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L to R: Mel Lazareck, Keith Jordan, Kerrie Halprin, Richard Liepsic, Josh Cooper, Ariel Karabelnicoff, Karla Berbrayer, Peter and Karen Leipsic
All photos by Keith Levit

Ariel Karabelnicoff, Karla Berbrayer , Peter and Karen Leipsic

Jonathon Leipsic introducing his father

Peter Leipsic

Josh Cooper, Jessica Cogan, Peter Leipsic, Karla Berbrayer, Ariel Karabelnicoff


by Rhonda Spivak, June 24


This year's JNF Negev Gala was a major success, the honouree Peter Leipsic gave a  generous leadership gift to the JNF, and in so  doing he has served as a role model for others and  set the stage for a remarkable year for the JNF, and has raised the bar for the future. The proceeds generated by the event will go towards the project chosen by Peter, which is a shelter for victims of domestic violence in Rishon Le Zion, Israel. The attendance for the Gala was very solid, and as the program book indicates, there were many sponsors and supporters at all levels. Again, this bodes well for the JNF going forward.  


The Jewish National Fund is well known for its environmental work planting more than 250 million trees and having more than 200 water reservoirs across Israel, but the JNF also supports projects which include medical centres, playgrounds for special needs children, community parks, play areas for hospitalized children, community centres for at risk youth, bike trails, and a project like the one Peter Leipsic chose to support, a Shelter for Women and children victims of domestic violence.


“When we presented the project to Peter and Karen, they didn’t hesitate, this is the cause we want to support they said, says Ariel Karabelnicoff, Executive Director of the Jewish National Fund MB& Sask


In an eloquent article he wrote for the JNF Negev Gala program book,  Jonathon Leipsic spoke about the influence of Peter Leipsic's parents, Barry and Yvonne Leipsic (nee Lowenberg) on their son's life. Barry and Yvonne met in London England during World War II. Barry was a tank squadron captain in the Fort Gary Horse Regiment  who was wounded  twice fighting in Flanders, coming home having lost an eye and  Yvonne managed to escape Vienna before the Anchluss.  


As Jonathon, who practices medicine and holds a Canada Research Chair in Advanced Cardiac Imaging in wrote,


"I believe my Zaida's actions must have very much influenced my father's perspective in life and helped from his tremendous sense of responsibility for his community and for all those lease fortunate in Winnipeg and abroad."


As Jonathon poignantly concluded in the article, Peter learned from seeing his father's sacrifice in going to war and watching his friends die liberating Europe that "meaning in life is not in self indulgence but the blessing of the human experience is the opportunity to care and love for others more than one's own life."


A definite highlight of the Negev Gala was  Jonathon  Leipsic's  moving speech about his father, one that resonated with all ages.  


Jonathon referred to the fact that although he speaks publicly often he was "somewhat overwhelmed " to introduce the man who,along with his mother Karen "has  given me everything" "the man who taught me what it means to be a father", "to love unconditionally" and "to live life on a righteous path".


He said his father "defined his life by two things, his family, and doing acts of loving kindness. He has done this without even a modicum of ego, never seeking attention, always motivated by the desire to care for others in a fashion more selfless than I have ever witnessed"Jonathon also noted how in 1967 during the Six Day War when he was 20 years old  , Peter had boarded a plane to Israel  to volunteer in any way he could.


As Peter has told the Winnipeg Jewish Review,  "Israel was only a young state, and there I remember the reports that the UN troops had been kicked out of Sinai by Egypt's Nassar. There was a big meeting at  Shaarey Zedek synagogue. People were cutting cheques, and then tearing up cheques because the amounts weren't big enough. This wasn't a regular appeal. Israel would need to buy a lot of armaments. They needed volunteers to  work on  the farms  since all the Israeli men were  called up up for the war." Not knowing at the time what the outcome of the war would be, Peter volunteered to help, and arrived in Israel on the third day of the war and worked for  a number of weeks on Kibbutz Dorot in the South and then helped retrieve Egyptian tanks that the Egyptians had left after the war. "There were volunteers from all over the world who had come to help as  had..I remember that ten days after Jerusalem was united, I went to Jerusalem, but  I couldn't get close to the Western Wall. There was  a lot of  garbage and old buildings around it then."


At the Gala, Jonathon Leipsic spoke about  his father's acts of loving kindness that  always resonated with him.


 "It was not so much the Board meetings he would attend  or the canvassing he would do at the end of a long day of work that moved me the most. It was the constant focus on helping wherever and whenever needed. Whether it was the paying of a grocery bill for a family without knowing them, putting gift certificates discretely in the shopping carts of families trying to buy back to school clothes but clearly overwhelmed by the cost or taking clothes to shelters on a near monthly basis...These often anonymous acts of loving kindness to me epitomize my father. As a young boy I did not entirely understand my father's actions. Did he not want recognition?...As  I have grown and reflected, I realize my father was simply leading a life of purpose, a Jewish life."    


Jonathon thanked his father for  "the time, and sacrifice and love and also for having shown me the meaning of tzdakah through your daily actions. I could not have asked for a better role model. I am always deeply honoured to be your son and carry your name but never more than tonight. Kol Hakavod Dad. Kol Hakavod.


Peter Leipsic said that his son was a hard act to follow and  was very gracious in thanking everyone. 


In his remarks at the Gala , JNF National Executive Director Josh Cooper referred to the samll protest outside the concert hall, and noted, with dismay how any one could protest an event with funds going to such a worthy cause. He   also noted how other JNF events have attracted  "BDS protestors" and thanked everyone in the audience "for being here and standing up against the BDS campaign."


Prior to the Gala,  this Editor in fact had visited the small protest outside the concert hall. I was greeted by  a smiling and cheerful Mark Golden. I spoke with a  woman with pink hair who I believe was wearing a t-shirt that on its back said "Hebrew School drop out." I asked her if she could point me to a Palestinian that I could speak to . She pointed me to a man named  Rafik or Rafi.  I asked him where he was from. He said he was from Tulkarem. I asked when he came to Canada and he said 30 years ago, 'since Israel wouldn't me him live there." I responded that after the Six Day War Tulkarem had come under Israeli rule, or Israeli occupation as he would say but that he  could still live there, and it is now under the control of the Palestinian Authority . Israel didn't kick Palestinians out of Tulkarem." He responded, "Oh, so you know where Tulkarem is. "Yes, I do."(Tulkarem is not too far form the Israeli city of Netanya and it is now under the control of the Palestinian Authority). Once I pushed back on this issue, he seemed to drop his claim that Israel had kicked  Palestinians out of living in Tulkarem. I then asked him what his bottom line was. He was remarkably candid, as I have found most Palestinians I have interviewed to be when asked about this issue.  "There should be a Palestine for everyone-Muslims, the Jewish, everyone can live in Palestine ," he said. I responded, " And what about an Israel. Can there be a State of Israel anywhere? He responded, "No.No there can't be."  Alas, his recipe is remarkably simple-A Palestinian State for everyone and an Israel for no-one. What can I say.  He certainly hasn't lost sight of the forest for the trees. 


Now, I might have spent some more time speaking to some other of the protesters but it began really pouring and I got drenched. Miracle of Miracles, who would have thought that there would be so much rain coming down in the Negev!.


The entertainer for the Gala evening was Matisyahu, followed by a delicious dessert reception by Desserts Plus. 




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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.