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Top (Left to Right): WEF Luncheon Co-Chair Dianne Lieberman, Ted Ransby on behalf of WEF Honouree Carolyn Ransby z’’l, The Honourable Janice Filmon, Lieutenant Governor of Manitoba, JFM President Anita Wortzman, Heart & Stroke Foundation CEO Allison Kesler, WEF Luncheon Co-Chair Jessica Cogan Bottom (Left to Right): WEF Honouree Yhetta M. Gold, C.M., O.M., WEF Honouree Joanne Rothberg, JFM CEO Marsha Cowan


by Rhonda Spivak June 15 , 2016

This year's Jewish Foundation's Women’s Endowment Fund Luncheon which occurred at the newly expanded RBC Convention Centre on May 11 was the largest ever  with 400 attendees. It raised a terrific sum, close to  $70,000  which will go directly into the Women's Endowment Fund [WEF] which will directly benefit Manitoba women. By way of comparison,  previous WEF luncheons from two and three years ago  raised about $ 30,000 for the WEF. 


 (Editor's note: As a matter of historic record, when the WEF was first launched under the Fund's founding Chair Marsha Cowan, who is now the CEO of the Jewish Foundation, it was hoped that  50 women would join in the initiative, but when word of this unique concept traveled in the community  200 women attended the WEF's  official very first opening event in 1993. This year's event in 2016 has thus doubled this number)


Co-chairs of  this year's luncheon, Dianne Lieberman, and Jessica Cogan noted at the outset of this year's luncheon that  the Women's Endowment Fund [WEF] would  be giving a grant to the Canadian Red Cross to help support the families affected by the devastation of the Fort McMurray wildfires.


As Leiberman noted the "The WEF was launched by the Jewish Foundation of Manitoba in 1994 as a way to bring our community’s women together to support organizations and programs that make a positive difference in the lives of girls and women of all backgrounds in Manitoba.... The Women’s Endowment Fund now has nearly 700 individual fund holders and an asset base of over 1.2 million dollars. And it’s growing.... Our goal is to reach 2 million dollars, and today’s luncheon is an important step forward. As our assets grow, so do the dollars we can share with the community, and so does our impact."


Co-Chair Jessica Cogan noted that " The Fund is another way the Jewish Foundation practices Tikkun Olam, the powerful Jewish imperative to correct or repair the world. Steeped in Jewish values and viewed through a Jewish lens, we proudly support causes that elevate  all girls and women in our remarkable province. Since the fund’s inception, close to $500,000 in grants has been awarded to nearly 75 different organizations and programs that meet the fund’s criteria. ... In 2015, the Women’s Endowment Fund awarded $80,000 in grants to nine different organizations. The recipients are organizations that help women escaping abusive relationships, provide religious programming, provide seniors programming, help meet the needs of newcomers, and more. " 


The luncheon recognized three honourees Yhetta Gold C.M, O.M.  , the late Carolyn Ransby, and  Joanne Rothberg.


Dianne Lieberman noted that each of the  flower arrangements on the tables consisted of gerbera daisies, hydrangeas, and yellow roses. The gerbera daisies were selected by honouree Joanne Rothberg, the roses were selected by honouree Yhetta Gold, and the hydrangeas were selected in memory of honouree Carolyn Ransby. As Anita Wortzman said, President of the Jewish Foundation of Manitoba said "I see the flower arrangements as a metaphor for our Women’s Endowment Fund, and our community as a whole. On their own, each flower is beautiful. Put them together, and the result is even greater than the sum of their parts. When we join together to achieve shared objectives for the greater good, we create remarkable beauty and accomplish our goal of Tikkun Olam."


Wortzman noted that the  honourees have each demonstrated a deep passion for the well-being of women and girls in Manitoba and called upon Cowan to join her in giving the honourees their recognition. She indicated that the JFM was  " thrilled to pay tribute to Yhetta Gold, an inspiring member of the Jewish community. She was the second woman to serve as the Foundation’s President, and she is a Founder and Builder of the Women’s Endowment Fund. Her list of accomplishments is long and impressive. She is a trailblazer and a leader.  She paved the way for future females to become leaders. We are grateful for the role she has played in nurturing the Jewish Foundation of Manitoba."


(Editor's note: This moment was historic for the JFM in that it is the only moment in the JFM's history where all three of the JFM's female Presidents have been on a JFM podium at the same time. Cowan (before she became CEO) was the First ever female JFM President , Gold was the second female President, and Wortzman is the third female President.) 


Wortzman then spoke about the next honouree , the late Carolyn Ransby, who opened a  Women's Endowment Fund in 2003 after attending a  Women's Endowment Fund Luncheon and becoming inspired. She believed in what the Women’s Endowment Fund was trying to accomplish.  After that year, she never missed another luncheon. She passed away in 2011, and her husband Ted continues to honour her memory through regular contributions to the fund. Carolyn was a very active volunteer in Winnipeg and we are honoured to pay tribute to her today."


Wortzman also spoke about honouree Joanne Rothberg, who is " an avid community volunteer, deeply committed to the idea of women’s philanthropy. She has signed the Jewish Foundation’s Endowment Book of Life in memory of her parents Esther & Manuel Lecker, and she has made a commitment to leave a bequest to the Women’s Endowment Fund. " 


Wortzman then introduced the Lieutenant Governor Janice Filmon who spoke beautifully and eloquently about triumph and tragedy, and  delivered the message that "what you choose to do with your life matters", and that you have a  o lot of choices in terms of your attitudes and actions, and you can make a difference.


Filmon spoke about her personal tragedy of losing her mother to breast cancer at age 54 and then being diagnosed with the same disease herself and then losing  her daughter Alison to cancer at age 49. 


She also spoke about how her loving and close knit family taught her the importance of volunteering and giving back to your community.  She spoke about the importance of getting along with others, as without this, you will never be able to move forward and accomplish things in life. 


Filmon connected with people in the audience on a personal and emotional level. She heaped praise on the  Women's Endowment Fund and the  Jewish Foundation of Manitoba  for "supporting so many good causes."  As she said, "Volunteering is a great way to do life."  


This connected with the theme of her speech which was "Doing Life.


 "One's emphasis on life should be on doing," she said. Life is best lived in the active voice."


Everyone in attendance agreed that Filmon, who has known many in the Jewish community throughout the years, was an outstanding, inspirational and spell-binding speaker, who held the audience's attention throughout  her talk.


Given that the luncheon was very successful, the JFM plans to continue to have the WEF luncheon at its new venue,  the RBC Convention Centre. 

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

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