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By BERNIE BELLAN
Departing from its past custom of holding “Book of Life” signing events in the fall, the Jewish Foundation of Manitoba held this year’s event Sunday evening, June 14.

Readers may recall that 2014 marked the 50th anniversary of the Jewish Foundation’s founding. There had been a major gala event to mark that occasion in the spring of 2014 and, as a result, the decision was taken not to hold another event that same year. Thus there was no Book of Life ceremony in 2014.
Further, instead of holding the event in one of Winnipeg’s two main synagogues - which had also been the custom, this year’s event was held in the Rady JCC gymnasium, with the reception following in the courtyard of the Asper Campus. (The courtyard was covered with canopies, which proved to be quite useful as it did rain at times during the event.) The food was catered by Shmoozer’s Restaurant.
Prior to the actual Book of Life signing ceremony, Jewish Foundation President Joe Wilder gave a reflective speech in which he looked back on the tremendous growth that the Foundation has enjoyed the past few years. Wilder noted that “When I joined the Board in 2001 the Foundation’s asset totalled $44,000 and it was paying out approximately $2,000,000 per year to its beneficiaries.
“We now have a Foundation, as a result of the efforts of so many dedicated volunteers, staff and donors, worth $100,000,000, and it is about to pay out some $4 million per year.”
Wilder went on to discuss what he said were the three primary functions of the Foundation:
1. To raise funds
2. To husband the capital zealously
3. To distribute the resulting income wisely

Continuing in his tone of self assessment, Wilder said: “We have reason to be proud of the uses to which we have put our funds. Examine the grants the Board of Directors is called upon to approve each year. One can’t help but be struck by the breadth and diversity of our efforts - from individual scholarships to camps to schools to those who are disadvantaged - there is hardly an area of Jewish life in Winnipeg in which we do not play a vital part.”

While Wilder also noted the many contributions that the Foundation has made to the larger community of Winnipeg - not just the Jewish community, he did admit that “I have a sense from time to time that we need to remind ourselves that this is the Jewish Foundation of Manitoba.”

In closing, Wilder cited  the contributions of two individuals in particular: Foundation Executive Director Marsha Cowan, for “her leadership and support - she has put together an organization that is second to none”; and Ian Barnes, Director of Finance of the Foundation who, Wilder said “is the financial backbone of the organization and without whose leadership we could not have arrived at the place we are today.” (Ian Barnes was also one of the signers of the Book of Life later in the evening.)

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