By BERNIE BELLAN Shaarey Zedek Congregation is about to embark on the first major renovation of its building since the 1970s.
We’ve reproduced renderings that were drawn up by representatives of Number TEN Architectural Group, which is the firm that has been engaged to develop plans for the soon-to-be totally renovated Shaarey Zedek building.
Where we are at now is that, after a long process of planning and consultation which began several years ago, Shaarey Zedek Congregation will now embark upon the next stage of the process, which will involve, in the first phase: asbestos remediation, repair/replacement of the roof, and HVAC replacement, followed by the renovation and modernization of the interior of the building.
In a message to congregation members, which was signed by President Gary Hyman and Executive Director Ran Ukashi, and which was a prelude to a Zoom session on Wednesday, Oct. 14, the following background information was given:
“Several years ago, Shaarey Zedek senior leadership began discussions regarding the undertaking of a capital campaign to address building-related issues including asbestos remediation, roof repair/replacement, and HVAC replacement. Given the nature of the work required, consideration was also given to renovating and modernizing the interior space as it had not seen much in the way of a refresh since its opening in 1949.
“In 2018, the leadership consulted with an architectural firm regarding the project and conducted a limited feasibility study to determine the appetite among the membership to support a capital campaign to cover the cost of the project. Number TEN Architectural Group was engaged to develop a preliminary design concept based on the feedback received from a small committee that was formed at the time. In the years that followed there would be matters and circumstances that delayed further action on the project, but the issues regarding the building did not disappear and the project remained at the forefront of the agenda.
“At its meeting on September 1 of this year, the Shaarey Zedek Board of Directors moved to proceed with the L’Dor Va Dor (From Generation to Generation) Capital Campaign to support the project and approved a budget of $14 million in this regard.”
At the meeting on Oct. 14, which was attended by some members of the congregation in person, while others joined in via Zoom, three members of Number TEN Architectural Group: Architects Dave Lalama and Brent Bellamy, along with interior designer Ivy Bricker, showed a number of artists’ renderings that gave various options for how the sanctuary and adjoining areas might look. They also showed drawings of the lower level, including a proposed coffee bar – something that elicited a number of critical reactions from congregation members.
Prior to the visual presentation by the representatives of Number TEN Architectural Group, Chair of L’Dor Va Dor committee Neil Duboff, outlined the guiding principles that lie behind the proposed reconstruction of the synagogue.
Included among those principles is the goal to “attract new opportunities and ventures for Shaarey Zedek”. While there was no specific mention of the loss of major life cycle events, including weddings and B’nai Mitzvahs, to other venues in recent years, the proposed renovations would certainly bring the Shaarey Zedek up to a much modern level when it comes to offering a venue for social occasions.
During the Number TEN presentation, the representatives of that firm made the following observations about major concerns that members have with the existing building:
• Lack of multifunctionality
• Lack of flexibility
• 85% of the space is used 15% of the time – the existing space can be used more efficiently
They then noted the following priorities:
• Creating a space that is appealing to the next generation (l’dor va dor) through the creation of a modern, comfortable, inviting interior refresh
• Providing opportunities for joint use between the event space and sanctuary
• Creating more flexibility and functionality by providing greater connection between spaces
• Creating a solarium space that takes advantage of the natural light and river access to create a welcoming opportunity space
• Improvements to the health and quality of the building through HAZMAT (Hazardous Material Abatement Program) and improvements to the mechanical, electrical, lighting and AV systems
• Integrating suspendibility into the design
During his remarks, architect Brent Bellamy referred to the longstanding place the Shaarey Zedek has had in the annals of Winnipeg architecture, saying that it is “a masterpiece of modernist architectural design”.
However, some of the most beautiful features of the sanctuary have long been hidden as a result of renovations to the building that were undertaken in the 1970s. Architect Dave Lalama explained that “some beautiful windows (in the sanctuary) are hidden by walls. We want to have them visible.”
The reason those windows became hidden, Lalama went on to note, is that the ventilation system that was installed on the roof was “so heavy – the ceiling had to be dropped” in order to be able to build up the roof to support the added weight.
Making use of existing sunlight is one of their key goals, the architects said, along with offering views of the river from inside the building.
As far as seating goes, there will be a number of options for congregation members to consider, including having armchair seats – as opposed to the current benches, also opening up the chapel area so that there is no barrier between the chapel and the main sanctuary. (During the question and answer session, however, more than a few participants voiced objections to removing the barrier between the chapel and the sanctuary, saying that the close-knit atmosphere in the chapel is what makes it so attractive.)
Following the presentation by Number TEN, two representatives of Akman Construction, Jared Akman and Marshall Weinstein, spoke about the remediation and renovation of the building which Akman will undertake. The remediation process is about to begin sometime in the spring of 2022, Akman said. (Akman Construction has been involved in the planning process for four years, according to Weinstein, who is the project manager.)
Weinstein explained that the renovation in the 1970s “covered up asbestos”. As a result, he said, “the whole ceiling has to come out”.
During the remediation process, “everyone will have to come out of the building,” Weinstein added.
The components of the remediation process will include:
• Removal of the interior ceiling and replacement of the entire roof
• Removal of tiles
• Replacement of mechanical systems. As Marshall Weinstein explained, “All piping has asbestos that will have to be removed.”
Following the remediation process, which Weinstein said will last from six to seven months, the renovation and construction process, which is expected to last another 20-22 months, will commence.
During the period of remediation and renovation the Shaarey Zedek is planning on making its temporary home in the Masonic Lounge, which is situated at Confusion Corner, Neil Duboff said.
Beneficiary agencies of the Jewish Federation have received $210,000 less this year than last year as of September 1
By BERNIE BELLAN
For the first time in at least 10 years the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg has reduced the amount distributed to its 12 beneficiary agencies from what had been distributed the previous year. The funds were distributed September 1 for 2023-24.
The total amount distributed this year was $210,000 less than what was distributed in both 2022 and 2021 and is actually $500,000 less than the total that was requested by the beneficiary agencies. (The amount distributed last year was $216,000 less than what the beneficiary agencies had requested.)
In explaining why allocations are being reduced this year, the Federation reported that “Over the past few years, the Federation and community have collectively faced significant challenges, placing a strain on our financial resources. In response to these challenges, the Federation stepped in during our community’s time of need, dedicating over $200,000 from our reserves to sustain our beneficiary agencies.” (In a later explanation it was clarified that $100,000 was taken from Federation reserves in each of 2022 and 2021.)
It was further noted that the decrease in funds to be allocated to agencies represents a 7% decrease over the previous year. Dipping into reserves was described as an “unsustainable practice.” It was also noted that the Federation “notified our beneficiaries of a probable reduction in the amount of funding available well ahead of the allocation request deadline.
In describing the pressures that the Federation’s Allocations Committee faced this year in coming up with its allocations, committee chair Brent Schacter said that “We knew after the budget process last year we were going to be in a bind.” Schacter further elaborated that the two whammies that hit this year were the ongoing repercussions of Covid along with the rapid increase in inflation.
In discussing the pressures that the Allocations committee faced this year, it should also be noted that although the amount raised by the Combined Jewish Appeal – while not much more than the previous year ($6.3 million as opposed to $6.25 million), the negative effects of the drop in allocations are somewhat mitigated by two things:. A good portion of the amount raised by the CJA is in the form of “designated funds,” given by large donors and, while those funds are not available to the B & A committee to distribute, many of the beneficiary agencies did receive large distributions from those “designated funds.”
As well, the Jewish Foundation of Manitoba increased its total distributions this year by $1.3 million over the previous year. While the Foundation’s gifts were spread among a very wide number of recipients, a number of the Federation’s beneficiary agencies did benefit from the increase in Foundation distributions.
Still, the challenges facing the Federation in meeting the needs of the community are leading to a major reassessment of how Federation planners are implementing budgetary planning.
A number of new innovations have now been adopted by the B & A committee, including:
- New application forms – one for agencies requesting more than $250,000 and one for agencies requesting less
- Beneficiaries were asked to state the anticipated outcomes of projects/programs that receive Federation funding, and to develop indicators so that they can measure those outcomes.
- Site visits took place along with periodic meetings with agencies as a whole throughout the year to ensure that the committee gets a more complete picture of beneficiaries’ activities, challenges, and plans.
In describing the process that the Federation undertook to “streamline” the budget allocation process, Federation President Gustavo Zentner said “Lay leadership and management had a responsibility to look at the business model.”
It was determined that the Federation needed “a more effective way of managing the allocations process,” Zentner stated, including “more meaningful communication with the agencies to bring to light their projects.”
Not only does the Federation want to improve its own fundraising process, Zentner continued, “We also want to help agencies to raise funds on their own.”
Despite the reductions in allocations available to agencies this year, Zentner stressed that “we wanted to address the needs of those members of the community who are most in need.”
Brent Schacter added: “We want to see people dig a little bit deeper” when it comes to giving. The Combined Jewish Appeal is now into its fundraising campaign for the 2023-24 fiscal year.
Six members of the community receive King’s Counsel appointments
A total of 17 lawyers were appointed King’s Counsel by Order in Council on August 29. Six members of our Jewish community were among those appointed. Although appointments as King’s Counsel are usually accompanied by biographical information about those appointed, there was no press release issued by the Manitoba Government announcing the appointments. When we contacted the Manitoba Government news room to ask why there was no biographical information available, the response we received referred to KC appointments announced in February (no surprise there – these are bureaucrats we’re dealing with). When we asked again why there was no biographical information available about the most recent batch of KC appointments we were told “the Province of Manitoba is in the middle of an election blackout and department communications are limited as a result. News Room has nothing further to add.”
As a result, we present here photos of Jewish recipients of KC appointments, but without any further information.
Kayla Gordon inducted on to Rainbow Stage’s Wall of Fame
Myron Love It was in the summer of 1984 when Kayla Gordon was appearing in the Rainbow Stage production of “Kismet,” that the long time actor/director/producer/photographer found herself doing her make-up sitting next to Nia Vardalos, the writer and star of “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” fame, who was also appearing in the production.
“We both were playing opposite each other in the comic roles as the Ayahs to the Wazir (the main lead), and we began talking about our plans for the future,” Gordon recalls. “Nia was talking about moving to Toronto and joining the Second City company. As for me, I was in a comedy troupe in Winnipeg and just found out I was pregnant with my first child. My plan was to stay in Winnipeg, even though I was a bit jealous that she was going off to pursue her dream and I was staying put. That was my ‘Kismet’ and I never looked back.”
Rainbow Stage is where Gordon began her career in musical theatre at the age of 17 in a production of “Fiddler on the Roof.” After a career of more than 40 years, both on stage and behind the scenes – it is fitting that one of the leading lights of community theatre in our city has been recognized for her contributions by Winnipeg’s longest-running theatre company. On Wednesday, August 17, Gordon was one of the five inductees to Rainbow Stage’s Wall of Fame under the “Builder” category. The award is given to someone who has been part of nurturing and building our theatre community.
“It was a wonderful surprise,” says the honoree. “It brings my career full circle.” Previous honours for Gordon include the Leadership Award from the Canadian Friends of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Theatre Educator’s Award from the Winnipeg Theatre Awards for her long-time leadership within the arts community.
Gordon reports that the induction ceremony, attended by about 100 friends and family members of the inductees and Rainbow Stage staff, was held just prior to the opening night performance of “The Little Mermaid,”,the second of three shows the company is putting on this summer and early fall.
“It was also special to have one of my grandchildren, my husband Art Maister, my mom Ethel, and my aunt Evelyn Hecht at the induction ceremony,” she adds. (Evelyn also performed at Rainbow Stage in the 1950s.)
Gordon notes that while she appeared onstage in seven Rainbow Stage productions – from 1977 to 1993, she was honoured not for her acting, but for her role as a nurturer of talent through teaching acting and musical theatre at the University of Winnipeg for 18 years, as well as teaching at the University of Manitoba, Prairie Theatre Exchange and The Manitoba Theatre for Young People – also, later as the Artistic Director of Winnipeg Jewish Theatre for over 10 years and Winnipeg Studio Theatre, which she founded in 2006.
“I get a lot of satisfaction watching actors I’ve directed and students I have taught and nurtured performing at Rainbow Stage and other venues in the city,” Gordon notes. Many of them have gone on to work professionally and have appeared across Canada, as well as in Broadway productions. Some of them include: Alexandra Frohlinger (Soul Doctor/Broadway), Samantha Hill (Phantom of the Opera/Broadway), Jaz Sealey (Aladdin/Broadway), Andrea Macasaet (Six/Broadway), and Nyk Bielak (Book of Mormon/Broadway).
Gordon was an actor and high school drama teacher at West Kildonan Collegiate for the first 15 years of her career. By the mid-1990s she found herself becoming more interested in working behind the scenes as a director/producer. In 1994, she became the Winnipeg Jewish Theatre’s second artistic director – succeeding WJT founder Bev Aronovitch – a role she played until 2006. Following her time at WJT Gordon observed that local theatres were not hiring many female theatre directors.
“I realized that if I wanted to work as a director, I would have to create my own projects,” she recalls. So, she started Winnipeg Studio Theatre (WST) in 2006. Soon after forming the company, she invited her longtime theatre associate Brenda Gorlick to run the StudioWorks Academy, a program for emerging artists.
In 2021 she stepped down from her position at WST. “I am still interested in directing – but without the added pressures of being a producer or the full-time responsibility of running a professional theatre company,” she observes. “I like having the freedom to pick and choose the projects I want to work on.” I still plan to work on independent contracts directing theatre and creating entertainment for special events or fundraising activities in the community.”.Last year she produced and directed the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg’s Negev Gala tribute honouring Gail Asper and Michael Paterson. As well, stepping down from her responsibilities with WST has also allowed Gordon to devote more time to her other passion – photography. “I have been interested in photography since I was 15,” she recounts. “My father Ralph had a dark room in our basement.”
Over the past couple of years, she has achieved accreditation with the Professional Photographers of Canada in four different areas of photography: street photography (her favourite), portraiture, performing artists, and figure study. And, last year, she co-authored a coffee table book – “The Murals of Winnipeg,” with fellow photographer Keith Levit as a fundraiser for Take Pride Winnipeg, with 80 pages of photos, which sold out in two weeks and the funds will go to emerging mural artists. (That story can be found on the jewishpostandnews.ca website.)
Kayla is grateful to have stayed in Winnipeg and she sums up her career, and how and why she managed to work in theatre all these years with a quote from Henry Winkler (aka ‘The Fonz’) “I live by tenacity and gratitude. Tenacity gets you where you want to be, and gratitude allows you not to be frustrated along the way”.