Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

North End outreach

Ashkenazi synagogue develops educational program

  • Print
When the Ashkenazi synagogue was built on the corner of Burrows Avenue and Charles Street in 1922, it was one of about 15 synagogues serving the spiritual needs of Winnipeg's large North End Jewish population.

Although today there remain five synagogues in the northern section of the city, in Garden City and West Kildonan specifically, none of them is located, as the Ashkenazi is, in an area of the city once dubbed the New Jerusalem. And none of them, consequently, has roots that go quite as deep as those of the Ashkenazi, the oldest existing synagogue in the city.

The longevity of the Ashkenazi synagogue is an achievement in itself and clearly a testament to the devotion and resolve of its multi-generational congregants, volunteers and spiritual leaders. The synagogue, which burned down in 1948 and was rebuilt within the year, has managed against significant odds to consistently keep its doors opened in a neighbourhood that has essentially been devoid of a Jewish population for decades already. In the course of doing so, however, it has faced its share of challenges.

"Over the past 10 to 15 years, the synagogue has been the target of a large number of incidents of vandalism and anti-Semitic graffiti and other abuses," says Gerald Minuk, an active congregant at the synagogue for more than 20 years.

These sporadic incidents came to a head in 2006, when vandals smashed the orthodox synagogue's doors and threw bricks through about 30 windows.

In response to that disturbing incident, Minuk and his fellow congregants decided it was time for the synagogue to undertake some kind of educational outreach project within their immediate neighbourhood. They hoped that by educating area youth about Judaism in general and about the critical role the synagogue historically played in the development of the North End, they would increase the neighbourhood's tolerance and respect for the synagogue's presence.

"The synagogue has made a meaningful contribution to the neighbourhood in nurturing people from all walks of life who have made significant contributions to the North End," Minuk says. "It also has contributed by staying in the North End and engaging in dynamic interaction with the local ethnic populations."

These are important factors to consider, especially when over the years so many other institutions, businesses and people have abandoned that part of the city.

In order to get its message out, the synagogue hired two students in the summer of 2008 to conduct research on Judaism, the synagogue, and the North End, and develop a dynamic and interactive educational program for area schools. The program they created focused on basic Jewish history, laws and customs and the many accomplished Jewish Winnipeggers who had been involved in or positively influenced by the Ashkenazi synagogue.

This list included individuals representing a wide range of fields and achievements, among them entertainers David Steinberg and Monty Hall, former University of Manitoba president Ernest Sirluck, and president of the Friends of Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Aubie Angel.

While the original intent was for the summer students to actually present their program in various classrooms, that plan has now been changed. Instead, the materials they developed are being transferred onto DVD to make the project available and accessible to any number of schools and classrooms in the synagogue's neighbourhood, and even beyond.

Although there is no guarantee the DVD will have the desired effect, supporters of the synagogue are optimistic it will help to foster greater neighbourhood acceptance and understanding and finally halt years of hurtful vandalism and graffiti.

It is not likely the Ashkenazi synagogue will ever blend into its surroundings as it did so easily 80 years ago when it was just one of dozens of Jewish institutions in an area populated by thousands of Jews.

But since the synagogue has demonstrated that it has no intention of closing its doors or of moving, it would like to enjoy, as it did for so many years, the easy acceptance of its neighbours.

schisvin@hotmail.com

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 8, 2009 B7

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Family of Matias De Antonio speaks outside Law Courts

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS 060711 Chris Pedersen breeds Monarch butterflies in his back yard in East Selkirk watching as it transforms from the Larva or caterpillar through the Chrysalis stage to an adult Monarch. Here an adult Monarch within an hour of it emerging from the Chrysalis which can be seen underneath it.
  • Horses enjoy a beautiful September morning east of Neepawa, Manitoba  - Standup Photo– Sept 04, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

What are you most looking forward to this Easter weekend?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google