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Laurel MalkinBy MYRON LOVE Laurel Malkin, who was elevated to the position of president of the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg at the Federation’s AGM on December 7, is wasting no time introducing herself to the community.

Although born and raised in Winnipeg, Malkin had been away for 23 years – only returning six years ago.
“Faye (Rosenberg-Cohen – the Federation’s Community Planning and Allocations Director) has scheduled a lot of board meetings for me with our beneficiary agencies,” Malkin says. “I want them to know that we are all on the same side, that we (the Federation) want to help them (the beneficiary agencies) to succeed.”
Malkin also wants to have different social events with people of different ages to introduce herself and help people in the community to get to know each other.
She has already attended several focus groups for new immigrants. “We want to find out what more we can do to help new families to better integrate into our community,” she says. “At these groups, I have met families from all over who are so grateful to be here and want to give back to the community.
“I took my husband, David, to one of the meetings and he was amazed at how positive everyone sounded.”
Malkin also spoke of the importance of continuing Holocaust education, Israel advocacy and fighting anti-Semitism.
“I want to get to know the major donors in our community, too,” she notes. “I was away for so long that there are a lot of groups that I am not familiar with.”
While Malkin left here in 1988, initially she didn’t go far. And, in Russell, Manitoba, a community of about 1,600, 340 km northwest of Winnipeg, anti-Semitism was not a problem for Malkin and her family. On the contrary, the people of Russell, she reports, were very supportive and considerate of the Folk-Malkin family in their midst who kept kosher.
She recalls that friends in town would bring back kosher meat from Winnipeg for Malkin and family when the friends had opportunity to visit the city. “At the local restaurant, they made sure to always have all-beef kosher hot dogs for our kids,” she recalls.
So how does a Jewish girl who was born and raised in Winnipeg end up in Russell, Manitoba? Well, in 1987, Malkin, who was then a young teacher at Maples Collegiate, met her future husband, Dr. David Folk, through her synagogue (the Adas Yeshurun-Herzlia).
Originally from Zambia (Malkin notes that her husband was the last Jewish boy to be bar-mitzvahed in that southern African country), Folk trained in medicine in South Africa. When Laurel and David met, he was working as a doctor in Gillam, in northern Manitoba. In Russell, he was one of two doctors.
“We were in Russell for ten years,” Malkin says. “We made some good friends there. In Russell, I taught a couple of courses for Assiniboine Community College. We left just after our kids (Alli and Josh) started school.”
The family’s next stop was in South Bend, Indiana, the home of the famed Notre Dame University. David had a practice in a community near South Bend while Laurel taught and became actively involved in the community as a volunteer.
“South Bend was a fabulous place to raise a family,” Malkin says. “The Jewish community numbers about 2000; there are a surprising number of Jewish professors at the Catholic Notre Dame University.
“The community has three synagogues – Orthodox, Conservative and Reform. At the egalitarian Conservative synagogue, I learned to read Torah. I was president of the sisterhood and served on different Jewish Federation committees.”
Malkin says that the plan was always to return to Winnipeg one day. That day came in 2011. The kids had left home (They stayed in the United States.) and Malkin wanted to be closer to her widowed mother.
Folk found a position as a fly-in doctor serving Aboriginal communities in northern Manitoba and northwestern Ontario.
Once back in Winnipeg, Malkin easily resumed her previous relationship with the Adas Yeshurun-Herzlia (Her late father, Dr. Charles Malkin, was among the synagogue’s founders.) and threw herself into volunteer work.
“I never expected to become president of the Federation,” she says. “A friend persuaded me to become involved with the Women’s Philanthropy campaign. I chaired the Lion of Judah Division for two years.”
After chairing Lion of Judah, that position led to a role as the Next Generation Chair on the Federation executive and, two years ago, she was asked to serve as vice-president of the Federation. She also served on the Allocations Committee for the past three years.
“I feel humbled and honoured to have been asked to serve as president,” she says. “I am also thrilled to be back in Winnipeg and to have the opportunity to give back to my community.”