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Arthur Liffmann: “Chai has been one of the great constants of my life.”

Rachael Buchwald: “It’s a great way for me to connect with our community.”

Celebrating Jewish Identity - Enriching the lives of performers and audiences alike

April 12, 2018


When Arthur Liffmann was 17, his friends called his 1982 Pontiac J2000 the “Chai-mobile.” The vehicle earned the moniker because the aspiring singer used to play and re-play his Chai cassette and sing along at the top his lungs while driving.


The Pontiac is long gone and, well, what’s a cassette? What’s endured and thrived is Liffmann’s passion for the Jewish and Israeli music showcased by the Sarah Sommer Chai Folk Ensemble.


“I bought that cassette at Folklorama at the old Y,” says Liffmann, now 44. “Since then Chai has been one of the great constants of my life.”


The talented tenor will take the stage once again on June 7 as Chai presents “Woven Threads”, a special concert event at the Club Regent Event Centre which includes guest groups from the Ukrainian, Indigenous, Filipino, and Franco-Manitoban communities.


“I love the songs and performing is still a thrill,” says Liffmann, a graduate of Ramah Hebrew School and Joseph Wolinsky Collegiate, “but as I’ve gotten older, I have come to appreciate Chai’s deeper purpose. As a performer, I take great pride in being a representative of Jewish culture. That part of it has become even more important to me.”


Of all the highlights over his long relationship with Chai, a special moment in Kiryat Shmona stands out.


“It was 1998 and we were singing ‘Rumania, Rumania’. It’s a song that offers a slice of the Jewish experience in Eastern Europe,” recalls Liffmann, whose day job is in design and décor. “We could hear people in the room crying softly. They were recent immigrants from Europe and the song touched them. Just another reminder about how music and the arts can connect people and strengthen communities.”


Over 28 years – including a few short breaks and stints as Vocal Director and Artistic Director – the impact of Chai on Liffmann remains profound. “I don’t think I can overstate how important Chai is to me,” he says. “It was the first place I could go and test my limits in an environment that felt safe and trusting. Today, it’s about the power of music and celebrating Jewish identity.”


Rachael Buchwald’s membership in Chai is closer to 28 weeks than 28 years, but she, too, feels the impact of Chai on her Jewish identity.


“I don’t go to Jewish school or Jewish camp, so Chai is pretty special and pretty great for me,” says the 18-year-old, who joined the group in September.


Buchwald is an accomplished dancer, having trained with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet’s intensive training program and with the Goh Ballet Academy in Vancouver.


“Being in Chai helps me stay connected to dance while I get ready to start university in the fall,” she says. “And it’s a great way for me to connect with our community.”


At “Woven Threads” Chai will honour long-time Chai supporters, Tova and Larry Vickar. Honorary Co-Chairs for the event are David Chartrand, President of the Manitoba Métis Federation; Bob Freedman, former CEO of the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg; Dr. Rey Pagtakhan, a former federal cabinet minister; and Blair Yakimoski, MLA. David Greaves and Howard Morry are serving as Campaign Co-Chairs.


Sponsorship opportunities and concert tickets are now available. Advertising opportunities in the event program are also available. Please contact Reeva Nepon at the Chai office for more information – (204) 477-7497.

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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.