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Synagogues working on Yom Tov plans with minimal in person attendance

Outdoor Kabbalat Shabbat service at Etz Chayim

It is most definitely an understatement to say that this will be a yom tov like no other. In my last year’s reporting about high holiday attendance at Winnipeg synagogues (including services held at Camp Massad) in The Jewish Post & News yearly survey of high holiday synagogue attendance I noted that about 4,500 Jewish Winnipeggers at least could be found in shul – at least at peak times – for shofar-blowing, Kol Nidre and yizkor.


This year, however, – due to COVID-19 – in-person attendance will likely be no more than 500.
To begin with, there will be two fewer options: Camp Massad, which usually hosts services for one day of Rosh Hashonah, will not be having any services – and the Saul and Clarabelle Simkin Centre, which has made a practice of including family members of residents in the synagogue services, this year – due to government pandemic regulations – will be restricting services to residents in their units.
“As we did for Pesach and Shavuos, we will be videotaping parts of the Yom Tov services with our chazan, Stephen Hyman, and we will be broadcasting them in each of our five units,” says Marilyn Regiec, one of the spiritual health support staff at Simkin. “We will be doing the same thing for Sukkot.”
Regiec will be leading the services – with assistance from Aviva Tabac. Regiec also would like to extend a grateful thank you to Barry Kay and his Cherry Tree Productions for doing the video-taping.

As for our community’s largest congregations, both Congregation Etz Chayim and the Shaarey Zedek will be offering virtual Yom Tov services – just as they have since the province went into lockdown in late March.
“We still have to be cautious,” says Ian Staniloff, Congregation Shaarey Zedek’s Executive Director. “Although the government has raised the maximum number of people who can gather indoors to 30% of capacity or 500 (whichever is less) and we may allow some in-person attendance, all of our High Holiday services will be live-streamed.”
(Last year, the Shaarey Zedek reported an attendance of more than 1,700 for the High Holidays.)
“We have begun asking the members of our congregation if they would be interested in attending in person, but there has not been much response yet. If we do have some people who would want to come, we would limit the numbers, have people at the door to take their temperatures, maintaining social distancing and sanitizing the seats.”
Staniloff adds that the synagogue has a new set of mahzorim that would be distributed to people who are following online so that they could better follow the service.
He points out that Shaarey Zedek has been livestreaming services for several years now.
He further adds that, although the synagogue has been closed to the public since the lockdown began, Shaarey Zedek will soon begin to host B’nai Mitzvahs again – including some that were scheduled for the spring and had been postponed.
“We will be limiting the number of people in attendance to 50 and requiring everyone to wear masks except when called to the Torah,” he notes. “We will be maintaining social distancing.
“And, rather than buffet kiddushes, we will have servers behind plexiglass partitions.
“We will be trying to phase our services back in on a smaller scale at first and see what shortcomings we may have to address.”

Congregation Etz Chayim (where High Holiday attendance last year was about 850) will be offering only a virtual service this year – with the exception of ten people to form an in-person minyan.
“After careful consideration, for the safety of our members and Clergy, and given the uncertainty of distancing requirements, Congregation Etz Chayim concluded that we must offer our High Holiday Services online this year,” writes executive director Jonathan Buchwald in a letter to congregation members.
“While services are going to look, sound and feel very different than what we are used to, Rabbi Kliel, Cantor Tracy and our entire Ritual team will offer a most meaningful and memorable “Virtual Sanctuary” for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur”. Our own Virtual Voices choral ensemble under the direction of Sarah Sommer will bring a special depth and beauty to our services. We are also excited to announce that we will be using a new Mahzor this year, made possible by the very generous gift of a member family.
Also in Etz Chayim’s planning is an outdoor patio Selichot service (Saturday, September 12); Erev Rosh Hashanah Mincha and Ma’ariv services (Friday, September 18); and Tashlich the 2nd day of Rosh Hashanah (Sunday September 19) – weather permitting.

Rounding out our community’s Conservative congregations is the Chevra Mishanyes congregation in Garden City. The Chevra Mishnayes Synagogue is planning on having in-person services for the High Holidays but, congregation President Marshall Kneller reports, “we are not sure what it will look like yet. We are still working on the details in consultation with our members.”

Temple Shalom, our community’s only Reform Congregation, will hold high holiday services entirely online – accessible either via a Zoom link or streamed live on the congregation’s website: , or on Facebook Live at -– as has been the practice for Shabbat services for the past several months. Ruth Livingston, the congregation’s co-President, reports that certain parts of the High Holiday service will only be available online for Temple Shalom members.

For Orthodox congregations in the city, virtual services are not possible. The board of Adas Yeshurun Herzlia congregation – our communty’s largest Orthodox shul – is still working out the details for Yom Tov. “We plan to be open and have services indoors,” says President Jack Craven. “We are considering shorter services for Rosh Hashonah and may have two same day services if time permits.”
He notes that attendance will be restricted to 50 or, possibly 75 people (now that the province has raised the maximum number of people allowed in an indoor venue) and masks will be mandatory. (The sanctuary under normal circumstances can accommodate up to 300.)

The Lubavitch Centre resumed twice-daily minyanim several weeks ago. “We have even hosted three bar mitzvahs over the past few weeks,” reports Rabbi Avrahom Altein, Chabad’s long time spiritual leader in Winnipeg. “We have moved the women’s section out of our big shul, are only allowing family members to sit together and, for kiddushes, all of the food is prepared and packaged ahead of time with people eating at their tables.”
What will make preparing for Yom Tov a little more difficult, he notes, is that the Lubavitch Centre traditionally doesn’t sell seats. “We are going to have to try to get people to register this year,” he says. “We could take out the tables to create more room – but we have to be careful about numbers. We will have lesser numbers though.”
And, whereas the tradition is that men being honoured with aliyahs come up to the bimah, recite the brachas while standing beside the Torah reader, and then follow along as the Torah reader reads, now those receiving aliyahs will say the bracha, then sit down again.

In north Winnipeg, the three Orthodox shuls are the Chavurat Tefila Congregation in West Kildonan, the Talmud Torah Beth Jacob Synagogue on Main Street and the House of Ashkenazi on Burrows Avenue.
The House of Ashkenazi has, over the past few years, been open only for morning minyanim during the week (and Sunday) and for Yom Tov. President Gary Minuk reports that the congregation is planning to restart morning services in mid-August and is planning on High Holiday services. Masks will be compulsory.

The Chavurat Tefila Congregation began having Shabbat morning services and yahrzeit minyanim again in late May. Masks will be on hand at Yom Tov for those who require them and hand sanitizer is also by the entrance.

The Talmud Torah Beth Jacob’s plans are still uncertain.

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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 or to purchase tickets phone 587-435-5808 or email

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Local News

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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From Argentina to Winnipeg – creating opportunities in the IT sector for marginalized groups

By BERNIE BELLAN The following article about Pablo Listingart borrows heavily from articles written by Rebeca Kuropatwa in 2019 and 2021 for The Jewish Post & News. It is also based on a recent phone interview I conducted with Pablo, as well as material we received from a publicist.
Back in 2012, husband and wife, Pablo Listingart and Solange Flomin began seriously thinking about leaving Argentina.
This, explained Listingart, was “because of the political situation and other aspects [that] were degrading. We also wanted to have the experience of living in another country.”
So, the couple began traveling to explore other countries. They went to the U.S., but did not feel it was a good fit. Then, they went to several countries in Europe, but with a similar result.
Next up was Canada. “My wife had a cousin living in Vancouver and she spoke really highly about Canada,” said Listingart. “We started doing our research and sent emails to several Jewish communities. A couple answered, but communication with Winnipeg was more responsive.”
In October 2013 Listingart visited Winnipeg (while Flomin was pregnant with their first child). “After only two days, I fell in love with the city, the brown of the trees, how quiet it was,” said Listingart. “So, I called Sol and told her that this was the place.”
When Listingart returned to Argentina, he and Flomin started working on their application. The process took 10 months, as their son was born in the middle of the process.
The family made their move to Winnipeg in early March 2015.
Flomin and Listingart feel at home in Winnipeg. “We feel more Canadian than Argentinean, with cultures, values, and everything,” said Listingart. “That is the reason we are here, actually. We did not come for economic reasons. We didn’t feel that comfortable in terms of values and principles back there. Once I came here, I fell in love with the Canadian culture and values.”

Listingart had started up a charity in Argentina in 2011 that taught participants how to do software development. In Winnipeg, Flomin urged him to create the same kind of start up.
Today, Listingart’s charities, called Comunidad IT & ComIT, have operations in Latin America and Canada.
As an immigrant himself, Pablo explains that he started ComIT after immigrating from Argentina to Manitoba and seeing a gap in Canada’s education system. He noticed many individuals working survival jobs to help support their families, unable to get the training they wanted to better their positions.

In response, he developed a market-driven curriculum that he initially delivered to students by covering expenses himself. In 2016, Pablo Listingart became the founder and executive director of ComIT, a Canadian non-profit organization that offers free technology and professional skills training to unemployed and underemployed Canadians, with a focus on Indigenous, immigrants, visible minorities, and underserved communities. The charity aims to develop a community that links people struggling to overcome employment barriers with companies looking for skilled workers.
Women take up the majority of his enrolment. Many of them feel they can’t enter into a traditional program to enhance their educational skills due to barriers like limited access to funding, training locations, professional requirements, also family obligations, and lack of childcare. ComIT’s curriculum is designed to appeal to people who fall into that category by being free of charge, available online, and taught for only parts of the day.

Listingart and Flomin began running the charity together around raising their two kids.
“I had worked for several companies, like Microsoft, IBM, and others,” said Listingart. “Back in 2011, I thought about giving back to the community and society, and so I decided to start this charity. Those years back in Argentina were kind of busy and, with all the political issues over there, we decided to migrate here to Winnipeg.”
With the perpetually expanding operation of their growing charity, Listingart, as the charity’s executive director, was kept busy, and for the first few years of operating ComIT he even found time to build mobile applications and websites, but these days Listingart says that running ComIT takes up his full time.

ComIT in Canada began by running pilot programs in Winnipeg and in Kitchener-Waterloo. In Winnipeg, Listingart ran the classes with the support of ICTAM (now TechMB), and, in Kitchener-Waterloo, two of the main Canadian sponsors were Communitech and Google.
“That went really well, in terms of people getting jobs, so I kept doing it,” said Listingart. ComIT jumped from offering two courses to 22 courses per year – covering all the Canadian territory.
By 2023 Comunidad IT and ComIT had helped 4500 people find jobs (1200 in Canada). “Unfortunately,” Listingart explained, “people drop out for different reasons through the process, so we are not able to help everyone who joins the courses.” During our phone interview Listingart said that his charities have now trained over 6,500 students altogether.
“About 70 percent get jobs within six months of the training,” said Listingart. “We follow up with them, help them with their resumés…We have a free platform companies can access and see the resumés.”
Training is conducted in classrooms and online. “The impact is always bigger in person”, said Listingart. “We started developing content to be delivered online prior to the pandemic, mostly for Latin America, as a way to reach people we couldn’t physically reach, not having the funds to go to 15 countries, and then during the pandemic we developed even more content to continue running our training.”
While Listingart would love to be able to operate everywhere around the world, financially, that is not yet viable, but he was able to expand what he offers to all of Latin America and across Canada.

Listingart is no longer teaching in the program, due to a lack of time, though he does visit the classes when he is able. While only two years ago, ComIT was training 300 people a year in its courses in Canada, it has now grown to the point where 600 people a year are taking courses from ComIT.
As Listingart told me, “We actually doubled the number of students we had when I talked to Rebecca (in 2021). What happened, he explained, was “we were in the middle of the pandemic and we moved all the training online due to COVID. We are still running courses online, and that has allowed us to reach out to more people.”
“So nowadays we have students from Prince Edward Island to the Yukon,” Listingart added.
I asked Listingart where the funding for ComIT comes from?
He answered that most of it comes from the private sector, but a portion comes from a federal government agency known as PrairiesCan.
So, how exactly does ComIT conduct classes? I wondered.
Training is conducted by instructors in classrooms or online, where they reach their students via Zoom.
At ComIT, all training is provided free of charge. Trainees can hold a full-time job, while training in the evenings or mornings for only a couple of hours a day for three months.
While right now ComIT is conducting eight different classes, Listingart explained,\ – “with eight different instructors,” because “we run different topics along the year, it’s usually between 12 to 15 people that get involved in teaching courses.”
And what do students learn in those courses?
The program consists of three months of intensive instruction in various fields related to software programming.
“Most of the people that we train go on to be programmers,” Listingart said, adding that the majority of our graduates become software developers or website designers,” adding that “some are working in cybersecurity or other hardware related fields.”
The minimum age to register for a ComIT program is only 18 and there is no prerequisite level of education required.
While a good many of ComIT students are immigrants who may lack the kind of English language skills necessary to be hired by many employers, ComIT also has many Indigenous students as well as non-indigenous Canadians who are struggling.
Still, as Listingart says, students in the program have to be able to communicate. They “don’t need perfect English,” he adds, “they don’t even need a mid-level English,” but they do need “some basic communication skills.”
But it’s not simply a matter of someone applying to take ComIT courses and being automatically accepted, Listingart explained.
“We ask them (prospective students) a lot of questions,” he said. “We ask them what their goals are, like, if they are pursuing a career in IT or if they are interested in that… many things to gauge their interest. Those conversations help us understand whether these people can communicate with others.”
When it comes to finding jobs for graduates of the ComIT program, Listingart says that he and other members of his team meet with local employers who are looking for IT talent and discuss their exact needs within the industry.”
“We train them in what companies need right now,” said Listingart. “So, let’s say I go to Saskatoon and I talk to 10 or 15 companies over there…about 70 percent get jobs within six months of the training,” he noted. “We follow up with them, help them with their resumés…We have a free platform companies can access and see the resumés.”
Skip the Dishes, for instance, was on the fence for a very short time. They hired five out of seven ComIT trainees almost on the spot after they were interviewed – and soon after, the company became one of the charity’s local sponsors. To date, Skip the Dishes has hired 55 ComIT-trained students.
“My goal, so to speak…is to give opportunity to people who can’t afford other types of training and give them a first chance,” said Listingart. “We mention this at the beginning of every course. They only have one chance with us. We don’t give second chances. If they drop out for any reason, regret it, and want to come back, they can’t. I have hundreds of people on the waiting list to take courses. For me, this is a way to teach the value of work and, while doing it, you have the chance to work a job that pays well, that you can grow and learn…And, it’s not just for nerds, it’s creative work.
“My goal also has been to make the biggest impact that I can and …I’m happy with the results.”
If you are an employer interested in finding out more about ComIT or you know someone who might benefit by taking the program, visit

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