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Jewish charities scramble to find new golf venues

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Lebovic Golf Club in Aurora, Ont.

Some 25 Jewish organizations that were slated to hold their golf tournaments at the Lebovic Golf Club in Aurora, Ont.,  have learned the three-year-old club’s kosher caterer was no longer operating at the club and that kosher food would not be available on the premises.

That last minute announcement left many Jewish charities scrambling to salvage an important date on their fund raising calendars. At least one, a day school which asked not to be named, cancelled its tournament outright.

Details on what precisely happened are hard to come by. Several contacts in the Jewish community declined to go on the record while repeated calls and emails to the Lebovic Golf Club resulted only in an email response in which The CJN was sent a copy of a letter from the Kashruth Council of Canada, (COR), addressed to Wolf Lebovic, who operates the course that bears his family’s name.

The same letter was sent to the Jewish charities that had been scheduled to hold their tournaments at the Lebovic Golf Club.

The letter, signed by Rabbi Tzvi Heber, director of community kosher, and Richard Rabkin, managing director of COR, apologizes to Lebovic “for not attending to your request for certification soon enough and for not responding to you in a more timely and urgent manner.

“We should have been more attentive to your request and we were not. Someone with your accomplishments and of your stature deserves to be treated with dignity and great respect and we fear we came up short. That was our mistake and we sincerely apologize.”

The letter suggests that should Lebovic wish to “host kosher events, we would be happy to work with you to come up with a workable solution.”

COR also sent a chocolate tray as a gift to Lebovic.

Rabkin told The CJN in an email that “Up until recently there was an exclusively COR supervised kosher kitchen at the Lebovic golf course which was used by a COR certified kosher caterer. Recently, after Lebovic terminated its relationship with the caterer, it decided to end its relationship with COR entirely.

“Once Applause [Catering] left, our requirement was that the kosher kitchen maintain the same kosher standards as any other COR certified kosher kitchen.”

Referring to the “mistake” referenced in the letter to Lebovic, and the statement that the kashrut agency did not attend to Lebovic’s request for certification in a timely manner, Rabkin stated, “Mr. Lebovic wanted to operate the kosher kitchen in the same manner in which he operates his non-kosher kitchen. We said that we would bring his proposal to our rabbinic board which meets monthly. The meeting that was scheduled was set for a few days prior to Passover and as it is a busy season the meeting was pushed back until after Passover. We were apologizing for the delay that this caused.”

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Rabkin said COR was saddened by the  severing of the relationship with the golf club. “The purpose of our letter to Mr. Lebovic was that he might reconsider his approach because we know how many Jewish organizations benefit from the Lebovic Golf Course’s generosity.”

Joe and Wolf Lebovic are property developers who have given huge sums to charity. The Jewish campus in Thornhill carries the family name while the brothers have given millions to Mount Sinai Hospital.

In past years, many charities, Jewish and non-Jewish, flocked to the Lebovic Golf Club because the club did not charge fees and it provided the meals at no cost – including kosher meals.

Many non-Jewish charities remain on the roster of tournaments this summer.

Among the Jewish charitable organizations that had planned to hold tournaments there but left were TanenbaumCHAT, Adath Israel Congregation, Chabad Flamingo and Jewish Youth Network.

Why all this was not resolved sooner is unclear. Organizations generally book their tournaments months in advance. Yet The CJN was told by sources in the community, who wished to remain anonymous, that several charities learned of the absence of a kosher meal option only weeks before their tournaments were scheduled.

A source in the community familiar with the circumstances said, “There is a consensus among the organizations that this was only happening to people who wanted to uphold the tradition of serving kosher food.”

A source said that Michael Mostyn, CEO of B’nai Brith Canada, had requested a meeting with Wolf Lebovic to discuss the cancellations and resolve outstanding issues. Mostyn had not received a reply by The CJN’s press time.

One organization that scrambled to find a new venue was TanenbaumCHAT. The high school was able to reschedule its tournament at Silver Lakes Golf Club.

In a message on its website, the school said: “One unfortunate upshot of this change is that costs that would have been borne by the original venue now fall to us to cover. Consequently, we need to redouble our efforts to reach our fundraising goal. We are counting on our loyal TanenbaumCHAT community to help mitigate our losses.”