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Etz Chayim has been Actively Looking For Space in the South End for the Last 2-3 Years-Anticipates Launching a Capital Campaign for a New Building in South End

by Rhonda Spivak, Sept 20, 2021


President of Etz Chayim congregation, Avrom Charach has told the Winnipeg Jewish Review that the congregation has been "actively hunting for space [ to relocate the congregation] in the South End  for the last two -three years. "We've had a couple of things that were interesting. We've been using more that one real estate agent and they know that."



Charach confirmed that recently a letter has been sent out by the board of Etz Chayim congregation to  approximately 60-70 members of the congregation, which asked those members  to give feedback to the proposal that the synagogue be sold and that the congregation move south (this would be to a temporary home at first, until the construction of a permanent one.)   Charach indicated that the  letter was "to test the water" as a " a prelude to a fundraising campaign.”


"We sent the letter to members who would most likely be asked to step up in a major way if  we were to launch a fund raising campaign for a new synagogue building," he indicated.



 Charach stated that the synagogue has been working with Joan Blight of Strategic Philanthropy in anticipation of launching a building campaign, who has helped "to make the case for support." (Editor’s note: Blight has also done similar work for the Shaarey Zedek capital campaign.)



 The Winnipeg Jewish review asked Charach about the timing of their upcoming building campaign. "We held off doing this while the Chesed Shel Emes was doing their fundraising campaign, so we do not want to hold off doing this any longer." Charach believes that Etz Chayim members will be ready to step up to the plate for the building campaign.



When asked what would happen if the response from the 60-70 members who received the letter from Etz Chayim was lukewarm, Charach replied, "I believe that we will be able to do something. We have different contingencies. The question is whether we're going to do the basic model or the Cadillac version."


When asked about a potential merger with Shaarey Zedek in the future, Charach responded, "I would never say never, but there were reasons why both synagogues chose not to continue with the merger a few years back and these reasons have not changed." (Editor’s note: It should be noted that most of Etz Chayim's congregants now live South and the congregation over the years has shrunk as has Shaarey Zedek's, such that some in the community believe that demographic realities ultimately will necessitate a merger between Etz Chayim and Shaarey Zedek at some point in the future).


 According to Charach, the letter sent out also made mention of the fact that in the operation of  the three cemeteries for which the Etz Chayim is responsible (Rosh Pina, Bnay Abraham, and Hebrew Sick)  a deficit  has accumulated in the operating costs of the cemeteries for a number of years.  Charach explained that  “the cemeteries weren’t funded in a proper way 40-50 years ago.” He said that many cemetery plots were sold in advance at "very low prices, such as $500.00." As the purchasers of those plots have passed on , the Cemetery operation  has had to endure financial strain in paying the operating costs of the three cemeteries, as well as paying the cost of maintaining the cemeteries. “If the cemeteries aren’t properly funded then we will eventually have to dip into our current capital investments,” Charach explained.


Charach said that  the synagogue is trying to launch a cemetery endowment fund in order to use the interest to cover the cost of the operation of the cemeteries “What we are trying to do is make sure that 100 years from now, even if  there is no Etz Chayim congregation, there will always be more than enough to cover expenses of operating these cemeteries.” 


Charach said "I hope that people who are not members of  Etz Chayim congregation will support the cemetery fund, especially if they have relatives who are buried in the cemeteries." 


When asked if  the synagogue will be actively reaching out to the descendants of family who are buried in the cemeteries, Charach emphasized that "right now we are only testing the waters but when we decide to do the campaign, we'll reach out to the Jewish community and we'll probably reach out to the descendants of people who are buried in the cemeteries.” 


When asked if the synagogue will approach the Jewish Foundation of Manitoba for assistance with the building campaign and/or the cemetery campaign, Charach replied "We'll look at all avenues, including making an application or applications to the Jewish Foundation of Manitoba. Joan Blight is helping us in this regard."


When asked about the fact that Shaarey Zedek Synagogue is also gearing up for a capital campaign, Charach stated he didn’t think that would affect Etz Chayim’s building campaign. As he pointed out, "I don't anticipate asking the same people who Shaarey Zedek will be asking, to support our building campaign." 


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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.