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Gwen Secter Centre and Jewish Child and Family Service working together to provide much needed help for seniors in our community

Beginning two months ago, I’ve been reporting on the incredible job that the Gwen Secter Centre has been doing in providing meals for seniors in our Jewish community since the Province imposed a lockdown on March 13.

As I noted in our May 27 issue, Gwen Secter has gone from producing 60 meals the week of March 30-April 3 to 286 meals for 73 different individuals in late May. This past week, according to Becky Chisick, Executive Director of the Gwen Secter Centre, 340 meals went out to seniors.

I had asked Becky whether there is anyone in particular who deserves a shout-out for what Gwen Secter has been doing?
She wrote:  “The shout-out really needs to be going to our volunteer drivers.  The routes are increasing and get larger in size.  A number of people have come forward to volunteer their time and we are still looking for more. I also have a part-time volunteer meal coordinator, Lauren Cogan.  Lauren is helping with on boarding new seniors, coordinating volunteers and making calls to everyone on delivery days. “ (We have a full story about Lauren Cogan in this issue and the extremely active life she leads on page 7.(

Working hand in hand with the Gwen Secter Centre has been Jewish Child and Family Service, which has a large number of senior clients. (The JCFS typically serves between 500-600 seniors a year, according to JCFS Executive Director Al Benarroch.)
Here’s how the JCFS Annual Report described its older adult services: “Older Adult Services is a program designed to support the needs of Jewish elderly living independently in the community. Services ensure an optimal level of psychological, social, cultural, emotional and physical functioning in clients, thereby maximizing their quality of life and allowing them to remain at home and age in place.
“Aging Mental Health is a focused program that addresses the needs of our aging clients who also are living with mental illness and/or other chronic emotional problems. This area provides highly specialized, crossprogram services to clients requiring unique supports for a variety of issues, including those arising from psychiatric illness, memory loss and isolation.”
In addition, JCFS also provides services for Holocaust survivors.

I asked both Becky Chisick and Cheryl Hirsh Katz, Manager, Adult Services at JCFS, whether they could provide me with some names of seniors who might be willing to talk about what Gwen Secter and JCFS have been doing for them during a time when seniors, in particular, are isolated and experiencing much higher levels of anxiety.
In response, I was given the names of six different individuals who, I was told, were willing to speak with me about their experiences. For the purposes of this article, I am using different names for the individuals with whom I spoke, in order to preserve their anonymity. Each of the individuals with whom I spoke lives alone.

“Lisa” told me that (like the 70 other seniors who have been receiving meals from Gwen Secter), she’s been getting four meals a week – two on Tuesdays and two on Fridays.
I asked Lisa how she was put in touch with Gwen Secter to start receiving meals.
“My worker at JCFS is Heather Mandel Kraut,” Lisa explained. “Heather had asked me whether I could use the service (Gwen Secter’s food deliveries)” when the Province imposed the lockdown.
In Lisa’s particular case, while she is able to get out on her own, because of a physical condition, “it’s hard for me to stand – even for the five minutes it usually takes to put together a meal”, she noted. Also, because it’s hard for her to remain on her feet, she does have someone doing shopping for her.

I asked Lisa what she does to supplement the meals she’s been getting from Gwen Secter.
“I’ll buy a chicken and roast it,” she said. She also prepares salads and side dishes but, like the others seniors with whom I spoke, Lisa doesn’t eat a huge amount, so she’s been able to stretch the four meals that she’s been getting from Gwen Secter.
Lisa told me that each time there’s a delivery from Gwen Secter, one meal is meat and one is milk. The meat meals which, she said can be anything from chicken to sweet and sour meatballs, to turkey sausage, to brisket (occasionally), are all accompanied by “a carbohydrate and some kind of vegetable”, Lisa noted.
But, because Lisa is also diabetic, the kitchen staff at Gwen Secter have been careful not to include any items containing sugar in her particular meals so that, in a dairy meal with blintzes, for instance, the strawberries that come with the meal have no sugar.
Something else that Lisa mentioned is that, while she did grow up in a Jewish home where she loved her “baba and aunt’s cooking”, it’s been a long time since she had tasted many of the foods that were so familiar to her as a child. Having lived away from Winnipeg for years, it’s only been since she started receiving meals from Gwen Secter of late that she’s been able to conjure up memories of her baba’s and aunt’s meals.

“I was incredibly lucky in my life to have a baba and aunt who made fabulous meals and the Gwen Secter meals have comparable taste,” Lisa said. “The meals have the traditional edge to them” that she so fondly recalls from her childhood years; eating those meals “brings it all back,” she added.
And – as a sign how thoughtful the Gwen Secter staff has been in arranging those meals, Lisa observed that there “have been extras as well – like boxes of matzah during Passover” and, more recently, challahs on Thursdays.
(I asked Becky Chisick when challahs started to be included with the Thursday deliveries and who’s been providing them? She responded: “We’ve been including Challah for the past few weeks on our Friday deliveries. This was something I really wanted to do for the seniors who are isolated. I felt it was important to bring a little Shabbat into their homes. The challah is not donated, but City Bread is helping us out with a much appreciated deep discount to help stretch our funding dollars.  I’m happy to hear everyone is enjoying.”)

“Norman” returned to Winnipeg last year after having lived elsewhere most of his life. In his case though, as a result of an injury, he hasn’t been able to get out, but he is rehabilitating his injury and hopes to be fully functional sometime soon.
In the meantime, his worker at JCFS also told Norman about Gwen Secter’s food delivery program, and he’s most appreciative.
“I do get around with a walker,” he added, but “getting the meals is very helpful”.
I asked him whether the portions in the meals provided by Gwen Secter are sufficient?
“I’ve lost a lot of weight” (since his injury and subsequent operation), Norman answered, “so my eating habits are different – and the portions are sufficient”.
But then Norman mentioned that there are some items in the meals delivered by Gwen Secter that he doesn’t eat, such as potatoes or perogies. I said to him that he should simply let the Gwen Secter staff know that there are certain foods he won’t eat, and I was sure substitutes could be arranged. (I told him about Lisa’s diabetes and how Gwen Secter made sure there was no sugar in any of the foods in her meals.)

Something else that Norman said – and which is probably typical of many of the seniors who have found themselves availing themselves of Gwen Secter’s assistance, is that “I would like to not use it (the food deliveries) so that someone else could use it.”
By the way, Norman had not even heard of JCFS when he returned to Winnipeg last year, so being able to receive assistance from that organization came as a most pleasant surprise.
“JCFS has been very helpful to me,” he noted – “and very supportive – by phone or by email – on an as-needed basis.”
As for the Gwen Secter Centre, again – like JCFS, Norman had never heard of that organization either, and he is deeply appreciative of what the Gwen Secter Centre has been able to do for him.

“Bonnie” has been a client of JCFS in the past but, like Norman, she had been living away from Winnipeg for years.
Unlike Lisa and Norman, however, Bonnie hasn’t had to avail herself of the Gwen Secter food delivery program. She is able to get out and do her own shopping.
In Bonnie’s case, however, it wasn’t a physical condition that led to her contacting JCFS. She has a psychological condition, “but I couldn’t afford to pay a psychologist or a therapist,” she explained.
Yet, Bonnie was not aware that JCFS provides services for individuals such as her. Once she was told though about JCFS’s services for seniors and other individuals with psychological conditions, she did get in touch with JCFS and has maintained weekly contact with a social worker assigned to her case ever since – most recently via ZOOM.
Ever since the provincial lockdown was imposed, Bonnie said she’s been in weekly contact with her social worker. (It used to be only once every two weeks, she noted.)
“The social worker has been really wonderful,” Bonnie said.


The final senior with whom I spoke was “Anne”.
In Anne’s case, she explained, “I have arthritis, so I’ve been stuck using frozen meals.”
“I usually shop at Walmart” (online), Anne said, but “I couldn’t get online” because Walmart’s system was so inundated with users.
“I also tried Cantor’s (early on during the lockdown), “but they were rationing groceries, – things like sweet potatoes,” Anne noted.
“So, I started using Save on Foods for deliveries,” she said, “but they’re quite expensive.
“Then Dan (Saidman, Program & Volunteer Coordinator at the Gwen Secter Centre) phoned me. He knew I’d be in trouble, so he asked me whether I wanted to start getting meals from them – which I did, right from the start” (in late March).
For Anne, just like Lisa and Norman, the meals from Gwen Secter have been a Godsend.


Finally, I spoke with Cheryl Hirsh Katz of JCFS to ask whether there has been an increase in the agency’s caseload of seniors.
Cheryl indicated that has indeed been the case – primarily as a result of the Jewish Federation’s having enlisted volunteers to call seniors (and other individuals in the community who find themselves in particularly unfortunate circumstances as a result of the pandemic). Many seniors have been referred to JCFS as a result of those phone calls, Cheryl noted.

“We’ve identified those of our clients who are most in need,” Cheryl said, and have been keeping close tabs on them, including “sending out 50 care packages to some of the most isolated seniors with plans to send an additional 50 to another group of isolated seniors. Our plan is to do this once or twice per month while this pandemic lasts.”
“We have capacity to take on more clients,” Cheryl noted – and 20 more clients have now been added to JCFS’s caseload to this point.

While JCFS does maintain an “emergency food pantry” to help individuals or families in urgent need of groceries, “there hasn’t, as yet, been an increase in demand”, she said.
What there has been though, is “an increase in demand for emotional support,” Cheryl observed.
“Individuals who have had illnesses” have found themselves isolated and, one other agonizing aspect of the isolation we’ve been enduring is that, for those among us who have lost loved ones during the past three months, it’s been an especially difficult grieving period.
“We have our friendly volunteer phone callers; also our own workers are regularly calling clients”, Cheryl said, but for those seniors who could use some emotional support or would like to be added to Gwen Secter’s food delivery program, the JCFS welcomes your calls.
The JCFS phone number is 204-477-7430. The Gwen Secter Centre’s phone number is 204-339-1701.


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Winnipeg-born Elliot Lazar to star as Paul Simon in “The Simon & Garfunkel Story” at Centennial Concert Hall

By BERNIE BELLAN Elliot Lazar’s career has long been chronicled in the pages of The Jewish Post & News. Do a search for his name in our “Search Archives” button and you will find a multitude of stories about Elliot from the time he was five years old.
A talented singer, musician, and musical arranger, also a graduate of Gray Academy, the University of Manitoba’s Desautels Faculty of Music, and the Boston Conservatory, Elliot has appeared many times in Winnipeg, including most recently last summer in Rainbow Stage’s production of “Rent.”
He’s been constantly busy – as a review of some of his past acting credits reveals. Last season alone, in addition to his performing in “Rent,” Elliot also appeared in the National Tour of “Fiddler on the Roof,” and “The Band’s Visit” (Huntington/Speakeasy Stage).
We’re excited to announce that Elliot will be appearing in Winnipeg for one night only, May 21, starring as Paul Simon in “The Simon & Garfunkel Story.”

Here’s Elliot’s own story about his growing up in Winnipeg:
“I grew up in Garden City, attended Gray Academy (K-12) and majored in vocal performance at the University of Manitoba’s Desautels Faculty of Music. I lived in Winnipeg until I was 22, so I’m pretty connected with the arts scene there still. The venue we’re playing, the Centennial Concert Hall, I was last seen in Guys and Dolls in concert with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra and Rainbow Stage (2019), and before that I sang with the Manitoba Opera Chorus in 3 productions there. My last performance in Winnipeg was in Rent with Rainbow Stage this past summer. Other local performing arts companies I have a history with there are Winnipeg Jewish Theatre, Winnipeg Studio Theatre, Dry Cold Productions, Manitoba Theatre for Young People, Manitoba Underground Opera, Little Opera Company, and the Winnipeg Fringe Festival. I grew up going to see shows at the Concert Hall, so it’s a wonderful full circle moment for me.”

Elliot Lazar (second from left bottom row) as Paul Simon

About “The Simon & Garfunkel Story”:
Nostalgia-inducing unforgettable hits! The internationally-acclaimed hit theater show The Simon & Garfunkel Story ( returns to the road in 2024 with a North American tour to more than 25 cities. Kicking off in Richmond, Kentucky on January 28, 2024, the immersive concert-style tribute show will recreate the magic and authenticity of Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel on stage and chronicles the amazing journey shared by the iconic, GRAMMY-award winning folk-rock duo. It tells the story from their humble beginnings as Tom & Jerry, to their incredible success as one of the best-selling music groups of the ‘60s, and to their dramatic split in 1970. The Simon & Garfunkel Story culminates with the pair’s famous “The Concert in Central Park” reunion in 1981 which had more than half a million fans in attendance. Tickets are on sale now.
The show features a set list of nearly 30 songs and uses state-of-the-art video projection, photos and original film footage. A full live band will perform all of the hits including “Mrs. Robinson,” “Cecilia,” “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” “Homeward Bound” and many more complete with the unmistakably perfect harmonies that will transport audiences down memory lane.
With more than 100 million album sales since 1965, Simon & Garfunkel’s unforgettable songs and poetic lyrics poignantly captured the times made them one of the most successful folk-rock duos of all time. Over the years, they won 10 GRAMMY Awards and were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990. In 1977, the Brit Awards honored their “Bridge Over Troubled Water” album with Best International Album. In 2003, Simon & Garfunkel were awarded a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and the following year saw their “The Sound of Silence” awarded a Grammy Hall of Fame Award.

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Local News

Ida and the late Saul Alpern have donated 2 ambulances and a scooter to Magen David Adom in past 4 years

Saul z"l and Ida Alpern

By BERNIE BELLAN Saul Alpern passed away in 2022, but before he died he and his wife Ida had decided to make Magen David Adom a major recipient of their generosity.

As Myron Love noted in an October 2020 article the Alperns had been contributing small amounts to the Canadian Magen David Adom for some time, but it was in that year they decided to donate $160,000 for the purchase of a Mobile Intensive Care Unit for Israel’s Magen David Adom.

As Myron wrote in that 2020 article, an MICUA (which is larger than an ambulance, is staffed by paramedics, and responds only to the most medically serious cases) was donated “to the people of Israel in memory of Saul Alpern’s parents and siblings who perished in the Holocaust.

“It is an expression of my love for my family and my love of Israel,” Saul Alpern said at the time.

In early 2022 the Alperns donated yet another $170,000 for the purchase of a second MICU for Magen David Adom.

The scooter recently donated by Ida Alpern in memory of her late husband and parents/plaque imprinted on the front of the scooter carrier box

Saul Alpern passed away in November 2022, but Ida Alpern has now continued the legacy of giving to Canadian Magen David Adom that she and Saul had begun several years before. Just recently Ida contributed $39,000 toward the purchase of an emergency medical scooter. According to the CMDA website, “the scooter, which is driven by a paramedic, can get through traffic faster than the Standard Ambulance or MICU and provide pre-hospital care. It contains life-saving equipment, including a defibrillator, an oxygen tank, and other essential medical equipment.”

I asked Ida whether she wanted to say anything about the motivation for her and her late husband’s support for CMDA. She wrote, “Having survived the Holocaust, and being a Zionist, Saul felt that supporting Israel was of the utmost importance.”

On May 7, CMDA will be honouring Ida and Saul z”l Alpern at a dinner and show at the Centro Caboto Centre. Another highlight that evening will be the announcement of the purchase of an ambulance for CMDA by another Winnipegger, Ruth Ann Borenstein. That ambulance will be in honour of Ruth’s late parents, Gertrude and Harry Mitchell. The evening will also commemorate the late Yoram East (aka Hamizrachi), who was a well-known figure both in Israel and here in Winnipeg.

For more information about the May 7 event go to or to purchase tickets phone 587-435-5808 or email

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Local News

Simkin Centre looking for volunteers

A scene from last year's Simkin Stroll

We received the following email from Heather Blackman, Simkin Centre Director of Volunteers & Resident Experience:

Happy Spring Everyone! Hope you all are well. We have a number of upcoming volunteer opportunities that I wanted to share with you. Please take a look at what we have listed here and let me know if you are available for any of the following. I can be reached at or 204-589-9008.
Save the date! The Simkin Stroll is on June 25th this year and we need tons of volunteers to assist. This is our annual fundraiser and there is something for everyone to help with from walking with Residents in the Stroll to manning booths and tables, event set up and take down and much more. Volunteers will be needed from 3 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on this day. Come and help for the full event or for any period within that timeframe that works for you.
Resident Store – This tuck shop style cart will be up for business shortly. Residents will be assisting to stock and run the store for 2 hours 2- 3 times per week in the afternoons. Volunteer support is needed to assist residents with restocking items and monetary transactions.
Passover Volunteers
Volunteers are needed to assist with plating Seder plates for Residents (date to be determined for plating)
Volunteers are needed to assist Residents to and from Passover Services and Come and Go Teas.
Times volunteers are needed for services/teas:
April 22cnd – First Seder 1:30-3:30 p.m.
April 23rd – Passover Service Day 1 – 9:30 – 11:30 a.m.
April 23rd – Second Seder – 1:30-3:30 p.m.
April 24th – Passover Service – Day 2 9:30 – 11:30 a.m.
April 29th – Passover Service – 9:30 – 11:30 a.m.
April 29th- Passover Tea – 1:30-3:30 p.m.
April 30th – Passover Service – 9:30 -11:30 a.m.
April 30th – Passover Tea – 1:30-3:30 p.m.

Admin/Paperwork Volunteers – Volunteers are needed to assist with filing and other administrative duties. A monthly volunteering job is also available to input information on programming into Recreation activity calendars. Support would be provided for this.
Adult Day Program – A volunteer is needed to assist with the Mondays Adult Day Program Group. A regular ongoing weekly commitment on Mondays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Assist with Recreation programming and lunch supervision for our Adult Day Program participants that come in from the community for the day.
Biking Volunteers – Take our residents out for a spin on one of our specialty mobility bicycles. Training is provided and volunteers will be needed throughout the Spring, Summer and early Fall.

With summer coming there is also opportunity to assist with outings and other outdoor programming! Please let me know if you are interested!

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