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Gina and Rudy Fidel and Larry Vickar in Jerusalem

Moshe & Rivka Kraus with Gina & Rudy Fidel. On the far left is Anna-Lee Chiprout (friend & neighbour of the Kraus') On the far right is Abigail Hirsch who has done extensive filming and documentation of Cantor Kraus' life.

Rudy Fidel with Felix Opatowski, a Holocaust survivor

Pastor Rudy Fidel of Faith Temple Has a Huge Heart for Israel and is Passionate About the Need for Holocaust Education

by Rhonda Spivak, June 12, 2020

Pastor Rudy Fidel of Faith Temple is a Winnipegger  with a huge heart for Israel who has led tours there and been there 22 times. Rudy recalls that his very first trip to Israel was in 1986 with his mentor and pastor the late Rev. Ingrid Bergner who led a group of six young people from Faith Temple on a mission to the Holy Land. "Upon arrival for the first time in my life I got down prostrate and kissed the earth. My love relationship with Israel was ignited."


Fidel believes that " it’s wrong to try to convert Jews to Christianity." As he explains, "Firstly, Judaism is Christianity's big brother. Secondly I teach young couples when they are getting married to accept each other for who they are. The fights start when they try to change each other. Interfaith friendships are equally important, for then we see the beautiful characteristics in each other."


Rudy’s wife, Gina, is of German descent but her parents were always pro-Israel. “They were actually German Christian Zionists," Rudy explains. "My wife's mother Adina Wollenberg often prayed for the re-establishment of a Jewish state. In 1939 the fruit trees in her region of East Prussia bloomed twice. She saw it as a sign of a great world event a war and the re-birth of the Jewish state. She hated Hitler with a passion. When Israel became a state again both of Gina's parents rejoiced as they saw their beloved promise in Isaiah 66:8 "Shall a nation be born at once? for as soon as Zion travailed, she brought forth her children."


In 2003,  Alan Yusim of B'nai Brith asked Rev. Fidel to help launch a First Nation's Educational tour to Israel. Rev. Raymond McLean was one of the ten educators. Today between Rev. McLean and Chief Ron Evans over 400 First Nations people have visited Israel.


Rev. Fidel is good friends with Moshe Kraus, a Holocaust survivor from Uzhorod, in the Ukraine who was the first Cantor of the Israel Defense Forces and now lives in Ottawa. In  2017 Rev. Fidel invited him to launch his book and speak at Faith Temple. "With the help of B'nai Brith we arranged to have him speak at Shaftsbury High School and the Rady Center," Fidel recalls. He adds that "In 2018 Moshe invited us to Ottawa to be guests at the home of the Hungarian ambassador and in May of 2019 Gina and I accompanied Moshe and his wife Rivka to Israel. While at the Toronto airport I engaged some young Chassidic men in conversation and brought them over to meet the IDF's first cantor. It turned out one of them was a direct relative from Uzhorod."


On that same trip the Fidels joined Larry and Tova Vickar on an extraordinary JNF tour. Fidel and his wife already had made arrangements to travel with Moshe and Rifka Kraus to Israel  "Gina and I were purchasing our second car from Larry Vickar when Larry came in and said 'I hear you're going to Israel this May [2019].' The next thing I knew we were graciously included to travel alongside the Vickars on a JNF tour.


"The Vickars have really made many incredible contribution to Israel through JNF and other organizations. We saw the kibbutz where Tova was raised and the contributions the Vickars have made to that kibbutz." Later on in November 2019 Rudy and his wife joined a second JNF trip to be a part of the dedication of the Stephen Harper Center in the Hula Valley.


"On our May 2019 trip we spent four days at a conference at  Ben Gurion University with the Vickars and Howard and Hope Morry. I'll never forget the wonderful atmosphere on the campus as we saw Muslim women laughing and engaging with their Jewish friends. I thought to myself why doesn't the news media capture this scene of Jewish and Arab relations," Rudy notes.


Fidel is also friends with  Clila Bau and her sister Hadasa (who both married Winnipeggers) and live in Israel. They are the daughters of Joseph & Rebeca Bau who are portrayed in the movie Schindler's List, getting married secretly in the Plaszow concentration camp.Joseph Bau was a forger who worked secretly for the Mossad and was instrumental in forging the spy Eli Cohen's documents. He was also involved with Adolf Eichmann's abduction from Argentina. "Clila was on a speaking tour and I opened up our church for her informative presentation. Together with B'nai Brith, we arranged for her to speak in  four schools in Manitoba in 2016. Later on that year through the help of some of our Holocaust survivor friends in Florida, I was able to arrange for both sisters to speak in five schools there," Rudy notes.


Rudy says he is  passionate about the need for Holocaust education. In 2005  Rudy and  Gina were a part of a Christian-Jewish interfaith adult March of the Living tour to Poland and Israel,which was a life changing event. It was on this trip that he met Holocasut survivor Felix Opatowski. In Birkenau Felix showed Rudy the place where the ashes of his people were located. He said " They made me to shovel the ashes." Rudy explains, "Immediately for the second time in my life I fell prostrate and kissed the holy ground upon which we were." Later on in Israel at Yad Vashem Gina found a tree planted for Charles Coward a British officer who helped Felix with smuggling explosive material into the camp plus he gave him the occasional food or cigarette that he could trade for bread. As Rudy notes, "Felix's greatest nightmare was when he had to watch the public hanging of four of his female co workers with the Polish Underground."


Rudy explains that "Both Gina and I made a great connection with Felix and his wife  Regina so much so that in 2007 we invited Felix to be one of our speakers at Faith Temple along with Phillip Weiss and Anje Van Tongeren at our Yom Hashoah service conducted by Rabbi Pinsker. Felix had never spoken publicly about his experience." Rudy then arranged for Felix to speak at a number of schools with the help of B'nai Brith and Eileen Monkman a teacher's aide at one of the schools.


"In 2009 a group of 13 of us traveled to Poland and Austria to film 'Following in the Footsteps of Felix Opatowski a Hero of the Holocaust.' In 2014 I traveled with Felix to Posnan Poland where he recited the Kaddish for his father. In January 2017 I spent the last three days of Felix's life with him at his bedside holding his hand and just being there for him," Rudy recalls.


In 2011 Rudy facilitated the reunion of Anje Van Tongeren who worked with the Dutch Underground and Ernest Wolff, who survived the Holocaust. "She returned wedding bands that belonged to his uncle and wife after 70 years."


Rudy also supports Chabad in the Ukraine. As he says,"In 2015 Gina & I and good friends Grant & Roberta Kurian went to Austria for the 70th. anniversary of the liberation of both the Mauthausen and Ebensee concentration camps. We then flew to Kiev Ukraine where we met a devoted couple Rabbi Jonathan & Inna Markovitch who run a Chabad school for underprivileged children. They also help feed the elderly,many of whom are Holocaust survivors. Since that time through the generous help of Christian philanthropy we have been able to support them plus Chabad in Odessa through our church."


Rudy notes that "One of the greatest joys that I've had in my ministry as a pastor is motivating Christians to become Christian Zionists. In the past fourteen years we have steered Christian Philanthropy to support JNF, Magen David Adam, Chabad, B'nai Brith and Emunah. One Christian couple has purchased four emergency vehicles for Israel and planted a forest through JNF.


Rudy and his wife Gina are planning to go to Israel this coming November if travel is permitted. "I feel the need to get to the Holy land again," he says.

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

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