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RABBI LANDERBy MYRON LOVE

On June 23rd the community was invited to a special kiddush at Etz Chayim which was held to honour Rabbi Larry Lander and his wife, Arlene, who are leaving our community and moving to Toronto in mid-July.

Much as he has enjoyed his second go-round as Etz Chayim’s spiritual leader these past 10 years, he says that he and his wife miss their grandchildren in Toronto – seven in all, with the most recent arrival just three months old.
“We just it found harder and harder to be away from them,” he says.

Rabbi Lander is (soon-to-be ”was”) Winnipeg’s only true Conservative rabbi. He notes that he is a member of the Conservative Movement’s Rabbinical Assembly and is a strong advocate of Conservative Judaism.
He first came to Winnipeg in 1986, right after becoming a rabbi, to serve the Rosh Pina Congregation (one of Etz Chayim’s predecessors) as assistant rabbi to Rabbi Shalom Rappaport.

“Rabbi Rappaport was an amazing rabbi,” Lander says. “He was an excellent pastoral counselor with a gift for connecting with people. I learned a lot from him.”
He recalls one time when he and Rappaport were on their way to visit a shiva. Lander was a little nervous about visiting people he didn’t know.
“Rabbi Rappaport told me that there should be no place where a rabbi was not welcome to offer comfort, inspiration and teaching,” Lander recalled.
“I found that to be true. I have always tried to be dedicated and positive.”
Of course, much had changed in Winnipeg between the time that Lander left here in 1988 and his return in 2007.

Most notably, he observed, people today attend synagogue and observe Jewish practices because they want to, not because they feel obligated to.

“I’ve met many amazing people in the congregation and the community,” he commented.
“I have tried to make the synagogue a warm and welcoming environment. I have tried to teach and inspire. I have presided over hundreds of bar and bat mitzvahs, weddings and funerals. I have been able to arrange a few shiduchs.

“I have done a lot of pastoral counseling supported by the wisdom of our Torah and our sages. I have helped congregants who were suffering from addiction and abuse. I have visited congregants in hospitals, nursing homes and their homes.”

And Lander was particularly applauded for his ability to connect with children.
At 60 though, he felt that this was a good time to take his leave – while he is still young enough to try something a little different.

In Toronto, while he will be doing some freelance rabbinic work, he will be working primarily as a social worker – his first career – specializing in individuals and couples in their 30s and seniors.
“I am going to join the Ontario Association of Social Workers and will be opening a private therapy practice,” he reports. “I already have some referrals from people in Winnipeg with family in Toronto.”

He is also looking forward to joining a running club; among his hobbies are running half-marathons and photography – and to starting a men’s spirituality class and wise aging class.

But, most of all, he and Arlene are looking forward to spending time with the grandchildren.