By MYRON LOVE
A new era is about to begin for the Chesed Shel Emes, our community’s 90-year-old non-profit funeral home. At the beginning of March, the little house attached to the main chapel is scheduled to be demolished. The “house” is currently home to the office, the multi-purpose boardroom and – most importantly – the area where bodies are stored and tahara – ritual cleansing – is carried out.
On the site, Akman Construction will be erecting a new two-story structure custom designed for the needs of the Chesed. Rena Boroditsky, the Chesed’s long time executive director, reports that the new addition to the chapel will have double doors at the back leading to the Tahara room – the heart of the operation – which will allow for easier entrance.
“We will have a walk-in cooler in the Tahara area that will be able to accommodate all body sizes and shapes,” Boroditsky adds. “We will also have room in the cooler to store coffins – to be shipped to other communities – with bodies that have been through the process of tahara. Treating the deceased with dignity is our priority.”
She further notes that the new area will allow for safer working conditions.
The new addition will have a dedicated area for family members and the shomrim (those charged with sitting with the bodies and watching over them until the funeral) and additional washrooms which can be accessed from the chapel. Upstairs, there will be more office space – some of it available for public use – and a staff kitchen.
Gerry Pritchard, the Chesed’s current president, notes that the current “house” dates back to the early 1900s. “The foundations are worn out and the building needs to be replaced,” he says.
The last major fundraising campaign and building project undertaken by the Chesed occurred in the mid to late 1940s with the building of the current chapel. It was only last spring that the Chesed Board officially launched a fundraising campaign to pay for this new project.
“We have already raised $2.7 million for the project,” Boroditsky reports. “We are at 80% of our fundraising target of $3.18 million. We have had an incredible response from the community.”
Once construction begins in March, Boroditsky points out, no funerals will be taking place at the Chesed for the period that work on the project is underway – a time period estimated to be about a year.
“We have made alternative arrangements,” Boroditsky says. “We have made arrangements with Chapel Lawn in Headingly where we have secured a dedicated space with our own tables and equipment where we will continue to do tahara. Over a period of a year, we considered a number of options and this was the best. The staff at Chapel Lawn has been very helpful in providing everything we need.”
The majority of community funerals will be held at the Shaarey Zedek Synagogue or Congregation Etz Chayim – as is presently the case – with smaller synagogues also options to host funerals. And pallbearers, rather than coming to Chapel Lawn, will report directly to a synagogue – or a cemetery – as the case may be, for grave side services.
“Our staff will be placing the caskets in the hearse and ensuring dignity for the deceased,” Boroditsky says.
“This is a once-in-a hundred years project which will enable us to better serve the community and future generations for years to come,” she adds.
And while the Chesed is close to realizing its fundraising target, Boroditsky is encouraging readers who may not yet have contributed to consider making a donation. “Any gifts over and above what we need for the project will be directed to the Chesed Endowment Fund at the Jewish Foundation of Manitoba,” she says. “All gifts are tax deductible.”
Rena Boroditsky can be reached at 204 582-5088 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Winnipeg Jewish Theatre to open season with world premiere of “Pals”
By BERNIE BELLAN The opening show of Winnipeg Jewish Theatre’s 2023-24 season promises to be a clever and poignant take on relationships between men and women, when “Pals” makes its world premiere on November 9 in the Berney Theatre, running until November 19.
“Pals” is the third two-person show created by the team of Diane Flacks and Richard Greenblatt. Interestingly, when I spoke with Flacks and Greenblatt while they took a break from rehearsing the play in Toronto, they told me that their previous two two-person plays also had one word titles – with four letters in both: “Sibs” and “Care.”
“Pals” is the story of two friends, told over a 25-year time period. Their friendship survives many tribulations, including both characters entering and exiting many other relationships. The play uncovers the underlying tensions that permeate all friendships.
“Pals” opens with the two characters meeting for the first time. I asked Diane and Richard whether the notion of their having sex ever enters into the plot, but Richard was quick to exclaim, “We don’t have sex.”
Diane also noted that, in the case of her character, she is married to another woman. (Diane is a lesbian in real life.)
The fact that the characters maintain a friendship though becomes a source of friction within their respective relationships. It raises the question: Can you have an intimate, albeit platonic, relationship, with a member of the opposite sex all the while you’re in a physical relationship with someone else?
I asked whether the characters in “Pals” are Jewish (which both Diane and Richard are), and the answer was “yes.”
Both Diane and Richard have had past associations with the Winnipeg Jewish Theatre. Richard’s goes back a very long time – when he directed the critically acclaimed “League of Nathans” in 1995.
Diane Flacks appeared in a one-night performance of a show in 2021 called “25 Questions for a Jewish Mother,” which was a part of that year’s Tarbut festival. There were no in-person events that year, due to Covid, but “Jewish Mother” was available on Zoom and had a huge audience.
In addition to writing for the stage, Diane Flacks has written for TV, including Working the Engels, Baroness Von Sketch Show, Young Drunk Punk, PR, and The Broad Side.
Richard Greenblatt has performed in theatres across Canada and abroad, as well as in feature films, television and radio. He co-wrote 2 Pianos 4 Hands, which played on five continents and in over 150 cities since it opened in 1996.
Pals is directed by the internationally acclaimed director Jillian Keiley. More information, tickets and 5-show subscriptions can be found at: www.wjt.ca. You can also reach WJT by phone at (204) 477-7478.
To watch a preview video from Pals, click here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z2W0VmHHFbA
Simkin Centre introduces Friday afternoon Shabbat services – open to all
By BERNIE BELLAN (Posted Oct. 31) The Simkin Centre held its first ever Friday afternoon Erev Shabbat service this past Friday (Oct. 27), led by Rabbi Matthew Leibl.
There were more than 30 residents in attendance, along with various other outside guests. The service was approximately 45 minutes long and was filled with stories and songs associated with Friday evening Shabbats – some from Rabbi Leibl’s own childhood and some from more recent years.
The Friday afternoon Erev Shabbat services are now to become a regular features at the Simkin Centre and are open to anyone to attend.
To watch a short clip of Rabbi Leibl introducing his first Friday afternoon service click https://youtu.be/hLSrV18K58o
The complete text of MP Marty Morantz’s speech at the community vigil for Israel on October 10
Tonight we are all Israelis!
Conservatives stand with Israel.
Pierre Poilievre stands with Israel.
On Saturday we woke up to unspeakable images.
We must stand shoulder to shoulder with Israel as it defends itself from these criminal and barbarous acts.
On Shabbat, Hamas brutally invaded Israel, invaded homes, killing hundreds, taking hostage hundreds.
More Jews were killed in Saturday’s attack than in any single day since the Holocaust.
Some 1500 human beings killed in a single day would be like 6000 Canadians being murdered in a single attack.
They were children, babies, men, women.
They were young people just out listening to music at a dance party.
This was an unprecedented brutal attack.
As we speak Hamas is threatening to execute innocent hostages.
This outrage cannot, must not stand.
Don’t let anyone tell you Hamas is the legitimate voice of the Palestinian people. It is not a government.
They are a genocidal murderous and evil death cult and they must be defeated.
But friends, we have seen evil before.
Jews have been persecuted for millennia, but we have survived.
Conservatives unequivocally condemn the invasion of Israel by Hamas terrorists and the sadistic violence that Hamas has carried out against innocent civilians.
Now is the time for moral clarity. There is no moral equivalency between democratic Israel and the butchers of Hamas.
There is no response, no matter how strong, that would be disproportionate to the crimes Hamas has committed.
Israel has the right to defend itself against these attacks and respond against the attackers – as any other country would.
Theodore Herzl, the father of modern Zionism, said, “If you will it, it is no dream.”
In 1948 that dream became a reality – a homeland in Israel, the promised land.
Working together Israelis turned a desert into an oasis.
An island of democracy surrounded by a sea of autocracy.
A Jewish state where Jews could live in peace free from fear and persecution.
Let there be no doubt. Israel is the ancient and indigenous homeland of the Jewish people.
We will not let the butchers of Hamas take that dream, long realized, away from us.
Many politicians will stand with Israel when it is easy.
But listen to what they say when it is hard.
They will talk about “both sides.”
I’m here to tell you that there is only one side.
The side of morality.
The side of democracy.
The side of Israel.
We see too often politicians at the United Nations unfairly singling out Israel for criticism.
I will always stand against the unfair singling out of the Middle East’s only democracy.
Already there are calls for Israel to deescalate.
I ask you.
Would any country deescalate after having its people slaughtered in cold blood?
I wish the people of Israel and its brave soldiers Godspeed on their mission to defend the promised land from pure evil.
As Prime Minister Stephen Harper said:
Through fire and water Canada will stand with you.
Am Yisrael Chai!