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‘Follow the money’ leads to clues about what’s going wrong with Jewish leadership across Canada

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As the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg looks towards the Combined Jewish Appeal fundraising campaign in September, officials may face more questions from donors about their weak response to antisemitism and about their funding of CIJA. (Photo: JFW)

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As I once learned as a young journalist-in-training from Lt-Col. Yoram Hamizrachi, sometimes the obvious answer isn’t always the only answer. It appears such is the case regarding why questions to the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg were avoided and ignored for the last year.

Despite Federation CEO Elaine Goldstine sending out a newsletter in June extolling the “tireless” work CIJA does, “Who CIJA is” was never explained by Goldstine and neither was “the nature of our relationship” between the two entities.

I reminded her that I have previously asked JFW CIJA rep Adam Levy on two occasions “how much funding is received [by CIJA] directly from either the JFW or from the national Federation body?” and he never responded. Since Goldstine stated “We proudly fund CIJA through the campaign dollars” in the newsletter, I sent Goldstine similar questions about those details.

Five hours later Federation president Joel Lazer canceled a scheduled interview that was over a year in the making.

Now normally, when an agency that hands out tax receipts for donations ignores requests from the media for simple financial information and comes up with a flimsy excuse to avoid an interview, the instinct is to ‘follow the money’. Usually, that’s the obvious answer.

Since they didn’t want to talk about CIJA, I sought out what Federation has said, on the record, about CIJA.  

I started with a word search of the most obvious starting point online.

Just like when Goldstine didn’t mention that her boss Joel Lazer is a member of the CIJA board, there are some important words that are missing from the last available Federation annual report (2019-20).

For instance, let’s start with searching… CIJA.

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Finding a mention of CIJA in the report is needle in a haystack territory. Zero hits. Only by digging into some of the tabs with committee reports and charts, does the name itself and a smattering of details emerge.

The Public Affairs and Advocacy write-up mentions CIJA by name – the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs – the only time it’s mentioned in the main report. In that same paragraph is the only time another word is mentioned in the Federation report – “antisemitism”. 

Funding the Centre of Israel and Jewish Affairs is really important to Jewish Federation of Winnipeg honchos like CIJA board member and Federation president Joel Lazer. What isn’t important is telling the community what CIJA really does – or doesn’t do. (Screencap: JFW annual report)

Keep in mind the community is told “fighting antisemitism” is a vital function of Federation – that’s what they say in Federation newsletters and that’s even what Lazer told Rhonda Spivak of the Winnipeg Jewish Review when he became Federation President:

“Lazer also points out that the another thing he’d like to accomplish “is to raise awareness about the incidents of antisemitism.” He notes” I am concerned about antisemitism.”

Lazer was Federation President in 2020 when the annual report was issued, yet there is no reflection in the document of his avowed concern about antisemitism. Many voices have been critical of the failure of the Federation to step up in the media and public eye to combat the hike in antisemitism on his watch. As explained by retired lawyer Bill Narvey in an open letter :

“To our collective frustrated dismay, our Federation’s activism is usually in the form of facebook/emailed communiques to our community that are typically cautiously politically correct inspiring few if any to speak out publicly against Jew-Israel hatred, avoiding challenging the Jew-Israel haters directly in print or by public rallies and invariably their activism is almost always seen as inadequate, weak or totally ineffective.”

Apparently handing over donation money raised locally to the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs is a “collective responsibility” of Winnipeg Jews that cannot be questioned. (Screencap: JFW annual report)

In reviewing the annual report tabs and audited financial statement, I found the answers to basic funding questions that Adam Levy, or Elaine Goldstine, or Joel Lazer could have easily directed me to – but didn’t.

Maybe they knew it would just lead to even more questions they wouldn’t want to answer.

According to the Financial Development page “Impact Report”, $2000 was handed to CIJA as “designated to National, Israel overseas programs”. Presumably that was an earmarked donation. The statement showed a revenue line for CIJA under “Direct recoveries” of $45,000. It was suggested by a donor the line item might represent monies from CIJA to underwrite a Federation salary or expenses. And, speaking of expenses, in 2019-2020 the Public Affairs and Advocacy committee work cost $26,960, spent on what, they don’t indicate.

So far, whatever the reasons for stonewalling my inquiries, the amount involved isn’t very startling.

Under “JFC/UIA Initiatives” (UIA = United Israel Appeal), the very first entity mentioned is CIJA.

But the rationale for turning over $625,000 to fund CIJA and five other entities is “Designated as a part of Winnipeg’s collective responsibility to fund”.

“Collective responsibility to fund”?

The obvious question is, SAYS WHO?

Well, let’s start at the top. Joel Lazer said in the interview with Spivak that his membership on the CIJA board was “independent of being on the board of the Federation… I think CIJA does good work. We are going to utilize CIJA as much as we can. They are a resource for our benefit.”

The Allocations Committee lists CIJA as a “National and Overseas” funding recipient. That committee claims it “provides oversight to fulfill Federation’s financial commitments… ensuring the donors’ valuable investments are well spent.”

The Allocations Committee report does not elaborate on CIJA, let alone provide any evidence it conducted any oversight to verify “the donors’ valuable investments are well spent.”

Maybe that explains what Goldstine meant by “the nature of the relationship.”

The president of the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg is also on the board of CIJA. Despite an assurance there is “oversight to fulfill the Federation’s funding commitments” so that “the donors’ valuable investments” in CIJA are “well spent”, there is no evidence in the annual report of any such monitoring or assessment. (Screencap: JFW annual report)

Digging past the numbers, I went to the ‘what we do’ drop down menu on the website, clicked to https://www.jewishwinnipeg.org/public-affairs-advocacy and then read the “Government Relations” tab.

Here is what the annual report says about government relations:

Working with the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, our national advocacy partner, we monitor and analyze political developments that concern the Jewish community, providing balanced, informed opinion to elected officials on emerging issues. To view a list of our current national advocacy priorities, please click here.

Federation’s claim they have a committee “working with CIJA” to provide “informed opinion” on “political developments that concern the community”, is absurd under the current circumstances in Winnipeg. If we weren’t facing an existential threat it would be laughable.

Chants to rape and stab Jews has supplanted the typical mundane antisemitic incidents of swastikas spray painted on random bus shelter windows in February. So what have they done? 

Both organizations shunned the pro-Israel grassroots rally, and have not asked a single question of the Israeli Canadian Council or the victims about the attack by Hamas supporters at their rally on May 15. Both organizations took about ten days to even dare acknowledge that ICC rally supporters had been pelted with rocks and bottles. To this day, neither the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg or CIJA have denounced the theft and burning of Israeli flags or demanded police conduct a hate crime investigation.

What’s the common denominator? The guy who is on the Board of both organizations, Joel Lazer.

In light of these facts, what sort of fair, insightful, forward-looking analysis has ‘Public Affairs and Advocacy’ generated to help inform “elected officials on emerging issues” like Islamist antisemitism in Winnipeg? Perhaps Lazer will share it with donors and the community so they can verify it is “balanced”. 

The president of the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg is also on the board of CIJA. Despite an assurance there is “oversight to fulfill the Federation’s funding commitments” so that “the donors’ valuable investments” in CIJA are “well spent”, there is no evidence in the annual report of any such monitoring or assessment. (Screencap: JFW annual report)

Joel Lazer turtled five hours after I asked Elaine Goldstine 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?”

It would be hard for Joel Lazer and his staff to convince people they have a “responsibility” to pay CIJA’s bills if donors realized CIJA can’t be easily found in the Federation annual report, and that Federation officials won’t guide the media to published financial details (scarce and obscure though they are).

It would get even harder to convince people to fork out for CIJA, if Lazer had to explain to an interviewer why the CIJA website doesn’t provide a working link to the Board of Directors he sits on, and isn’t subject to any meaningful value-for-dollar review by the Federation he is in charge of.

Those factors would only compound widespread the “frustrations with the inadequacy of our Federation’s activism for Israel and against antisemitism” that Bill Narvey described.

The inadequacy starts with Federation’s own website. 

A word search of the 2020 annual report yielded zero hits on words donors would probably think are important to a Jewish Federation – like “Zionism” or Zionist”. None. But maybe that absence explains why the hate crime of flag burnings by Islamist antisemites isn’t important to the “organized Jewish community” leadership.

They’ll say they’re Zionists, they just don’t advertise it, lest the neighbours get offended.

They aren’t alone with that peculiar approach to antisemitism. CIJA is having their own ‘missing word’ problem. 

The CEO of CIJA is Shimon Koffler Fogel. Under his leadership, radical anti-Israel movements such as Antifa, Black Lives Matter and the Nakba Day protesters have never been mentioned as a threat to Jewish safety in Canada. (Photo: CIJA)

The last annual report CIJA has available on their website is for fiscal year 2018. I’m not going to make a big deal out of the fact that they should have a more recent one online. What I am going to make a big deal out of, is the results of a word search through that report and the website.

While grassroots pro-Israel activists in Canada regularly encounter heated and sometimes vile reactions from intersectional radicals, a search of terms like “left wing”, “Antifa”, and “Black Lives Matter”/ “BLM” on the CIJA website and in their 2018 annual report yielded not a single example. Not one.

There is no mention of the term “Marxist” after 2016, and no mention of radical Islam (or “Neo Nazi”) since 2019.

In Winnipeg in 2020 and 2021, the vast majority of the online and in-person hatred towards Jews and Zionists has come from precisely those elements. And therein lies the evidence that in Winnipeg, there was much more to the cone of silence being imposed on TheJ.ca than the obvious answer of ducking questions about money.

It’s moreso about covering up the failure of the Federation to ensure “the donors’ valuable investments are well spent” with CIJA. Federation and CIJA never identify the dangerous radical enemies driven in Canada by the progressive left – and never confront them. That’s why people here are saying the “organized Jewish community” leadership has been undermining the safety of their fellow Jews. In some cases, they’ve experienced the result of it.

I guess now is a good time to tell everyone, I emailed CIJA on May 16 – the day after the Winnipeg rally – “To review what I had explained [on the phone], and you did not seem to be aware, the video CIJA linked to showed it was actually the organizer of the pro-Israel rally [Ron East] being punched, after intervening with a pro-Hamas activist. As I reported, that person spit on and wiped his feet on Israeli flags that ICC was to distribute to Zionists. Two were stolen and burnt in front of police.”

I asked that CIJA official if they were going to contact Ron East and:

whether there had been any communication between the Winnipeg CIJA [Adam Levy] and head office regarding the Nakba 73 rally, if the organizers and stewards of it are/were known to CIJA, and if a risk assessment was done.

Ron East has never heard from CIJA, and neither have I. He was there, they were not. Who should be advising elected officials and entities such as Irwin Cotler’s National Antisemitism Summit about threats and antisemitism in Winnipeg, do you think? The ICC, or CIJA? 

B’nai Brith is now reporting more than 250 known antisemitic incidents occurred in May. (That includes the Winnipeg rally although they have some details wrong.) Here’s a synopsis of the national reports:

“…individuals displaying Israeli flags were beaten in plain view of police officers. Individuals ended up in the hospital with serious injuries. Property was damaged, stolen and vandalized. Some reported having feared for their lives… Mob rule took over at these events… Flags of terrorist groups… anti-Israel zealots travelling to predominantly Jewish neighborhoods across the country, for the sole purpose of harassing and intimidating the Jewish community as a whole.”

CIJA – who the Jews of Winnipeg and the Israelis of Winnipeg are directed to trust with their safety and security issues – couldn’t be bothered to acknowledge logical questions about basic intelligence gathering and their handling of risk assessment in Winnipeg before pro-Israel Jewish activists were attacked and threatened by a mob. 

Leaders ignoring those kinds of questions from the grassroots because it holds them accountable are also ignoring reality, and it’s going to get a Jew in Canada hurt or killed.

The discord with Jewish leadership in Winnipeg – “the Jerusalem of Canada” 50 years ago – is not an isolated example of people complaining. As a reader noted to us this week:

Name: Jonathan Usher

Message: Excellent article by Marty Gold. We need more like this. 

Unfortunately the Toronto CIJA acts the same way – it barely objects to antisemitism or anti-Israel propaganda and starts from the point of “please be nice to us because we don’t harm people” rather than being proud of our Jewish inheritance.

In addition most rabbis and synagogues say nothing as if only our spiritual lives but not our physical lives are important.

It only took 6 months for the Jews in Hungary in 1944 and the Jews in Iraq in 1949 to be killed or dispersed.

With increasing antisemitism in Canada, that should be a warning to us.

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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