By SHARON LOVE Dr. Alan Bern, the world famous and Berlin based Klezmer musician, scholar, teacher and cultural activist, was here in Winnipeg from November 13th, 2022 until the 23rd. In that time frame he held three workshops, was involved in two concerts, was an honoured guest and speaker at The Museum for Human Rights, and was a guest lecturer for Dr. Itay Zutra’s Yiddish in North America class at the University of Manitoba (in which I am a student).
They say that it takes a village to raise a child. Well, that is the best description as to how Dr. Bern’s visit here came about. According to Dr. Ben Baader, Associate professor at the University of Manitoba, the planning process for Dr. Bern’s visit took several months. Initially, Professor Laura Loewen, of the Faculty of Music was contacted by the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany. She did much of the organizing and was then joined in the planning process by University of Manitoba professors Simone Mahrenholz, Itay Zutra and Ben Baader. Also at the university, the Desautels Faculty of Music, the Mauro Institute for Peace and Justice, the Department of German and Slavic Studies, along with the Rady JCC, all played their part.
Dr. Bern was born in Bloomington, Indiana and has an MA degree in Philosophy and a DMA in music composition. He is widely known for his work in the promotion and preservation of Yiddish music. He has been based in Berlin since 1987 and has also done much of his work in Weimar. He is the founder and artistic director of the Yiddish in Summer Weimar program, and the founder of the Other Music Academy (OMA). He is also a founding member of the Klezmer groups ‘Brave Old World’ the ‘Other Europeans’ and the ‘Semer Ensemble’. He is also an international music conductor and arranger for theatre and dance productions. In 2016 he was the recipient of the Weimar Prize in recognition of his cultural contributions to that city. Earlier this year he received the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany. He has also been featured in many audio recordings and films.
Dr. Bern’s first three lectures were held at the University of Manitoba. He spoke about why Yiddish matters and traced the history of the Yiddish language up until today’s new Yiddish music. During his second lecture he spoke of the Shoah and the new Yiddish song. His third lecture was hands on and he introduced music students to the origin and the philosophy behind the Hasidic Nign.
The Sunday afternoon concert held at the Berney Theatre was definitely jam packed. The program opened with an introduction by Dr. Bern and his brief explanation of Nigunim as wordless songs which serve to move Hasidic Jewry beyond the rational towards the mystical prayer. This was followed by three musical numbers performed by the Desautels Klezmer Group from the the Desautels Faculty of Music, accompanied by Dr. Bern on the accordion and Myron Schultz on clarinet. The audience was invited to join in with some chanting on cue. I have a feeling that these dozen students playing various instruments were not aware of this genre of music prior to Dr. Bern’s visit and his hands on workshop and they seemed to be enjoying themselves. The family of one of the violinists was sitting in front of me. I could just tell that they were inspired and pleased. Myron Shultz and Alan Bern played a few lively numbers together.
The musical portion of the afternoon was followed by the screening of ‘The New Klezmorim. Voices Inside the Revival of Yiddish Music.’ This documentary was filmed in 1998 both at Klez Canada in the Laurentians and at the Askenaz festival in Toronto and is a study of the revival of Klezmer music and Yiddish culture commencing in the 1970’s. At the end of the film we were joined via Zoom from Toronto by David Kaufman, the producer, in discussion with Alan Bern.
‘An Evening with Dr. Alan Bern’’ took place on Monday the 21st at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. Opening remarks came from Myka Burke, the Communications and Culture Officer of the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany in Ottawa. Greetings were extended by Jutta Essig, Honourary Consul of the Federal Republic of Germany and by Gustavo Zentner, President of the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg.
Those in attendance were treated to a screening of ‘60 Years in 22 Minutes,’,a biography of Alan Bern starting from his childhood. This was followed by an interview with Matthew Cutler (CMHR Vice-President, Exhibitions) in conversation with Dr. Bern. Some topics discussed were Bern’s interest in the philosophy of music and how it can be a vessel for bringing people together, the Klezmer revival, why he is based in Berlin, the Shoah and Jewish relations vis a vis the Republic of Germany today.
The evening closed with a musical performance by Dr. Bern and a reception.
The highlight for me of Bern’s visit was his lecture for the Yiddish Culture in North America class the next afternoon. The focus with video was on three specific entertainers and musicians and their roles in the revival of Yiddish and Klezmer music. They were: revival pioneers Adrienne Cooper(z”l), Josh Waletzky, and present day musician and songwriter, Klezmer-Yiddish -Punk Rocker Daniel Kahn (who is now based in Berlin). I found Bern to be very personable, knowledgeable and having presented a very friendly and ‘haimish’ atmosphere at the events that I took in.
On Wednesday November 23rd, at the Eva Clare Hall, the performances of the final term Chamber Music students took place. Bern conducted the Desautels Klezmer group in performance one last time.
What can I say but Dr. Alan Bern was very busy during his time spent here. I am sure that his audiences learned a lot, and enjoyed themselves. Kudos to the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany and to Prof. Laura Loewen who got the ball rolling and to the rest of those who joined in to ensure that this project was such a success!
And I am still humming those nigunim…..
Schmoozer’s now under management of Shaarey Zedek Catering
By BERNIE BELLAN Schmoozer’s restaurant at the Asper Campus is now under the management of the Shaarey Zedek catering department.
Apparently, according to Curtis Martin, Executive Director of the Asper Jewish Community Campus, the Shaarey Zedek has actually been operating Schmoozer’s since December 1, except for the time it was closed over the winter break.
The Shaarey Zedek officially took over Schmoozer’s as of Monday, January 8. Shaarey Zedek Catering has actually been located in the Schmoozer’s kitchen for some time now – since the Shaarey Zedek closed for renovations in the summer of 2022.
While Shaarey Zedek Executive Chef Joel Lafond is continuing to work at the Asper Campus location, the day to day management of Schmoozer’s is in the hands of Sous Chef Jennifer Middleton. Once the Shaarey Zedek’s renovations are complete, Lafond will move back there, while Middleton will remain at the campus. In addition to managing Schmoozer’s, Curtis Martin says that Middleton will also to continue to provide catering services for “on-site Campus agencies and events.”
One of the main differences now that Shaarey Zedek is operating Schmoozer’s is the expanded hours. Rather than opening at 10 am, which was when Schmoozer’s opened under its previous management, Schmoozer’s will now be open at 8 am, Monday – Friday. It will also be open until 6 pm Monday- Thursday, and until 3 pm on Fridays.
According to Joel Lafond, plans are to have Schmoozer’s open on Sundays as well, beginning in February.
As for the menu, it now features a number of breakfast items, such as bagels and breakfast platters, in addition to the usual lunch items, such as tuna salad, egg salad, grilled cheese, quinoa bowl, pizza, a variety of salads, soup, fries, pasta, and “Beyond Burgers.”
Lafond said that plans are also in the works to expand the menu. He mentioned falafel as an example of something new that will be available at Schmoozer’s in the not too distant future.
While it’s nice to see Schmoozer’s the fact that there have been so many different managers of that particular facility speaks to the difficulty inherent in trying to offer kosher food without running into huge financial problems.
I’m not privy to the financial exigencies that Schmoozer’s has faced over the years – ever since it first opened under the operation of Omnitsky’s – then run by Eppy Rappaport, in 1997. At first, just like everything else associated with the Campus in its early years, Schmoozer’s was teeming with customers. Eventually though, Eppy Rappaport moved to Vancouver. I don’t recall every single manager of Schmoozer’s since, but I know that Barb and Lisa Reiss managed it for quite some time, as did Maxine Shuster – for a very long time, until it was placed under the management of Beth Jacob in 2021.
I certainly wish Joel Lafond and Jennifer Middleton of Shaarey Zedek Catering well, but I’m sure they’re aware how difficult a challenge operating Schmoozer’s in the black presents.
At the same time we haven’t had a really good kosher restaurant in Winnipeg for years, not since the closing of Desserts Plus, maybe Bermax Caffé as well.
You can still eat kosher food at the Gwen Secter Centre, also the Garden Café in the Simkin Centre, but neither of them is the kind of place where you can simply drop in and enjoy a kosher meal (although the Garden Café is open for lunch Monday to Friday).
Is the high cost of kosher food affecting the quality of food served at the Simkin Centre?
By BERNIE BELLAN From time to time I lead a discussion group at the Simkin Centre with residents there. It was when I was doing that recently that I was told something by one of the residents that quite shocked me. We were talking about the food at the Simkin Centre and I asked the residents how they liked it?
I asked residents how often they get served chicken and I was told “We get chicken, but only dark meat.” According to that resident all that the Simkin Centre serves residents are thighs and drumsticks.
I asked Simkin Centre CEO Laurie Cerqueti about that and she said she’d have to get back to me after checking with the food services manager. I also asked Laurie what the daily allowance is on a per capita basis for all meals? (By way of comparison, when I did a story about kosher food in 2018 I reported that daily allowance for Simkin Centre residents – for 3 meals, snacks, and special dietary needs, was only $8.75 per day per resident.)
Here’s what Laurie wrote back to me, in response to my question: : “The last official number I have for food is from the 21/22 fiscal year and it was $9.64 per day. 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. We have not had any increases from government for any operational expenses in 15 years.”
Insofar as the issue of residents being served only dark meat from chickens was concerned, in a subsequent email I received from Laurie she wrote that white chicken meat is used in chicken schnitzel served to residents.
I know I’m beating my head against the wall when I suggest that the Simkin Centre ought to allow nonkosher food to be served. When I last checked with Laurie Cerqueti, 60% of the residents at Simkin weren’t even Jewish. As for the Jewish residents, for those who would want kosher food, it could be brought in from the Gwen Secter Centre. (By the way, that idea isn’t mine. It comes from a former CEO of the Simkin Centre who also thought it was ridiculous enforcing kashrut rules at Simkin when it mattered to only a tiny fraction of its total residents.)
For that matter, residents are already allowed to bring nonkosher food into the facility, but it has to be eaten either in their rooms or in the family visiting room, so the precedent is there – it’s only a matter of taking it to the next logical level.
But I know: Kashrut is a sacrosanct element of the Simkin Centre, isn’t it? So, even if the Simkin Centre is running a huge budget deficit on food –and that money must be taken out of other operations, it’s absolutely fundamental to the Simkin Centre that it continue to serve only kosher food – even if that means residents only get white chicken meat when it’s served in schnitzel.
Winnipegger Shayna Wiwierski building up large following as beauty and lifestyle influencer
By MYRON LOVE “Growing up [in River Heights], I was always a girlie girl,” recalls social influencer Shayna Wiwierski. “I loved dressing up and doing my hair, and reading lifestyle and glamour magazines.”
In my experience, childhood interests are a good indicator of adult careers. In Wiwierski’s case, she has parlayed that passion for style and beauty into a position as a social influencer through her online blog, “A Pop of Colour.”
The daughter of Susan Engel-Wiwierski and the late David Wiwierski established A Pop of Colour in 201. Currently she has approximately 30,000 followers on Facebook and Instagram, and another 4,000 on TikTok.
Scrolling through Wiwierski’s Instagram, you will find photos and videos from her most recent vacations, her bridal shower (she is getting married in the summer of 2024), and regular daily leisure activities accompanied by beautiful photography and partnerships with various companies.
“When I started my blog, I was only offering beauty tips,” she recalls. “I have since added content focusing on lifestyle, travel, and fitness.”
In an interview she did with CTV five years ago, Wiwierski noted that, in the beginning, the costs for the beauty products that she promoted through her blog she paid for herself. Over the years though, she, as with sister social influencers, have established working relationships with companies which send her products to promote on her various social accounts.
Wiwierski points out that to be a successful social influencer requires a lot of time for setting up photo shoots, editing and posting of content, as well as monitoring the likes, comments, and overall feedback on the posts.
“I know a lot of people think social media is a super easy job to do, but it really does take a lot of time,” says Wiwierski. “From creating the content, planning the posts, and then seeing what does well and what doesn’t, there is a lot of time and effort involved if you want to be successful at it.”
Content creation isn’t Wiwierski’s full-time job. She says it’s her “5 to 9 after her 9 to 5”, as she is also the editorial director at DEL Communications Inc., a Winnipeg-based trade publication company. The company is a publisher of mostly annual industry and association magazines covering topics in a variety of niche industries.
“Although in high school [Grant Park High School], I originally wanted to be on TV, after I graduated from university in 2010, I had the opportunity to join DEL and I’ve been there ever since,” she says, adding that she has a Bachelor of Communications and Rhetoric from the University of Winnipeg and a diploma in Creative Communications from Red River Polytechnic (formerly Red River College).
For the past few years, Wiwierski has been dividing her time between Winnipeg and Montreal. She met her fiancée – who is originally from Ontario – when he was doing his residency in Winnipeg.
“Montreal is a great city,” she says. “People always ask me which one I love living in more, but I really do love both; they’re so different.”