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Message from the Executive Director

16/02/2023 04:31:11 PM


Ran Ukashi, Executive Director

As the Jewish Nation—Am Yisrael—we are not simply mere individuals who share a religious identity. After all, we are a whole that is much more than the sum of our parts. We Jews are, in fact, a kehillah, or “community,” that intentionally interacts, serves, worships, congregates and communes together. The importance of community among the Jewish People cannot be overstated because the notion implies not just passively being a community, but being so actively through doing. Without community, the Jewish People cannot sustain itself or accomplish anything, which makes the principle of fostering and engaging in communal action such a critical mitzvah.

This lesson is taught time and again in the Torah. The late Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks z”l, the former Chief Rabbi of the United Kingdom taught that kehillah facilitates the unique and distinct contributions of many individuals comprising the community towards a collective goal. That is, everyone’s contribution is significant, and everyone’s contribution matters.

This was clearly the case when Jews of all types and means gave what they could towards the building of the Mishkan—the Tabernacle—which held the Ten Commandments during the sojourn of the Jewish People through the desert towards the Land of Israel. Everyone gave what they could: yarn, jewellery, garments, precious stones, their labour—all for a common purpose to serve God together (Exodus 35:20-29).

To emphasize the importance of kehillah even further, the most accepted Code of Jewish Law, the Shulchan Aruch, states that when one is engrossed in working towards a communal need, one is exempt from prayer (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 94:3). The great rabbi Maimonides, in his own Code of Jewish Law goes further, suggesting that one who goes so far as to deliberately separate themselves from the Jewish community is committing an act of heresy! (Mishneh Torah, Teshuvah 3:11).

So, it is heartening to see that engagement in the community and taking action is continuing and growing at Congregation Shaarey Zedek. We have seen a remarkable coming together for a variety of common purposes and a commitment to the kehillah of Am Yisrael.

For example:

  • At our recent community Tu B’Shvat Seder at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, in partnership with Temple Shalom and the Jewish National Fund, we attracted some 100 participants for a wonderful evening featuring learning, singing and the tasting of a selection of incredible Israeli wines.
  • Nearly 130 people attended our Tu B’Shvat Together program at the Manitoba Children’s Museum in partnership with Congregation Etz Chayim, the Jewish National Find, PJ Library, and the Rady Jewish Community Centre.
  • Our weekly Shabbat services continue to grow in attendance, and our Shabbat service honouring our long-serving and recently retired Shammes/Lay Clergy, Bill Weissmann, brought together over 150 people.
  • Our Basic Judaism course has more than tripled in attendance since last year, with 59 students currently enrolled.
  • In support of our longstanding West Broadway Holiday Luncheon—which has been running for over a quarter century—we asked the community to raise $700 towards the program and generously received over double this amount within 24 hours. We also recruited close to 30 volunteers to assist over a period of 7 hours with picking up and delivering the food, setting up and decorating the hall, serving the meal and cleaning up.

Much more can be said of the wonderful things that we as a community are doing together at the synagogue, but the ancient Talmudic adage of Kol Yisrael arevim zeh ba’zeh—all of Israel is responsible one for the other (Babylonian Talmud, Shevuot 39a)—is alive and well at Shaarey Zedek.

All of this is possible with you, and none of this is possible without you. And as with the dedication of previous generations, today’s generation, and of course, our future generations, our kehillah will bring to life the words of King David and “go from strength to strength” (Sefer Tehillim 84:7).

Yours Truly,

Ran Ukashi
Executive Director

Congregation Shaarey Zedek
1077 Grant Avenue, c/o Temple Shalom
Winnipeg MB R3M 1Y6

Sat, 13 April 2024 5 Nisan 5784