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Questions pile up after distorted anti-Zionist columns published by CBC and the Free Press

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Despite putting their trust in ”bridge-building efforts with other faith communities", the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg (led by CEO Elaine Goldstine) is failing to stem the anti-Zionist avalanche from pro-Palestinian activists in local media. (Photo: JFW)

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Last week, I reported that Joel Lazer, President of the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg (JWF), canceled an interview I had waited over 10 months to get. It should be understood that he agreed to it really, only because he made the mistake of claiming he would talk to anyone in the community about their concerns and provided his phone number, and then actually answered his phone.

He’d never returned a single email or phone message from me asking for an interview since last September, even after providing a requested outline of the topics TheJ.ca wanted to get him on the record about. He’s happy to answer questions from the secular media – just not from the Jewish media asking questions important to the Jewish community and Lazer’s donors.

In last week’s column I laid out some of the issues that Lazer, Federation CEO Elaine Goldstine, and PR director Adam Levy, had deflected in the past. I included a few previously asked questions and a few follow-ups, asking them to explain why JFW urged Jews to join a BLM march in 2020 while providing no information to the community about the links of Black Lives Matter leaders to antisemitic anti-Israel actions such as BDS; asking them what action they have taken to quell the attempt to legitimize the Nakba narrative, which underminines the legitimacy of the creation of the State of Israel; and asking them about CIJA, a non-profit organization portrayed as Federation’s experts that we should apparently all put our blind trust into on matters involving our safety, pro-Israel advocacy, and political issues.

I had, of course, prepared additional questions for Lazer about his June 4 statement when he had sought and failed to minimize the extent of the controversy about the quality of Federation’s work on behalf of the pro-Israel grassroots and their handling of the local media.

But, in reviewing the timeline, I think it is possible a more recent batch of questions sent to Goldstine is the real reason Lazer reneged on the interview.

My questions for her mostly flowed from her own cheerleading message to the community issued on June 11, that was at least in part, designed to bail Lazer out for his June 4 missive, which was in itself designed to bail both of them out for their missteps in May. That was after Federation failed to support 2 pro-Israel rallies or speak up for the victims of antisemitic violence at the first rally.

Lazer sent his refusal to be interviewed about 5 hours after those questions were received by his CEO. 

Here are a few of that batch of questions I sent Goldstine on June 14. Readers can decide if canceling an interview and staying silent would be their preferred action by the “community leadership” of Winnipeg.

Maybe, seeing I had just asked his CEO about this, Joel Lazer anticipated being stuck with answering why his Federation has not specifically condemned the theft and burning of Israeli flags on May 15 by Nakba 73 rally-goers, and if JFW considers it a hate crime.  

It’s safe to say they’d be fast to condemn the burning of a Pride flag (which is being prosecuted in Ontario as a hate crime) or the burning of an Indigenous flag. But when it comes to burning the flag of Zionists, for the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg I guess ‘it’s complicated’.

Among my batch of questions, I quizzed Goldstine about her comment: “The one-sided manner in which the conflict has been portrayed in the media has only added fuel to the fire.”

 “Can you detail which stories Federation has contacted the media about? Can you provide me with a list perhaps?” I asked.

Then I zoned in on a recent Winnipeg Free Press “Faith” column (“Anti-Semitism ‘reprehensible,’ Muslim leaders say after rally”).  I suggested to Goldstine that the Faith column “clearly blamed a pro-Israel rally [on May 15] for even being allowed by police to take place, as incitement to antisemitic violence. “

The WFP article quoted a Muslim coalition as stating, “the appearance of pro-Israel supporters at the rally felt like their suffering was being mocked…  This regretfully provoked severe emotions within some rally attendees.” I asked if she was aware of that column, and if the content had been protested by JWF to the Free Press. I think the answers would be very revealing to the grassroots pro-Israel community who were the victims of violence and threats of rape that day.

I also asked about her remark, “We continue undeterred in our bridge-building efforts with other faith communities.”

I noted the Faith column said, “The statement was also signed by Abdo Eltassi of Alhijra Islamic School, Jennifer Rahman of the Winnipeg Central Mosque, Ramsey Zeid of the Canadian Palestinian Association of Manitoba and Idris Elbakri of the Manitoba Islamic Association.”

Then, I asked Goldstine:

“Which of those signatories has Federation been “bridge-building” with, any of them, or none? Has there been any contact with any of those signatories between May 15 and June 2, the date of the column? Has there been any contact with them since the column?”

This has turned out to be a very key question – and if Federation didn’t want to answer it before, they should now. 

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The week after I mentioned his name in my question to Goldstine about Federation “bridge-building”, CBC Manitoba printed a column by Idis Elbakri entitled,  “Hope, disappointment, self-censorship: What it’s like to be a Palestinian Canadian”.  

His column was full of Nakba ‘ethnic cleansing’ propaganda, denying Jewish indigenuity to the Holy Land, lecturing and hectoring Israeli Jews to feel guilt for defending themselves, and expressing the sick dream that Jewish schoolchildren would pledge, “We acknowledge that our school stands on the homeland of the Palestinian people. We acknowledge the Palestinian Nakba and the harms of Zionism.”

Yes indeed, CBC published that.

And between Facebooking about Father’s Day, National Indigenous Peoples Day, and We’re Hiring a Secretary Day, the Federation braintrust in Winnipeg still hasn’t found the time to utter a single condemnation of CBC and assure the Jewish community that Zionists will not be defamed by the publicly funded broadcaster without a strong response.

To return to my previous point: Had the Federation been “building bridges” with Elbakri? Had they spoken with him before the odious Free Press column? Did the Federation speak with him after his group blamed Zionists – standing on an assigned corner behind police protection – for having “provoked” the near-riot by his community and their supporters?  

In all likelihood, JWF’s well-paid staff stayed silent, did not protest the Free Press Faith column, did nothing with Elbakri, will do nothing about Elbakri, and are ceding the CBC audience to the Nakba 73 crowd of Elbakri and his ilk. 

This is exactly the kind of botched media strategy assailed by both Bill Narvey and Penny Jones Square in their recent criticisms of Federation advocacy practices.

Luckily for Winnipeg Zionists, the Israeli Canadian Council doesn’t play ball that way, and immediately demanded equal space from regional CBC honcho John Bertrand to get the article dealt with effectively with grassroots input. It’s currently being arranged.

“Our raw and real experiences can get too uncomfortable for our audiences.” But, CBC didn’t ask Idris Elbakri if chants like “Rape their daughters” and “stab Jews in Tuxedo” heard outside the Legislature were an example of what he meant. (Screencap: YouTube)

“As many have joined our audience since the beginning of the conflict, I wanted to explain who CIJA is and the nature of the relationship between Federation and CIJA.

She then proceeded to make it all clear as mud:

“As the advocacy arm of Jewish Federations across Canada, CIJA’s team works tirelessly to advocate on issues of importance to the Jewish community… and build relationships with elected officials, the media, and other leaders in key areas of Canadian society.”

To begin with, when it comes to the media, I explained to her that “In my experience, your statement is simply not true. CIJA has not responded to a single inquiry from me since last September.” I further explained, “There have been numerous times since then, that I have emailed or called Adir, Peter and Mr. Koffler and other officials to get elaboration on their press releases, with no acknowledgement or responses.”

“Who CIJA is” is never explained by Goldstine in her newsletter either. (Well, she mentions Adam Levy is their local rep.)

And before someone suggests checking the CIJA website, guess what? The link to the CIJA “Our Board” does not bring you to a list of directors or a governance outline. It’s a bit of a mystery.

And as for “the nature of our relationship”? Not a sentence was devoted to it by Goldstine.

So, I asked her, “Is there a contractual relationship between Federations and CIJA?  If so, are your donors able to access details of that contract such as duration, scope of services provided, and causes for termination?”

Those answers – is there a contract? are there required performance metrics? Can CIJA be fired? – might assist donors and the Jewish community to ascertain the nature of the relationship, the value being received for their donation dollar, and whose interests are being served and whose not. 

When one categorizes the recent uproar, it has focused on certain glaring Federation shortcomings: weak pro-Israel messaging, weak media presence, weak unity-building with other pro-Israel grassroots activists.

All of these local issues seem rooted in – is it advice? directions? orders? – CIJA gives to the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg.

In fact, some recent donors-turned-critics probably welcomed Goldstine stating “We proudly fund CIJA through the campaign dollars”.

Why? Because she has opened the door to the same questions Federation had refused to answer from me. Such as “about their funding, (which) I emailed to your Mr. Levy last December 28 with a reminder on Jan. 22. He never bothered to acknowledge my inquiry … how much funding is received [by CIJA] directly from either the JFW or from the national Federation body?”

If you look hard enough you might find a mention of CIJA on the JFW website, but no substantial information is made available to the community seeking answers about its funding or the actual work it does. (Photo: JFW)

You’d think these are all pretty simple questions to answer when Federation wants their newest subscribers/donors to know “Who CIJA is” and “the nature of the relationship” they so “proudly” use the donors’ gelt to subsidize.

But then again, since the dissatisfaction with Federation seems to be the aspects that form the basis of their relationship with CIJA, and Goldstine was promoting how “tireless” CIJA is to her audience on June 11, you’d think she’d have made mention of two words mysteriously missing from her commentary.

The name of the local CIJA Board member, who some of her newsletter readers might then hold responsible for the dismal results of the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg’s relationship with CIJA.

Joel Lazer. Her boss. 

As I wrote to Goldstine:

“It is my observation that on the one hand, your Federation funds CIJA with donor dollars yet on the other hand CIJA does not respond to questions that will better inform donors and the Jewish community at large about their work while they “represent our interests on a national scale.” Perhaps this is a matter you can intercede with and ensure there is a line of communication opened.”

Despite repeated requests, no one has opened the door to improving communication with CIJA for Jewish journalists asking legitimate questions.

Next week for Canada Day, TheJ.ca is going to continue shedding light on a few other words missing from the vocabulary of Elaine Goldstine, Joel Lazer, the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg, and CIJA.

Marty Gold is the Editor-in -Chief of TheJ.ca. Known for investigative reporting, he has specialized in covering municipal and provincial politics, and a wide range of sports and entertainment, in newspapers, magazines, online, and on his first love, radio. His business and consulting experience includes live events and sales, workplace safety, documentary productions, PR, and telecommunications in Vancouver, Los Angeles and across Canada, and as a contestant on CBC-TV Dragons Den.

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Thank you for choosing TheJ.Ca as your source for Canadian Jewish News.

We do news differently!

Our positioning as a Zionist News Media platform sets us apart from the rest. While other Canadian Jewish media are advocating increasingly biased progressive political and social agendas, TheJ.Ca is providing more and more readers with a welcome alternative and an ideological home.

We revealed the incursion of anti-Israel progressive elements such as IfNotNow into our communities. We have exposed the distorted hateful agenda of the “progressive” left political radicals who brought Linda Sarsour to our cities, and we were first to report on many disturbing incidents of Nazi-based hate towards Jews across Canada.

But we can’t do it alone. We need your HELP!

Our ability to thrive and grow in 2020 and beyond depends on the generosity of committed readers and supporters like you.

Monthly support is a great way to help us sustain our operations. We greatly appreciate any contributions you can make to support Jewish Journalism.

We thank you for your ongoing support.

Happy reading!

Thank you for choosing TheJ.Ca as your source for Canadian Jewish News.

We do news differently!

Our positioning as a Zionist News Media platform sets us apart from the rest. While other Canadian Jewish media are advocating increasingly biased progressive political and social agendas, TheJ.Ca is providing more and more readers with a welcome alternative and an ideological home.

We revealed the incursion of anti-Israel progressive elements such as IfNotNow into our communities. We have exposed the distorted hateful agenda of the “progressive” left political radicals who brought Linda Sarsour to our cities, and we were first to report on many disturbing incidents of Nazi-based hate towards Jews across Canada.

But we can’t do it alone. We need your HELP!

Our ability to thrive and grow in 2020 and beyond depends on the generosity of committed readers and supporters like you.

Monthly support is a great way to help us sustain our operations. We greatly appreciate any contributions you can make to support Jewish Journalism.

We thank you for your ongoing support.

Happy reading!

cOMING SOON…….

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