WINNIPEG — After a couple of false starts, south Winnipeg’s Herzlia-Adas Yeshurun synagogue, the city’s largest Orthodox congregation, is back on track to the future.
The congregation, which numbers just under 100 member families, has for several years needed to replace its physical systems – including the close to 60-year-old building’s original boilers. The matter came to a crunch last fall when the boilers were officially ruled out of service.
It is also necessary to improve the acoustics and to make the building – which has three levels – more energy efficient and more accessible to the very young, older people and those with physical disabilities.
The congregation originally announced a fundraising campaign last winter. The stated goal was to raise somewhere between $1.5 and $2 million to tear down the current structure and replace it with a smaller building on one level.
Other than a fundraising dinner last May, little more was heard.
The second chapter began last summer when the Herzlia board approached the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg with an offer to turn over ownership of its building and land to the federation. In return, the federation would help with the cost of replacing the worn out boilers and generally upgrading the building.
Federation president Israel Ludwig noted at the time that the federation was looking for a space for 60 new 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,” he said. “It’s a case of if we don’t use it [the grant], we lose it.”
The federation provided funding to hire a contractor and architect to draft a new initial building plan and drawings for the synagogue. That plan largely fell through when the federation saw the costs that would be involved.
It looks as if the third chapter will be the one with the happy ending for south Winnipeg’s only Orthodox congregation. Herzlia president Earl Hershfield has announced that synagogue members have pledged close to $900,000 to upgrade their shul.
How large a building Herzlia will build depends on the federation-Rady Centre response, Hershfield said. “If we have to go on our own, we will build a smaller shul on one level. There are also other potential sources of funding we can look into.”
Hershfield believes it would be a win-win for Herzlia and the community if the federation would put the additional daycare spaces into the new building.
Bob Freedman, the federation’s longtime executive director, indicated that the federation will soon be on board. “Negotiations between the Rady JCC (the federation beneficiary that would operate the daycare) and Herzlia are going well, and an agreement looks to be close to completion,” Freedman said. “Assuming an agreement is reached, the federation would be putting more than $500,000 into the Herzlia project. We should be able to finalize this at our next board meeting on April 3.”
The congregation traces its origins back 106 years to the founding of the Adas Yeshurun congregation in the old north end. In 1955, the congregation chose to merge its synagogue with the Herzlia Academy, a Jewish school that had been opened in south Winnipeg the year before.
“My family and I believe that Winnipeg needs a strong Orthodox shul and we want the Herzlia to be that shul,” Hershfield said.