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Some Members of Grade 12 Graduating Class: Back row L to R: Josh Muyal, Brooke Lieberman, Rebecca Goldstein, Front Row: Leah Corne
all photos by Robyn Shapiro Photography

Members of Administration and Staff of Gray Academy


Leah Corne talkig to Jacqui Cohen at the dance


by Rhonda Spivak, June 8, 2016

This year, for the first time ever the Gray Academy of Jewish Education held its grade twelve graduation dinner and dance at a the Manitoba Club, a private club that was founded in 1874 and that did not allow Jews to become members until 1972. 


It was the first time that I had ever been to the Manitoba Club. There were definitely other parents like myself who had never been there and who were meandering about looking the place over, admiring the stained glass windows, the fine woodwork, the richly painted walls and other notable features.


Allan Levine referred to the history of the Manitoba Club in an article he wrote titled "The Unwanted in Winnipeg" in the National Post, which was reprinted in his book "Coming of Age:A History of the Jewish People of Manitoba." As Levine wrote:


"The esteemed Manitoba Club, the social headquarters of the province's elite since its establishment in 1874, "gained and deserved a reputation for anti-Semitism," noted author Peter C. Newman. In 1968, grain trade executives James Richardson and Stewart Searle proposed the admittance of judge Samuel Freedman (who was until then the first Manitoba judge not to have received an invitation to join), lawyer Sol Kanee, then a director of the Bank of Canada, and Sony businessman Albert Cohen. But on principle Freedman declined the invitation and Kanee and Cohen, though warmer to the idea, did not pursue it. Architect Gerald Libling was the first Jew finally admitted, in 1972.


Two years later, and a century after it was founded, the club passed an anti-discrimination bylaw. Still, Jewish lawyers and businessmen did not rush to join. "



I immediately understood that the 2016 Gray Academy graduation dinner and dance was a "historic " function for our Jew community. Why? There have  certainly been numerous Jewish members of the Manitoba Club since Gerald Libling was first admitted in 1972 and there have certainly been Jews who have had parties there, but has a Jewish community organization , a Jewish Federation beneficiary ever held a  kosher function at the Manitoba club? No, this has not happened before. This kosher dinner was a first, and for that reason it is historic


The full course chicken entre was catered by Lisa Odwak and everything was cooked in advance at the newly renovated Herzlia synagogue kitchen. The Manitoba Club kitchen was kashered by Ruth Ashrafi, Gray Academy's Judaic Studies Director, on the day of the event . The pre-prepared meal,was then transported and heated up on site. The tasty meal was served on disposal chinette.  


One of the organizers said that the Manitoba Club was "very accommodating about everything and a pleasure to work with." As Lori Binder, Head of School said " It was great to have the Manitoba Club accommodate our needs to ensure a kosher event."



The special significance of the occasion by saying a "Shechiyahu" prayer.No doubt that many in our city - former graduates and parents of Jewish schools, and community leaders- who would have never  have imagined that we would have reached the day of celebrating a  kosher Jewish graduation event at the Manitoba Club. 



And of course, it will be interesting to see whether there are any other kosher functions held at the Manitoba Club in the future. It was a very lovely venue.


Lori Binder noted that "We are thrilled to have next year's dinner dance at the  brand new RBC Convention Centre that is equipped with a kosher kitchen." 


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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.