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David Greaves, Executive Director of JNF Manitoba/Saskatchewan: Hasbarama in the Peg

David Greaves, posted here Sept 1, 2023

HASBARAMA in the Peg


Hasbara, the art of communication. This word is most often heard in relation to Israel and the diaspora’s PR efforts to lessen the negative and unfair spotlight on Israel. Most would probably agree that PR and Israel are not necessarily words that go well together, in part because Israel has always focused more on defending itself rather than worrying what ‘others’ might think; And despite an active anti-Israel media, generational bias, anti-Semitic/Zionist tropes; the miracle that is the ‘Start Up Nation’, the nation and people that in just 75 short years has given so much to making this world a better, more efficient, technological, healthier and brilliant place; the haters are still ‘gonna’ hate.


Israel continues to share the riches of its human intellectual properties and ingenuity such that, the staunchest anti-Israel communities might be shocked how this once tiny sliver of sand in the middle of nowhere, Middle East and surrounded by schoolyard bullies has had a positive impact on every day of their lives. So how do we shed the light? How do we shift the paradigms of the haters and those that receive their intel and information from the CNNs or the Neil Macdonalds of the world? How do we as proud Jews and Jewish communities, Zionists help to shift the paradigm? The answer is quite simple, for us here in Winnipeg at least… FOLKLORAMA and to be more specific, Shalom Square, the Israeli pavilion.


I have often said that there is no better showcase for Israel and no better shifter of paradigms than learning about Israel’s immense contributions to the world, sampling some of the food and drink and then wrapping it all up with one of the most dynamic and exciting performances of all the pavilions. There is no price tag or PR firm fee or media campaign that can even come close to having the kind of immediate impact that this pavilion has. Thousands of people attend shalom square every year, many of whom may enter our building with a preconceived notion of Israel either from what they see through the news or from the many years, even generations of stereotypes that have been passed down. The journey takes approximately 40 mins from when you enter the Asper Campus to when you leave and in that short time we have taken someone from a place of ignorance, perhaps to one of revelation and appreciation. I don’t believe Shalom Square started out thinking how important it would be in the decades that followed its first showcase, but it is now a critical and much needed shot in the arm for Israel and for a community that is proud of who we are… vibrant and generous.


A number of years ago when I worked in the Asper Campus, I had a colleague that told me that every day they were afraid of walking into the building because the Israeli flag is proudly on the building and because ‘If they want to find us, they know where we are’ – On the other hand, I was always proud to walk into that building for the exact reasons they were afraid of. Imagine having that fear today - So, for my colleague and for our brothers and sisters in Israel and around the world, we in Winnipeg should be proud of what we do all year round to make our Jewish community the wonderful, safe, inclusive place it is and for how we the many ways we support Israel, our homeland.


Thanks yous are sometime hard to come by but the community owes a debt of gratitude to Shalom Square and more specifically the Rady JCC for in the simplest of ways, shining the most beautiful and impressionable light on the miracle that is the Jewish State and helping to shape paradigms. Shalom Square is a collective of incredible volunteers and employees and under the leadership or Rob Berkowitz, the Rady Centre’s Executive Director, they manage to present and produce the highlight of the 2-week Folklorama tour – along with still carrying on their day jobs that week. As well and as always, the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg provides much needed resources to assist in producing the top-notch week.


Thank you for making us proud to be Jewish Winnipeggers and helping to show others why we love and support our home here and in the Middle East.


David Greaves is the Unlikely Olympian and Executive Director of the JNF Manitoba Saskatchewan. He a proud Winnipegger and is the proud father of Nesya and Aaron.


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