By MYRON LOVE
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.
Beneficiary agencies of the Jewish Federation have received $210,000 less this year than last year as of September 1
By BERNIE BELLAN
For the first time in at least 10 years the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg has reduced the amount distributed to its 12 beneficiary agencies from what had been distributed the previous year. The funds were distributed September 1 for 2023-24.
The total amount distributed this year was $210,000 less than what was distributed in both 2022 and 2021 and is actually $500,000 less than the total that was requested by the beneficiary agencies. (The amount distributed last year was $216,000 less than what the beneficiary agencies had requested.)
In explaining why allocations are being reduced this year, the Federation reported that “Over the past few years, the Federation and community have collectively faced significant challenges, placing a strain on our financial resources. In response to these challenges, the Federation stepped in during our community’s time of need, dedicating over $200,000 from our reserves to sustain our beneficiary agencies.” (In a later explanation it was clarified that $100,000 was taken from Federation reserves in each of 2022 and 2021.)
It was further noted that the decrease in funds to be allocated to agencies represents a 7% decrease over the previous year. Dipping into reserves was described as an “unsustainable practice.” It was also noted that the Federation “notified our beneficiaries of a probable reduction in the amount of funding available well ahead of the allocation request deadline.
In describing the pressures that the Federation’s Allocations Committee faced this year in coming up with its allocations, committee chair Brent Schacter said that “We knew after the budget process last year we were going to be in a bind.” Schacter further elaborated that the two whammies that hit this year were the ongoing repercussions of Covid along with the rapid increase in inflation.
In discussing the pressures that the Allocations committee faced this year, it should also be noted that although the amount raised by the Combined Jewish Appeal – while not much more than the previous year ($6.3 million as opposed to $6.25 million), the negative effects of the drop in allocations are somewhat mitigated by two things:. A good portion of the amount raised by the CJA is in the form of “designated funds,” given by large donors and, while those funds are not available to the B & A committee to distribute, many of the beneficiary agencies did receive large distributions from those “designated funds.”
As well, the Jewish Foundation of Manitoba increased its total distributions this year by $1.3 million over the previous year. While the Foundation’s gifts were spread among a very wide number of recipients, a number of the Federation’s beneficiary agencies did benefit from the increase in Foundation distributions.
Still, the challenges facing the Federation in meeting the needs of the community are leading to a major reassessment of how Federation planners are implementing budgetary planning.
A number of new innovations have now been adopted by the B & A committee, including:
- New application forms – one for agencies requesting more than $250,000 and one for agencies requesting less
- Beneficiaries were asked to state the anticipated outcomes of projects/programs that receive Federation funding, and to develop indicators so that they can measure those outcomes.
- Site visits took place along with periodic meetings with agencies as a whole throughout the year to ensure that the committee gets a more complete picture of beneficiaries’ activities, challenges, and plans.
In describing the process that the Federation undertook to “streamline” the budget allocation process, Federation President Gustavo Zentner said “Lay leadership and management had a responsibility to look at the business model.”
It was determined that the Federation needed “a more effective way of managing the allocations process,” Zentner stated, including “more meaningful communication with the agencies to bring to light their projects.”
Not only does the Federation want to improve its own fundraising process, Zentner continued, “We also want to help agencies to raise funds on their own.”
Despite the reductions in allocations available to agencies this year, Zentner stressed that “we wanted to address the needs of those members of the community who are most in need.”
Brent Schacter added: “We want to see people dig a little bit deeper” when it comes to giving. The Combined Jewish Appeal is now into its fundraising campaign for the 2023-24 fiscal year.
Six members of the community receive King’s Counsel appointments
A total of 17 lawyers were appointed King’s Counsel by Order in Council on August 29. Six members of our Jewish community were among those appointed. Although appointments as King’s Counsel are usually accompanied by biographical information about those appointed, there was no press release issued by the Manitoba Government announcing the appointments. When we contacted the Manitoba Government news room to ask why there was no biographical information available, the response we received referred to KC appointments announced in February (no surprise there – these are bureaucrats we’re dealing with). When we asked again why there was no biographical information available about the most recent batch of KC appointments we were told “the Province of Manitoba is in the middle of an election blackout and department communications are limited as a result. News Room has nothing further to add.”
As a result, we present here photos of Jewish recipients of KC appointments, but without any further information.
Kayla Gordon inducted on to Rainbow Stage’s Wall of Fame
Myron Love It was in the summer of 1984 when Kayla Gordon was appearing in the Rainbow Stage production of “Kismet,” that the long time actor/director/producer/photographer found herself doing her make-up sitting next to Nia Vardalos, the writer and star of “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” fame, who was also appearing in the production.
“We both were playing opposite each other in the comic roles as the Ayahs to the Wazir (the main lead), and we began talking about our plans for the future,” Gordon recalls. “Nia was talking about moving to Toronto and joining the Second City company. As for me, I was in a comedy troupe in Winnipeg and just found out I was pregnant with my first child. My plan was to stay in Winnipeg, even though I was a bit jealous that she was going off to pursue her dream and I was staying put. That was my ‘Kismet’ and I never looked back.”
Rainbow Stage is where Gordon began her career in musical theatre at the age of 17 in a production of “Fiddler on the Roof.” After a career of more than 40 years, both on stage and behind the scenes – it is fitting that one of the leading lights of community theatre in our city has been recognized for her contributions by Winnipeg’s longest-running theatre company. On Wednesday, August 17, Gordon was one of the five inductees to Rainbow Stage’s Wall of Fame under the “Builder” category. The award is given to someone who has been part of nurturing and building our theatre community.
“It was a wonderful surprise,” says the honoree. “It brings my career full circle.” Previous honours for Gordon include the Leadership Award from the Canadian Friends of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Theatre Educator’s Award from the Winnipeg Theatre Awards for her long-time leadership within the arts community.
Gordon reports that the induction ceremony, attended by about 100 friends and family members of the inductees and Rainbow Stage staff, was held just prior to the opening night performance of “The Little Mermaid,”,the second of three shows the company is putting on this summer and early fall.
“It was also special to have one of my grandchildren, my husband Art Maister, my mom Ethel, and my aunt Evelyn Hecht at the induction ceremony,” she adds. (Evelyn also performed at Rainbow Stage in the 1950s.)
Gordon notes that while she appeared onstage in seven Rainbow Stage productions – from 1977 to 1993, she was honoured not for her acting, but for her role as a nurturer of talent through teaching acting and musical theatre at the University of Winnipeg for 18 years, as well as teaching at the University of Manitoba, Prairie Theatre Exchange and The Manitoba Theatre for Young People – also, later as the Artistic Director of Winnipeg Jewish Theatre for over 10 years and Winnipeg Studio Theatre, which she founded in 2006.
“I get a lot of satisfaction watching actors I’ve directed and students I have taught and nurtured performing at Rainbow Stage and other venues in the city,” Gordon notes. Many of them have gone on to work professionally and have appeared across Canada, as well as in Broadway productions. Some of them include: Alexandra Frohlinger (Soul Doctor/Broadway), Samantha Hill (Phantom of the Opera/Broadway), Jaz Sealey (Aladdin/Broadway), Andrea Macasaet (Six/Broadway), and Nyk Bielak (Book of Mormon/Broadway).
Gordon was an actor and high school drama teacher at West Kildonan Collegiate for the first 15 years of her career. By the mid-1990s she found herself becoming more interested in working behind the scenes as a director/producer. In 1994, she became the Winnipeg Jewish Theatre’s second artistic director – succeeding WJT founder Bev Aronovitch – a role she played until 2006. Following her time at WJT Gordon observed that local theatres were not hiring many female theatre directors.
“I realized that if I wanted to work as a director, I would have to create my own projects,” she recalls. So, she started Winnipeg Studio Theatre (WST) in 2006. Soon after forming the company, she invited her longtime theatre associate Brenda Gorlick to run the StudioWorks Academy, a program for emerging artists.
In 2021 she stepped down from her position at WST. “I am still interested in directing – but without the added pressures of being a producer or the full-time responsibility of running a professional theatre company,” she observes. “I like having the freedom to pick and choose the projects I want to work on.” I still plan to work on independent contracts directing theatre and creating entertainment for special events or fundraising activities in the community.”.Last year she produced and directed the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg’s Negev Gala tribute honouring Gail Asper and Michael Paterson. As well, stepping down from her responsibilities with WST has also allowed Gordon to devote more time to her other passion – photography. “I have been interested in photography since I was 15,” she recounts. “My father Ralph had a dark room in our basement.”
Over the past couple of years, she has achieved accreditation with the Professional Photographers of Canada in four different areas of photography: street photography (her favourite), portraiture, performing artists, and figure study. And, last year, she co-authored a coffee table book – “The Murals of Winnipeg,” with fellow photographer Keith Levit as a fundraiser for Take Pride Winnipeg, with 80 pages of photos, which sold out in two weeks and the funds will go to emerging mural artists. (That story can be found on the jewishpostandnews.ca website.)
Kayla is grateful to have stayed in Winnipeg and she sums up her career, and how and why she managed to work in theatre all these years with a quote from Henry Winkler (aka ‘The Fonz’) “I live by tenacity and gratitude. Tenacity gets you where you want to be, and gratitude allows you not to be frustrated along the way”.