Winnipeg deals with fallout (and benefits) of JTA story

Uriel Heilman

In March, I wrote a story about Winnipeg Jewry’s effort to boost its community by recruiting Jews from overseas.

Contrary to expectations, the program, called GrowWinnipeg, ended up attracting mostly Russian-Israelis: Eighty percent of 4,400 or so newcomers over the program’s 15 years have come from Israel. And unlike the Jewish newcomers from South America who were the focus of the program’s initial recruitment drive in 2001, the Russian-Israeli immigrants have not been all that engaged in local Jewish institutional life.


The story caused quite a storm in the Canadian plains, with community members questioning the federation’s recruitment strategy and spending, federation officials forced to defend and reevaluate the program, and some immigrants and community members slamming the JTA story as unfair.

This week, the Canadian Jewish News published a lengthy follow-up on the Jewish communal response to the JTA story. In it was at least one nugget of good news for the program, according to federation president Bob Freedman:

As a result of the widespread attention the story has received internationally, Freedman said the federation office and website are being “bombarded” with calls and emails from Jews throughout North America and Europe who are suddenly considering Winnipeg as a potential new home.

Uriel Heilman is JTA’s managing editor, responsible for coordinating JTA’s editorial team. He re-joined JTA in 2007 after a stint doing independent reporting in Israel and the Arab world. Before that, he served as New York bureau chief of the Jerusalem Post. An award-winning journalist, he has worked as a reporter for a variety of publications in the United States and in Israel.