By MYRON LOVE and BERNIE BELLAN
After a couple of false starts, south Winnipeg Herzlia Adas Yeshurun Synagogue, our community’s largest Orthodox congregation, is back on track to the future. At the same time, the board of the Rady JCC has decided to go ahead with the plan to locate 60 new day care spaces in the soon-to-be-renovated Herzlia building.
The Herzlia congregation, which numbers just under 100 member families, has needed to replace its mechanical systems – including the close to 60-year-old building’s original boilers – for some years now. The matter came to a crunch last fall when the boilers were officially ruled out of service.
There is also a matter of improving the acoustics and making the building – which has three levels - more energy efficient and more accessible to the very young and older people with physical disabilities.
The congregation originally announced a fund raising campaign last winter. The stated goal was to raise somewhere between $1.5 and $2-million to tear down the current building and replace it with a smaller building on one level.
Other than a fundraising dinner last May, little more was heard about the matter.
The second chapter began last summer when readers of this paper learned that the Herzlia board had approached the Jewish Federation with an offer to possibly turn over ownership of its building and land to the Federation in return for which the Federation would help with the cost of replacing worn-out boilers and generally upgrading the 65-year-old building.
.Jewish Federation of Winnipeg President Israel Ludwig noted, at that time, that the Federation was looking for a space for 60 addtional day care spaces. “We have received a government grant to open 60 additional day care spaces but lack the room at the Asper Campus to expand the existing day care,” he said. “It is a case of if we don’t use it (the grant), we lose it.”
The Federation provided funding to hire a contractor and architect to draft a new initial building plan and drawings. “If the costs are reasonable, we will see what we can raise in the community,” Ludwig said.
That plan largely fell through when the Federation saw the costs that would be involved.
It looks like the third chapter will be the one with the happy ending for south Winnipeg’s only Orthodox congregation. (Chabad also a presence in south Winnipeg and a relatively new centre – but Chabad has no official membership.) Herzlia President Dr. Earl Hershfield is happy to announce that Herzlia members have pledged close to $900,000 to upgrade their shul.
“This puts us in a very good position to move forward,” he says. “And we should know by the end of February whether or not the Federation and the Rady Centre will provide additional funding for their day care spaces.”
How large a building the Herzlia will build depends on the Federation/Rady Centre response, Hershfield notes. “If we have to go on our own, we will build a smaller shul on one level,” he says. “There are also other potential sources of funding we can look into.”
If the Federation chooses not to go forward with the day care spaces, Hershfield says that the congregation has the option of selling two to three housing lots (the synagogue sits on the equivalent of five lots) to raise most of the rest of the funding that would be needed for building. He adds that there would be need for some briidge funding as the members’ pledges are over a four-year time period.
“We want to be in our new bulding by Yom Tov,” he says.
Hershfield feels that it would be a win-win for the Herzlia and the community if the Federation would put the additional day care spaces into the new building. “I know that there are some who don’t think the Federation should be investing in a specific synagogue,” he comments. “But this wouldn’t be so much financing construction of a synagogue but, rather, investing in the future of our Jewish community. With the day care here, we would have Jewish children in a Jewish environment, learning a little halachah and becoming comfortable being in a shul.
“Once we have the Federation’s decision one way or the other, we would like to get going quickly on this.”
The congregation traces its origins back 106 years to the founding of the Adas Yeshurun congregation in the old north end. In 1955, the congregation chose to merge their synagogue with the Herzlia Academy, a Jewish school that had been opened in south Winnipeg the year before.
Dr. Hershfield believes that Winnipeg Jewry needs a strong modern Orthodox shul with a permanent congregational Rabbi to ensure that Jewish values and Yiddishkite remain strong and contnue to flourish. The marriage of a shul of such as Herzlia Adas Yeshurun with the future leaders of our communty appears to him as a" no brainer", Hershfield says.
More about the decision by the Rady JCC to locate 60 new day care spaces at 620 Brock will be posted on this site in the coming days.