WINNIPEG — Although Jonathan Kroft, the new president of the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg, is a lawyer by vocation, his avocation, he says, has always been community work.
In fact, he is from a family steeped in community work and volunteerism. His father, Justice Guy Kroft, was president of the community in the early 1980s. His mother, Hester, has a long history of community work. And he; his brother, David; and his sisters, Debbie Hoffman and Sarah Morry, have all been recipients of young leadership awards presented annually by the Jewish community.
Jonathan Kroft first began his volunteer activities with federation (which was then known as the Winnipeg Jewish Community Council) in the mid-1980s, shortly after he was called to the bar.
He earned his law degree at the University of Manitoba and followed up with a master’s degree in law from Harvard in 1990.
“I started [my community involvement] as a canvasser and as a member of the community relations committee,” he recalls.
Over the years, Kroft has also been active with the Canadian Jewish Congress, the Canada-Israel Committee and the Winnipeg Jewish community’s Jewish Child and Family Services, as well as working with numerous legal and general community organizations.
Kroft notes that while he was a member of the Jewish federation executive for many years, he had previously declined the presidency because he wanted to have more time to spend with his young family. He and his wife, Cara, have two children – Emily, 10, and Daniel, who celebrated his bar mitzvah last spring.
“Two years ago, I finally made the commitment [to the community],” he says.
A couple of months ago, before assuming the role of president, Kroft determined what he felt the role of the federation is in the community. “I see the purpose of the federation as identifying, co-ordinating and supporting programs and services that make Winnipeg a good place to lead a full Jewish life at a high level now and in the future,” he says.
“There are tough questions we have to answer, such as what constitutes leading a Jewish life today. Are we maintaining the infrastructure we need? Are we using our limited resources in the most effective manner? And where will we find the resources we will need in future to support existing programs and institutions and new programs and institutions that may arise?”
Kroft has praise for his predecessor as president, Ted Lyons; Jewish federation executive director, Bob Freedman; and his staff and community volunteers for their success in bringing new members to the community, which now numbers about 17,000 as compared to about 14,500 six years ago.
“I am proud of the community-wide effort to integrate the newer members of our community,” he says, “although there is still much work to be done.
“Our goal as a federation is to make sure that Winnipeg remains a great place to live a Jewish life.”