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JNF receives $1 million donation honouring Berdie & Irvin Cohen z’l from their son

by Rhonda Spivak, March 21, 2021

David Greaves, Executive Director of the Jewish National Fund in Winnipeg says that “Winnipeggers have long been known to be very generous and in particular the Jewish community of Winnipeg has consistently punched well above it’s weight class in regard to philanthropic endeavours.  Jews have been at the forefront of providing tzedakah, whether this be in the form of supporting local Jewish organizations, supporting Israel, and/or the community at large.’’

Greaves is excited to report that the Jewish National Fund has co-operated with the Jewish Foundation of Manitoba in advancing a special project in Israel. Toward that end Berdie and Irvin Cohen z’l of Winnipeg are being honoured by their son.

A number of months ago, the Jewish National Fund approached the Jewish Foundation of Manitoba in regard to a $4 million project, now known as the Bervin JNF Canada House of Excellence in Sderot. JNF Canada has committed to raising $2 million for the project, while Keren Kayemet L'Israel (KKL) in Israel has made a commitment  to provide the other $2 million for the total $4 million dollar project.

John Diamond, CEO of the JFM commented: “The past year has been challenging for us all. Even in light of these difficult circumstances, our donors continue to step forward beyond all expectations. Their philanthropic ambition working in conjunction with the Jewish Foundation of Manitoba strengthens the Jewish community and improves the well-being of Jews in Manitoba and around the world. We are incredibly proud to play a part in bringing the Bervin JNF Canada House of Excellence to life.”

"The Canada House is designed to close the educational achievement gap, foster academic success and empower youth in the periphery. It is being built in Sderot, the Israeli city closest to the border with Gaza, and will serve as an after-school education, empowerment, and enrichment centre for high school students from Sderot and its surroundings, who will be provided with the necessary tools and skills for scholastic and personal success," Greaves explains.


"As a new educational facility, it will also be used for lectures, performances, workshops, film and social gatherings," Greaves points out. "The House will also be a safe place as the building, which is over 3000 square feet, will also be a reinforced shelter."


The Jewish Foundation of Manitoba, which has many donors with varied interests and affinities, thought to present the JNF proposal for Canada House to one of its donors who has a particular focus on funding projects in Israel. The JNF Canada House proposal resonated with him, and he was especially interested in the opportunity to name the building in memory of his parents. The son paying tribute to Berdie and Irvin Cohen agreed to donate $1 million to the project, such that he could get the naming rights for the project, which is now named the Bervin JNF Canada House of Excellence after his parents. 


”I am absolutely thrilled that The Jewish Foundation of Manitoba and the Jewish National Fund could work together to bring about funding for this important project," Greaves says. “The pandemic has created challenges for everyone, from lockdowns and quarantines and great economic challenges both in Winnipeg and in Israel as a result. Under these circumstances, it is especially welcome news that a lead donor from Winnipeg was found for this very special project. I am thankful that the Jewish Foundation of Manitoba was able to match one of its donors with this meaningful project, that will have a lasting impact in the region. In particular, I want to express my gratitude and thanks to Marsha Cowan, Strategic Development Specialist at the Jewish Foundation of Manitoba for all of her work in ensuring a lead donor from Winnipeg for this project was found.” 


Greaves notes that the proceeds from this year’s Negev Gala honouring Dr. Ted Lyons, O.C., which will take place virtually on May 31, 2021 will go towards funding the Bervin JNF Canada House of Excellence. “This means that well over half of the money that JNF Canada commits to the Bervin JNF House of Excellence will have come from Winnipeg. Our community can be very proud of this fact,” Greaves adds.


This year’s Negev Gala, rescheduled for the cancelled event last year, features a performance by the legendary David Broza, with musicians from the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra.


Greaves emphasizes that the Negev Gala Honouree, Ted Lyons, who visited in 2019 and was amazed by a similar project in Israel, is very excited to support the Bervin JNF Canada House of Excellence project. Greaves adds, “I anticipate that the Negev Gala will be a resounding success.”

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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.