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Shaarey Zedek Synogogue

Rabbi Alan Green


by Rhonda Spivak, September 18, 2013

In his Yom Kippur Day sermon, for which I was present, Rabbi Green of Shaarey Zedek synagogue indicated that, in his view, in order to revive synagogue attendance, the curriculum at the Gray Academy ought to be "integrated" with the synagogue. (This is like the situation of the past Talmud Torah School and Joseph Wolinsky Collegiate where the synagogue was on site and students went into it to “daven” on a regular basis, as well as on Rosh Hodesh and holidays). 

This would help students receiving a   Jewish education feel more comfortable in and integrated with a synagogue. In Rabbi Green's view this would make them and their families more likely later on to join and become members of a synagogue. (In a later piece I will write an editorial commenting on Rabbi Green's thinking and vision. Also, please bear in mind that in describing the above talk I am relying on my memory as I was certainly not taking notes).


Although he did not say so specifically in his address, I thought that the unstated assumption of Rabbi Green's remarks is that he would prefer to have Shaarey Zedek or a merged Shaarey Zedek/Etz Chayim congregation or a Shaarey Zedek/Etz Chayim shared space arrangement be relocated to the Asper Community Campus or nearby.

That would enable a steady stream of Gray Academy students to frequently use the synagogue and grow up with a synagogue as an integral part of their lives and of their Jewish education.

However, Rabbi Green has emailed the Winnipeg Jewish Review that he was not talking about moving to the Campus physically:


"In my sermon, I purposely avoided the issues of merging or relocating synagogues.  These issues only add unnecessary layers of complexity on top of the much simpler, but more essential problem of separation between school and synagogue in our community..
Remember that the Ramah School and Shaarey Zedek were located miles apart.  Yet they had a relationship extending over several decades that facilitated a natural flow of learning that led from school to synagogue and then back to school. 
"I sincerely believe that a close relationship between school and synagogue is a key to Jewish survival over the long run.  This educational model is what sustained our community for many years in the past. It is also what has sustained Jewish life around the world for the past twenty centuries. I believe that abandoning this proven educational model, with its long track record of success, is to put not only synagogues, but the whole Winnipeg Jewish enterprise at great risk."
However, re-tasking Winnipeg synagogues as the laboratory component of what our children learn in theory about Shabbat and Sukkot, for example, does not require the merging or relocating of physical buildings."


Notwithstanding Rabbi Green's remarks above, in terms of potentially putting a synagogue building for Shaarey Zedek and/or Etz Chayim congregations on campus, the Winnipeg Jewish Review has learned that there are some who are skeptical of this notion since they are of the view that there simply would not be enough room to house a synagogue for 1500-2000 families with a proper social hall for events and parking on the current Asper Campus property. In order to do this, the Gray Academy would have to give up some or all of its sports playing fields.  Existing Campus parking, it is claimed, would also not be sufficient for use by a synagogue if there were events simultaneously taking place at the Campus.

However, the Winnipeg Jewish Review has also learned that there is speculation that the provincial government may eventually put up the Manitoba Youth Centre building on Doncaster Street for public sale. If this property was won by the Jewish community in a public sale, in theory this location in close proximity to the Campus could house a new synagogue or a shared building for two congregations, a social hall, and plenty of parking (with the existing building being a tear down). However, it remains to be seen whether this possibility would ever materialize and if so, when.  (Could it be years or tens of years? Could anyone rely on this as a plan for moving forward?).

In regard to the demolition of the White Building on Campus property which previously housed government offices, that building is approximately 12000 square feet, and some say it would not provide nearly enough space to house Shaarey Zedek's congregation or a merged Shaarey Zedek/Etz Chayim congregation or a shared space for two congregations.
Another possibility that has been mentioned for a location of a new synagogue (to replace Shaarey Zedek and/or Etz Chayim) is near the Saul and Claribel Simkin Centre (
The Personal Care Home for Manitoba's Jewish Community in Linden Ridge), but in my view Rabbi Green was not contemplating this in his remarks. He clearly spoke of integrating the synagogue with the school.

However, he also said that while this was his vision he would also be amenable to whatever his congregation and the community decided.

I should note that the Director of Judaic Studies at Gray Academy Ruth Ashrafi is on the board of the Shaarey Zedek, such that I would venture a guess that the two have talked about Rabbi Green's vision before. (In a follow up article, I’d like to ask Ashrafi to formally respond to Rabbi Green's vision. Does she agree that the synagogue ought to be integrated into the Gray Academy Judaic curriculum?)

With all this talk about possible synagogue relocation sites, the community is still at a loss about where the new daycare is to be located.

In upcoming issues, the WJR intends to examine the issue of mergers/space sharing arrangements re: synagogues, and the need for the revitalization of synagogue life and whether the revitalization of synagogue life will be a pre-requisite for the continuation of a Jewish community here long-term. (i.e. can the congregations of our  synagogues continue to decline to the point where we merge and merge them until there is only one left and still expect there to be a Jewish community here long term? Can we exist long term as "cultural Jews" only or is Jewish religious knowledge, practice, and synagogue life a needed pre-requisite for our long term Jewish communal survival? And if it is, then what does communal leadership intend to do to revive Jewish religious/synagogue life?   

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.