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Elliot Leven

Elliot Leven: Winnipeg Jews are insane

By Elliot Leven, June 6, 2013

My spouse and I just bought a house in Garden City.  It is a very nice house, with a stable foundation, and we got it for a reasonable price.  We looked at houses in many parts of Winnipeg, including River Heights, and this was the house that best met our needs.

One of the reasons we looked at Garden City and West Kildonan was because my spouse Jason teaches in West Kildonan.  I work downtown, so all Winnipeg suburbs, except maybe Transcona and Charleswood, are more or less equidistant from my office.  Jason and I have no children, so proximity to schools is irrelevant to us.

It occurred to me that, after I move, I will be one of the very few Winnipeg Jews who moved into the North End in recent decades.  The trend has been in the opposite direction: North End Jews moving to River Heights and, to a lesser extent, Tuxedo, Linden Woods, and other South End locations.

By the time our Jewish community began to plan our Campus, it was clear that most Jews already lived south, and the trend would continue.  The opening of the Campus accelerated the existing trend, as families with children wanted to buy houses reasonably near their children’s school.  Some North End Jews objected to building the Campus in the south, but a logical answer was that we had to build the Campus where most of its users lived.  Like it or not, most lived south.

However, it now occurs to me that the real question is why Winnipeg Jews decided to begin moving south even before the Campus was conceived.  In light of my recent house-hunting experience, I can only conclude that our Jewish community went through a period of collective insanity.

If we could magically move our new Garden City house to a hypothetical vacant lot in River Heights, we would have to add about $100,000 to the price, and we would face a much higher risk of foundation problems.  If Winnipeg Jews had made their decisions about where to live objectively and dispassionately, most of our community would still live north.

Some Jews I know have voiced concerns about crime.  I have lived downtown for 25 years and, believe me, concerns about crime in Winnipeg are mostly hysteria.  The media is more obsessed with crime than it was 40 years ago, but crime rates are driven by demographics and they have fallen as the baby-boom has aged.  Anyone who fled Garden City because of fear of crime is really and truly insane.

I realize that some Jews still live north, and there are still some wonderful Jewish institutions in the north part of town, including synagogues, the Gwen Secter Centre, and others.  There are also some Jewish businesses like Gunn’s Bakery and Saper Agencies.  However, it is unlikely that I will start a trend of Jews moving north.

Too bad.  By any objective measure, staying north would have been the sane thing for our community to do. Now it is too late.  But, as for me, I am looking forward to calling myself a happy resident of Garden City.

Editor's Response: For a number of reasons ( which I do not have time to outline now) I disagree with Mr. Leven wholeheartedly. It must be my South End blood. For now, suffice it to say, that if Mr. Leven wants to stay North, there's no reason why he should stop at Garden City. Why not move a little more further North and live year round at Camp Massad !


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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.