HomeLocalLocal NewsCongregation Etz Chayim transition south now well under way

Congregation Etz Chayim transition south now well under way

By MYRON LOVE Congregation Etz Chayim’s relocation to south Winnipeg is moving along smoothly, according to the transition team’s co-chairs, Kim Hirt and Myron Schultz.
In an update emailed to synagogue members in mid-December, the pair reported on the activities of transition team members in charge of different aspects of the move to the new location at 1155 Wilkes, which has been the home of the Shriners’ Khartoum Temple.
Committee leaders include Denny and Mel Hornstein, who are in charge of honouring the past by developing ways to preserve the history of the three congregations – the former Rosh Pina, Bnay Abraham and Beth Israel  synagogues – that joined together in 2002 to form Etz Chayim.
Sabrina Bokser’s committee  is responsible for assessing the congregation’s  functional space requirements, which will impact how the new Etz Chayim will be reconfigured for the immediate and long term future  This group’s first job, noted Hirt and Schultz,  “is to look at all the activities that have historically been held in the current building and the space required to accomplish these activities, as well as to consider functions and programs that we would like to host.   In the end, there may be some activities that we will not be able to host when we move or will perhaps be achievable in a phased approach.  These are matters to be assessed and will be determined with consultation with our membership”.
Gord Steindel and his team, they further point out, have begun the important job of inventorying Etz Chayim’s  artifacts and objects to prepare  for the first stage of a move.
And, as Etz Chayim is a holy space,  the  ritual team, led by Steven Hyman is working closely with the synagogue’s  clergy,  in regard to the religious requirements for the new space.
“We look forward to welcoming more congregation members who might want to volunteer to join our Transition Teams,” Hirt and Schultz wrote.   
As reported earlier in The Jewish Post & News, the Etz Chayim board put out the “for sale” for the 70-year-old former Rosh Pina building on Matheson Avenue three months ago – after at least a decade of looking into a move south. 
In that earlier interview, Etz Chayim president Avrom Charach noted that the great majority of the congregation now lives south  and – more importantly – after 70 years, the current  building needs a lot of work.
”We think it makes more sense to spend the money where most of our members are living instead of where we are now,” Charach observed.
The plan, he said, was to purchase and renovate an existing building – or rent temporarily if need be until a suitable building could be found.The goal was to find a location within a 10-minute drive of most of the shul members.  That would be a location accessible to residents of River Heights, Tuxedo, Lindenwoods and Charleswood.
 “We would like to be in our new home by next summer – in time for next Yom Tov.”
 In a follow-up story in the Post, we reported that the congregation purchased the former Shriners headquarters on Wilkes Ave for a reported $4.75 million.  

As the Shriners building is about the same size as the current synagogue’s sanctuary, Charach noted, the new synagogue will reflect the former Beth Israel building wherein the sanctuary doubled as the social hall.
In such a case, after services on Shabbat morning, the daveners would go out into the hall while the chairs inside the sanctuary would be rearranged around tables and food stations for the Kiddush. 
(How the pews will be incorporated  into the new building is to be determined.)
Charach also suggest that enlarging the space by pushing back the building’s western wall is under consideration.
In that earlier JP&N interview, Charach suggested that the sale of the current building might bring in $10 million.  “We have had quite a bit of interest – but no solid offers yet,” he reports.   “We are planning a capital campaign and are prepared to consider bridge financing if required.”
Whereas Charach noted earlier that the congregation  is expecting to be in the new shul by yom tov, the ideal, he says, would be to be able to conduct services shortly after taking possession at the end of May.

The reception hall in the Shriner’s building. Once the congregation transitions to its new home plans are for this hall to serve double duty as the sanctuary, also as the reception area following Shabbat services.

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