WINNIPEG — South Winnipeg’s struggling Herzlia-Adas Yeshurun Synagogue, the city’s largest Orthodox congregation, is looking to the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg for financial help.
The synagogue board has started negotiations with the federation to possibly turn over ownership of its land and building to the community body, which in return would help the shul with the cost of replacing worn-out boilers and upgrading its 65-year-old facility.
“We are a small congregation,” said synagogue president Earl Hershfield. “We only have 97 member families, with 55 to 65 of them active members. We can’t raise the amount of money we need to upgrade our building. Therefore, we decided to approach the community at large, as represented by the federation, for help.”
Under terms of the proposed agreement, the federation would use the building during the week as a second location for the Asper Campus Daycare, which would open up 60 additional daycare spaces for the Jewish community.
The Herzlia was originally opened in 1955 as a school. It merged with the Adas Yeshurun Synagogue – relocated from the North End – a year later. The Torah Academy also operated a school out of the building in the 1980s.
“We were renting out space for a small daycare [24 spaces],” Hershfield said. “We have spoken to the Rady Centre [which operates the campus daycare] and the federation. All parties agree that this is workable. It would be a win-win situation for all involved and the community at large.”
Federation president Israel Ludwig stressed that nothing has been agreed to yet.
“We are not in the business of rescuing synagogues,” he said. “We would be sharing costs. Our concern is having a space for expanding our daycare. If we can arrive at an agreement that helps revitalize Winnipeg’s major modern Orthodox synagogue, then that would be a bonus.”
Ludwig said the federation has received a government grant to open 60 additional daycare spaces, but lacks the room at the Asper Campus, Winnipeg’s main Jewish community centre, to expand the existing daycare.
“It’s a case of if we don’t use it [the grant], we lose it,” he said, so the federation has been looking for a building nearby to house the new daycare spaces.
“When the Herzlia came to us with this proposal, we thought that there were some elements that might work for us,” Ludwig said.
“We would have to negotiate a cost-sharing arrangement and discuss with [spiritual leader] Rabbi [Ari] Ellis some halachic factors related to issues such as the congregation having to bring Shabbat in early on Fridays in the winter months.”
There would also be the question of who would be involved in managing the building from the federation side.
“The federation is not in the business of owning property,” Ludwig said. “The Campus Corporation, for example, operates the Asper Campus building. Barry McArton, the Campus Corporation president, will be involved in the negotiations with the Herzlia.”
If a deal can be reached, Ludwig sees construction starting this fall at the synagogue on the new daycare, with the work being finished in time for the fall of 2013.
Hershfield envisions the Campus Corporation assuming ownership of the Herzlia property for a period of 25 to 30 years, with the congregation being allowed to continue to use the building rent free.
“[The congregation] would have to set aside money from year to year so that at the end of 25 years, we could either buy back the building or build a new building somewhere else,” Hershfield said.