April 29, 2021 By BERNIE BELLAN In what must have come as a shock, not only for members of Shaarey Zedek Congregation, but for most of Winnipeg’s Jewish community as well, Gary Hyman, President of SZ Congregation, announced on April 27 that Rabbi Matthew Leibl will not be renewing his contract when it expires at the end of June this year.
It was only three and a half years ago – in November 2017, that both Rabbi Leibl and Rabbi Anibal Mass were installed together as co-rabbis at the Shaarey Zedek, following the retirement of Rabbi Alan Green earlier that year.
We are attempting to inquire as to what may lay behind this surprising development.
In the meantime we present here the full text of the letter issued by Gary Hyman:
I would like to bring you up to date on current events specifically regarding the ritual department at the synagogue.
Rabbi Matthew Leibl has decided not to renew his contract with the synagogue and will be leaving at the end of June. He advised that he has decided to move on and focus on his family and mostly being a Dad. We are very sorry to see him go and wish him and his family well.
You can be assured that the Board of Directors is fully committed to ensuring that any transition will be a smooth one and will be meeting this week to discuss this issue (both for the short term and going forward). At the same time, we will be firming up additional ritual related issues including the upcoming High Holy Days.
We are very fortunate that our current staff component is more than capable of conducting all our ritually related services and events.
Unfortunately, with the most recent government edicts, we have had to review our Bar and Bat Mitzvah schedule for the next month due to new limiting restrictions. However, it is hoped that with improved numbers we will be able to resume these events within the next month.
If you have any questions or concerns, as always, I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Shaarey Zedek renovation update
Winnipeg Council of Rabbis criticizes suggestion that Simkin Centre ought to offer non-kosher meals – as well as kosher meals
We received the following letter from the Winnipeg Council of Rabbis in response to the suggestion that the Simkin Centre ought to offer non-kosher meals (Read story at https://jewishpostandnews.ca/faqs/rokmicronews-fp-1/is-the-high-cost-of-kosher-food-affecting-the-quality-of-food-served-at-the-simkin-centre/🙂
We read your opinion piece on kashrut at the Simkin Centre with a certain amount of shock, as you advocated that the Simkin Centre not be a kosher facility. After a long discussion we had with food services at Simkin, it is clear that your statements about the quality of food are simply wrong. Residents at Simkin receive meals that are on par with all other similar facilities in Manitoba. The menu includes chicken both dark and white, meats including roast beef, ground meat, and much more. The only item not offered at Simkin that is offered at other similar homes is pork, which we hope you are not advocating for.
In addition, every major Jewish organization in Winnipeg has a Kashrut policy in place. The reason for this is simple. Kashrut is a Jewish value — and for many, a core Jewish value — and it is the responsibility of Jewish organizations to uphold Jewish values. How odd is it that Winnipeg’s “Jewish” newspaper would be advocating for treif food, and in your words will “never give up the fight” to make sure it happens. A Jewish newspaper should be advocating for Jewish values, period.
Finally, Kashrut allows the Simkin Centre to be an inclusive Jewish institution that accommodates the needs of the entire Jewish community. There are many residents and families that consider kashrut as an integral element in how they express their Judaism. They would have no other place to send their loved ones if the Simkin Centre was not Kosher.
The vast majority of Jews in Winnipeg want to see the Simkin Centre continue to be Kosher, and we hope you will either reconsider your position or not press a minority position onto the majority. We, as the rabbis of the Winnipeg Council of Rabbis, all endorse and fully support this position.
Winnipeg Council of Rabbis
- Rabbi Yosef Benarroch, Adas Yeshurun Herzlia
- Rabbi Allan Finkel, Temple Shalom
- Rabbi Matthew Leibl, Simkin Center
- Rabbi Anibal Mass, Shaarey Tzedek
- Rabbi Kliel Rose, Eitz Chayim
Bernie Bellan asks: If kashrut is so intrinsic to Jewish organizations in Winnipeg, why was the Rady JCC allowed to make its annual sports dinner non-kosher?
Here’s a question for the Council of Rabbis – whose letter tearing a strip off me for daring to question the necessity of serving fully kosher meals to every resident of the Simkin Centre appears on this website: Have you ever considered the total hypocrisy inherent in your insisting that kashrut is vital to the Simkin Centre, while the Rady JCC some years ago abandoned the requisite that its annual sports dinner be kosher?
The sports dinner asks anyone attending whether they’d like a kosher meal (which is what I suggested the Simkin Centre could also do) and, from what I’ve been told, the number of individuals who respond in the affirmative can be counted on the fingers of one hand.
I don’t recall the council of rabbis kicking up a huge fuss over that change. But, to be consistent guys, (and by the way, only one of the five rabbis on that council is actually a subscriber to The Jewish Post, butI’m glad you’re all such vociferous readers), I expect you to demand that the Rady JCC sports dinner revert to being fully kosher.
After all, as Rabbi Benarroch so succinctly puts it in his letter: “Kashrut is a Jewish value — and for many, a core Jewish value — and it is the responsibility of Jewish organizations to uphold Jewish values.”
I won’t hold my breath waiting for you to publicly demand that the sports dinner revert to being fully kosher. As I recall, the reason that kashrut was abandoned as a prerequisite for the dinner was because of the cost. So, when Simkin Centre CEO Laurie Cerqueti wrote me in an email, “I know for this year as of the end of October we are over budget on food by $150,000. We must continue to fund any costs on food from our existing annual budget or through fundraised dollars,” I fully expect the council of rabbis – and anyone else who is adamant that the Simkin Centre remain absolutely kosher to join in a campaign to raise that $150,000 so that Simkin can remain kosher without cutting into other areas of operation. How about it, guys?
My point in advocating for Simkin to modify its kashrut policy was to be as realistic as the people behind the sports dinner were in recognizing that the cost of a full adherence to kashrut can be prohibitively expensive. But, the sports dinner still allows anyone who wants a kosher meal to have one. That’s all that I was advocating for the Simkin Centre. So, tell me rabbis: Where do you draw the line from one Jewish institution to another? Or, does the slippery slope that you’re on also have an off ramp that allows you to abandon principles when it’s expedient to do so?