By BERNIE BELLAN  After years of hopes and setbacks the Herzlia-Adas Yeshurun congregation is finally seeing some major improvements being made to the building at Brock and Fleet that has been its home since 1955.

We have been reporting on the various incarnations through which the congregation has been going the past five years – including plans to demolish the existing building and replace it with a smaller single-story one; to renovate the existing building but to eliminate certain parts; to sell the building to the Jewish Federation, bring in a daycare to be operated by the Rady JCC, and rent space from the Federation to be used as a sanctuary, social hall and kitchen; also, to rent space to the Gwen Secter Center for use by members of that organization when they are unceremoniously evicted from their present home (for reasons which have yet to be explained) by the National Council of Jewish Women in May, 2016.
For various reasons, one by one plans fell through – either because they were too costly – as in the case of the plan to demolish the building and replace it with a newer one; or because an agreement couldn’t be reached between the Rady JCC and the Herzlia as to the locating of a daycare there; or because the members of the Gwen Secter Centre prefer to maintain a north end location.
Instead, the members of the congregation decided to enter into a phased renovation process that will eventually see the synagogue have a rebuilt sanctuary, social hall, and kitchens, along with improvements made to other areas of the building. The first phase, which saw the erection of a brand new HVAC system on the roof to replace the boiler which had been ordered shut down by the City of Winnipeg over three years ago, has already been completed. Currently, other major renovations are underway, with plans calling for the completely refurbished synagogue to be ready in time for the High Holydays this coming fall.
Among the changes, one of the most interesting promises to be the special acoustic panel that will be in place between the sanctuary and the social hall. According to congregation vice-president Faith Kaplan, this acoustic panel will completely nullify any noise from the adjoining social hall during services.
There will be two new kitchens – one for meat and one for dairy, rather than the previous situation in which there was one kitchen divided in two.
Downstairs, the multi-purpose room – which is currently being used as a sanctuary while renovations have been underway, will be returned to its previous use as a multi-purpose room, serving as another social hall, for instance.
Upstairs, of the rooms that had previously been used as classrooms by the Ohr HaTorah school, one room will be reserved for an NCSY teen youth lounge, and one room will be converted into a meeting room. The Library will continue to be used as a Beit Midrash.
Interestingly, on my tour of the building I noted that the room that had previously housed a nursery (during the time that Or HaTorah Day School was in operation) has been left intact as a playroom for the synagogue’s youngest members. Thus, there is still room for a daycare within the Herzlia. I asked Faith Kaplan whether there is still a possibility of having a daycare move into the building. She indicated that the board would definitely consider any offers that were forthcoming. As readers of this paper are probably aware, plans to create new daycare spaces can materialize and disappear quickly, and even when plans are announced, delays in implementing those plans almost always intercede. I’ve noted in previous articles that the Rady JCC had been granted a license to open 65 daycare spaces in the summer of 2011, with the condition that “shovels in the ground” were to be in place by the winter of 2012. When the Rady JCC announced that its bid to buy the firehall at 1710 Grosvenor had been unexpectedly approved on February 18, 2014 after the previously approved bidder withdrew his proposal, Gayle Waxman, Executive Director of the Rady JCC, said that the new daycare would be open within 18-24 months; however, Waxman has noted in the past that the Rady JCC daycare has a wait list of over 700 names. Surely, therefore, there is room for another Jewish daycare in the south end. (For a further update on the status of the new Rady JCC daycare at 1710 Grosvenor, read Gayle Waxman’s letter on page 5 of this issue.)
One further aspect of the renovations that are underway at the Herzlia involves the future sale of a portion of the vacant lot adjoining the building. At one time we were told that the area could be sold and subdivided into three lots. Now, according to Kaplan, a “single 50-foot lot will be put on the market.”
I asked her what happened to the plans to sell three lots. She answered that “we could get more money out of one 50-foot lot, and have received an expression of interest for the land.” As well, she noted, “We’re going to have a 30 foot buffer between the property line and the building” which can be used for parking and deliveries.
The renovation plans call for a final phase to begin once all the major improvements to the sanctuary, social hall and kitchen are completed, is it hoped, sometime in May. That phase will include new carpeting, painting, repairs to ceilings, replacement of broken windows, renovations to the women’s and men’s washrooms, and other various improvements to the east side of the building.
As far as funding for all the renovations is concerned, Kaplan noted that - while costs have been contained to an amount significantly under $1 million; that members of the congregation have contributed a great deal of money (and let’s remember that the congregation numbers fewer than 100 families); and that a grant has been received from the Jewish Foundation of Manitoba (with another grant likely from Community Places Manitoba for a lift), additional contributions are still most welcome. “The congregational fundraising continues, and pledges are being converted into donations. Work will continue as long as there is money to cover it. Naming rights and different forms of recognizing donors are being finalized, and we will be very happy to accept contributions from non-member families, as the role that Herzlia-Adas Yeshurun plays in the community is significant. Our modern Orthodox synagogue ensures the community’s Kashrut, oversees the community Mikvah, and contributes towards regular inspections of the community Eruv.”
Synagogue President Dr. Earl Hershfield added: “ The renovation of the building is important to the future of the Shul and Winnipeg’s Jewish community. But the building is just bricks and mortar. What is more important is what occurs within. Our board is working on a new vision and strategic plan to define our role and reflect our place in the community. Now that the building issues are more or less behind us, we can turn our efforts to the future. It is our intention that our restored building become a centre for learning, social action, and community building for the entire Jewish community.”