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Rebecca Walberg, June 10, 2010

On May 30th, the 9th annual Talmud Torah fundraiser dinner was held in the synagogue on Main Street.  The evening was a success, combining delicious food, a friendly atmosphere, and a thought-provoking keynote address by David Chochinov, one of the shul’s younger regulars.

Almost 90 people attended the dinner, exceeding expectations, and despite the ongoing economic slowdown, sponsors provided as much support as they have in the past.

The dinner was intended to raise both funds for building upkeep and awareness about the community. Like other shuls in Winnipeg and particularly in the north end, Talmud Torah faces demographic changes that reduce both attendance and donations.  Mr. Chochinov argued that Winnipeg benefits from its variety of shuls and communities, and that Jews would benefit from spending time with and learning from different congregations.

“It’s not unusual for people to join one synagogue and attend only there, which can impair personal growth,” he explained.  “Exposure to different customs and communities can be challenging but valuable.”

Chochinov, an occupational therapist and lifelong Winnipegger, spoke on the “Winnipeg Jewish divide.”  Major themes of his talk included the tendency of Winnipeg Jews to segregate themselves into narrow categories, and the subsequent difficulty faced by those trying to live an authentically Jewish
life, however they define it, in an increasingly secular and divided broader community. He also addressed the growing disconnect in how people perceive
halacha and morality.

“For too many people, halacha is about rules they don’t understand, or prayers they don’t find meaningful,” Chochinov said, “rather than being the source of morality.”  Peppering his talk with anecdotes from his own childhood, he made the case that halacha provides a moral centre that helps people to maintain their values without isolating themselves from the wider community.

Chochinov and his wife Monica joined Miriam Geller and Clive Ramage in organizing the event, which included a five course dairy meal.

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