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A Minnesota synagogue built an ice rink — and is inaugurating it with a klezmer skate



(JTA) — A forecasted low of -16 degrees in the Twin Cities on Thursday has the stage set perfectly for two frozen Jewish firsts — a Klezmer on Ice festival and a synagogue-run skating rink.

Such is life in Minnesota, where bone-chilling temperatures are no match for Jewish festivities.

“It kind of shows us the Minnesota-style of thinking about the winter where just because it’s freezing cold outside, you don’t have to stop doing everything,” said Marcus Rubenstein, rabbi at Temple of Aaron in St. Paul.

“I used to be a rabbi in New York. They said you couldn’t schedule any big events in the winter because no one would come in case it snowed,” Rubenstein said. “But [here] sometimes it will snow 6, 7 inches and be -5, -10 degrees, and you’ll have everybody come out. I mean people in their 80s, 90s to little kids. And they just put on their coats and go out and have fun.”

Rabbi Marcus Rubenstein of Temple of Aaron test drives his synagogue’s new ice rink. (Courtesy of Marcus Rubenstein)

Temple of Aaron, a Conservative congregation of about 700 families, is inviting families to bundle up and have fun on what Rubenstein believes is the first-ever skating rink on a synagogue property. The rink, which can accommodate about 30 people at a time, was built and is being maintained by “Ice Captains” — synagogue members who clear it of snow and shovel off any extra ice that forms.

On Thursday, skaters at the rink heard the kickoff performance of the klezmer festival, featuring Jewbalaya, a hybrid klezmer and New Orleans jazz band in which Rubenstein plays the trumpet.

But the music will be piped in from inside the synagogue — a concession, Rubenstein and others associated with the festival said, to the cold.

Last week, musicians promoting Klezmer on Ice with a pre-festival performance alongside Lake Harriett, the (usually frozen-over) body of water at the heart of Minneapolis, ran into some technical challenges. Anticipating frigid temperatures, the musicians planned to play from a lakeside booth decorated like a boom box as part of a pop-art initiative called Art Shanty. But there was a wrinkle.

“We were supposed to have a sousaphone player who by the time they got their heavy big brass instrument into the box, the valves were frozen so they couldn’t play,” said Josh Rosard, an organizer of Klezmer on Ice. The performance went on without the sousaphone.

It’s not just brass instruments that are vulnerable to cold snaps. Strings and woodwinds can quickly go out of tune in the cold, as metal contracts and wood begins to warp. Clarinets and violins, staples of the Eastern European Jewish music genre, just can’t take it.

That’s why most of the Klezmer on Ice events will take place indoors — including but not only at Temple of Aaron. On the schedule for the weekend-long festival are local and national performers Sarina Partridge, Tzipporah Johnson, Izzy Buckner, the Klezmommies and the band Midwood. There will also be a cabaret variety show; klezmer-infused Shabbat services; and a luminary Havdalah ceremony.

Rosard said he saw the event as a breakout moment for the Twin Cities’ klezmer scene and, given the strong track record of longstanding klezmer festivals at spawning new acts, an opportunity.

“I’m really excited for what players in the community are going to take out of the workshops in particular and excited to see what may come out of it in the future,” said Rosard, who grew up casually playing the accordion but got more seriously involved in the klezmer world during the pandemic. He met his Klezmer on Ice co-organizer, Jewish musician and folklorist Sarah Larsson, with whom he attended KlezCanada and the Portland Klezmer Festival.

Still, he acknowledged, “It’s a little bit tongue in cheek to do something like this in the middle of February in Minnesota.”

Rubenstein said his congregants are up for it. Temple of Aaron’s new ice rink will be open not only during the klezmer festival’s opening night but for skating sessions most Saturdays after Shabbat morning services and Hebrew school classes finish.

The sun sets ahead of the Klezmer on Ice Festival’s opening night, which features a free skate session at Temple of Aaron’s ice rink. (Courtesy of Marcus Rubenstein)

If the activity isn’t exactly standard after-synagogue fare, it’s perfectly permitted under the Conservative movement’s interpretation of Jewish law. The movement, of which Temple of Aaron is a part, permits non-competitive ice skating on Shabbat, so long as no Shabbat rules are violated (such as driving to or from a rink or paying to rent skates), and the skating takes place within the boundaries of an eruv, or Jewish legal enclosure inside which certain objects can be carried on Shabbat.

Rubenstein said he was thinking about the activity in different terms — as it relates to making Temple of Aaron a centerpiece of a St. Paul Shabbat.

“The kids are ice skating anyway,” he added. “So why not ice skate at shul and come do it together with their Jewish friends, and build community that way?”

Temperatures are supposed to rise over the course of the weekend, but the high on Friday should be in the low single-digits. So for the klezmer performance that is supposed to take place at Lake Harriet, Rosard says, a plan is in place to avoid last weekend’s snafus.

“We’ll have the sousaphone player drive up as close as possible, then run-slash-briskly walk straight into the performance shelter,” he said. “We didn’t quite have the urgency last time.”

The post A Minnesota synagogue built an ice rink — and is inaugurating it with a klezmer skate appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Phyllis Pollock died at home Sunday September 3, 2023 in Winnipeg, after a courageous lifetime battle with cancer.
Phyllis was a mother of four: Gary (Laura), daughter Randi, Steven (deceased in 2010) (Karen), and Robert. Phyllis also had two grandchildren: Lauren and Quinn.
Born in Fort Frances, Ontario on February 7, 1939, Phyllis was an only child to Ruby and Alex Lerman. After graduating high school, Phyllis moved to Winnipeg where she married and later divorced Danny Pollock, the father of her children. She moved to Beverly Hills in 1971, where she raised her children.
Phyllis had a busy social life and lucrative real estate career that spanned over 50 years, including new home sales with CoastCo. Phyllis was the original sales agent for three buildings in Santa Monica, oceanfront: Sea Colony I, Sea Colony II, and Sea Colony. She was known as the Sea Colony Queen. She worked side by side with her daughter Randi for about 25 years – handling over 600 transactions, including sales and leases within the three phases of Sea Colony alone.
Phyllis had more energy than most people half her age. She loved entertaining, working in the real estate field, meeting new and interesting people everyday no matter where she went, and thrived on making new lifelong friends. Phyllis eventually moved to the Sea Colony in Santa Monica where she lived for many years before moving to Palm Desert, then Winnipeg.
After battling breast cancer four times in approximately 20 years, she developed metastatic Stage 4 lung cancer. Her long-time domestic partner of 27 years, Joseph Wilder, K.C., was the love of her life. They were never far apart. They traveled the world and went on many adventures during their relationship. During her treatment, Phyllis would say how much she missed work and seeing her clients. Joey demonstrated amazing strength, love, care, and compassion for Phyllis as her condition progressed. He was her rock and was by her side 24/7, making sure she had the best possible care. Joey’s son David was always there to support Phyllis and to make her smile. Joey’s other children, Sheri, Kenny, Joshua and wife Davina, were also a part of her life. His kids would Facetime Phyllis and include her during any of their important functions. Phyllis loved Joey’s children as if they were her own.
Thank you to all of her friends and family who were there to support her during these difficult times. Phyllis is now, finally, pain free and in a better place. She was loved dearly and will be greatly missed. Interment took place in Los Angeles.

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Local News

Gwen Centre Creative Living Centre celebrates 35th anniversary



By BERNIE BELLAN Over 100 individuals gathered at the Gwen Secter Centre on Tuesday evening, July 18 – under the big top that serves as the venue for the summer series of outdoor concerts that is now in its third year at the centre.
The occasion was the celebration of the Gwen Secter Centre’s 35th anniversary. It was also an opportunity to honour the memory of Sophie Shinewald, who passed away at the age of 106 in 2019, but who, as recently as 2018, was still a regular attendee at the Gwen Secter Centre.
As Gwen Secter Executive Director Becky Chisick noted in her remarks to the audience, Sophie had been volunteering at the Gwen Secter Centre for years – answering the phone among other duties. Becky remarked that Sophie’s son, Ed Shinewald, had the phone number for the Gwen Secter Centre stored in his phone as “Mum’s work.”

Raquel Dancho (left), Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St.Paul, and Nikki Spigelman, President, Gwen Secter Centre

Remarks were also delivered by Raquel Dancho, Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St. Paul, who was the only representative of any level of government in attendance. (How times have changed: I remember well the steadfast support the former Member of the Legislature for St. John’s, Gord Mackintosh, showed the Gwen Secter Centre when it was perilously close to being closed down. And, of course, for years, the area in which the Gwen Secter Centre is situated was represented by the late Saul Cherniack.)
Sophie Shinewald’s granddaughter, Alix (who flew in from Chicago), represented the Shinewald family at the event. (Her brother, Benjamin, who lives in Ottawa, wasn’t able to attend, but he sent a pre-recorded audio message that was played for the audience.)
Musical entertainment for the evening was provided by a group of talented singers, led by Julia Kroft. Following the concert, attendees headed inside to partake of a sumptuous assortment of pastries, all prepared by the Gwen Secter culinary staff. (And, despite my asking whether I could take a doggy bag home, I was turned down.)

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Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station



This is a developing story.

(JTA) — Palestinian gunmen killed four people and wounded four in a terror attack at a gas station near the West Bank settlement of Eli, the Israeli army reported.

An Israeli civilian returning fire at the scene of the attack on Tuesday killed one of the attackers, who emerged from a vehicle, and two others fled.

Kan, Israel’s public broadcaster, said one of those wounded was in serious condition. The gunmen, while in the vehicle, shot at a guard post at the entry to the settlement, and then continued to the gas station which is also the site of a snack bar. A nearby yeshiva went into lockdown.

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced plans to convene a briefing with top security officials within hours of the attack. Kan reported that there were celebrations of the killing in major West Bank cities and in the Gaza Strip, initiated by terrorist groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Hamas said the shooting attack Tuesday was triggered by the Jenin raid.

The shooting comes as tensions intensify in the West Bank. A day earlier, Israeli troops raiding the city of Jenin to arrest accused terrorists killed five people.

The Biden administration spoke out over the weekend against Israel’s plans to build 4,000 new housing units for Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also finalized plans to  transfer West Bank building decisions to Bezalel Smotrich, the extremist who is the finance minister. Smotrich has said he wants to limit Palestinian building and expand settlement building.

Kan reported that the dead terrorist was a resident of a village, Urif, close to Huwara, the Palestinian town where terrorists killed two Israeli brothers driving through in February. Settlers retaliated by raiding the village and burning cars and buildings.

The post Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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