WINNIPEG — Music producer Karla Berbrayer is the incoming president of the Jewish National Fund, Manitoba/Saskatchewan region.
Since Rob Berkowits became the group’s executive director about a year ago, “he has been bringing more younger people into our board,” Berbrayer said.
“While we respect the advice and guidance of our senior members, we need to have younger people on board. I am a link between the younger and older members of the board.”
Berbrayer is replacing Mel Lazareck, who has been Jewish National Fund (JNF) president here for the past six years. “I am honoured to be following in the footsteps of Mel Lazareck,” Berbrayer said.
“And I am looking forward to working with the strong staff in the JNF office and building on the success of what has been done over the past few years in Winnipeg.”
Lazareck, who is Manitoba’s special representative to Israel, advising on economic and community projects in Israel, had wanted to step down earlier, but there was no one to replace him.
Now, with Berbrayer as president, Lazareck said he plans to remain on the JNF board and continue to work to strengthen the bond between Manitoba, Canada and Israel.
Berkowits has created a transition mechanism for the JNF board, as well as a handbook outlining the duties and responsibilities of board members. Thus, Berbrayer will serve a two-year term and will be succeeded by Jessica Cogan, her vice-president – a new board position.
Berbrayer is best known in Winnipeg’s Jewish community as one of the founding producers of the popular Rady Jewish Community Centre’s Music ’N’ Mavens series, now in its 14th season, and the Rady JCC’s Israeli Concert Series, in its 10th season. For the past three years, she has also been the producer of Rady JCC’s Tarbut: Festival of Jewish Culture. As an independent producer and sourcer of largely Israeli musical talent, she has developed an international reputation and worked with a variety of other non-profit and arts and entertainment groups.
In addition to serving on several boards and committees, including Jewish Federation of Winnipeg, Shalom Residences and Herzlia Synagogue, Berbrayer was vice-president of the board of Community Respite Services of Manitoba and is a volunteer with Manitoba Riding for the Disabled.
She also books musical performers for the JNF’s annual Negev Gala, she has been a JNF board member since 2009, and produced and co-chaired the 2012 Negev Gala, which honoured philanthropists Bonnie and John Buhler.
“There have been a number of positive changes at the JNF here since I became a board member,” Berbrayer says. “There are a lot of new ideas happening, and we are going in new directions.
“We do more than plant trees. We have to continue to make people more aware of the JNF’s other projects and initiatives.”
Cogan, who is originally from Edmonton, has served on JNF’s Manitoba/Saskatchewan region board since 2009. In 2012, she co-chaired, with Berbrayer, the Negev Gala.
A lawyer, Cogan participated in the March of the Living; she has been a member of the executive of Hillel – Jewish Student’s Association at the University of Alberta and a member of the boards of the Jewish Federation of Edmonton, Aleph-Bet (a Winnipeg Jewish daycare) and the Winnipeg Beach Day Camp.
In 2009, Cogan participated in the JNF’s Ambassador Program. She was one of 12 people from across Canada who toured Israel and were tasked with the mission of educating their specific communities about the projects that JNF support in Israel.