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Shaarey Zedek Synagogue's Sukkot Program featured screening of the Israeli Film Ushpizin at the Berney Theatre .

by Rhonda Spivak, Oct 18, 2022



About 45 people attended a Shaarey Zedek Synagogue Sukkot Dinner and Jewish film night on Thursday, October 13 at the Asper Jewish Community Campus, which was sponsored by the National Jewish Outreach Program (NJOP). Those in attendance had an opportunity to learn about the holiday and were treated to a free, delicious buffet dinner, consisting of pizza and salad and an ice cream bar followed by the screening of an Israeli film Ushpizin.  Given the inclement weather, the blessings over the lulav and etrog were done in the Kanee Foyer, rather than in the Campus Sukkah as originally planned.


Cantor Leslie Emery commented on the spirit of the event: “It is a Mitzvah, to bring everyone into our “tent”. The holiday of Sukkot and the temporary nature of the Sukkah have a strong connection to our current situation, and we are grateful to be able to gather and celebrate the holiday together in person.”



Dr. Rena Secter Elbaze, Director of Engagement and Education was grateful to be able to host guests in the true spirit of the holiday: “Thanks to a generous grant from NJOP, we were able to invite guests into our “tent” to experience the holiday in community.”


The program for the evening included some teaching during the dinner with Rabbi Anibal Mass and beautiful singing with Cantor Leslie Emery while the guests enjoyed good food and company. Rabbi Mass expressed a sense of as joy to be able to bring community together after such a long pause: “In Hebrew, the holiday of Sukkoth is referred to as Zman Simchateinu, the Time of OUR Joy and not as Time of MY Joy. This is not a festival that can be celebrated in isolation. In fact, the Rabbis emphasize that it must be celebrated in community. That’s why it was amazing to experience being together for this festival once again eating together, singing together and laughing together.” 


Most of those in attendance were adults but there were also some children. A children’s event was held earlier in the week at A Maze in Corn in conjunction with other community organizations.


Following the dinner, many went on to view the Israeli film Ushpizin screened in the Berney Theatre after a brief introduction by the Rabbi. 


Ushpizin, is a rather charming 2006 Israeli film about a Hasidic couple in Jerusalem who are preparing for the holiday of Sukkot (also known as the Festival of Booths, commemorating the Israelites' journey to the promised land) by asking God to send a miracle- money to cover food for the Sukkot holiday and sukkah, a temporary, in which to eat. And they ask for God to send them "ushpizin" guests who will share their holiday meals and prayers. God responds positively. Malli Bellanga (Michal Bat-Sheva Rand) and her husband, Moshe (screenwriter Shuli Rand, who is the real-life husband of Michal), receive an  envelope  with cash that arrives anonymously and miraculously at their door. This occurs at a time when a friend shows Moshe an abandoned sukkah, which he can use. Moshe uses some of his money to buy a very expensive etrog, as a sign of his belief in God. Now all the childless couple needs are guests.


Two escaped convicts arrive to visit Moshe. One of them, Eliyahu is an old pal of Moshe's from the days before Moshe was a believer and was a godless drinker who was prone to fights. Eliyahu and Yossef are rude, and very rough around the edges. Despite this, Malli and Moshe welcome them as divinely sent ushpizin for the Sukkot holiday. The rude guests eat without manners, finish the alcohol, and flaunt religious prohibitions. They incense neighbors by dancing and drinking in public. The righteous Bellangas are to tempted to reject them, but instead they welcome the guests as a test of their faith and an avenue to a blessing. The celebration becomes a series of emotional trials, and the piety of Moshe and Mali is explored on screen.


Rand was once a successful secular actor, who became Hasidic as did his wife.  Ushpizin provides a positive portrait of the ultra-orthodox and most especially shows that the art of welcoming should be inclusive regardless of the background or demographics of the guests.



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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.