Shai Josepov and Sigal Kleynerman represent the new faces of the Canadian Friends of the Hebrew University in Winnipeg, both literally and figuratively.
The new community ambassadors’ arrival in the community in early September marked a clear departure from the centralized way CFHU and other fundraising organizations have operated in the past, with permanent staff in a central office.
“The Jewish philanthropic landscape is undergoing tremendous change,” Rami Kleinmann, executive director of CFHU, said in a phone interview from his home base in Toronto earlier this year.
“With the tremendous advances in technology, we have been reconsidering for some time if we really need to have offices across the country staffed with filing systems and clerical support. Almost everything is done on computer now. All you really need now is a desk, a phone and a computer.”
The determination to close the Winnipeg office last spring and go in another direction was precipitated by former Winnipeg executive director Sharon Zalik’s decision to move on. She remains with the CFHU as a consultant.
“We felt that the best ambassadors for the Hebrew University would be recent Hebrew University graduates on short-term contracts [of three years] and working out of their home,” Kleinmann said.
Josepov and Kleynerman graduated from Hebrew U with MAs in conflict management resolution and non-profit and community organization management, respectively. They are also newlyweds, having married on June 17.
They are both originally from northern Israel – Kleynerman from Karmiel and Josepov from Ma’alot. They met at Hebrew U when they were both working at its Rothberg International School.
“We saw an ad at the Hebrew University for a posting in Canada and decided to apply,” Kleynerman said.
“We also had an opportunity with another Jewish organization to go to Washington, D.C., but felt that Winnipeg would be more suited to the pace of life we grew up with.”
“The basic idea here is for us to promote the Hebrew University and what it offers, working with our own board as well as working in co-operation with other organizations,” Josepov said.
“We didn’t come here with the idea of throwing out different programs and seeing what works. The first thing we are doing is introducing ourselves and getting to know the community,” he said.
“We have already met with leaders of the Jewish Federation, the Rady JCC, the Gray Academy of Jewish Education and the rabbis and executive directors of the synagogues. We visited a number of synagogues over the High Holidays and met people there.”
“We are passionate about the Hebrew University and we want to share our passion with both younger and older Winnipeggers,” he added.
Kleinmann, who also served in Winnipeg for a number of years with a different Israel-based organization before assuming the helm of CFHU in 2007, noted that Hebrew U is Israel’s top-ranked, oldest and largest university and is ranked among the top 100 universities worldwide.