The Jewish Post & News Article: "Manitoba-Israel Shared Values Roundtable Aims to Celebrate Common Bonds"

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Manitoba-Israel Shared Values Roundtable Aims to Celebrate Common Bonds

By Myron Love

November 4, 2009 - During a recent visit with Rami Kleinmann in Toronto a couple of weeks ago, this writer and the Executive Director of the Canadian Friends of the Hebrew University (and former JNF shaliach in Winnipeg) naturally discussed the growing difficulties that Israel faces in terms of public opinion in much of the world.

As Kleinmann sagely pointed out, the most effective response to all the anti-Israel propaganda out there is to show people the real Israel through joint initiatives with government, joint research projects with academia and exchange programs that bring people to Israel. In other words, emphasize the shared values that we, as Canadians, have with Israelis.

Winnipeg Shared ValuesThat is exactly the same philosophy that Christine Melnick espouses. Manitoba’s Minister of Water Stewardship is one of the founders of the two-year-old Manitoba-Israel Shared Values Round Table whose mission is to recognize those values, both in the Province of Manitoba and in the State of Israel, and to celebrate the mutual bonds and common commitment to them.

“As Manitobans,” it is written on the Round Table website “we understand that the people of Israel share many of the same values. We celebrate and hold dear the diversity that makes up our Roundtable.

As do Israelis, we believe that a strong civil society helps to create healthy communities and that education and a democratic system of government provide the best methods to achieve these goals.

Manitobans and Israelis have a strong commitment to family and community, and believe that high literacy rates and public services available to all are important  building blocks that form the foundation of a society which honours and ensures freedom of speech, freedom of opinion and values differences.”

Melnick is a very strong supporter of Israel and the Jewish people, who went to Israel for the first time – on her own – in 1998. “I was working as a librarian in Toronto and living in the (largely Jewish) Lawrence and Bathurst area,” she says. “I had developed a high regard for Jewish people and decided to visit Israel. I was there for ten days and I loved it. Israel and its people are amazing. “

Melnick returned to her native Winnipeg 10 years ago and, shortly after, was elected a school trustee in Riel. She was elected to the Legislature in the spring of 2003, and appointed to Cabinet a few months later. She became involved in helping to organize the Round Table as a private citizen rather than an elected official. “I came to realize that there is so much about Israel that people don’t know,” she says. “Many people only know what they see on television and those are usually scenes of conflict. Many people don’t know how much our two countries have in common.”

Melnick co-founded the Round table with the late Harold Buchwald. Other original members of the Round Table were: Sharon Blady, MLA for Kirkfield Park; Ray Blumenfeld, Peter Dubienski, Ron and Yoram East, David Matas, Carol Miles and Eileen Monkman. Among the participating organizations are B’nai Brith Canada, Canadian Friends of The Hebrew University - Winnipeg Chapter, Canada Sheli, Faith Temple, the Folk Arts Council and India School of Dance, Music and Theatre. The Round Table members and participating organizations reflect Manitoba’s ethnic diversity.

Last year, the hook for the Round Table’s first multi-cultural celebration was a celebration of Israel’s 60th anniversary. This year’s concert – on October 21 – had a threepronged focus – 60 years of diplomatic relations between Canada and Israel, B’nai Brith Canada’s 100th anniversary and Tel Aviv’s 100th anniversary.

“We invited Tel Aviv’s Mayor (Ron Huldai) to join us,” Melnick says. “It was a great honour to have him here and he was the first visitor that Greg Selinger, our new Premier, met on his first day in office.”

Melnick notes that free tickets to the concert were made available through North Point Douglas Public Housing. “We wanted to have as many people in attendance as possible,” she says. “Inclusion is an important part of our mission.” Funds raised from the Multi- Cultural Celebration evening are going toward a playground for peace being built by the Jewish National Fund in a mixed Jewish- Arab neighbourhood in Jaffa. “The playground is intended to be accessible to children of all backgrounds and abilities,” Melnick says.

Melnick is looking forward to returning to Israel in January with JNF representatives and Manitoba scientists for the JNF-inspired second Manitoba-Israel Water Symposium. She is planning on staying in Israel for a few days after the symposium. “I really want to visit Sfat,” she says. “I haven’t been there yet.”

“What Christine Melnick is doing is unique,” says Alan Yusim, director of B’nai Brith’s Winnipeg office. “It’s a pleasure to work with somebody who wants to promote a positive image of Israel. Speaking for B’nai Brith, it was an honour to be recognized by the Manitoba-Israel Shared Values Round Table.”
 

Manitoba-Israel Shared Values rings in Tel Aviv’s 100th in style

By Rebeca Kuropatwa

“Tel Aviv’s centennial is a real reason to celebrate – something we couldn’t have achieved without the help of the entire Jewish nation,” said the Mayor of Tel Aviv, Ron Huldai.

On Oct. 20 at 7 p.m., over 220 people came out to the Indo Canadian Arts & Cultural Centre, 479 St. Mary’s Road to celebrate Tel Aviv’s 100th anniversary with Tel Aviv’s mayor, Ron Huldai, President Jewish National Fund Prairie Region, Mel Lazareck, Tel Aviv singer, Hila Eytan, and Minister of Water Stewardship, Christine Melnick. Melnick told Oct. 20 attendees that, earlier that day, on his first full day as the new Premier of Manitoba, Premier Greg Selinger met with Huldai. She said, “I want to assure you that under Selinger’s leadership, our partnership and friendship will only grow.”

Winnipeg Round Table - SingerEytan sang a broad selection of Hebrew and Yiddish music, with many audience members getting up to dance and sing along. Some of the songs included Adon Olam, Yom Yom Chag, Ani Noladti LiShalom, Ani Ma’amin, Loh Nafsik LaShir, A Bisilah Mazal, and Toombalala.

Also that evening, local dancers from the India School of Dance, Music, and Theatre performed traditional Indian dances. Mayor Huldai announced the Playground for Peace to be built in Jaffa/Tel Aviv. It is a partnership project between the Manitoba-Israel Shared Values Roundtable (MISVR), the Jewish National Fund (JNF), and the Tel Aviv Foundation.

“The hope of the round table is peace in the Middle East, and we’re starting on the playground,” said Melnick. “Let’s leave labels off the playground, and just let kids play and be kids. We share a dream of celebrating our differences while we live together in peace – for children and everyone.”

The Playground for Peace will be a fully accessible, environmentally friendly and educational natural playground where Muslim, Jewish, and Christian children, living in low income neighbourhoods of Jaffa/Tel Aviv, Israel, can play side-by-side, in a peaceful, communitypromoting, environmentally-friendly atmosphere. It will cost somewhere in the $200,000-plus range to build.

On Oct. 21, the MISVR put on a second evening event, held at 7 p.m. at Pantages Playhouse, featuring a variety of different kinds musical performances (including Aboriginal, Chinese, Israeli, Jamaican, Ukrainian, Brazilian, and Italian), with about 600 attendees. Performers included the Wushu Manitoba Training Centre, Walking Wolf Singer and Dancers, Rozami Ukrainian Dance Company, Hila Eytan, Rockalypso, Cella Lao, Viva Capoeira, and the Sara Sommer Chai Folk Ensemble.

The 2nd Annual MISVR Multi-Cultural Celebration Concert honoured Tel Aviv’s 100th anniversary and 60 years of diplomatic relations between Israel and Canada.

MayorMayor Huldai said “representing the first Hebrew city of the independent state, Israel makes me proud.

Huldai shared some wise words of advice his father gave him on the day of his bar mitzvah. “He told me, ‘Always remember to stand up to be seen, speak up to be heard, and shut up to be appreciated’.”

A man who Huldai described as Israelis’ “ultimate dreamer,” Theodore Herzl, once said “all men’s action originated in dreams.”

Huldai said “By Herzl’s vision, the State of the Jewish people is alive and well. And, like Herzl, Tel Aviv founders dared to dream. Today, it’s an international city of culture – free, tolerant, and multicultural.”

Performance introductions were given by Marilyn Brick, St. Norbert MLA; Marra Messinger, Executive Director of the Tel Aviv Foundation; Sharon Blady, Kirkfield Park MLA; Rachel Manelson, Director Europe, UK, and Canada of the Tel Aviv Foundation; Earl Barish, Chairman of the Executive Board of B’nai Brith Canada; Alan Yusim; Chris Melnick, Minister of Water Stewardship; Mel Lazareck; Pamela Rebello, Executive Director India School of Dance, Music, and Theatre; and Jonathan Kroft, President, Jewish Federation of Winnipeg.

To donate to the Playground for Peace, contact the JNF.

Winnipeg - Performers
 

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