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The presentation of the Jewish National Fund Negev Gala citation to Steven Schipper (from Left to right: Lance Davis, Jessica Cogan, Steven Schipper, Terri Cherniack, Gail Asper, Wendy Spatzner and Ariel Karabelnicoff

Dick Rothberg (centre) received the Bloomfield Award for Meritorious Service as JNF long-serving and dedicated Volunteer Board Member.

Chaim Lev Tov, a Beit Halochem veteran, singing accompanied by Kinsey Posen and Shayla Fink (piano, not in photo).

Comedian, actor, writer and producer, Elon Gold, kept the audience laughing for over an hour.

Steven Schipper

The Jewish National Fund 's Negev Gala Honouring Steven Schipper is a Resounding Success

by Penny Jones Square, June 1, 2019

The Jewish National Fund, Manitoba/Saskatchewan (JNF) 2019 Negev Gala at the Winnipeg Concert Hall was an extraordinarily uplifting evening, filled with moving messages of love and gratitude, and lightened with much laughter. This year’s well-merited honouree, Steven Schipper (Artistic Director of the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre (MTC), cultural icon, and passionate supporter of Israel), delivered a gracious and emotional acceptance speech.  Elon Gold— who referred to himself as a “Jewish-famous” comedian—generously entertained the audience of over 1000 people, keeping everyone in hysterics for a full hour.

At the pre-gala reception, young entrepreneurs were given the opportunity to mingle and hear from community leader Larry Vickar as well as from JNF Regional President Jessica Cogan.

The tribute video at the event presented Schipper’s chosen charity, project Beit Halochem Ashdod. Beit Halochem (House of Warriors) is “a non-profit organization committed to rehabilitating, rebuilding and enhancing the lives of the over 51,000 Israelis who have been disabled in the line of duty.” Proceeds from the 2019 Negev Gala will fund the physiotherapy and hydrotherapy wing of this fifth and newest centre, which will provide almost 7,000 injured and disabled veterans as well as victims of terrorism, living in one of the most affected regions, with the opportunity to regain the dignity and quality of life they deserve. Together with their families, more than 15,000 people will benefit from this state-of-the-art facility in Ashdod.

In his address, Schipper emphasized his love and gratitude for his family, Israel, and Canada. Being the child of Holocaust survivors, he came to his love of Israel early, but his parents taught him “Canada was the best.” He described Israel as a miracle in the making. That Hebrew was revived and thrives, that Israel provides a safe haven for practitioners of all religions, that it is flourishing as a start-up nation, these are all miracles. But most miraculous is that “after 2000 years, Israel has taken the exile out of Jews.” And, “it is a miracle that cannot be taken for granted.” It is incumbent on us to help the IDF soldiers in their recovery, for it is they who make the miracle possible by their sacrifice; therefore, Beit Halochem Ashdod is a supremely worthy endeavour.

Schipper was exceedingly gracious and generous in his thanks to many: to his family foremost, to his friends and colleagues, to Jessica Cogan, Board members and the Advisory Council, Marjory Blankstein (Honourary Chair), Earl Barish (Honourary Chair), Gail Asper (Chair), Ariel Karabelnicoff (Executive Director, JNF Manitoba/Saskatchewan) and JNF staff, Wendy Spatzer (JNF National President), Lance Davis (Chief Executive Officer, JNF Canada), John Myers, and the trustees, staff, and audiences of the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre. Indeed, as Schipper said, “There are angels among us.”

At the event there was also a surprise performance by a Beit Halochem veteran, Chaim Lev Tov, who was wounded in Operation Protective Edge. Shayla Fink and Kinzey Posen accompanied Lev Tov.

Ariel Karabelnicoff, Jessica Cogan, Nola Lazar (JNF Regional Vice-President), Wendy Spatzner, Lance Davis, Gail Asper, Michael Silver, and Terri Cherniack (Schipper’s wife) were on the stage for the reading of the citation and presentation to Steven Schipper, JNF’s 2019 Negev Gala honouree.

The remarkable success of this year’s JNF Negev Gala is a testament to the vibrancy of Winnipeg’s Jewish community and to its passionate and enduring support of Israel. As Ariel Karabelnicoff pointed out, it is worth noting that there were non-Jews, including two Catholic priests, in attendance and that people from all walks of life, all economic means, and of all ages were present “to lend their support and make the case for Israel”—to say, with Schipper, “Am Yisrael Chai.”

The evening opened with a JNF video that featured beautiful images of the land of Israel, which JNF helped build in the early 1900s and which it continues to care for. It also presented many of JNF’s valuable projects that serve to build “the foundations of Israel’s future” and which have “an extraordinary impact on every Israeli.”

Cogan and Lazar, co-hosted the evening (which included the awarding of the President Pin to Cogan who will be stepping down shortly with Lazar taking over her position).

Following Cogan and Lazar’s opening comments and acknowledgment of dignitaries in attendance—including Lieutenant Governor Janice Filmon and Gary Filmon, Minister of Sport, Culture and Heritage Cathy Cox, Liberal MLA Jon Gerrard, and Chief Executive Officer, JNF Canada Lance Davis—the Yona Children’s Choir, directed by Sarah Sommer and accompanied by Shayla Fink on the piano, led the audience in the singing of O Canada and Hatikvah.

At the event, dignitaries Lieutenant Governor Janice Filmon; Mayor Brian Bowman; National President, JNF National President Wendy Spatzner; Minister of Families and Deputy Premier Heather Stefanson; and Executive Director, JNF Manitoba/Saskatchewan Ariel Karabelnicoff delivered greetings.

From the opening JNF video through the introductory comments, greetings from dignitaries, musical performances, and tribute video to the presentation of the citation and Steven Schipper’s acceptance remarks the event was truly inspirational.

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

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