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Cold blustery January weather didn’t discourage about 70 guests from accepting an invitation to come to the residence of the Lieutenant Governor of Manitoba – on Thursday, January 8 – to celebrate the presentation of the Lieutenant Governor’s Award for the Advancement of Inter-religious Understanding to Rabbi Neal and Carol Rose.

The guests included representatives of virtually all religious faiths – Catholic and Protestant, Moslem, Hindu, Sikh and Buddhist and even a few members of our own Jewish community. The diversity of the guests was a tribute to Neal and Carol Rose’s successful outreach to other faith groups and the resulting close relationships that they established over their more than 40 years in Winnipeg. (The Roses moved to St. Louis last September to be closer to oldest son, Rabbi Carni Rose, and his family.)
The Lieutenant Governor’s Award for the Advancement of Inter-religious Understanding - which was introduced in 2010 - is presented each year at a ceremony at Government House to an individual who best embodies understanding between all religious groups. Previous recipients have included Lloyd Axworthy, Zane Zalis – the composer of the Holocaust Oratoria “I Believe”, a Hindu priest, a Metis elder and a member of the Bahai faith.
In his remarks to the invited guests, the Reverend James Christie, the former Dean of the Faculty of Theology of The University of Winnipeg, noted that the inspiration for the award was the late Pope John 23rd who, while still a priest, helped smuggle Jews out of Europe during World War II.
“In 2010, a couple of us sat down with his Honour (the Lieutenant Governor) and discussed the importance of recognizing individuals who had spent their lives building bridges between communities,” he said.
“Winnipeg and Manitoba are the only places I know of where people of all faiths can come together in peace and safety. It has been a fascinating road we have all travelled and I am looking forward to continuing on this journey.”
He congratulated Philip Lee (our Lieutenant Governor) and his wife, Anita, for agreeing to sponsor this award. He further reported that other communities in Canada and the United States, parts of Europe and Australia, have expressed interest in adapting the interfaith interactions here to their own localities.
In his remarks, the Lieutenant Governor noted that “for the past 40 years, Rabbi Dr. Neal and Carol Rose have blazed new trails of interfaith activity and understanding. Together, they have served as the intellectual and spiritual bridge between the Winnipeg Jewish community and the other faith groups that comprise the cultural mosaic of our province.”
Rabbi Allan Green, spiritual leader of the Shaarey Zedek Synagogue, described Neal and Carol as the “spiritual baba and zaida of the Winnipeg Jewish community”.
“Neal and Carol had a great teacher in Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi (who passed away a few months ago) and they were ideal students,” Green added. Neal and Carol carried on and expanded Zalman’s efforts at ecumenism here and elsewhere.”
Over 33 years as a professor of Judaic Studies, Green continued, Neal Rose had ample opportunity to interact with people of other faiths. Neal and Carol often represented the Winnipeg Jewish community at Christian, Muslim and Buddhist events. He pointed out that three years ago, Neal and Father Sam Argenziano of the Holy Rosary Church in Osborne Village led a joint tour of Jewish and Christian holy sites in Italy and Israel.
“Carol and Neal have made for a formidable team,” Green said.
“We believe that God sent us here,” Carol said in accepting the Gold medal. “Over 47 years here, we became whom we were meant to be.”
She spoke of the longtime connection with Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, their friend and mentor, who was instrumental in getting Neal and Carol involved in InterFaith dialogue in the late 1960s when they first arrived in Winnipeg.
“At that time our major dialogue partners were the members of the Catholic community,” Carol recalled. “That eventually broadened, when we connected with colleagues in the Department of Religion at the University of Manitoba and, thereafter, with members of the Faculty of Theology at the University of Winnipeg as well as members of the Inter-Faith Pastoral Institute. “We formed deep, long-lasting friendships in those settings.”
She noted that both she and Neal taught at various churches as well as at St. Benedict’s Educational Center, where they gave workshops and led a Shabbaton.
“Some of our children went to speak at St. Mary’s Academy and also at the Unitarian Church,” she noted. “We were among the original members of the Inter-Faith Round Table and other interfaith groups that later emerged. Many clergy friends joined us for Passover, at our family table, or at our Rose Alternative High Holiday services.
Neal, she continued, also taught for Bat Kol, a wonderful Catholic group that studies Tanach, especially Chumash, from a Jewish point of view. He also taught a course called “Jesus Through Jewish Eyes” for the Catholic community later for the Lutheran and the Anglican communities.
She herself, she noted, engaged in dialogue with women of faith from various religious communities, including the Wiccan community. For three years, she participated in a multi-faith event, held at Riddell Hall, known as The Asherah Project. Carol was also part of a women’s theological colloquium. She also taught for various women’s study groups.
Carol conducted workshops called “Walking The Mother Path” and “Listening to Our Inner Prophetesses” for retreat centers, churches and community centers in Canada, the US, Israel and twice in Denmark.
Neal spoke of the many remarkable people that he and Carol have met through the years through their interfaith activities.
“Last year,” he noted, “I was invited to attend an Islamic Young Leadership Program where I was introduced as someone the participants could trust.
“Carol and I are delighted to be honored for our efforts in an area that is closest to our hearts: Promoting greater inter-religious understanding.”
The ceremony finished with a couple of songs – sung by Aaron Hutton – appropriate to the tenor of the occasion. They were “You’ll Never Walk Alone”, from “Carousel”, and “What a Wonderful World”.

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