WINNIPEG — More than 50 people attended the first event of the brand new Winnipeg Jewish Chamber of Commerce on Oct. 27.
From left, Aaron Migie, Brian Scharfstein and Ryan Paul
The inaugural networking reception was hosted by community leader and businessman Bob Silver at his Western Glove Works plant in the inner city.
In his keynote address, Silver described the new organization as another step forward in welcoming new arrivals to the community and encouraging Jewish former Winnipeggers to return here.
Dave Angus, the longtime president and CEO of the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce, spoke of the opportunities that a chamber of commerce provides for businesspeople to meet other businesspeople, as well as to develop relationships and promote their businesses.
Chamber members can also learn a lot from chamber programs and from other members’ experiences, he noted.
“Welcome to the chamber movement,” he said. ‘We at the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce look forward to working with you, sharing our resources with you and doing business with you.”
The concept of a Jewish chamber of commerce in this city was developed by Aaron Migie and Ryan Paul, two young businessmen working in the financial services sector.
The pair, both in their mid-20s, are graduates to the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg’s Club Fed, a year-long program that acquaints young Jewish adults with the work of the federation and its beneficiary agencies, with the goal of developing future community leaders.
“After finishing Club Fed about a year ago, a few of us were discussing how we could become more involved in the Jewish community,” Migie said.
“Ryan and I and some others got the idea of starting a Jewish chamber of commerce as a way of bringing together business owners and professional people of all ages to network with each other, develop skills and learn from guest speakers.”
Migie and Paul approached businessman and community leader Brian Scharfstein, chair of the federation’s Grow Winnipeg initiative, for support, and they received his encouragement. (Grow Winnipeg aims to increase the size of the city’s Jewish population by attracting immigrants and former Winnipeggers, and by persuading young Jews to remain here.)
“I have heard from many younger Jewish businesspeople who are looking for networking opportunities in Winnipeg for the purposes of trade and commerce,” Scharfstein said.
He said that although the federation has provided strong support to help the new organization get off the ground – for which Paul and Migie expressed their appreciation – the new Winnipeg Jewish Chamber of Commerce intends to be self-sustaining and independent of the federation.
“Our one goal is to give back to the community,” Scharfstein said.
The Winnipeg Jewish Chamber of Commerce’s inaugural program was actually based on a recent Montreal Jewish Chamber of Commerce event that was also hosted by a garment factory.
The organizers here are planning quarterly programs, with a networking breakfast early in the new year next on tap.
“We have had a lot of great support from the community for this,” Paul said. “Almost everyone thinks it’s a great idea.”