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Faith Kaplan


By Faith Kaplan, August 17, 2010

When I was small, our family went to the Ashkenazie Shul because Grandpa Izzy’s father and grandfather had been founding members. I knew this to be true because my dad, uncle, and grandpa had fine seats in the front row by the bimah, where I squeezed in beside my dad. I vividly remember the indignation of being sent upstairs to the ladies’ gallery, banished from the exciting tumult of the men’s floor because I was “too old”. We called and waved from above, and the old ladies who wore wigs (they were probably the age I am now) were endlessly entertaining because their wigs kept slipping around, resulting in the modern women reaching over to readjust the wigs. When Rabbi Witty started banging on the table yelling “ladies, please” in Yiddish, over the din of the men’s talking, my sister and I hightailed it downstairs to the social hall where we ran back and forth with the other children screaming at the top of our lungs and laughing. It was great fun and we looked forward to our annual High Holy Day visits.

My parents were progressive, and decided that my sister Nadine and I would have bat mitzvahs. Baba Dolly and Grandpa were informed that we were moving our membership to the Rosh Pina. It was the first time I remember my grandfather being angry.  He may not have been, but it seemed that way to my 10 year old self. I’m not sure why my grandparents were so upset, since my aunt’s family was at Shaarey Zedek, and we spent all kinds of family time together,but perhaps they saw the writing on the wall and understood that the absence of grandchildren signalled the beginning of the end of the shul.

We loved being at Rosh Pina because nearly everyone we knew was there. The extra  High Holy Day seats stretched from the front row, through the sanctuary and social hall all the way to the back of the stage; 1500 people visiting and laughing during Rosh Hashanah services, quiet for 15 seconds at a time only after the Rabbi gave us a what- for because of our chattering. There was mixed seating, and we sat together as a family surrounded by the same neighbouring families for 30 years. Rosh Pina was where I was bat mitzvah’d, married, honoured with aliyot when our children were born,  showed off my children and admired the babies and children growing up around us year after year. When someone passed away, we were sorry that their absence meant we could add another seat to our expanding family’s collection of seats in our row, and we said a prayer for them. When Rabbi Rappaport and Cantor Smolak retired, the succession of rabbis started to fray the edges of the congregation.  Coupled with the north end community’s movement to the south end, families started joining Shaarey Zedek. We remained at Rosh Pina until the three conservative synagogues in the north end merged and Rosh Pina became Etz Chayim and our High Holy Day seats went to another family in the “reassignment of seats lottery” held to accommodate the newly blended congregation.

Shaarey Zedek was familiar because of all the former Rosh Pina members, but Hart was never happy with the abbreviated services necessary to manage such a large congregation. So, last year we moved to the Herzlia- Adas Yeshurun Synagogue. I was back at an orthodox shul for the first time in almost 40 years despite my feminist sensibilities. 

For some bizarre reason, the mechitsah didn’t offend me, though it does remind me of the room dividers at Shanghai. The separation of our family by gender didn’t bother me. I guess there are enough of us to form our own small Linder/Kaplan/Short enclave in both the ladies’ and men’s sections, and the Rabbi offers break out learning sessions in the multipurpose room which are interesting and conducted in mixed seating.

Rabbi Ari and Tikvah Ellis are from California via Israel, and in Winnipeg to help build our community. They are a breath of fresh air, and the shul is guided by a modern orthodox perspective. It is a welcoming and comfortable environment, reminiscent of my childhood at Ashkenazie.

The shul’s membership is small. Yes, the building needs updating to meet the current membership needs, the acoustics can be spotty depending on where you sit and how much your neighbours are chatting, and the seat cushions have lost their cush. But the congregation and rabbi are friendly and there is a sense of purposefulness in the hands-on running of the shul by its members.

At the recent annual general meeting, the membership approved the Board of Directors for 2010/2011: Dr.Earl Hershfield (President), Ed Aziman (Vice-President), Meir Dahan (Treasurer), Rena Elbaze (Secretary), Sherman Greenberg (Past President), Rabbi Ari Ellis, Rose Aziman, Kim Bailey, Jack Craven, Reva Craven, Faith Kaplan (yup), Hart Kaplan, Dr. Phililipa Kellen and Dr.Rodney Kellen. It must be a Winnipeg synagogue record to have 3 married couples sitting at the same board table!

 In his president’s report, Earl acknowledged past mistakes, advised that they will not be repeated, and invited the synagogue community to participate in rebuilding the shul. He reviewed this past year’s visiting scholars, family Shabbat and Holiday events, and expanded youth programming, and emphasized that such programming will continue. The Board will focus on finalizing a strategic implementation plan that will lead to a major fundraising program to refurbish the building and rebrand Herzlia- Adas Yeshurun. The synagogue Board hopes to unveil plans for a modernized building, including environmental retrofitting, an attractive and comfortable sanctuary, improved functionality in the kitchen and social hall, and upgraded and expanded preschool space in the next 12 months. I want to help move this shul forward because I like the sense of community and the sense of commitment to the future of this 103 year old congregation. I have sat on a number of boards in my years of volunteering, but never on a synagogue board.  It should be interesting!

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

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