating a small museum, to instead using the Holocaust Gallery and corridor displays immediately behind the main entrance to the Asper Campus. A new exhibit in the JHC’s new corridor display cases will be launched this summer, and will focus on Winnipeg Jewish veterans of World War I, World War II and the Spanish Civil War.  The showcase, put together in conjunction with the General Monash Branch of the Royal Canadian Legion, will provide insight into the wide range of stories of Jewish Winnipeggers who fought in these wars, including how and why they served, and what they experienced.

In the months ahead, the Centre will proceed with its planned program of events.  The second biennial Switzer-Cooperstock Lecture, given by University of Victoria History Chair Lynne Marks on the topic of ethnicity and identity in western Canadian Jews, will be held in the fall.  The first lecture, on the Lipton Jewish Agricultural Colony, attracted tremendous interest and tickets were sold out.  As in years past, lectures, talks and book launches will complement the JHC’s work on Human Rights and Holocaust education.

The Centre’s operations continue full time over the summer, although it is open to the public only for limited hours this summer.  Dr. Stone stresses that it is still available for researchers, and that additional hours can be arranged upon request if necessary.

The Board of Directors is in the process of determining staffing arrangements and how day to day operations will be conducted in the coming year.

A part-time office manager has been hired for the summer.

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