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Volunteer Gord Steindel getting ready to start on the addition
Joel Margolese


Volunteers begin framing the synagogue addition
Joel Margolese

 
HEBREW CONGREGATION OF WINNIPEG BEACH CELEBRATES 60TH ANNIVERSARY

By Sharon Chisvin, July 8, 2010

It’s a good thing that the small committee that oversees the Hebrew Congregation of Winnipeg Beach had the foresight to build an extension on to the synagogue this spring. Otherwise, it would not have been able to accommodate all of the people who came out to the synagogue to celebrate its 60th anniversary earlier this month. 

Those in attendance at the commemorative Shabbat service on July 3 included many of the synagogue’s regulars, most of who summer in the Winnipeg Beach area, and many other well wishers who purposefully drove the 45 minutes from Winnipeg to participate in the historic event. 

“The Organizing Committee of the Hebrew Congregation of Winnipeg Beach was more than pleased that close to 75 congregants crowded in and attended the Special Shabbat Services on July 3rd,” said Laurie Mainster, a volunteer with the synagogue for more than 15 years.  “Those in attendance commented that the service was beautiful (and that) the addition is an incredible part of the new shul.” 

This addition, built almost entirely by volunteers, is one of few changes that the Congregation has undergone in its six decade history. 

For most of this time, the one room building stood on the corner of Hazel and Grove in the heart of Winnipeg Beach - a favourite summer resort area for Manitoba’s Jews, largely because it was a place where they were always welcomed. The building, an 18 by 24 foot log cabin, had been hauled to the beach from a mill yard in Beausejour.  In 1998 the building was moved to its current location on the grounds of  Camp Massad. 

In its early years, the shul held services twice daily, Eventually that was pared down to once a day, then to twice a week, and then finally to once a week on the Sabbath morning. Today, services are held every Saturday morning beginning on the Canada Day long weekend and continuing until the Labour Day long weekend. On most Saturdays, about 35 people attend. 

Three years ago, after careful consideration, the congregation decided to make its services egalitarian. While this change definitely helped to augment the number of regulars who attend throughout the summer, the synagogue’s appeal has always derived from a number of other factors as well. 

By virtue of its small size, even now with the addition, the Hebrew Congregation of Winnipeg Beach has always been a warm, inviting and informal place of worship. The service is run entirely by volunteers, anyone who wishes to participate in it is welcomed to do so, young and old mingle easily, and there are no membership fees. Perhaps most tellingly, many of those who attend the Saturday morning service do so in shorts, t-shirts and sandals.

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