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Sunday, December 28, 2014

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Daycare funding not in cards for struggling shul

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Earl Hershfield, left, with Herzlia spiritual leader Rabbi Ari Ellis

WINNIPEG — It looks like it’s back to the drawing board for south Winnipeg’s Herzlia Adas Yeshurun Synagogue after a year’s worth of negotiations with the Rady Jewish Community Centre aimed at opening 60 daycare spaces ground to a halt earlier this summer.

The impasse means the community’s largest Orthodox congregation won’t receive funding for the spaces from the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg, which it had hoped to use to help refurbish its nearly 60-year-old building.

Neither Herzlia president Earl Hershfield nor Rady Centre executive director Gail Waxman are providing specific reasons why the daycare negotiations fell through.

In a written statement, Waxman said that “early in the discussions with Herzlia, the Rady JCC identified our requirements for a community daycare. This took into consideration a wide range of factors to ensure both the long- and short-term viability of the daycare. Herzlia identified its requirements as well. In the end, there was insufficient common ground to proceed with discussions any further. We appreciate the efforts of the Herzlia board and respect their position.”

She added that the Rady Centre continues to look for another suitable location to open the daycare spaces.

Hershfield said he doesn’t know why the Rady Centre pulled out of the daycare negotiations.

“It’s too bad,” he said. “Some people don’t see the community as a whole, but rather in bits and pieces. A daycare in a shul would bring more parents into the shul and also be more likely to contribute to the Jewish federation. There was no downside.”

The saga began in the fall of 2011, when the synagogue building’s original boilers failed. The congregation, which numbers just under 100 member families, has needed to replace its mechanical systems – including the boilers – for a number of years. It also wants to improve the building’s acoustics and make the shul – which has three levels – more energy efficient and more accessible to the very young and older people with physical disabilities.

The congregation originally announced a fundraising campaign in the winter of 2012. The stated goal was to raise between $1.5 and $2 million to tear down the current building and replace it with a smaller structure on one level.

Other than one fundraising dinner in May 2012, little more was heard about the plan.

Last summer, Herzlia’s board approached the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg with an offer to possibly turn over ownership of its building and land to the federation in return for help with the cost of replacing worn out boilers and upgrading the 65-year-old building.

Federation president Israel Ludwig said at the time the federation was looking for a location for 60 additional daycare spaces.

“We have received a government grant to open 60 additional daycare spaces, but lack the room at the Asper Campus to expand the existing daycare [which is operated by the Rady Centre],” he said.

The federation provided funding to hire a contractor and architect to draft a new initial building plan and drawings.

“If the costs are reasonable, we will see what we can raise in the community,” Ludwig said at the time.

That plan largely fell through when the federation saw the costs involved.

In the spring, Herzlia members pledged close to $900,000 to upgrade their shul. The federation was prepared to put in $500,000, including the government grant, if the daycare negotiations had succeeded.

In light of the new developments, Hershfield said the congregation will go ahead and replace its boilers and upgrade the heating system, at a cost of about $250,000, as well as upgrade its electrical systems and expand and modernize its kitchen. He expects the work to be completed just after Pesach next year.

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