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Rabbi Alan Green

Response of Winnipeg Council of Rabbis to the Decision of The Rady JCC to Open on Shabbat Mornings

posted January 6, 2012

[Editor's note: On Dec 24 a copy of this letter was sent to me by Alice Weissmann Ritual Secretary Congregation Shaarey Zedek. It was printed on Shaarey Zedek letterhead and is being reprinted in full here.]

December 18, 2012

Dear Friends:

The Winnipeg Council of Rabbis feels compelled to respond to the Rady Centre’s recent decision to open its facility on Shabbat morning.

We are aware of the factors that motivated this decision. We appreciate the obligation to serve the needs of Rady Centre members, many of whom are not Jewish, and the vast majority of whom are not Sabbath observant. We also appreciate that the decision to open Rady Centre facilities on Shabbat morning will have little if any impact on synagogue attendance on Shabbat morning.

What moves us to respond is the symbolism of this change. Shabbat observance already has been in decline in our community for years. There are many reasons for this, and they go far beyond the scope of this letter. However, that the Rady Centre originally refrained—first, from opening on Shabbat; and second, from opening on Shabbat morning—signaled a laudable intent on the part of the community, at least to acknowledge the ideal of Shabbat observance in Winnipeg.

This intent was praiseworthy all the more so, given that neither the administration nor the membership of the Rady Centre is oriented in a particularly Shabbasdig direction. It’s not unlike the Rady Centre’s laudable commitment to maintain Shmoozer’s as a Kosher café, as well as Kosher supervision of the annual Rady Sports Dinner, in spite of the fact that the vast majority of our community does not observe the laws of Kashrut.

However, with the Rady Centre’s decision to remain open all day on Shabbat, the final vestige of observance of this most significant Mitzvah—the fourth of the Ten Commandments—“the eternal sign” of the covenant between God and Israel, according to the Torah—has now been erased from the institutional memory of our community. The Winnipeg Council of Rabbis wishes simply to draw the community’s attention to this subtle, but significant shift. These kinds of decisions not only affect the current generation of Winnipeg Jews, but also, our generations yet unborn.

So the questions we would like to address to the Winnipeg Jewish community—difficult questions, not to be answered without some depth of thought—are these: How much further down this road is it prudent for us, as a community, to travel? And what kind of message are we currently sending to our young people, about the incorporation of Jewish values into their lives?

Very sincerely yours,
Alan Green, Chair
Larry Lander
Ari Ellis
Neal Rose
Winnipeg Council of Rabbis

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