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Wednesday, October 7, 2015

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Chabad of Winnipeg unveils new mikvah

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Rabbi Avrohom Altein, left, with artist Michoel Muchnik, beside the donor wall of honour he designed for Winnipeg Chabad.

WINNIPEG — The Chabad Lubavitch community unveiled its new mikvah and a donor wall of honour at the south Winnipeg Chabad Jewish Learning Centre.

 Art and Soul, as the March 13 event was called, also featured an art exhibition and sale of the works of internationally known artist Michoel Muchnik, who designed the wall of honour.

The evening began with the unveiling of the wall. The scene, Muchnik explained, is set on a backdrop of fields and rolling Jerusalem hills and depicts a couple planting spiritual “aleph” seeds. Dispersed throughout the bas-relief are mosaic tiles adorned with decorative designs, plants and fruits of Israel. The building in the background has three arched windows representing avodah, Torah study and charity.

On either side of the painting are two large white Jerusalem urns with greenery rising out of them, representing prosperity and growth, “the fruits of our labours,” Muchnik said. The names of donors who helped fund construction of the Chabad centre, which opened during Chanukah 2011, are on plaques attached to the painted urns.

Rabbi Avrohom Altein, executive director of the Chabad Jewish Learning Centre, said that the Rebbe stated that those who are gifted with artistic talent have a responsibility to transform scenes from the material to the spiritual, to combine art with soul.

Muchnik said that he has known Rabbi Altein and his wife, Brocha, for many years. “I tried in the painting to capture what Chabad has done worldwide and what the Alteins have accomplished here,” he said. “Chabad has planted seeds in Jewish communities all over the world. It is gratifying to see them taking root and growing. I pray that the seeds will continue to grow and produce beautiful fruit.”

In introducing the wall of honour, Abe Anhang, who served as co-chair of Chabad’s capital campaign – along with Dave Rich – reviewed all that the Alteins have accomplished in their more than 40 years in Winnipeg.

“They arrived here with a mandate from the Rebbe himself to establish Chabad in Winnipeg,” Anhang said. “This building, which was 10 years in the planning and construction, is the culmination of their efforts here.”

In addition to providing a place for services, the building houses the Jewish Learning Institute, led by Rabbi Shmuley Altein; a preschool, which has an enrolment of 30 children this year; a kosher kitchen; a multi-purpose room that accomodates 175 people and a new mikvah that rivals some of Winnipeg’s spas in elegance.

The mikvah has traditionally played a central role in Jewish communal and family life. Rabbi Altein organized the building of Winnipeg’s first Chabad mikvah in the north end on Hartford Avenue and McGregor Street more than 35 years ago. That mikvah is still in use.

There is also a community mikvah in the Asper Jewish Community Campus.

At Art and Soul, the importance and mysteries of the mikvah were brought home through a short film and thoughts on the subject by some of the women who will be volunteer staff at the new mikvah.

  Guests attending the Art and Soul evening were encouraged to tour the women’s mikvah. There is a separate mikvah for men.

It’s important that Jewish children be born and grow up in the right soil if they are going to remain observant Jews when they become adults, Rabbi Altein said. “Mikvah is a very important part of that. That is why we wanted to make sure this mikvah is built with class and offers a warm atmosphere.

“We hope more people come and use it.”

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