TORONTO — Go west, young man. That’s what the Canadian Friends of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (CFHU) did by appointing Murray Palay as the new national chairman of the board a few weeks ago.
Palay, who lives and works in Winnipeg, is the first national chairman of the board to come from west of Ontario in the CFHU’s 69-year history.
“I didn’t think about [being the first one as much originally], but I’m getting congratulations from both sides of the country, from our Montreal and Vancouver chapters and everywhere in between,” Palay said.
“I think it’s a nice acknowledgement for the organization that it is not centred in the East, or even the West, and that it’s a national organization.”
The CFHU facilitates academic and research partnerships between Canada and Israel, and establishes scholarships as well as student exchanges. There are chapters around the world committed to the university in Jerusalem, which was founded in 1918.
Palay has been with CFHU for 30 years and takes over the top position from the outgoing Nathan Lindenberg.
“For me, the process [of being nominated] was one of just having been involved for a very long time with the organization,” Palay said. “I’ve been involved in some capacity, from local levels in Winnipeg to national and international levels for 30 years now.”
Palay feels that being west of the Canada’s largest Jewish bases could provide a new opportunity for the CFHU’s potential growth.
“Hopefully, having the current chair outside of Montreal or Toronto is a good representation nationally on where the organization is headed,” Palay said.
“We have a strong base in the west, but I guess the opportunity had never risen for a candidate to be appointed.”
CFHU, which has its main offices in Toronto, is also represented by chapters in Montreal, Ottawa, Winnipeg, Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver.
Before Palay’s appointment, every national chair had come from Toronto or Montreal with the exception of Stephen Victor, who is from Ottawa.
Palay, who works by day as the managing director and portfolio manager at Quadrant Asset Management in Winnipeg, will try to get the chapters to work with one another more on Canada-wide projects.
“My goal is really to try and deliver a more national approach on some of our fundraising and other initiatives,” Palay said.
“Each chapter has been very successful individually in the past, but we’re going to try to bring the organization to a national type of level by more communication and [by] building on the strengths of our past chairs.”
He will have their help, as the past chairs remain very involved.
“We’re a very cohesive group in terms of that, so I’m looking to build on what our last chair has done,” said Palay, noting Lindenberg’s work with governance issues as a key factor in the previous chair’s successful run.
Palay is excited to take on a bigger role in something he cares about deeply.
“As I said in Jerusalem [last month] when my term started, if someone spends 30 years in an organization, what does that stand for?” Palay said. “It’s been a passion.
“For those of us that have been there, it’s a great institution.”
Palay is eager to play a part in Hebrew University’s continued development, as his involvement with the school helps him stay close to Israel.
“It’s always been a passionate, great and meaningful connection for me to Israel,” Palay said. “I’ve lived with the university and seen it over the last 30 years and what it’s done.
“The national chair is a culmination of being around for 30 years and seeing the university itself continue to grow and become one of the top 100 universities in the world.”