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L-R: JFM Luncheon Keynote Speaker Sponsors Larry & Tova Vickar of Vickar Automotive Group, Keynote Speaker Sally Armstrong, JFM CEO Tara Fainstein, JFM Chair Dr. Eric Winograd

At the Jewish Foundation’s WEF Luncheon, Fainstein Thanks Community Members for Stepping Up; Luncheon Focuses on Plight of Yazidis

by Brenda Barrie and Rhonda Spivak April 29, 2018



At this year's luncheon put on by the Jewish Foundation of Manitoba (JFM) which was held on Friday, April 13, 2018 at the RBC Convention Centre, CEO of the JFM, Tara Fainstein said that she was glad to be "home".
Fainstein, who was born and raised in Winnipeg, is the former COO of the Canadian Jewish News.


Fainstein stated "As some of you know, I have been away from Winnipeg for quite a long time. It’s good to be home …. From the time I accepted the role as CEO of the Jewish Foundation of Manitoba, people here have stepped up to make me feel welcome; to offer help, information and friendship …. To provide the support I needed to feel ‘this was my home’ and that people genuinely cared about my wellbeing. ….That I am part of this community”.


She also reported that the Women's Endowment Fund (there's no other fund like it in Western Canada) at this time has an asset capital of $1.6 million. 


Last year, as Fainstein indicated, the WEF distributed over $500,000 in grants to a variety of organizations for women-centred programs such as Rady JCC, Gwen Secter Creative Living Centre at Syd Glow Place, Jewish Learning Centre, St. Boniface Hospital, Shalom Residences, in addition to a refugee program and a women's only area in the Siloam Mission's newly built shelter.


Fainstein was pleased to announce that "as a result of the careful stewardship of the Foundation’s endowment by our Investment committee, in 2018 the Jewish Foundation of Manitoba has increased its distribution rate from 4.0 to 4.2%. This means more grant dollars to support our community’s needs”.


Fainstein then stated "With your ongoing support, I expect to be standing here in two years announcing the Women’s Endowment Fund exceeds $2 million and has greatly extended the reach of its impact on the lives of women in Manitoba”.


Fainstein emphasized that "In particular, I was influenced by my grandfather, rabbi Akiva Steinberg who summed up Jewish values in one simple sentence. 'To be a good Jew,’ he said, ‘you evaluate every decision you make based on whether it is the most humane decision you can make.'"


Nafiya Naso, a prominent member of Winnipeg's Yazidi community, introduced the keynote speaker Sally Armstrong. Naso spoke about her own harrowing experience as a refugee who arrived in Canada 20 years ago.


As she stated, "I was two years old when my family fled our home in Khanasur, near Sinjar, in northern Iraq. My father and other family members had been forcibly conscripted into the Iraqi military, but because of their religion, they were treated like the enemy. Considered to be “disposable,” Yazidis were sent to the front lines. After eight months of this and been wounded by gunfire twice, my father managed to escape and we fled to Syria”.


Naso is currently a settlement worker at Jewish Child and Family Services and was one of the inspirations for the establishment of Operation Ezra.


Naso explained how she came to be acquainted with the Jewish community here.

“So when I arrived in Canada, like many other immigrants, I was instilled with a fear of Jews. I went about my young life with these false beliefs. We lived directly across the street from the Rady Centre, which had an excellent play structure and recreation facilities, but we didn’t dare cross the street because of what we had been taught in Syria.

Then, one day, my parents were told they needed to get more exercise. A neighbour suggested the Rady Centre, noting it was open to the public. Steeling myself, my knees shaking and almost in tears, I walked over to the Rady Centre and told the security guard – ‘We aren’t Jews – we are from Iraq. My mom would like to come to the gym’. Everyone there was so warm and welcoming. I realized that I had gotten it all wrong.

In August 2014, when the event of the genocide unfolded before me on my TV screen, I felt I needed to respond but I didn’t know where to turn. A suggestion was made for me to turn to the Jewish community. The venue was the Rady JCC. The rest is history. Operation Ezra was born. I have been told by some of the people in the Jewish community who have become my close friends, that they identified closely with our long history of persecution. Some are children of Holocaust survivors. Just as no one spoke up for them, it seems the world had forgotten us too”.


Sally Armstrong, an award-winning journalist and war correspondent spoke passionately about her personal experiences in Northern Iraq. She spoke about the very first time she was at a Yazidi refugee camp and came across a young Yazidi girl who reluctant to share her story. As Armstrong said, "She asked me why? She said she had told her story ten times already and nobody had done anything to help. The first Yazidis I spoke with all wanted to know why the world didn't come to rescue them".


Armstrong emphasized that “telling the Yazidi story has been one of the most grueling experiences of my career as a journalist.”

She added that “about 2,600 girls had managed to escape from their captors- but as many as 3,500 were still in ISIS hands as recently as last fall.”

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

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