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Shelley FaintuchBy MYRON LOVE
On Wednesday, November 29, over 120 people friends, colleagues and others that Shelley Faintuch has worked with over the years attended a farewell reception in the foyer of the Berney Theatre for the soon-to-be former Community Relations Director who is leaving her post on December 15.

Current Federation CEO Elaine Goldstine, outgoing Federation President Adam Levene and Jolel Lazer sang her praises.
“The room was elegantly decorated and beautifully set up,” Faintuch reports. “Instead of a guest book, guests signed two magnum bottles of bubbly. That was a nice touch.”
(Also, in the Legislature, Heather Stefanson, Manitoba’s Justice Minister and Attorney General, acknowledged Faintuch’s contributions to community building over the years.)
After almost 20 years as the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg’s ambassador to the community-at-large, Shelley Faintuch is looking forward to the next stage of her life with a mixture of excitement and nervousness.

“I am nervous about not having a new job to go to,” she says. “That is a first for me. On the other hand, I am excited about the many possibilities out there. I already have projects lined up in the new year.”
She recalls feeling that same mix of anxiety and excitement when she originally signed on to fill the (in her words) “huge shoes” of her predecessor, Evelyn Hecht. “I initially came in a couple of days a week to learn from Evelyn what the position involved and about the Federation,” Faintuch says.
“Evelyn had a wealth of knowledge. She is a mensch. She established all of the ethnocultural programs we have here. She excelled at bringing people from different communities and faiths together.
“Evelyn and I remain close friends.”
She also credits long time friend Bernie Bellan (yes, this paper’s Bernie Bellan) with teaching her a lot about the community.

Faintuch adds that she was also able to learn a lot from Bob Freedman, who was the Federation’s CEO  throughout most of her time as community relations director. “Bob was well-versed in national and international affairs,” she says. “Israel advocacy was brand new to me.”
In Shelley Faintuch, the Federation – and our community – found an individual who was well-suited to the role. She has always been driven to excel in whatever task she has taken on.
One of the founding members of the Sarah Somer Chai dancers, she was a straight A student who won the Gold Medal in Honours French at the University of Winnipeg (1975).

After university, she worked for three years for the provincial government in the Department of College and University Affairs (now known as the Department of Education), then pursued further study in French at Laval University in Quebec City.
“I loved Quebec City,” She says. “I lived there for ten years, first as a student, then as a teacher in the Modern Languages Department. I taught in French and English. I adored teaching. I had wonderful colleagues. I loved Quebec City’s culture and the restaurants. I loved talking to the people. The Quebecois were friendly, open and welcoming.”

What eventually soured Shelley Faintuch on life in Quebec was a growing tide of anti-Semitism in the form of anti-Israel bias.
From Quebec City, she made a brief stop in Toronto, gave birth to her son, Zev, in Vancouver and, in the early 1990s, returned to Winnipeg. Back in Winnipeg, she initially did some contract work – doing some translating into French and teaching French to Canadian soldiers as well as some private students.
It was long-time friend Faye Rosenberg-Cohen,  the Federation’s planning director, who recruited Faintuch for the position of community relations director.
“It was a whole new experience for me,” she says. “I got to know and work with some extraordinary people. I got to interact with so many organizations. I made presentations to government.”

One special moment for Faintuch was a presentation she made – with the assistance of Abby Morris – before the Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Anti-Semitism in Ottawa. “Abby and I worked on that paper for a long time,” she recalls. “When I came to present the paper, I noticed that most of the people in the room were Francophone. So I presented in French, much to the surprise of most of the people there.”
During her time with the Federation, she initiated many new programs, many of them to do with Holocaust remembrance. “It was an honour for me, both professionally and personally, to be able to work with Holocaust survivors,” she says.
Faintuch has also been to Israel many times. In particular, she has helped organized and accompanied missions from Norway House Cree Nation and developed a close relationship with Chief Ron Evans and mission organizer Robin Dowsett.
“I have been invited to Norway House numerous times and even brought Israeli government representatives with me on some of my visits,” she notes. “Norway House is a wonderful community.”
In addition to her work with the Jewish Federation, Faintuch was also – until recently – the associate director for the national Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs.
One of her most exciting moments, she says, was being presented with the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal.
She considers that her greatest accomplishment though has been being the mother to her son, Zev. “He is my everything,” she says.