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Editor's Report: Rady JCC Lays Off 120 Full/Part Time Staff Members Due to Coronavirus Shutdown // School Closures // Summer Camps // Resilience and Passover

by Rhonda Spivak, April 1, 2020


These are extraordinary and difficult times and the Rady JCC has had to lay off staff due to the fact that it has closed down its operation as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

When asked about the number of lay-offs, Rob Berkowits, Executive Director of the Rady JCC wrote to the Winnipeg Jewish Review in an email that " Sadly, we have had to lay off full or part time 120 staff members to date due to the shut-down of our operation. This number was initially higher but once we were asked by the Province to have our child care centres remain open, we were able to recall approx. 20 child care staff members." (Note: The Rady JCC was asked by the Province to have its child care centres remain open for children of front line workers during the coronavirus pandemic.).

Berkowits added that " The 120 [staff members] listed above does not include contract workers such as instructors, personal trainers, etc."  Berkowits indicated that  staff who were involved in programming, not just fitness staff, were laid off.

When asked by the Winnipeg Jewish Review how many people remain on Rady JCC staff, Berkowits replied "Nine" but added "This number will likely get reduced further."

It is to be noted that similar situations have occurred in other JCC's, where deep and painful cuts have been made due to the coronavirus. For example Philedelphia's JCC laid off 176 workers due to the virus outbreak.


The Rady JCC is a vital institution in our community and we can only hope that it will be in a position to recover quickly once this pandemic subsides.

I refer readers to an article by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency which predicted that a lot of staff at JCC's throughout North America would in fact lose their jobs due to the coronavirus .The article began by stating that "Some 38,000 people work at Jewish community centers across North America, staffing pre-schools, camps, gyms,classes, activities for seniors and more. Because of the coronavirus a lot of them are going to lose their jobs."



I can't imagine going through this coronavirus pandemic without the internet, which gives me a view into the wider world and enables students to learn online while schools and universities are closed.  I was not surprised to learn that the Province announced yesterday that it  has indefinitely suspended classroom learning for kindergarten to Grade 12 students as a result of the coronavirus.



I wonder if the coronavirus will have peaked and come down enough for there to be overnight summer camp this year-either B'nai Brith Camp or Camp Massad. If parent's aren't sure the pandemic is over, they may not want to send their kids to camp. And the Rady JCC day camps could also not open this year. If there is no camp, then camp counsellors will be laid off. Additionally, until there is a vaccine found there are some experts that say that the coronavirus could return next fall/winter, even if it abates in the summer. (Note that the working assumption of the Israel Defense Forces is that the corona crisis "will last many months."(



We can only hope that the coronovirus crisis proves to be short lived. In the meantime our local Jewish institutions remain resilient in the face of adversity, and have adapted  to this new reality.  For example, rather than have James Carroll speak on May 6, Dr. Catherine Chatterley will deliver this year's Shindleman lecture for the Canadian Institute for the Study of Antisemitism on June 12 by video. While some in person events  have been cancelled this spring, there are now numerous virtual programs or webinars  that are taking place being put on by an array of Jewish organizations, which shows that these organizations are adjusting to the times. Shaarey Zedek Synagogue's Rabbis and its Education and Engagement Director have been sending out short YouTube videos with the aim of connecting with people to uplift our spirits. The Jewish  Federation of Winnipeg has announced a very good "Connect to your Community from home initiative." Volunteers will submit their names to call members of our community to ensure that no one is left without a friendly check-in to see how they are doing , and to connect them with information and resources they may find useful . As CEO of the Federation Elaine Goldstine  has written,"It is our ultimate goal to reach every single constituent in our data base." (As an aside, I understand that the Simkin Centre is happy to accept old IPADS and other communication devices to make it easier for their residents to FaceTime, for example).

The Jewish Foundation of Manitoba has announced that spring grants will be deferred at this time. As Richard Yaffe, Chair of the Board of Directors of the Foundation and John Diamond CEO of the Foundation have written on March 24 in a message sent out by e-blast, "This gives us the flexibility needed to create new granting criteria and policies that will give organizations the opportunity to apply for emergency operating funding. Our goal is to be positioned to act quickly and responsibly, so that we can efficiently and effectively assist organizations affected by this pandemic."



This year our Passover Seders will be much smaller. In my case, my son returned from Amsterdam, and was in self quarantine for two weeks. He was on an exchange program through the Asper School of Business and was supposed to be in Amsterdam until the beginning of July 2020. I felt a sense of relief knowing he got home safely and that he'll be out of quarantine in time for a Passover Seder.

Passover is a time to think about freedom. The conversation about freedom this year is different than other years because of coronavirus and all of the anxiety surrounding it. Right now, so many freedoms we have taken for granted -such as the freedom to get together with extended family and friends-have being eroded, and our whole  way of life has been challenged. Some of you may be having a virtual seder this year. Some of you may be alone this Passover. If you are having a Passover Seder, I hope you can connect with your  family and have a meaningful seder, even if it is with far fewer people than usual. Jews have always been innovative and adaptive. In this regard, it's worth noting that  Rabbi Aníbal Mass, ( with Ashira, Ronen and Tzivie Meyers) will be leading a "Virtual Seder" from the Meyers-Mass home online Wednesday, April 8th at 6 p.m. Contact Shaarey Zedek to Register for Zoom 204 452 3711, or [email protected]  or follow Live on Facebook or YouTube (No registration required). Use Shaarey Zedek's custom Hagaddah sponsored by Vickar Nissan for download or pick up at the shul. Rabbis Mass and Leibl have also both indicated an interest in holding their respective Passover Lunch and Learns as scheduled but done online. (As an aside Shaarey Zedek has online Shabbat services which has been the case for quite some time now and may be something readers wish to access especially during these times of isolation).

I also refer readers to  a new ruling made by several Orthodox Sephardi Rabbis in Israel in light of the coronavirus situation that allows for the online conference call program "ZOOM" to be used to conduct the Seder dinner as an exception to allow families to still spend time with one another.

May you be safe and stay well this Passover.

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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.