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Shaarey Zedek Synagogue
with permission from Shaarey Zedek archives


Merger Talks Between Winnipeg's Two Largest Synagogues Are on Hold

by Rhonda J. Prepes, February 26, 2013

Congregations Shaarey Zedek, Winnipeg’s largest congregation, and Etz Chayim, the second largest congregation, have discussed a merger or building sharing arrangement but, talks are at a stand-still. They are Winnipeg’s last two remaining egalitarian conservative synagogues after Beth Israel Congregation, B’nay Abraham Synagogue and Rosh Pina Congregation merged to form one congregation called Etz Chayim on April 15, 2002.

Both remaining conservative synagogues are in critical yet similar states of despair. The Shaarey Zedek building was built in 1950, while Etz Chayim was built in 1952. Both older buildings require expensive ongoing maintenance and repairs. Both have not experienced an increase in memberships in recent years and the majority of members that they do have are seniors.

Bob Freedman CEO Jewish Federation of Winnipeg said, “The Jewish Federation of Winnipeg is working informally with the synagogues to ensure a viable Jewish community in the future.”

“While our Jewish population may be growing, the number of individuals who attend services and become synagogue members is declining year after year. Four thousand new immigrants have arrived in Winnipeg in the last 10 years but, they are not necessarily joining or attending synagogue.”

When asked to comment on the status of the talks, Dr. Bonnie Cham, outgoing President of the Shaarey Zedek Board, responded on December 3, 2012. "The merger talks are currently on hold and I don't know if and when they will restart so I would suggest this is probably not the best time for this type of article.”

In the middle of February 2013, Freedman confirmed that Shaarey Zedek is also beginning to explore the possibility of putting a daycare in the lower level of the synagogue, and if this were to happen, a merger with Etz Chayim would appear to be moot.

Jonathan Buchwald, Executive Director Etz Chayim said, “Membership is currently 530 family units, about the same as last year. That is enough to sustain the synagogue for now.”

“We have just undergone a strategic planning process and we are still undertaking it. We are situated in an area of town where the majority of the Jewish population isn’t, that’s what led us to develop some planning and exploration. For now, we have a presence in the north end. Our membership is holding steady, we are still financially viable, so for now we are staying put.”

“Our synagogue continues to be quite vibrant. We get between 150 - 200 people attend our Shabbat morning services. We have programming for all ages. That is not to say that we don’t look to the future and look what might be part of our future plan but, we certainly understand the responsibility to try to remain in the north end and serve the north end Jewish population. Dina Granove, President of the Etz Chayim Board did not return emails or phone calls.

 This article first appeared in the Jewish Tribune
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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

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