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Barry McArton z"l

Rabbi Green's Eulogy for Barry McArton read by Marjorie Blankstein on Sept 28 at the Celebration of Life for Barry McArton Z

The Celebration of Life for Barry McArton took place at the Berney Theatre at the Asper Campus

by Rabbi Alan Green, posted here October 6


Two years after the fact, the passing of Barry McArton still weighs heavily upon those who know and love him.  At age 70, Barry was taken from us, decades before his time.  But, while Barry might have been robbed of more years to his life, he succeeded in adding a tremendous degree of life to his years.

More than anyone I have ever met, Barry was motivated by a deep love, not only for friends and family, but for humanity at large.  He was possessed of a willing spirit to inspire and uplift anyone, or any environment in which he happened to be. 

“Who is wise?” ask the rabbis, rhetorically.  “A person who is able to see that which is yet unborn.”

Barry had a rare gift—a kind of prophetic insight into people, and institutions as varied as the Winnipeg and Vancouver Symphony orchestras, Cancer Care Manitoba, Combined Jewish Appeal of Winnipeg, and Congregation Shaarey Zedek—which is how Barry and I first met.  We went out to lunch maybe three times, over a period of two years.  

However, it didn’t take long for me to sense Barry's extraordinary gift of visionhis ability to see the positive potential within any given set of circumstances. This was his modus operandi, wherever he went in the world—whether on the docks of Betula Lake, or in his remarkably successful fundraising achievements. Barry had this magnificent ability to see the potential for growth and fun, in any social or institutional setting.  He reminds me of the famous saying of George Bernard Shaw: “Some people see things as they are, and say, ‘Why?’ I dream of things that never were, and say, ‘Why not?’”

          And so it was with one of Barry’s final visions: the renovation of Congregation Shaarey Zedek.  Lorne Weiss and I had an initial meeting with Barry and his mother-in-law Marjorie Blankstein to present an idea for renovating the venerable Shaarey Zedek social hall.  There was a strong family connection, as Cecil Blankstein had designed the iconic Shaarey Zedek Synagogue building 70 years ago.

          We made our presentation. And then, Barry went to work. In so many words, he told us: “You are thinking way too small.  You are severely underestimating the importance of Shaarey Zedek in the life of the Winnipeg Jewish community.  Therefore, you don’t want to redesign one room and leave the rest of the building untouched.  There is unrealized potential here you can hardly begin to imagine.  He suggested a second meeting.

          A few weeks later, we met again.  The visionary advice we received from Barry and Marjorie was to consult various architects, and see what kinds of ideas would emerge. Suddenly, we were playing in an entirely different ballpark.  Due to our restricted vision, we had been playing sandlot baseball.  Now, suddenly, we were in beautiful Shaw Park.

 The best part was that we all had so much fun in the process. Barry’s enthusiasm was infectious; and his practical, laser-like focus convinced us that it really would be possible to rejuvenate the classic Shaarey Zedek building, despite the obstacles.

Thanks to Barry’s inspiration and the support of many generous donors, the synagogue renovation is now underway.  The iconic design will remain but the numerous planned internal updates will allow Shaarey Zedek to perpetuate Jewish life in Winnipeg for another seventy years to come. 

Barry’s loving contributions of time, energy, and enthusiasm to the arts, to healthcare, to untold numbers of individuals, and to the life of the Winnipeg Jewish community will live on for many years to come.  In this way, Barry’s life is an example to us all—of how we mortal human beings can leave a significant mark in time, and in the hearts, minds, and memories of those we know and love in this lifetime. 

Those memories are deeply significant, and they reside within.  Barry may have passed away from this world.  But on that soul level of existence, at the crossroads of heart, mind, and memory, he continues to live in a way that cannot be touched or harmed by death. And on that soul level of existence, which is beyond time and space, in truth, Barry is never any further away from us than the width of a closed eyelid. 

This is what it really means when we say, Zichrono Li-V’racha—“May his memory be a blessing.”  Our memories of Barry should always prove to be a light and a guide, an inspiration and a blessing, for all who know and love him.    

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