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Simkin Centre dedicates memorial to the 11 residents who lost their lives to Covid last year – and unveils 5 new Chanukah menorahs

left: one of 5 new Chanukah
menorahs now at the Simkin Centre
right: monument dedicated to the memories of
the 11 residents who lost their lives to Covid

By BERNIE BELLAN It was a little more than one year ago that the Simkin Centre was hit hard by Covid for an almost two-month period.  As I noted in a daily blog that I kept updating on this website, it was on December 14 that I was finally able to report that “as of today, there are no active cases of COVID-19 at the Simkin Centre. After almost two consecutive months with at least one active case every day – either among residents or staff, there is now reason to believe that the worst is over.”

But, what happened from October 22 – December 14 was nightmarish in scope.
A total of 40 cases were reported among both staff and residents, with 21 staff hit by Covid, while 29 residents also fell ill. While no staff died as a result of Covid, 11 residents did, beginning with Gwen Nelko on October 22 and ending with Mahmonir Vahdat on December 14.
On October 27 the Simkin Centre front entrance was the scene of a dedication of a memorial to the 11 residents who lost their lives to Covid during that terrible two-month period.
Rabbi Kliel Rose of Etz Chayim Congregation delivered remarks to members of families of the deceased who had gathered that cold October day, along with several employees who were also in attendance.
Marilyn Regiec read out the names of the 11 residents who died:
Gwen Nelko
Esther Shuster
Mary D Turner
Lena Parisien
Sheila Streifler
Luba Zalkind
Irene Fonseth
Annette Rosenberg
Gary Marantz
Hilda Loeppky
Mahmonir Vahdat
The memorial was donated by Larsen’s Memorials at no cost.


Project Menorah
Submitted by the Simkin Centre: During the darkest time of the year, when the sun is most hidden, the celebration of Chanukah shines a ray of hope through the shadows, and it is often through simple and unrecognized miracles that we are able to feel the warmth of the light.
This year, The Saul and Claribel Simkin Centre is delighted to announce “Project Menorah”. This extraordinary event will showcase five stunning nine-foot menorahs situated in the front of our building, our atrium, and all three courtyards. Residents, family, staff and the community at large will thoroughly enjoy basking in the light that these spectacular menorahs will be emitting.
The inspiration for this special event arose from the remarkable display observed at St. Boniface Hospital. As a Jewish organization we felt passionate and compelled to provide our Residents and community with a magnificent menorah display at our Centre.
Sponsorship for one menorah is $2500.00 and a donor recognition plaque will be placed on each, along with a full charitable donation tax receipt.
Don and Bev Aronovitch have chosen to sponsor a menorah saying, “Bev and I are thrilled to sponsor one of the Simkin Centre’s new menorahs. We are very pleased that there will be five that will be situated throughout the facility in order for Residents to see one of them. Chanukah brings hope during one of the darkest times of the year, and the menorahs bring light to the spirit of us all.”
If you would like to sponsor a menorah, please contact Aviva Tabac at (204) 589-9027.
May the Festival of Light bring blessings upon you and all of
your loved ones.


Simkin Centre CEO looks back on most harrowing year in history of Sharon Home and Simkin Centre
By now, the nightmarish situation in which the Simkin Centre, like so many other Personal Care Homes across Canada, was plunged in 2020, is receding like a distant memory.
But, for residents of the centre, along with their families, and the staff that was working to protect them, the two months of unremitting anxiety that began with the death of resident Gwen Nelko on October 22, 2020, and which didn’t end until almost two months later with the final death of a resident due to Covid, is a period in time that will long not be forgotten.
The Simkin Centre recently released its Annual Report. Not surprisingly, Covid dominates the content of the report.
Here, for instance, are excerpts from the message of Chief Executive Officer Laurie Cerqueti:
“The past year and a half has been dominated by Covid-19. This virus has affected every aspect of our operation. Despite all of the Covid related challenges, we have so much to be proud and thankful for.
“Our impeccable planning, execution and adaptability has served our organization and Residents well throughout our Covid journey. We have come to be seen as leaders in the management of Covid in the long term sector. Representatives from our site sit on a number of the Maples Working Groups that were formed following the tragic failure at the Maples Personal Care Home. Our communication strategies throughout the pandemic have been recognized and will be included as examples of best practices in Long Term Care during Covid in Canada. We are frequently contacted by the media for interviews on different topics related to Covid. One of our proudest moments was the media attention of our recovery parades…
“With the development of the Covid-19 vaccines, a new hope was brought to the Centre starting in January 2020. Curently, over 99% of our Residents and staff have been vaccinated. The vast majority of our staff did not require a vaccine mandate to roll up their sleeve and get the shot. They knew it was the right thing to do…
“I am thankful for our Residents who have shown great resilience during such a difficult time. We remembers, with sadness, and mourn the Residents that were lost due to the pandemic.I believe that the darkest days of the pandemic are now behind us. We look forward to the return of more normal times where we can welcome everyone back to the Centre.
Laurie Cerqueti, BA, BN, MSA, RN
Chief Executive Officer
In his own report, Fiscal Advisory Chair Avrum Senensky made the following observations:
“In all aspects, the fiscal year ending March 31, 2021 was a challenging one for the Simkin Centre. This definitely included fiscal management of the Centre. It is impossible to budget for all of the unknowns that were faced during the pandemic Approximately 1 million dollars was spent on pandemic related supplies and salary costs during the fiscal year.
“The Centre ended the year with a small surplus of $15,578.”
In its statement of Operations and Changes in Net Assets, the Centre shows that, while expenses were up one and a half million dollars from 2020 to 2021, revenues were up by almost exactly the same amount. The primary factor in the Simkin Centre’s being able to show a small surplus was the huge increase in funding received from the Winnipeg Regional Authority: up from $10,275,850 in 2020 to $11,903,624 in 2021.



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Winnipeg-born Elliot Lazar to star as Paul Simon in “The Simon & Garfunkel Story” at Centennial Concert Hall

By BERNIE BELLAN Elliot Lazar’s career has long been chronicled in the pages of The Jewish Post & News. Do a search for his name in our “Search Archives” button and you will find a multitude of stories about Elliot from the time he was five years old.
A talented singer, musician, and musical arranger, also a graduate of Gray Academy, the University of Manitoba’s Desautels Faculty of Music, and the Boston Conservatory, Elliot has appeared many times in Winnipeg, including most recently last summer in Rainbow Stage’s production of “Rent.”
He’s been constantly busy – as a review of some of his past acting credits reveals. Last season alone, in addition to his performing in “Rent,” Elliot also appeared in the National Tour of “Fiddler on the Roof,” and “The Band’s Visit” (Huntington/Speakeasy Stage).
We’re excited to announce that Elliot will be appearing in Winnipeg for one night only, May 21, starring as Paul Simon in “The Simon & Garfunkel Story.”

Here’s Elliot’s own story about his growing up in Winnipeg:
“I grew up in Garden City, attended Gray Academy (K-12) and majored in vocal performance at the University of Manitoba’s Desautels Faculty of Music. I lived in Winnipeg until I was 22, so I’m pretty connected with the arts scene there still. The venue we’re playing, the Centennial Concert Hall, I was last seen in Guys and Dolls in concert with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra and Rainbow Stage (2019), and before that I sang with the Manitoba Opera Chorus in 3 productions there. My last performance in Winnipeg was in Rent with Rainbow Stage this past summer. Other local performing arts companies I have a history with there are Winnipeg Jewish Theatre, Winnipeg Studio Theatre, Dry Cold Productions, Manitoba Theatre for Young People, Manitoba Underground Opera, Little Opera Company, and the Winnipeg Fringe Festival. I grew up going to see shows at the Concert Hall, so it’s a wonderful full circle moment for me.”

Elliot Lazar (second from left bottom row) as Paul Simon

About “The Simon & Garfunkel Story”:
Nostalgia-inducing unforgettable hits! The internationally-acclaimed hit theater show The Simon & Garfunkel Story ( returns to the road in 2024 with a North American tour to more than 25 cities. Kicking off in Richmond, Kentucky on January 28, 2024, the immersive concert-style tribute show will recreate the magic and authenticity of Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel on stage and chronicles the amazing journey shared by the iconic, GRAMMY-award winning folk-rock duo. It tells the story from their humble beginnings as Tom & Jerry, to their incredible success as one of the best-selling music groups of the ‘60s, and to their dramatic split in 1970. The Simon & Garfunkel Story culminates with the pair’s famous “The Concert in Central Park” reunion in 1981 which had more than half a million fans in attendance. Tickets are on sale now.
The show features a set list of nearly 30 songs and uses state-of-the-art video projection, photos and original film footage. A full live band will perform all of the hits including “Mrs. Robinson,” “Cecilia,” “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” “Homeward Bound” and many more complete with the unmistakably perfect harmonies that will transport audiences down memory lane.
With more than 100 million album sales since 1965, Simon & Garfunkel’s unforgettable songs and poetic lyrics poignantly captured the times made them one of the most successful folk-rock duos of all time. Over the years, they won 10 GRAMMY Awards and were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990. In 1977, the Brit Awards honored their “Bridge Over Troubled Water” album with Best International Album. In 2003, Simon & Garfunkel were awarded a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and the following year saw their “The Sound of Silence” awarded a Grammy Hall of Fame Award.

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Ida and the late Saul Alpern have donated 2 ambulances and a scooter to Magen David Adom in past 4 years

Saul z"l and Ida Alpern

By BERNIE BELLAN Saul Alpern passed away in 2022, but before he died he and his wife Ida had decided to make Magen David Adom a major recipient of their generosity.

As Myron Love noted in an October 2020 article the Alperns had been contributing small amounts to the Canadian Magen David Adom for some time, but it was in that year they decided to donate $160,000 for the purchase of a Mobile Intensive Care Unit for Israel’s Magen David Adom.

As Myron wrote in that 2020 article, an MICUA (which is larger than an ambulance, is staffed by paramedics, and responds only to the most medically serious cases) was donated “to the people of Israel in memory of Saul Alpern’s parents and siblings who perished in the Holocaust.

“It is an expression of my love for my family and my love of Israel,” Saul Alpern said at the time.

In early 2022 the Alperns donated yet another $170,000 for the purchase of a second MICU for Magen David Adom.

The scooter recently donated by Ida Alpern in memory of her late husband and parents/plaque imprinted on the front of the scooter carrier box

Saul Alpern passed away in November 2022, but Ida Alpern has now continued the legacy of giving to Canadian Magen David Adom that she and Saul had begun several years before. Just recently Ida contributed $39,000 toward the purchase of an emergency medical scooter. According to the CMDA website, “the scooter, which is driven by a paramedic, can get through traffic faster than the Standard Ambulance or MICU and provide pre-hospital care. It contains life-saving equipment, including a defibrillator, an oxygen tank, and other essential medical equipment.”

I asked Ida whether she wanted to say anything about the motivation for her and her late husband’s support for CMDA. She wrote, “Having survived the Holocaust, and being a Zionist, Saul felt that supporting Israel was of the utmost importance.”

On May 7, CMDA will be honouring Ida and Saul z”l Alpern at a dinner and show at the Centro Caboto Centre. Another highlight that evening will be the announcement of the purchase of an ambulance for CMDA by another Winnipegger, Ruth Ann Borenstein. That ambulance will be in honour of Ruth’s late parents, Gertrude and Harry Mitchell. The evening will also commemorate the late Yoram East (aka Hamizrachi), who was a well-known figure both in Israel and here in Winnipeg.

For more information about the May 7 event go to or to purchase tickets phone 587-435-5808 or email

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Simkin Centre looking for volunteers

A scene from last year's Simkin Stroll

We received the following email from Heather Blackman, Simkin Centre Director of Volunteers & Resident Experience:

Happy Spring Everyone! Hope you all are well. We have a number of upcoming volunteer opportunities that I wanted to share with you. Please take a look at what we have listed here and let me know if you are available for any of the following. I can be reached at or 204-589-9008.
Save the date! The Simkin Stroll is on June 25th this year and we need tons of volunteers to assist. This is our annual fundraiser and there is something for everyone to help with from walking with Residents in the Stroll to manning booths and tables, event set up and take down and much more. Volunteers will be needed from 3 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on this day. Come and help for the full event or for any period within that timeframe that works for you.
Resident Store – This tuck shop style cart will be up for business shortly. Residents will be assisting to stock and run the store for 2 hours 2- 3 times per week in the afternoons. Volunteer support is needed to assist residents with restocking items and monetary transactions.
Passover Volunteers
Volunteers are needed to assist with plating Seder plates for Residents (date to be determined for plating)
Volunteers are needed to assist Residents to and from Passover Services and Come and Go Teas.
Times volunteers are needed for services/teas:
April 22cnd – First Seder 1:30-3:30 p.m.
April 23rd – Passover Service Day 1 – 9:30 – 11:30 a.m.
April 23rd – Second Seder – 1:30-3:30 p.m.
April 24th – Passover Service – Day 2 9:30 – 11:30 a.m.
April 29th – Passover Service – 9:30 – 11:30 a.m.
April 29th- Passover Tea – 1:30-3:30 p.m.
April 30th – Passover Service – 9:30 -11:30 a.m.
April 30th – Passover Tea – 1:30-3:30 p.m.

Admin/Paperwork Volunteers – Volunteers are needed to assist with filing and other administrative duties. A monthly volunteering job is also available to input information on programming into Recreation activity calendars. Support would be provided for this.
Adult Day Program – A volunteer is needed to assist with the Mondays Adult Day Program Group. A regular ongoing weekly commitment on Mondays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Assist with Recreation programming and lunch supervision for our Adult Day Program participants that come in from the community for the day.
Biking Volunteers – Take our residents out for a spin on one of our specialty mobility bicycles. Training is provided and volunteers will be needed throughout the Spring, Summer and early Fall.

With summer coming there is also opportunity to assist with outings and other outdoor programming! Please let me know if you are interested!

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