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by Rhonda Spivak, June 28, 2015




The Jewish National Fund's Negev Gala in honour of Bob Freedman was a very enjoyable and humourous evening, which left audience members smiling, especially after seeing "Snoop Bob" Freedman on stage dancing a rap song with the very talented improv duo and comedic personalities Colin Mochrie and Brad Sherwood. (Ritchie Ackman was one of Freedman's back-up dancers).


Proceeds from the Negev Gala, held at Club Regent Event Centre on June 17, will go towards the building of KKL-JNF Green Open Classrooms that will be constructed in schoolyards throughout Israel and used by peer educators to lead experiential ecological-education sessions. As Karla Berbrayer, President JNF Manitoba/Saskatchewan noted in her message in the evening's program book, "These sturdy wooden structures will be awarded to school councils who have demonstrated environmental leadership by developing school-wide recycling programs or adopting a KKL/JNF park or forest." 


Freedman, who retired last year as CEO of the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg after 28 years, chose this project because "Like many families, Jewish education is of the highest priority for me and Shirley. Both of our daughters graduated from Jewish day school and I was the first chair of the Winnipeg board of Jewish Education. Therefore it is an honour to have our names attached to an educational project throughout Israel." 


Co-chairs for the event were Larry Vickar, Mel Lazareck and Howard Morry.   


Melanie Wight, Provincial Minister of Children and Youth Opportunities, who was standing in for Premier Selinger who was unable to attend the event, spoke of Freedman as "a true visionary." 


"We are united by those who lead us," Wight said, and spoke of Freedman's pivotal role in making the Asper Jewish Community Campus a reality.


On a personal note, she recalled being on a trip to Israel in 2013 with Freedman whom she came to know as "brilliant, funny, and generous." As she concluded, "It doesn't take long to love Bob Freedman." 


In his remarks, Mayor Brian Bowman spoke of Freedman's leadership and vision years to go to Argentina in order to encourage Jews there to immigrate to Winnipeg, a welcoming city.  Referring to Freedman as a true mensch, Bowman noted that his leadership had positively impacted on the Jewish community and Winnipeg as a whole.  


Josh Cooper, CEO JNF Canada, remembered that whenever he had had dealings with Freedman, when he had previously worked for CJPAC (Canadian Jewish Political Affairs Committee) Bob had always been "very helpful." Cooper spoke of how he had recently visited  Winnipeg projects of the JNF, such as the [Larry and Tova] "Vickar Lookout", and the playground for special needs  children at Ilanot school in Jerusalem, which will be used by children in motorized wheelchairs, or walkers. 


Israeli Consul General DJ Schneeweiss congratulated Freedman for his outstanding community leadership and spoke of how Israel faces many challenges, but "We will take our rightful place among the nations."


Rob Berkowitz, Executive Director of the JNF Manitoba/Saskatchewan also congratulated Freedman as an outstanding honouree who led our community for 28 years, and introduced the  featured entertainment Colin Mochrie and Brad Sherwood from the hit TV show "Whose Line is it Anyways," who were hilarious.


The duo called up members from the audience, including a couple of Freedman's grandchildren to help them in their funny improv and zany antics, as they made up stories about "yummy ear wax", alligator wrestling", "thought powered bicycles", and 'Hebrew national hot dogs."  They also a called on audience members to make sound effects for their improv which led to some very humourous moments.


At the end of their show, Mochrie and Sherwood called up Bob Freedman to the stage and began asking him questions. After Freedman told them he had been Executive Director of Legal Aid before becoming CEO of the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg, Sherwood responded "you're just a bossy pants, aren't you." Sherwood then asked Freedman where he lived? When Freedman responded, "Tuxedo," Sherwood made fun of it, saying that "I live in Cool-lots, not Tuxedo. I just moved from Overalls." During his banter with Freedman he suggested that the Negev Gala was "the first time ' Freedman had been out since he had retired. He also teased Freedman for not being shy at all in talking about himself.


Sherwood asked Freedman what he was doing since he retired, and Freedman explained that he was reading the paper in his kitchen and then walking his dog. Sherwood suggested he could get a job being a dog walker or a greeter at Walmart.


When asked what kind of sports he liked to play, Freedman answered that he really never played any sports. Freedman told the improv duo that he loved watching Mel Brooks films  and that his dream was to one day have lunch with Mel Brooks, but that there was nothing sexual about this. Sherwood teased Freedman for clarifying that there was nothing sexual between him and Mel Brooks, noting that up until Freedman had said this, he had never even considered this possibility.


The improv duo then made up a song about Freedman, during which Freedman had to rap and call himself "Snoop Bob"   (or as he suggested "Snoop Boruch", since Boruch is Freedman's Hebrew name.)


 After the entertainment there was a short tribute video about Freedman, and he was then presented with the citation from JNF. Freedman delivered very short remarks  in which he noted that at a time like this he was thinking about his mother and father (Anne and Morris Freedman), saying "I think of them often," as well as his older brother Len, who had recently passed away. He thanked his sister-in-law Robyn for flying in from Santa Barbara California to be with them for the Gala, and he thanked his wife Shirley, his daughters Pam and Susie, son-in law Jason Tapper, and his five grandchildren Eliana, Zachary and Gabriella Cohen, and Madeline and Emily Tapper. 


He noted that he was born in "a tenement on Salter between Alfred and Aberdeen" and at time such as this it was important "to remind myself where I came from and to be grateful for all that I have."


All in all, it was a great evening.

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.