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Daycare to be included in renovated Shaarey Zedek

by Jonathan Kroft, January 26, 2023

[The following message was sent out from Jonathon Kroft, Shaarey Zedek Board member to members of Shaarey Zedek on Jan 26]


In his first message to us this year our new president, Neil Duboff, emphasized how important timely communication is to the health of our synagogue.

In his January 12 message our Executive Director, Ran Ukashi emphasized how important communication is to obtaining the wise counsel that King Solomon reminded us is essential if we are to succeed in our plans for Shaarey Zedek.

Last week Amy Karlinsky, chair of our Membership Committee, invited our community to share their creative and innovative ideas so that our leaders will benefit from their wise counsel on the many issues as they navigate the path to renewing Shaarey Zedek as a centre of Jewish spiritual and communal life in the new world unfolding before the Winnipeg Jewish community.
Of course, we cannot expect to receive wise counsel from our community unless it has information about the issues and our plans. In this message I will report on the deliberations of our board and committees as to whether to include a daycare space in our renovated Shaarey Zedek building.
For a shul to be a centre of Jewish spiritual and communal life it needs to speak to all generations, and it needs to connect and bring together the successive generations, forming each link in the chain that connects to our past and to our Jewish future. Almost everyone who has been involved in discussions of what a reimagined and renovated Shaarey Zedek should look like has recognized the value of having a Jewish daycare program at the Shul. A daycare would bring parents and young children to the building and give them the opportunity to learn and grow in a Jewish environment. 
There is a huge unmet demand for Jewish-themed daycare in our community (and indeed any daycare) and this is proving to be a hardship for the young parents in our community. A daycare program at Shaarey Zedek would also connect parents and their children to other members of the community who attend our programs and use or participate in our services. 
Of course, an attractive idea is not a good idea if it cannot be implemented at a cost that the Shul can sustain. Those costs include the upfront cost of building a space that meets the regulatory requirements and community expectations of a Jewish daycare, the costs of operating that daycare, and the cost in terms of the need to use floor space that could be used for other purposes. 
Any daycare would be located in the area previously occupied by the lounges in the lower level of the building. That space will require renovation whether or not there is a daycare, but the nature of the renovations would be more extensive if the space is to be used for a daycare.  There was urgency to making a decision about whether to develop daycare space because the architect and contractor require final plans to obtain the necessary permits and commence construction of the entire project. We are all anxious to have our building back in service.
With those realities in mind, the board formed a daycare committee to explore whether there is a reasonable and practical way to develop and operate a daycare. The committee determined that it only made sense to develop a daycare space if it would allow the operation of a financially self-sustaining daycare of a quality that would reasonably meet the expectations of the families in our community who require daycare.
The L’Dor Va Dor fundraising committee has worked with a very generous donor who strongly supports the development of a daycare and whose donation would cover the additional capital cost to develop the space into a daycare. In considering whether a daycare could be financially self-sustainable, the committee recognized that a daycare is a specialized endeavour, a specialty that does not currently exist within the shul management or board, and reached out to the Rady Jewish Community Centre as well as to other Winnipeg daycares. 
The Rady Centre operates two daycare locations and has developed significant staff expertise in daycare design, budgeting and operation. We are extremely grateful to the Rady Centre for making that staff available to assist in our analysis of the feasibility of developing and operating a daycare space. We can all be more than proud of the demonstrated commitment of the Rady Centre to being a fantastic partner in the overall Winnipeg Jewish Community.
With the support of Rady Centre, input from other daycare professionals and the involvement of board volunteers with particular expertise in business and budget planning, the daycare committee has concluded that it would be feasible to operate a daycare accommodating 32 children on a self-sustaining basis. Depending on the operating model adopted, the daycare committee concluded that there is a reasonable prospect that a daycare could even generate additional revenue to support other Shul programs.
Adding the daycare will affect the design of the rest of the lower floor of the Shul and the space available for non-daycare purposes. For example, developing the daycare space will reduce the size of some hallways and open areas. It will also mean that certain functions formerly held in the lounges will need to be held in alternate event spaces which are included in the new plans. 
After considering the input of the daycare committee and consulting with other affected committees, the board instructed the architect to include a daycare space in the plans. The architects have been asked to use their well-respected design knowledge and talent to create a design that will minimize any impact on other Shul activities. As the plans are developed they will be shared with our members.

There is still much work to do develop a daycare model and we would welcome the input of any members of our community who have expertise or ideas.

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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.