The last dinner guests are making their way outside to their cars in the Rady Jewish Community Centre’s parking lot.
Nearly 150 people — Jews and non-Jews, some originally from as far away as Buenos Aires and Tel Aviv — had gathered to welcome Shabbat, the sabbath, which begins just before sundown Friday and ends when three stars emerge in the Saturday night sky each week.
In just more than an hour — 9:16, to be exact — when the sun goes down, many of Winnipeg's Jewish families will light candles and say blessings to signify the start of the holy day, traditionally set aside as a day to rest, study the Torah and refrain from usual daily tasks and their accompanying stresses.
But until it is time to rest, the cleanup crew is on its feet.
Tamar Barr, the centre’s assistant executive director, Maxine Shuster, the chef at the Rady’s Schmoozer’s Café, and Shelley Felde began clearing the tables as soon as the last guest rose to leave.
There was no charge for dinner, enabling dozens of families — many with small children — to enjoy a meal, engage with other members of the community and participate in a tradition as old as Judaism itself.
"It’s nice to see so many people, especially so many newcomers," says Diego Skladnik, who moved to Winnipeg from Argentina in 2003 and lives here with his wife Dafne and three children. Some estimate nearly one-third of Winnipeg’s nearly 14,000 Jewish residents are newcomers to the city.
Some might envision chicken soup or brisket when they think of Shabbat, but guests dined on kosher pizza and pasta instead; no meat on the menu to allow ice cream for dessert.
For those who follow kosher regulations, cooking or eating milk together with meat is forbidden — and on a blisteringly hot Friday, ice cream is an absolute necessity.
But Shabbat dinner isn’t really about what food is on the table; it’s about the people eating it.
"It’s not all matzo ball soup," Barr says.
— Ben Waldman
Photography by Mikaela MacKenzie