Four outstanding women who excel in their professional fields, in addition to displaying a strong commitment to humanitarian causes, will be honoured next week at the Israel Cancer Research Fund’s (ICRF) annual Women of Action luncheon.
“We are delighted to once again honour four women who have made significant contributions to our community, each in her own way. Funds raised at ICRF's annual Women of Action luncheon are used to help support top level cancer researchers working at institutions throughout Israel,” said Bryna Goldberg, president of ICRF’s Toronto chapter.
The May 6 event at the Fairmont Royal York in Toronto, now in its 13th year, has raised more than $3.4 million, which has been allocated to 49 Israeli scientists working on research in areas including pediatric bone cancer, colorectal cancer, and tumour-growth inhibition.
Judy Winberg, who will receive the Vicki Campbell “VAST” Community Award, said she feels overwhelmed and humbled by the honour.
“I never think that what I’m doing is for the recognition. I don’t like the spotlight, but I’ve been led to believe that by accepting the honour I serve as a role model for others,” she said.
Winberg, an educational consultant who founded Options in Education, an organization that offers education and relocation consultation, has served a number of organizations including Jewish Family and Child, Toronto Hadassah WIZO, Mount Sinai Hospital, Princess Margaret Hospital, UJA Federation of Greater Toronto, the Joshua Institute for Jewish Leadership and Holy Blossom Temple.
“Judy is an outstanding member of our community. She is dedicated, very thoughtful, she’s very serious in her approach to her community work and she is the kind of volunteer anyone would be happy to have working with them on an important cause,” said event co-chair Debra Campbell, sister-in-law of Vicki Campbell, for whom the VAST award is named.
Winberg, who was introduced to ICRF when she served on the committee for the 2009 Women of Action event, when her friend Vicki Campbell was honoured, said she has great respect for the work ICRF does.
“I’ve been involved with a number of other cancer-related organizations. My own mother and her two siblings succumbed to cancer, and Vicki as well, so I have a very close relationship, I’m afraid, with cancer, and thank God, not from my own experience,” she said, adding that her mother died in 2001 after battling cancer for several years.
“I’m also a committed Zionist, and I have done many things to support Israel over the years… The idea of supporting scientists who are working there is also very important to me.”
In addition to Winberg, Dr. Eva Grunfeld, the scientific honoree, will also be recognized for her research, which focuses on the access to and quality of cancer care across the cancer continuum, from screening to end-of-life care. Grunfeld is a physician scientist with the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research’s Health Services Research Program.
Lisa Ray, the inspirational story honoree, is an internationally acclaimed film actress who starred in the Oscar-nominated film Water, as well as a TV host and model.
In 2009, Ray used the red carpet at the Toronto International Film Festival as a stage to speak out about being diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a rare blood cancer.
Her blog, called the Yellow Diaries, chronicled her experience and led Harper Collins to publish her autobiography, and she continues to raise funds and awareness for multiple myeloma research.
Receiving the Carole Tanenbaum WOA Business Award will be Jenny Witterick, president of Sky Investment Counsel, one of the largest managers of international equities in Canada, which she founded in 2004.
In 2013, her debut novel, My Mother’s Secret became a bestseller in Canada and was selected as a finalist for the U.S. Jewish Book Awards in 2013. When Witterick received an advance on her novel, she donated the entire amount to various charities.
Debra Campbell, who is co-chairing the event for the second time, said she expects guests to feel inspired by the women being honoured, all of whom will address the gathering.
“It’ll be very inspiring and it’s usually quite emotional when we hear about the accomplishments of all the honorees and they’ll learn about the important work being done by ICRF-funded scientists in Israel.”