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Dalia Szpiro - Jewish Federation GrowWinnipeg Director

By BERNIE BELLAN
Recently we received an interesting email from Dalia Szpiro, who is the GrowWinnipeg Director for the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg.

(According to the Federation’s website, “GrowWinnipeg is the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg initiative to develop and implement strategies for the growth and renewal of our Jewish community.”)
In her email Dalia wrote that “We received an email from the Jewish Community in South Africa.
“They are looking at the Winnipeg Jewish Community as a unique model of attracting and retaining new families and they are planning on implementing a model like ours. I am going to share with them our experience and knowledge to help them.”
Attached to the email Dalia also forwarded an article that had been published in something called the SA Jewish Report, which is a weekly publication of the South African Jewish community.

According to information available online, as of 2012 the Jewish population of South Africa was around 70,000; however, in the 1970s it has been as high as 120,000. South Africa has seen a steady emigration of its Jewish population since that time – averaging 1800 a year according to a report in The Jerusalem Post.

Dan Brotman - author of an article in SA Jewish Report suggesting S. Africa's Jewish community ought to look to Winnipeg as a model

The article that Dalia forwarded me was titled “SA Jewish community at risk of losing young, skilled immigrants”. It dealt mostly with proposals to amend South Africa’s rules for allowing immigrants into the county. According to the article, new rules that are currently being proposed there there will make it increasingly difficult for new immigrants to move to South Africa.
As a result of the new rules being proposed by the South African government, along with the steady emigration of South African Jews, the South African Jewish community is in danger of seeing its numbers reduced even more than has already been the case.

In response, the author of the article, a 31-year old American-Israeli by the name of Dan Brotman, who is based in Johannesburg, makes some proposals how to stem the tide of decreasing Jewish population in that county.
Of particular interest to readers of this paper though would be Brotman’s suggestion that South Africa look to Winnipeg as a model how to bring in new Jewish immigrants. Here, in part, is what he writes: “The Jewish Federation of Winnipeg has lost many members to larger Canadian cities. Because of this, it launched a programme inviting eligible prospective Jewish immigrants, aged 21 to 45, on a seven-to-10-day visit to explore employment, housing, schools and Jewish life.
“During one’s visit, the federation facilitates an interview with a Programme Officer for the Manitoba Nominee Programme. Successful interviewees then receive a letter of support from the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg, which significantly bolsters their chance of being admitted to Canada.
“The programme has grown Winnipeg’s Jewish community by the thousands and has been particularly popular with Russian speaking Israelis and South Americans.”
Brotman goes on to suggest, among various suggestions, that South Africa’s Jewish community ought to consider the “introduction of a community-based Nominee Programme, in partnership with the department of home affairs and the department of trade and industry.
“For the Jewish community specifically, this could entail the SAJBD (South African Jewish Board of Deputies) identifying prospective Jewish immigrants with skills or investments that would benefit the South African economy.
“Similar to the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg, it could invite and host selective prospective immigrants on exploratory visits.
“It could then provide special letters of support to eligible candidates in order to fast-track their immigration process.”
Brotman concluded his article by saying that his proposals could “Attract and retain skilled Jewish immigrants who are willing to take the place of those we have lost due to emigration.”

After I had finished reading the article Dalia forwarded me I emailed the SA Jewish Report (not addressed to anyone in particular). I explained who I was and wondered whether, after reading the article describing the difficult situation in which the South African Jewish community finds itself, Winnipeg’s Jewish Federation might not want to target South Africa for new immigrants. (I know that would be the exact opposite of what the leaders of South Africa’s Jewish community might like, but hey – let’s be honest about this: If South Africa is continuing to see an outflow of its Jewish population, why shouldn’t the Jewish Federation here try to make South African Jews more aware of the opportunities that await them in Winnipeg?)

As one might expect though, the response I received (from the editor of the SA Jewish Report, whose name is Peta Krost Munder), was not exactly effusive in its praise of my rather vexatious email. Peta wrote: “I appreciate your letter and am not sure if you want me to respond or if you would like me to publish it in the newspaper. If you want my response, I don’t really have one. I do understand that people migrate for whatever their reasons. And if Winnipeg is their chosen destination, rather than staying here, I totally understand. For me, I am quite happy living in South Africa.”

Now, since I doubt that most anything I ever recommend in this paper receives serious consideration by anyone who is in a position to act on my recommendations, I’m sure that the Jewish Federation is not going to start targeting South African Jews as potential immigrants to this community.
On the other hand, the Federation has always taken the position that it has never targeted Israelis for immigration either. It just so happens that it’s been largely Israelis who have taken advantage of the assistance the Federation has been willing to dole out to potential immigrants from that country. As a result we now have a rather large Winnipeg-Israel network, especially on Facebook, made up of former Israelis and Israelis who would like to move here, that helps to attract more and more Israelis here.
It wouldn’t be all that difficult to create a similar Facebook group that could help to lure more South African Jews here. As for taking advantage of the predicament in which South Africa’s Jewish population finds itself – let’s be honest: If talented and skilled South Africans are looking for a new home, why not advertise Winnipeg as a potential landing spot? The South African Jews who have moved here in the past have made integral contributions to our community, besides which I love to hear South Africans speak English; their accents are beautiful to hear.

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