WINNIPEG — For David Kroft, the new president of the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg, community service runs in the family.
In fact, Kroft is the third member of his family to serve as leader of the community. His father, Manitoba Court of Appeals Justice Guy Kroft, was a president of both the Winnipeg Jewish Community Council (a forerunner of the federation) and the Jewish Foundation of Manitoba, and his older brother, Jonathan, served a two-year term as president of the federation in 2008 and 2009.
“I come from a family where we were taught the importance of community,” Kroft told The CJN. “I hope to be able to bring my own touch, vision and style to my new role as federation president.”
A lawyer with the firm Fillmore Riley – he was called to the bar in 1990 – he has served on the federation board for more than 20 years. He was elected to a standard two-year term as president.
The federation’s first major order of business under Kroft’s leadership will be finding a replacement for Bob Freedman, its retiring executive director who has been in the position for more than 25 years. He has announced his intention to retire by the end of August.
“The search process for a successor is ongoing,” Kroft said. “A new executive director after all this time is a significant change. He or she will create a new dynamic.”
Kroft spoke about building on what his predecessors have left him.
“We are so lucky that our community is growing and our CJA campaign continues to grow year after year,” he said. “Our greatest growth among donors is in the 30-to-45 demographic. That has been a result of our community planning and outreach efforts.”
He also spoke of the federation’s ongoing effort to reach out to people who may be flying under the radar and find ways to attract them to affiliate with the community. He also spoke of the need to make participation in the Jewish community more affordable.
Kroft noted that over the past few years, the federation has been tackling the issue of a general decrease in synagogue attendance.
“We have to figure out what role we should be playing in trying to increase synagogue attendance,” he said. “The health of our synagogues is important to the overall health of our community.”
He also spoke of his desire to encourage a sense of teamwork among the federation’s beneficiary agencies.
“We are all part of the whole,” he said.
In addition to his service to the Winnipeg Jewish community over the years, Kroft has been a longtime board member of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs and its predecessor agency, the Canada-Israel Committee.
He noted that he has been to Israel several times and was scheduled to go last winter for a CIJA board meeting, but he “got stuck in Toronto by a snowstorm.”
This year, he’s slated to be among 10 members of Winnipeg’s Jewish community who will accompany Prime Minister Stephen Harper on his upcoming trip to Israel Jan. 18 to 23.
Kroft and his wife, Ellen, are the parents of three school-age children. Outside of work and volunteer activities, Kroft keeps busy driving his children to various programs. He also tries to run three or four times a week, an activity he describes as a good stress reliever.