By MYRON LOVE After an absence of two years due to the lengthy Covid lockdown, Shabbat Unplugged has returned to an enthusiastic response, according to Winnipeg Hillel Director Raya Margulets.
“We weren’t sure what to expect,” Margulets says. “But everyone who participated was excited to be here and all are looking forward to doing this again next year.”
She reports that this year’s Shabbat Unplugged – which was held at the Lakeview Hecla Resort on the weekend of March 24-26 – attracted 100 university students including a few from Regina, Toronto and Ottawa.
The weekend began with a candle lighting, kiddush and a traditional Shabbat supper. Saturday began with a Shabbat service led by Dr. Sheppy Coodin and some of the students. After-service programs included presentation by a representative of the Canadian Jewish Political Affairs Committee (CJPAC), StandWithUs Canada, and Reservists on Duty, along with a study of the role of women in the Torah.
“We had a beautiful Havdalah service led by the students at the end of Shabbat,” Margulets notes.
This was the sixth Shabbat Unplugged weekend. The concept was originated in 2016 by Coodin, a science teacher at Gray Academy, and fellow Gray Academy teacher Avi Posen (who made aliyah in 2019) – building on the Shabbatons that Gray Academy had been organizing for the school’s high school students for many years.
The inaugural Shabbat Unplugged was so successful that Coodin and Posen did it again in 2017 and took things one step further by combining their Shabbat Unplugged with Hillel’s annual Shabbat Shabang Shabbaton, which brings together Jewish university students from Winnipeg and other Jewish university students from Western Canada.
“This Shabbat Unplugged was extra special being the first one post Covid,” Coodin observes. “It was nice to see that people wanted to get together.”
He adds that it was “wonderful” working with Margulets, who is a former student of Coodin’s and is now a colleague. She took part in the 2017 Shabbat Unplugged as a student.
“Raya worked incredibly hard to make the weekend a success,” he notes. “There were a lot of details to be worked out for 100 students as well as the presenters.”
The weekend was funded in part by grants from the Jewish Foundation of Manitoba, CJPAC, and StandWithUs Canada, also by a generous gift from the Asper Foundation,
Margulets reports that Hillel’s next program will be an end of semester celebration in partnership with the Asper School of Business, which organizes an annual student exchange program with and the Guilford Glazer Faculty of Business and Management at the Ben-Gurion University (BGU) of the Negev in Israel.
“Many of the students participating in the exchange program aren’t Jewish,” Margulets points out. “We are aiming to provide them with a Jewish cultural experience before they leave for israel.”.
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?