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Gustavo Zentner

Gustavo Zentner is the new Vice President of CIJA (MB and SASK) to Fight Back Against the Growing Rise of Antisemitism

by Rhonda Spivak, Feb 1, 2024


I want to take this opportunity to welcome Gustavo Zentner in his new role as Vice President of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), Manitoba and Saskatchewan Region. CIJA is the advocacy arm of Jewish Federations across Canada, and Gustavo’s new role will involve fighting back against the steep rise of antisemitism that has become increasingly prevalent in our community ever since the Hamas barbaric attacks on Oct 7, which has led to the current Israel-Hamas war. This new full-time position is a crucial one and no doubt we will be well served by an effective advocate to confront hate. In particular, Jewish students who believe Jews have the right to self-determination, like other peoples, are facing growing antisemitism on campuses, and it is certainly foreseeable that more resources will need to be allocated to push back against this worrying trend.


This new position which Gustavo holds, was created at the behest of several important donors who had the foresight to understand the challenge posed by the rapid increase of Jew-hatred and believe that an effective advocate is needed to confront it in all its pernicious forms. Unfortunately, when it comes to dealing with antisemitism, there is always work to be done. According to Statistics Canada police-reported hate crime data, Jews are targeted in 55% of religiously motivated hate crimes across Canada. CIJA works with all levels of government, local Jewish community partners, and allies from other diverse minorities to combat antisemitism online and in the real world. It also serves to educate Canadians about the central role Israel plays in Jewish life and identity, as well as monitor issues affecting the Canada-Israel friendship that benefits both Canadians and Israelis and enjoys cross-partisan support. CIJA also has offices in Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto and Vancouver.


Gustavo is well-known in the Jewish community as a hard worker, and this work ethic will serve him well in his new position. Gustavo recently completed a two-year term as President of the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg and went on a recent mission to Israel with several Members of Parliament organized by the United Jewish Appeal in Toronto. He was able to witness firsthand one of the destroyed kibbutzim in the South of Israel, Kibbutz Kfar Aza, as well as assess the mood of the country, and has spoken eloquently about his experiences at a rally that took place in the Asper Campus in late November 2023. In his role as Federation President, Gustavo has made it a priority to forge strong relationships with politicians on the local and national levels, advocating for Jewish causes and promoting Jewish organizations.


One of Gustavo’s priorities as Federation President was to facilitate direct communication lines and projects with Israel, resulting in a partnership with the Jerusalem Foundation and a visit of Mayor Moshe Lion of Jerusalem in June 2022, a visiting tour from the Jerusalem Business Development Center, MATI, highlighting Shared Living with Arab women in East Jerusalem in May 2023, and hosting Israel-Emissaries (Schlichim) to our community to support school and youth programs. He will no doubt re-affirm ongoing partnerships with segments of the society who will join with the Jewish community in combating hate.


Gustavo was President of the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg when the Manitoba government adopted the IRHA definition of antisemitism, and made the following remarks in Oct 2022, which ring all the more true since Oct 7:


”Antisemitism has a severe impact on Jewish life in Canada and affects the way Jews live their everyday lives. Many are fearful of expressing their Judaism in society for fear of becoming a target. This is a very sad situation and unacceptable – especially in a country where we place a high value on our constitutional right to religious freedom.

Jewish people of all ages are exposed to antisemitism, including our youth, who regularly face antisemitism in their classrooms, in their peer groups, or on social media, which is frequently used as a tool to propagate antisemitism and other forms of hatred.”


Of course, Gustavo's success is the success of all of us. May he go from strength to strength in his new position.


WINNIPEG, MB – January 10, 2024 – The Jewish Federation of Winnipeg joins the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) in announcing the expansion of its national operations with the establishment of a dedicated advocacy office in Winnipeg.

As the advocacy agent of JFC-UIA representing all Jewish Federations across Canada, CIJA has been active for decades in supporting the advocacy and public affairs needs of the Winnipeg Jewish community and its federation stakeholder. However, in light of the alarming increase in antisemitism and the threat it represents, donors in Winnipeg have offered resources to enhance CIJA’s capacity to address this challenge. Recognizing that hate respects no borders, the new resources will also benefit efforts to confront antisemitism in Saskatchewan.

“Hate directed against the Jewish state and Jews everywhere has spiked in an unprecedented way, and CIJA is eager to leverage the support of the local donors to push back significantly against antisemitic trends to ensure Winnipeg’s Jewish community remains a fully engaged and valued partner in the vibrant life of the broader society,” stated CIJA Vice Chair Steve Kroft.

Providing direct access to extensive advocacy resources – including security and legal expertise, political connections, research, and data support – CIJA will work closely with the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg to ensure strategic coordination in tackling local antisemitism.

Jeff Lieberman, CEO of the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg, noted that “the intensity of hate expressed on many local platforms has generated profound concern and anxiety within the community. The new resources that can be deployed through this initiative to mitigate and reverse the antisemitic trends we have experienced will be a source of genuine reassurance and comfort for a community that feels increasingly under threat.”

Representing local donors, Asper Foundation President Anita Wortzman observed that “we saw an urgent need emerging and felt compelled to support efforts to ensure the entire community has the knowledge and tools to address these issues. CIJA’s efforts will not only address the toxic spike in antisemitism but also help re-affirm the many partnerships the Jewish community has built with other segments of Manitoba society, helping insulate against the hate that has become so pervasive.”

Gustavo Zentner, a well-known leader within the Jewish community with vast experience in public affairs and advocacy, will serve as the lead professional of this initiative, joining the CIJA team as Vice President for Manitoba and Saskatchewan. Gustavo will work closely with Jewish Federation of Winnipeg CEO Jeff Lieberman and Public Relations & Communications Director Adam Levy, as well as with other community leaders in the region.


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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.