By MYRON LOVE After three long years, Jewish Winnipeggers were able to return to synagogue for Yom Tov in reasonable numbers. “We weren’t sure what was going to happen this year,” says Ruth Livingston, the president of Temple Shalom, our community’s only Reform Congregation. “But we were delighted with the turnout. It felt to me like we were a community again.”
Livingston’s sentiments were generally shared by all active synagogue leaders. (The Chavurat Tefila and Talmud Torah shuls in north Winnipeg were unable to offer Yom Tov services this year.) Despite some continuing hesitation, these same leaders were pleased with the number of people who showed up for High Holiday services this year.
“We were cautiously optimistic,” notes Rob Waldman, the president of the egalitarian Chevra Mishnayes congregation in Garden City. “But we were quite pleased with our attendance. Despite some of our members still being uncomfortable with in-person services, we sold 90 seats – exceeding our expectations.”
Still with the North End, the venerable House of Ashkenazie, the last of our community’s older-style Orthodox coaggregations, enjoyed its largest Yom Tov turnout in several years. Congregation President Gary Minuk reports that about 50 were in attendance for the first day of Rosh Hashonah and over 40 for Kol Nidre. “We even had visitors from Toronto and New York davening with us,” he says. (The Ashkenazie is 100 years old this year. Minuk reports that a shul dinner to commemorate the occasion has been discussed, but the details at this point haven’t been finalized.)
South Winnipeg’s Orthodox Adas Yeshurun Herzlia Congregation also had reason to be pleased with Yom Tov numbers this year. “We have fully re-opened our synagogue to our regular members,” says Jack Craven, the president of the congregation. Yom Tov turned out well for us. Our numbers were as we expected. It was good to see most people coming back. We hope to see even more members returning as the year progresses.” As most readers of this newspaper already are aware, there is big news happening with both of our community’s largest synagogues.
For Congregation Etz Chayim, this past Yom Tov was most likely the last to be celebrated at its current location. After nearly 70 years in North Winnipeg, our community’s second oldest and largest congregation is following the flow and planning to move south in early summer. Due in part to the growing trend of people staying home to watch services online and a continued exercise of caution – including distancing – Etz Chayim’s High Holiday attendance remained far short of pre-Covid lockdown times. In an earlier interview, Jonathan Buchwald, Etz Chayim’s executive director, reported that the synagogue executive was planning to cap attendance at between 350 and 375 in-person worshippers – about one-third of capacity. This compares with 50 worshippers allowed into the building for each of the two days of Rosh Hashanah and 100 for Kol Nidre and Yom Kippur last year. The final numbers, Buchwald says, were about 350 for the first day of Rosh Hashonah and 320 for Kol Nidre. For the other days – the second day of Rosh Hashona and Yom Kippur day – the number in attendance were between 250 and 300. “This year, too,” Buchwald adds, “our junior congregation and family services were back – as well as the in-person choir. “It was really nice to have a live congregation again.”
Shaarey Zedek’s attendance was constrained this year not so much by lingering Covid concerns but more so by the capacity of the Berney Theatre’s 200 seat auditorium where Winnipeg’s largest and oldest congregation was forced to hold High Holiday services while the Shaarey Zedek building itself is undergoing a major expansion and upgrade, which will be ongoing for the next two years. Ran Ukashi, the congregation’s executive director, reports that while over 100 people bought tickets for the in-person services, there were 350 screens – with 570 viewers watching online. Last year, Ukashi points out, Shaarey Zedek’s High Holiday services were entirely online. “It is a different feeling not being in our own building for Yom Tov,” he comments, “but, in general, people were positive about being able to attend High Holiday services in person.”
And, after two years absence, Camp Massad resumed its innovative and frailich Rosh Hashonah service. Daniel Sprintz, the camp’s executive director, reports that, as was the norm before Covid, Massad hosted its Rosh Hashonah program on the second day. “We offered a creative and interactive service that combines some traditional prayers with contemporary readings, folk music and our usual Camp Massad shtick,” Sprintz says. “Our services were our usual shtick, followed by an outstanding Kiddush lunch and tashlich by the water.” Sprintz notes that past Rosh Hashonahs at Massad have attracted as many as 150 participants.
Winnipeg Jewish Theatre to open season with world premiere of “Pals”
By BERNIE BELLAN The opening show of Winnipeg Jewish Theatre’s 2023-24 season promises to be a clever and poignant take on relationships between men and women, when “Pals” makes its world premiere on November 9 in the Berney Theatre, running until November 19.
“Pals” is the third two-person show created by the team of Diane Flacks and Richard Greenblatt. Interestingly, when I spoke with Flacks and Greenblatt while they took a break from rehearsing the play in Toronto, they told me that their previous two two-person plays also had one word titles – with four letters in both: “Sibs” and “Care.”
“Pals” is the story of two friends, told over a 25-year time period. Their friendship survives many tribulations, including both characters entering and exiting many other relationships. The play uncovers the underlying tensions that permeate all friendships.
“Pals” opens with the two characters meeting for the first time. I asked Diane and Richard whether the notion of their having sex ever enters into the plot, but Richard was quick to exclaim, “We don’t have sex.”
Diane also noted that, in the case of her character, she is married to another woman. (Diane is a lesbian in real life.)
The fact that the characters maintain a friendship though becomes a source of friction within their respective relationships. It raises the question: Can you have an intimate, albeit platonic, relationship, with a member of the opposite sex all the while you’re in a physical relationship with someone else?
I asked whether the characters in “Pals” are Jewish (which both Diane and Richard are), and the answer was “yes.”
Both Diane and Richard have had past associations with the Winnipeg Jewish Theatre. Richard’s goes back a very long time – when he directed the critically acclaimed “League of Nathans” in 1995.
Diane Flacks appeared in a one-night performance of a show in 2021 called “25 Questions for a Jewish Mother,” which was a part of that year’s Tarbut festival. There were no in-person events that year, due to Covid, but “Jewish Mother” was available on Zoom and had a huge audience.
In addition to writing for the stage, Diane Flacks has written for TV, including Working the Engels, Baroness Von Sketch Show, Young Drunk Punk, PR, and The Broad Side.
Richard Greenblatt has performed in theatres across Canada and abroad, as well as in feature films, television and radio. He co-wrote 2 Pianos 4 Hands, which played on five continents and in over 150 cities since it opened in 1996.
Pals is directed by the internationally acclaimed director Jillian Keiley. More information, tickets and 5-show subscriptions can be found at: www.wjt.ca. You can also reach WJT by phone at (204) 477-7478.
To watch a preview video from Pals, click here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z2W0VmHHFbA
Simkin Centre introduces Friday afternoon Shabbat services – open to all
By BERNIE BELLAN (Posted Oct. 31) The Simkin Centre held its first ever Friday afternoon Erev Shabbat service this past Friday (Oct. 27), led by Rabbi Matthew Leibl.
There were more than 30 residents in attendance, along with various other outside guests. The service was approximately 45 minutes long and was filled with stories and songs associated with Friday evening Shabbats – some from Rabbi Leibl’s own childhood and some from more recent years.
The Friday afternoon Erev Shabbat services are now to become a regular features at the Simkin Centre and are open to anyone to attend.
To watch a short clip of Rabbi Leibl introducing his first Friday afternoon service click https://youtu.be/hLSrV18K58o
The complete text of MP Marty Morantz’s speech at the community vigil for Israel on October 10
Tonight we are all Israelis!
Conservatives stand with Israel.
Pierre Poilievre stands with Israel.
On Saturday we woke up to unspeakable images.
We must stand shoulder to shoulder with Israel as it defends itself from these criminal and barbarous acts.
On Shabbat, Hamas brutally invaded Israel, invaded homes, killing hundreds, taking hostage hundreds.
More Jews were killed in Saturday’s attack than in any single day since the Holocaust.
Some 1500 human beings killed in a single day would be like 6000 Canadians being murdered in a single attack.
They were children, babies, men, women.
They were young people just out listening to music at a dance party.
This was an unprecedented brutal attack.
As we speak Hamas is threatening to execute innocent hostages.
This outrage cannot, must not stand.
Don’t let anyone tell you Hamas is the legitimate voice of the Palestinian people. It is not a government.
They are a genocidal murderous and evil death cult and they must be defeated.
But friends, we have seen evil before.
Jews have been persecuted for millennia, but we have survived.
Conservatives unequivocally condemn the invasion of Israel by Hamas terrorists and the sadistic violence that Hamas has carried out against innocent civilians.
Now is the time for moral clarity. There is no moral equivalency between democratic Israel and the butchers of Hamas.
There is no response, no matter how strong, that would be disproportionate to the crimes Hamas has committed.
Israel has the right to defend itself against these attacks and respond against the attackers – as any other country would.
Theodore Herzl, the father of modern Zionism, said, “If you will it, it is no dream.”
In 1948 that dream became a reality – a homeland in Israel, the promised land.
Working together Israelis turned a desert into an oasis.
An island of democracy surrounded by a sea of autocracy.
A Jewish state where Jews could live in peace free from fear and persecution.
Let there be no doubt. Israel is the ancient and indigenous homeland of the Jewish people.
We will not let the butchers of Hamas take that dream, long realized, away from us.
Many politicians will stand with Israel when it is easy.
But listen to what they say when it is hard.
They will talk about “both sides.”
I’m here to tell you that there is only one side.
The side of morality.
The side of democracy.
The side of Israel.
We see too often politicians at the United Nations unfairly singling out Israel for criticism.
I will always stand against the unfair singling out of the Middle East’s only democracy.
Already there are calls for Israel to deescalate.
I ask you.
Would any country deescalate after having its people slaughtered in cold blood?
I wish the people of Israel and its brave soldiers Godspeed on their mission to defend the promised land from pure evil.
As Prime Minister Stephen Harper said:
Through fire and water Canada will stand with you.
Am Yisrael Chai!