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Jeff Lieberman


Editorial: Jeff Lieberman: An Inspired Choice

by Rhonda Spivak, Aug 16 ,2023


Jeff Lieberman, the incoming CEO of the Jewish Federation, is an inspired choice. I say that because it is clear from Jeff’s lengthy history of volunteerism in the Jewish community that for a long time now he has been invested in our community’s success and that he cares deeply about it.
I asked Jeff to send me a list of the volunteer positions he has held in the Jewish and general community, and when he sent it, I decided I would not cut it down or edit it in any way , but rather  I have appended it to this editorial, since it speaks volumes about Jeff’s commitment to giving back to the community of which he is a part.(the list is not a complete list of his volunteer activities)
As President of the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg Gustavo Zentner wrote in announcing Jeff's hiring, "Jeff's lifelong commitment to volunteerism in Winnipeg's Jewish and general communities, combined with his extensive leadership and not-for-profit experience, makes him an excellent fit for this role."
The word “lieb” in Lieberman comes from the Hebrew meaning “Lev”or heart, and I think it is accurate to say that Jeff has a big heart when it comes to our Jewish community—and I think that to be successful as a Federation CEO, it takes not just brains but  a lot of heart. It is certainly not a 9-5 job, and it takes time and effort to try to find a way to sustain, and hopefully grow our community, and ensure that the next generation wants to live a Jewish life, and that our organized community community will be there to ensure this can happen.
In fact, when Jeff signed the Jewish Foundation of Manitoba's  Endowment Book of Life, he wrote, "For many years I have sought ways to be active in the Jewish community. To me, community volunteerism is an expression of profound optimism and connection. I hope that ultimately I will be remembered as someone who made a positive contribution to community life; more important, I hope that my kids get involved and engaged in community service throughout their lives."
Although he comes from the private sector, Jeff has an intimate knowledge of the working’s of  the various Jewish organizations who form the fabric of our community, and I believe this knowledge will serve him well as he takes on his new role as Federation CEO.  Jeff has a unique combination of  business acumen, as owner of Great Canadian Promotional Products, a company  associated with Talbot Marketing (which he is trying to sell before he begins his role as Federation CEO on Aug 14), and his ability to see the community from the perspective of a volunteer. That latter perspective is essential since the health and vitality of our community depends on its ability to attract enthusiastic and committed volunteers.
Jeff is 63 years young, with the energy and maturity, needed to roll up his sleeves and work hard for the betterment of our community. I was not surprised to learn that he was approached to throw his hat in the ring to become CEO of the Federation—he has a stellar reputation as a person of integrity, and has the “people skills” required for his new role. I think Jeff intuitively understands the importance of  building relationships with people and he will use this skill as he meets  with the various stakeholders of our community to understand the needs and challenges we face as a community.  And I think that Jeff is a good listener, another essential requirement of the job. Being a good listener is essential to being a good problem solver.
When Jeff  learned he was hired as Federation  CEO, he was the volunteer chair of the Jewish Foundation of Manitoba, and is  is stepping down from this position. But Jeff’s knowledge about the work of  the Jewish Foundation  will be essential and invaluable for our community. To properly meet the needs of our community going forward, the Jewish Federation and Jewish Foundation no doubt will have to work hand in glove to ensure that our community organizations get the funding needed to not only survive but thrive. 
When I spoke to Jeff recently, I asked him to  tell me about what he sees as  some of  the biggest challenges facing our Jewish community. He answered that "as our population is aging, the needs in our community will be greater, especially social services, and we'll need to raise the funds to support those servics." He spoke about the staff at JCFS, for example, being overworked since they re dealing with services to seniors and issues pertaining to poverty.
He stressed "We'll need to make sure we have enough funds to serve all the needs of our community."
Jeff also noted that "It's important to get more young people, who are university age and  in the 35-50 year age range to get more involved in leadership roles and be active in committees."
Jeff spoke about the "critical role " the Gray Academy of Jewish Education plays in our community in terms of  fostering the  Jewish identity of the next generation,  Jeff is married to Robyn (née Buchwald), who is the Membership Manager of the Rady JCC, and they were proud to send their three children-Amy, Josh and Noah to Gray Academy. (Their daughter Amy, 31, is a teacher at Gray Academy.)
Turning to the Rady JCC, Jeff said that "unfortunately, Covid caused reduced membership" and "membership is very  important as it pays for all of the quality programming that the Rady JCC does. The Rady just had a really successful Sports Dinner, and their membership is climbing up, but it is still not at what it was prior to Covid."
Jeff also emphasized that "We are a small community" and he indicated that synagogues "are an integral part of our community." As he added, "Especially with Congrations Shaarey Zedek and Etz Chayim going through big changes, we want to see our synagogues be strong. We want our synagogues to be used, whether it be on Shabbat or on High Holidays."
In our conversation, Jeff noted that he has been in lots of contact with Elaine Goldstine, the outging CEO of the Jewish Federation and she has been very helpful and great to work with. He also mentioned that Gustavo Zentner is an excellent President and he looks forward to working closely with him.
"I've had a chance to meet with the staff...We're successful as a team. I look forward ot working with them. I want to make them successful so we can all be successful."   
As Gustavo Zentner has stated, "The Federation's Board of Directors is excited to begin working with Jeff as he brings his collective experience to the organization. With a reputation as a collaborator, listener, and relationship builder, we look forward to continuing to build a vibrant, engaged, connected, and secure Winnipeg Jewish Community under his leadership."
Jeff also indicated the Federation had just hired a new CFO Shannon Slater who used to work for the Asper Campus, and with Rebecca Brask leaving the Federation, Graciella Najenson is the interim CJA Director, and he looks forward to  working with them both.
Jeff was born in 1959 to Aron and Dora Lieberman (née Wise).  He wrote about his family roots when he signed the Endowment booke of Life, "My father was born in Poland in 1927 to Ya'acov and Nacha. His parents, along with eight brothers and a sister, perished in the Holocaust.... Very few relatives survived. After the war, my father left Poland, spent a few years in Amsterdam, and then made his way to Canada, landing first in Montreal and then taking the train to Winnipeg. My father worked for David Kaufman Z"L, making clothes, and also owned and operated a grocery store in East Kildonan.

"My mother was born in Winnipeg in 1933 to David and Esther (née Bunis). I had the pleasure of knowing my Zaida David, but not my Baba Esther. My mother was a wonderful woman. She never had a bad word to say about anyone — a value I try to emulate. She attended Aberdeen School and St. John's Tech, ran the grocery store, and worked for Sears for 25 years. She was kind, hard-working, hospitable, and a terrific cook, for whom family meant everything. In the years leading up to her passing in 2011, she shone as a Baba."
As Editor of the Winnipeg Jewish Review, I want to take this opportunity to wish Jeff a hearty mazel tov on being hired as the incoming CEO of the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg, and I want to wish him every success. May he go from strengh to strengh.
As Zentner has indicated: "The Winnipeg Jewish community has grown over the years, and so have our partnerships and collaborative projects across all community organizations."

Hiring a new CEO coincides with the Federation's strategic Planning Initiative, which outlines key priorities and recommendations for the next six years. "Since the begining  of the year, we have been engaged and focussed on two parallel streams, a CEO search and a community consultation process on how the Federation can best serve and represent our community today and into the future".

"We need to build on partnerships and collaborations across all community organizations, focus on our community's next generation and youth, and ensure the financial sustainability of the community while making all of our programs accessible and inclusive. These are ambitious goals, and we have a dedicated board of directors and professional staff to see this through".

"I am excited about the future of the Federation, and under Jeff's leadership and support to our staff, I look forward to new partnerships amongst our various departmental chairs and board engagement".

Asked about what's next for the Federation, Zentner responded: "We are Shaping the Future of Our Jewish Community and are incredibly blessed with the work and leadership of all beneficiary agencies in our community. On behalf of the board, I invite all community members to engage, volunteer, and celebrate Jewish identity and community life, one experience at a time".

List of Jeff Lieberman's volunteer activities:

1988 – Present- Canvasser, Combined Jewish Appeal/Jewish Federation of Winnipeg  

1995 – 2008- Director, Rady JCC Board of Directors 

1995 – Present- Committee Member, Rady JCC Sports Dinner 

1998 – 2001- Director, Winnipeg Jewish Community Council Board of Directors 

1999-Chair, VIP Room, World Junior Hockey Tournament 

2001 – 2006- Director, Promotional Products Association of Canada (National Board) 

2001 – 2013-Coach, Winnipeg Minor Hockey Association 

2001 – 2008- Director, Folklorama Board of Directors 

2002, 2003, 2010 – Present- Chair, Israel Pavilion for Folklorama 

2002 – 2004- Director, Jewish Federation of Winnipeg Board of Directors 

2004 – 2006- Director, Asper Jewish Community Campus Board of Directors 

2004 – 2006- President, Rady JCC Board of Directors 

2005 – 2006- President, Folklorama Board of Directors 

2007 – 2009- Director, Jewish Federation of Winnipeg Board of Directors 

2009, 2010, 2012 - Present- Chair, ‘Unto Every Person There is a Name’ B’nai Brith Canada Holocaust  

Remembrance Service - reading of names at the?Legislative Building 

2010 – Present-Chair, Winnipeg Jewish Community Yom Ha’atzmaut Celebration 

2009 – 2016- Volunteer, Salvation Army kettle campaign 

2009 – Present- Director, University of Manitoba Alumni Association Board of Directors/Alumni Council 

2014 – 2015   President, University of Manitoba Alumni Association 

2015 – 2016   Member of the Senate, University of Manitoba 

2016 – 2022   Member of the Board of Governors, University of Manitoba 

2017 – 2021   Chair, Board of Governors, University of Manitoba 

2018 – 2019   Chair, Presidential Search Committee   University of Manitoba 

2019                Chair, Chancellor Search Committee   University of Manitoba 

2022                Member, Governance Review Committee  University of Manitoba

2015 – Present   Director, Jewish Foundation of Manitoba Board of Directors 

2017 – Present   Executive Member, Jewish Foundation of Manitoba Board of Directors 

2021 – 2023   Vice-Chair, Jewish Foundation of Manitoba 

 2023 – Present  Chair, Jewish Foundation of Manitoba (Jeff is stepping down from this position)


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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.