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Shaarey Zedek capital campaign is on pace to hit $17 million goal, but is hoping to obtain a further $2 million from donors

Artist's rendering of the new sanctuary


By BERNIE BELLAN It was in the October 27, 2021 issue of The Jewish Post & News that we first described the plan to renovate the Shaarey Zedek Synagogue. At that time the planned budget for the renovation was $14 million but, as with most construction projects these days, as costs have increased the total cost of the project has increased considerably.
The Shaarey Zedek website now contains the following information: “The Board previously approved an overall budget of $14 million in September 2021, representing an earlier projection of $12 million in hard costs and $2 million in soft costs.  However, because of supply and inflation issues, as well as changes to the renovation plans, including the installation of an operable dumbwaiter (to replace the current inoperable one), as well as a daycare space, the current budget recently approved by the Board in August 2022, is $16 million.”
However, even that figure has now been supplanted by an even higher figure, according to Neil Duboff, Shaarey Zedek President and Chair of the L’Dor Va Dor Capital Campaign.

Neil Duboff, Shaarey Zedek President and Chair of the L’Dor Va Dor Capital Campaign.


In an interview conducted with Duboff in his office on Monday, May 6, he said that the renovation project is now expected to cost $17 million. As Duboff explained, “All in, including architects, including furniture, including all of the soft costs, (the total cost) is going to be virtually what we always counted on, about 17 million.”
Of that $17 million though, the cost for a day care facility within the synagogue has not added to the overall goal of the capital campaign,” Duboff noted, as the $1 million for the daycare is being donated by the Vickar family, one of the very generous benefactors to our community.
As far as where the other $2 million in increased costs are coming from, Duboff explained that “what’s gone up is security has gone up. Windows have gone up…and one of the other things that has really gone up is AV. AV was more expensive, audio visual is more expensive than we counted on.”
In addition to those added construction costs, there is work being done to improve the drainage in the back. As Duboff explained, “The way I’m led to believe by the architects and engineers is we’ve had a flooding problem in the back. Water has, when it’s a really heavy rain, water comes in. So, it’s something that needed to be fixed regardless” (of the renovations to the building).
As well, during a tour of the renovations in which I was a participant (along with three others) on April 26, which was conducted by Shaarey Zedek Executive Director Rena Elbaze, Elbaze did say that the back entrance is going to be modified extensively – to make it quite a bit more welcoming than it had been previously.
I was quite impressed with how the construction is proceeding from what I saw during that tour, although upon reading the original timetable for completion of the renovations, I see that they were originally slated to be completed by this August. Elbaze assured that the renovations will be done by September 26 (for the community Kavod evening) – which would be a week in advance of the first day of Rosh Hashanah. (Fortunately for the construction crew, Rosh Hashanah is very late this year – which gives them quite a bit of a cushion to finish their work in case any unexpected problems crop up – as they usually do in projects this grand.)
During my interview with Neil Duboff, he was confident that the renovations will be completed well ahead of Yom Tov, saying “it could be as soon as August, and then they just have to make sure that our maintenance staff understands the building in terms of heating and air conditioning.”

Artist’s rendering of the Shaarey Zedek rear side, including the new entrance


The one aspect of the renovation though, that will probably not be completed will be the back entrance, Duboff noted. “One of the things that I was really pushing for is a grander entrance in the back,” he said.
“It’s going to have the same limestone as the front,” he noted “It’s going to be mirroring the front. The feeling of the front will be the feeling in the back.”

Artist’s rendering of the new event centre

But, returning to the issue of finances, Shaarey Zedek members did receive a letter the first week of May in which they were told that the capital campaign is still $2 million short of what is now a $17 million goal. There was also a reference to the cemetery perpetual care fund which apparently left some congregation members concerned that funds set aside for perpetual care might be used for the renovation.
Duboff took the blame for causing some consternation among congregation members over the possible use of the perpetual care fund for the renovation. He said: “I don’t know if you can do this in a synagogue, but I’ll take a mea culpa. It was wrong. because all we were ever intending on doing is saving money by not borrowing money from the bank. That’s all it was ever intended to do. But the mistake that was made in that letter is it talked about the word perpetual care fund.” He added that there was going to be a meeting on May 8 in which the funding situation would be fully clarified for congregation members.
I asked Neil Duboff how much money exactly has been raised by the campaign. He did say that $3 million of the $17 million renovation cost is coming from the provincial government and that $12 million has been raised in pledges, but some of the individuals who have pledged to contribute to the campaign will be fulfilling their pledges over the next five years.
That does leave a bit of a “cash flow” problem, Duboff admitted. The congregation did approve taking out a “$9 million line of credit,” he added, and so far, “we haven’t used it at all,” he said.
And, while that line of credit is available, if necessary, the rate on that line of credit is approximately eight per cent. Shaarey Zedek does have investments, Duboff noted, but the average rate of return is “about five” percent, he said, which means we pay 8% and earn 5%. The goal of the board has been to find a way to avoid paying the approximately 3% interest costs charges in excess of what we earn.
The congregation also has a capital fund, Duboff explained, and $3 million from that fund has been used for the renovations, but Duboff said he’d like to “raise funds to put that back” because the “purpose of the fund” is to “sustain the congregation” to pay for things like “programming.”
One of the problems in raising funds, Duboff admitted, is that “some of our great philanthropists in our city still are considering their donations and need to kick the tire to believe the project and the future of the synagogue is real and viable. And we believe that when people come in to see the renovations and talk to the synagogue leadership, like Steve Kroft, (who was one of the people on the tour in which I participated on April 26) has now given a very, very generous gift.”
Yet, Duboff continued, “there are other people who are top donors in our city who haven’t. So some of the typical people you’d expect haven’t donated because they want to see if it’s real.”
I wondered though, whether the Shaarey Zedek’s not having a second rabbi will be an impediment to being able to grow the congregation – which would be necessary in order to sustain the congregation for the long term?
I said to Duboff that, during the tour Rena Elbaze conducted on April 26, she pointed to an area that will become an office for a second rabbi. I asked Elbaze: “So, you’re still looking for another rabbi?” She answered that she would fill me in on how the search is going, but as of the time or writing, Elbaze hasn’t responded to my request for further information.
The entire atmosphere surrounding the departure of Rabbi Matthew Leibl three years ago remains shrouded in controversy. Regardless what happened to lead to a parting of the ways between Rabbi Leibl and the Shaarey Zedek Congregation, there is no doubt that Rabbi Leibl’s leaving has had a negative impact upon the congregation.
You just have to take a look at the number of funerals, weddings, bar and bat mitzvahs at which Rabbi Leibl has officiated over the past four years to realize how immensely popular he remains as a rabbi within this community.
Neil Duboff isn’t the first person to whom I’ve suggested that it’s the congregation’s loss that Rabbi Leibl is not only not serving as a rabbi at the Shaarey Zedek, his being available to officiate at life cycle events outside of a synagogue venue and his having held High Holiday services at the Gates last year has been partly at the expense of the Shaarey Zedek in terms of people still making Rabbi Leibl their first choice for a rabbi in this city.
In response, Duboff said: “I think that the message has to be that I am a fan of Matthew’s. I think he does great work…
“But I have to sustain a strong Conservative synagogue. I can tell you that, regardless of who the Shaarey Zedek were to hire tomorrow, the synagogue, the congregation, the Shaarey Zedek, has to be bigger than a rabbi. Rabbis come and go. The institution doesn’t. Every synagogue is like that…

“Rabbis come and go. That’s the nature of an employee. But, it would be a tremendous solidifying thing, I think if Matthew would come back, I would open the door to it.”

Duboff admitted that there were conflicts between Rabbi Leibl and certain individuals (whose names he did divulge, but who will not be identified here), and that another prominent member of the congregation did reach out to Rabbi Leibl to see if there was a possibility of his returning to the congregation, but Duboff’s understanding is that “he’s not interested in working at the Shaarey Zedek.”

Looking ahead though, I wondered what the community’s demographics portend for the long-term future of the Shaarey Zedek? I said that I thought there would be an initial flurry of interest in coming to the Shaarey Zedek because of the novelty aspect – the same way Gray Academy attracted over 900 students the first year that the Asper Campus opened (in 1997), but that initial interest levelled off quickly after that first year.

And, with the Etz Chayim just having moved into new quarters on Wilkes, there is bound to be a competition between the two congregations for new members, I suggested. I asked Duboff whether, in hindsight, there should’t have been a merger of the two congregations 20 years ago when discussions of a merger ended in failure because of the apparent “culture clash” between the two congregations?

“Don’t you think that should have been the way to go?” I asked Duboff.
He agreed, saying “A hundred percent. I think that in our city, I still think at some point the congregations are going to have to join. Our city’s too small. And like you just said, there aren’t as many young families. When our generation goes, who are going to be the leaders?”

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Past President of Doctors Manitoba reflects on Manitoba’s severe doctor shortage

Past President of Doctors Manitoba Dr. Michael Boroditsky

By BERNIE BELLAN As president of Doctors Manitoba for the past year, Dr. Michael Boroditsky maintained a high profile within the media, often being called upon to react to various issues, especially the pronounced shortage of doctors within Manitoba.
Doctors Manitoba is an advocacy group for the more than 4,000 physicians in Manitoba – both active and non-active, engaging in policy development. As Dr. Boroditsky, now the Past President of Doctors Manitoba, said, “We’re more of an advocacy group than a union.
“Our main mission is to strengthen and support doctors in Manitoba,” although not just in the area of “renumeration,”, he explained.
According to its website, Doctors Manitoba “advocates for our physicians, so that they can stay focused on providing exceptional care to Manitobans.
“We strive to work collaboratively with partners to help develop a better health care system for Manitobans. We work to improve health policy so patients have better access to physicians across Manitoba, and so physicians have the supports they need to meet their patients’ needs.
“We regularly connect with the provincial government, Shared Health, regional health authorities and other organizations to ensure the physicians’ voices are heard and have an impact on decision-making.”
On Thursday, May 23, Dr. Boroditsky, who started in practice 25 years ago as an obstetrician gynaecologist, spoke to over 40 attendees at the weekly Remis speakers luncheon group at the Gwen Secter Centre. The focus of his talk was the “physician shortage” in Manitoba.
Using a series of slides that showed graphs detailing just how much Manitoba has slid almost to the bottom of all Canadian provinces when it comes to the number of physicians per capita (only Prince Edward Island has a worse ratio), Dr. Boroditsky was candid in describing the challenges that Manitobans face when it comes to finding doctors.
While the total number of physicians in Manitoba has grown by 21% in Manitoba over the past 20 years, this is actually the lowest growth of any province. Dr. Boroditsky explained that growth hasn’t kept pace with the growth in Manitoba’s population, nor has the number of physicians here per 100,000 (215) kept pace with the national average, which is 247/100,000.
To give an idea how far Manitoba has fallen in terms of physicians per capita, in 2002, we had the fourth highest ratio of physicians/100,000 population, while in 2023 we had fallen to ninth. Manitoba needs 445 more doctors just to get to the Canadian average.
To add even more gloom to the picture, Dr. Boroditsky said that, in a 2023 poll of physicians here, to which one third of active physicians responded, 12% of physicians said they were likely to retire within the next three years; 14% said they were likely to leave Manitoba; and 26% said they were likely to reduce their hours.
He did offer a glimmer of hope though, when he said that preliminary results from the 2024 Annual Physician Survey showed a slight improvement with physicians intending to stay in practice here in Manitoba.
Dr. Boroditsky cited six different reasons that doctors gave in explaining why they were either thinking of retiring or leaving the province. They included: frustrated by the “system”; feeling “burned out” or “distressed:”; don’t feel “valued”; “personal reasons”; “red tape”; or too heavy a “workload”.
While “burnout and distress are still high,” Dr. Boroditsky observed, the situation is “improving.”
“We’re seeing a different tone in government.”
Yet, in another moment of candour, Dr. Boroditsky said, “News flash: It’s hard to recruit (physicians) here in Manitoba.”
When it comes to physician retention, he described the number of years a physician needs to put in before they can begin practising as a doctor (beginning with three years of pre-med studies): For a family physician – nine years; for a specialist – 12 years; and for someone who undertakes a fellowship – 15 years.
Dr. Boroditsky touched upon the area of immigrant doctors – and why doesn’t Manitoba allow more of them?
There are two types of International Medical Graduates (IMGs), he explained: Canadians who have gone overseas for their medical education, to such jurisdictions as Ireland or Australia; and physicians from abroad looking to relocate to Canada.
Until now, the Manitoba government has only offered 20 training spaces for IMGs each year, Dr. Boroditsky explained, but that figure will double to 40 this year. Unfortunately, we need to add 445 doctors here altogether even if we were just to meet the national average, so adding 20 more IMGs to the total isn’t enough on its own to fix the shortage.
Still, there was some good news in the area of physician retention. The average net gain in doctors in Manitoba over the past five years has been 60 a year, Dr. Boroditsky noted. Putting some more flesh on that figure, he said that, on average, 213 new doctors have begun practice here each of the past five years, but 153 have either retired or left the province. This year, however, of the UM medical school graduating class, 79 have committed to doing their residencies in Manitoba, he said. (Manitoba does not have mandatory residency requirements for graduating medical students, he added.)
Turning to other areas where there has been much-needed change to the system, Dr. Boroditsky noted that “cloud storage” now allows doctors anywhere in the province to access the results of blood tests and imaging sessions e.g., CAT scans, MRIs. The one crucial area that still remains to be accessible by doctors, however, remain “clinical notes,” but that’s coming, he predicted.
In the question and answer session that followed, I asked Dr. Boroditsky about a recent Maclean’s Magazine article which analyzed in some detail the dire state of the Canadian medical system. That article noted the increasing privatization of medical services, the proliferation of nurse practitioners in many areas where there are severe doctor shortages, and the advent of what is known as “virtual medicine,” especially in areas where patients find it difficult to see a doctor in person. (I had written an article about a service that began in Manitoba in 2022 known as QDoc, which describes how successful a foray into “virtual medicine” by two Winnipeggers, Dr. Norm Silver, and Dave Berkowits, had been. You can read that article at https://jewishpostandnews.ca/faqs/rokmicronews-fp-1/qdoc-a-new-venture-that-promises-to-change-the-way-patients-interact-with-doctors/)
I asked Dr. Boroditsky whether Doctors Manitoba had a problem with the expanded use of nurse practitioners and what he thought of virtual medicine?
He said there’s been a “significant increase” in nurse practitioners (who are allowed to see patients, diagnose and prescribe in certain limited areas) and fully agreed “that team-based care with providers working with physicians is the way to move forward.” As for “virtual medicine,” Dr. Boroditsky said, “its’ a game changer.”
It was toward the end of his talk that Dr. Boroditsky talked about the heightened antisemitism of which many Jewish doctors have expressed deep concern. His comments can be read in another article on our home page at https://jewishpostandnews.ca/faqs/rokmicronews-fp-1/jewish-physicians-in-manitoba-form-association-in-response-to-antisemitism/

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President of University of Manitoba Michael Benarroch responds to criticisms levelled at university over controversial valedictorian speech

UM President Michael Benarroch

UM president Michael Benarroch issued the following statement on May 24, 2024:
Last week, UM celebrated the convocation of 106 new physicians from the Max Rady College of Medicine. What should have been a joyous occasion for all graduating students was tarnished by the valedictorian’s address. Valedictory addresses should celebrate the accomplishments of the students in the class and provide inspiration to help motivate the graduates in their future careers.  The address should speak to all the students in the class.  Valedictory addresses are not political platforms for one student or a group of students to express their views, no matter how important or relevant the issue.  Universities, including the University of Manitoba, provide many platforms of expression and I believe this is why we have seen so much political activism on our campuses in the past few months.
 
As President, I have felt it important that our university maintains neutrality about the complex geopolitical situation in Israel and Gaza.  Universities are not monolithic institutions made up of groups of people sharing homogeneous perspectives and experiences.  This neutrality however should not be interpreted as inattention, nor should it be mistaken for an acceptance of antisemitism, or any other form of racism.  I have been carefully watching and listening to what has been happening on our campuses – and I am distressed by the escalation in both activity and rhetoric that is causing pain and harm in our community and not moving the world closer to peace in the middle east. 
 
Many universities, including UM, have long and painful histories of systemic antisemitism. You don’t have to look much further than our medical college’s notorious quota system – something our college’s very namesake, Max Rady, had to overcome to gain entry – to find an example. I am saddened to acknowledge that antisemitism continues to exist on our campuses today. I hear far too often from students and colleagues who do not feel UM’s campuses are safe for them.
 
I am and always have been a fierce defender of free speech. As the president of a university, I am keenly aware of my – our – obligation to protect this fundamental freedom.  But with that freedom comes responsibility, and it is critically important for free speech to coexist with the protection of human rights. I fear that the way one perspective is being expressed is resulting in another group experiencing hate.
 
Simply put, UM needs to do better.
 
What I have found shocking in the communications directed at UM in the aftermath of the valedictory speech, is how unaware people are of the systemic antisemitism that exists in the world. Israel is not above criticism, but the insidious nature of antisemitism is such that many cannot even recognize it for what it is.  As a university, we can and will bring our resources to bear to offer much-needed education to our students, faculty and staff.  I commit UM to develop additional anti-racism education resources including antisemitism training for our students, faculty and staff – an effort that is already underway. This training will be made mandatory for students in the Rady Faculty of Health Sciences.
 
I wish I could guarantee you that this type of occurrence will not happen again at our university Unfortunately, I fear that there will continue to be hard times ahead. 
 
I have heard from many people that they are questioning their association with UM in light of recent events.  While I fully understand why you might feel this way, now, more than ever, UM needs you. As President, I rely on UM alumni and friends to add to the rich diversity of thought and perspective that help us navigate challenging times as an institution. I realize there are many organizations and individuals who are hurt and angry, asking you to back off from your support for universities right now.  I’m asking you to lean in. With your voice at the table, we can be stronger, more inclusive, and more responsive. Your voice and the benefit of your wisdom and experience can help us effectively confront antisemitism and grow understanding.  
 
If you would like to discuss this, please do not hesitate to contact me.  I would welcome hearing from you.
  
Sincerely,
Michael
 
 Michael Benarroch, Ph.D.
President and Vice-Chancellor
202 Administration Building
66 Chancellors Circle
Winnipeg, Manitoba R3T 2N2
Phone:  204-474-9345
Email:  m.benarroch@umanitoba.ca

To read the remarks by the valedictorian for this year’s graduating class of the UM medical school, along with subsequent reactions from the medical school’s dean, and Ernest Rady, who donated $30 to the UM in 2016, go to https://jewishpostandnews.ca/faqs/rokmicronews-fp-1/valedictory-speech-delivered-to-graduating-medical-students-sets-off-storm-of-controversy/

To read letters from a graduate of this year’s medical school class along with an alumnus of that school, go to https://jewishpostandnews.ca/faqs/rokmicronews-fp-1/reaction-to-the-valedictory-address-at-the-medical-school-convocation-ceremony/

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Jewish physicians in Manitoba form association in response to antisemitism

Doctors Manitoba President Dr. Michael Boroditsky speaking to the Remis Lecture group at the Gwen Secter Centre Thursday, May 23

By BERNIE BELLAN (first posted May 24, 2024, updated May 27) Jewish physicians in Manitoba have been in the process of organizing as an official organization since October 7 and its aftermath, stemming from the huge upsurge in antisemitism.
According to Doctors Manitoba Immediate Past President Dr. Michael Boroditsky, who has also been actively involved in organizing Jewish physicians here into a group, The Jewish Physicians of Manitoba “will be passing bylaws and electing an executive this weekend” (May 25-26).
Dr. Boroditsky spoke about the Jewish Physicians’ Association at the tail end of a question and answer session following a talk he had given to member of the Remis Lecture group at the Gwen Secter Centre on Thursday, May 23.
In response to a question about the controversy surrounding the convocation ceremony at the U of M medical school on Thursday, May 16, Dr. Boroditsky noted that Jewish physicians in cities across Canada and the U.S. have been forming formal associations in response to heightened antisemitism following the Hamas massacre of October 7.

With reference to the policy adopted by so many institutions of higher learning across Canada and the U.S. to promote EDI (Equity, Diversity, Inclusion), Dr. Boroditsky said: “Our belief is that EDI at the University of Manitoba applies to everybody but Jews.”

On May 27 we were informed that a first meeting of the Jewish Physicians of Manitoba had been held at the Etz Chayim Synagogue Sunday evening, May 26, with 120 Jewish physicians in attendance. (One hundred eighty physicians have signed up to join up the association so far.) A board consisting of ten members was formed


In an article in the Montreal Gazette on April 1 this year, that paper referred to the formation of “the Association des médecins juifs du Québec” this past November. According to the Gazette article, “Founded in November, the association counts some 400 members across Quebec.”


British Columbia has also seen the recent formation of a Jewish physicians association. According to information on the internet, “The Jewish Medical Association of British Columbia was started by family physician Dr. Larry Barzelai in November 2023 as an attempt to get Jewish physicians together to support one another, especially in the current situation of increased antisemitism. The group has almost 300 members.”

Toronto, in contrast, had had a long history of Jewish physicians forming an association. There has been a Toronto Jewish Medical Association since 1925.

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