The ongoing merger talks taking place between our community’s two largest congregations have reached an impasse.

“It is disappointing,” says Uri Kraut, the president of the Shaarey Zedek Synagogue. “But it is just not the right time.”
Informal discussions between the Shaarey Zedek and Congregation Etz Chayim in north Winnipeg have been ongoing for a couple of years but moved to a more serious level last fall. The tentative plan was to sell both buildings and build a shared synagogue on Jewish community-owned land near the Campus. Bob Freedman – newly retired as CEOof the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg – was hired to look into the feasibility of a new building for the two congregations.

Jack London was brought in as the shadchen.
“It was a complex undertaking,” London says. “Both congregations have long histories (The Shaarey Zedek was founded in 1890, currently has a membership of about 1,000 and has been located at its present site in south Winnipeg since 1949; while Etz Chayim – which numbers just over 500 families – was formed 12 years ago through the merger of the Rosh Pina, Beth Israel and Bnay Abraham Congregations – at the time the three largest congregations in north Winnipeg. The congregation is based in the former Rosh Pina building on Matheson east of Main Street. The Rosh Pina was founded in 1893. The Rosh Pina building was erected in 1952.) and strong loyalties. There is also the matter of a number of Etz Chayim members who want to remain north.”

“The bottom line though, London notes, is that the two congregations’ philosophies are not compatible. “Etz Chayim,” he pointed out, “ more closely follows the Conservative movement’s slowly evolving changes while Shaarey Zedek is more interested in accelerating that evolution.
“The congregation representatives tried hard to bridge the gaps but they couldn’t in the end reconcile the two brands.”
He adds that because the two congregations are both financially stable and their membership numbers are holding relatively steady, there is no great hurry to unite. That was unlike the merger in 2002 among the three north end congregations that came together to form Etz Chayim. London was also involved in facilitating that merger and notes that two of the three congregations at that time were not financially viable, which created some urgency in bringing the three synagogues together.
“This may come again in the future,” London suggests - “possibly in 10-20 years depending on demographic changes.
“It may actually be better if the two congregations remain independent,” London adds. It gives people more choice.”
London notes that Etz Chayim is also pursuing efforts to try to entice younger members.

Uri Kraut reports that the Shaarey Zedek had developed a long term strategic plan several years ago independent of the merger talks. “We will continue to work on our goals which included remaining a community leader in perpetuating Judaism,” he says. “We are working on refining our brand and hopefully be able to attract new and younger members who would enjoy what we offer.”

Here is the original story which we posted on this site 2 weeks ago:


The proposed merger between the Shaarey Zedek and Etz Chayim congregations is off.

Today, June 2, we received the following letter from Jonathan Buchwald, executive director of Etz Chayim Congregation:

As you know, Congregation Etz Chayim and Congregation Shaarey Zedek have had
discussions for several years about the possibility of joining together as one entity. Many hours
have been spent by passionate volunteers and staff from both Shuls, trying to see if a union was
Representatives of both Synagogues entered the process in good faith. That said, it is now clear
that a merger of Congregation Etz Chayim and Congregation Shaarey Zedek is neither feasible
nor beneficial. After much discussion, it has been concluded that the different objectives of the
two Synagogues are too significant to bridge.
On May 29, representatives of the two congregations met and collectively decided that it was
best to bring to an end our negotiations about a merger of the two Synagogues and we are
sharing this letter with you now. A similar letter has been shared with the members of both
To be clear, there is no animosity. The representatives of Etz Chayim and Shaarey Zedek have
the greatest of respect for each other and look forward to continued joint programming between
the two Synagogues and other Shuls and organizations in the community. We have simply
decided that a merger is not in the best interests of our congregation, nor do we think it is in the
best interests of the community at this time.