Enhancing Connection – New Board Chair Richard L. Yaffe, Q.C., Shares a Vision of Inclusion

by Stu Slayen | Dec 23, 2019
You shall not oppress a stranger, for you know the feelings of a stranger having yourselves been strangers in the land of Egypt.”

It’s the passage from the Haggadah that resonates deeply for Richard Yaffe every year when he leads the Seder. For him, it is a powerful direction that our communities must include and connect with everyone, particularly with those who may be, or consider themselves to be, marginalized.

“In today’s world there is no justification for anyone to be isolated.”

For Yaffe, who was confirmed as Chair of the JFM in June, the passion for inclusion and community service runs deep. He was inspired by his parents, the late Pearl and Philip Yaffe. “We were an upper middle class family. Our parents made a conscious decision to stay in the North End, and for us to attend public schools enhanced by evening classes at the I.L. Peretz Folk School. We were immersed in education and culture, and we were surrounded by people far less fortunate than we were,” says Yaffe. “My parents cautioned my brothers and me never to approach life with any sense of entitlement. Above all, they taught us the fundamental importance of education and compassion, and of extending a helping hand to anyone in need. And they led by example.”

Yaffe believes that these lessons have guided him through his life, and were paramount in his decision to become involved with the JFM. He takes particular pride in the fact that the JFM supports organizations that help Manitobans of all backgrounds.

“I think we can do a better job of making our community aware of what the Jewish Foundation is and what it does,” says Yaffe when asked about his goals as Board Chair. “I am a strong believer in reaching out to and embracing the most modest givers, our major donors, and everyone in between. The responsibility of investing in the future, as well as the joy and satisfaction that comes with it, can be shared by all. After all, we are one community and we are creating the foundation for our future generations.”

Yaffe, who is a partner at the law firm Thompson Dorfman Sweatman LLP, was recently honoured with a Queen’s Counsel designation by the Province of Manitoba. Outside of his law practice and chairing the JFM, Yaffe is a past Chair of the WAG Board and currently serves as Chair of the Winnipeg Art Gallery Foundation and leads the Legacy Campaign as part of the WAG’s overall capital campaign for the Inuit Art Centre. He is also a member of both the Boards of the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre and the Canadian Friends of the Israel Museum.

He is well known in the community as a singer, cantor, and choir director.

In the short term for the JFM, Yaffe hopes to see a new CEO in place very soon. At the time of writing, a comprehensive search process was entering its final stages.

“It’s important that we recognize and respect the past while planning for the future,” he says. “Change is inevitable, but continuity is essential. Together with vision and foresight, they are the keys to our stability and growth.”