Architect’s conceptual drawing of the Temple before Shalom Gardens was built.
It was made by Leo Steinfeld, an architect. Courtesy of David Topper
The Window-Sculpture in Temple Shalom
By David Topper
When the foyer of Temple Shalom was built in conjunction with the rise of Shalom Gardens in 1989, the architect designed a round window facing Grant Avenue. The original empty window is now filled with a sculpture depicting Jewish iconography (symbolism). The following is a short three-part essay on: (I) how that sculpture came to be, (II) the meaning of the symbolism, and (III) a brief history of imagery in Judaism.
The idea of filling the round window with a work of art was initiated by Irma Nepon, a longtime member of the Temple, who donated funds in memory of her husband, Harry W. Nepon, z”l. At the time, Marilyn Levitt, z”l, an accomplished artist (mainly a potter) was a member of the Board, and she approached me to work with her on choosing the window project, since I taught courses in art history at the University of Winnipeg.
We initially talked about a stained glass work, which was an obvious first choice for a window. But when she showed me some small-scale sculptures, with moveable parts, made by local artist Richard Finney, our focus quickly shifted toward the possibly of a large-scale sculpture. We contacted Finney and he told us that he had worked on large-scale sculptures. He directed us to his “Copper Landscape” in the Holy Spirit Credit Union on Selkirk Avenue, which we visited, finding his piece to be impressive and expressive. He became the potential artist of choice.
Temple Shalom’s first home (in the 1970s)
at Stafford and McMillan
(before it was radically renovated).
Prior to the Stafford Location, services were held at the Viscount Gort Motor Hotel.
Excerpts from: COMING OF AGE: A History of the Jewish People of Manitoba by Allan Levine.
Chapter 12: Go South, Young Jew pp 421-424
AT THE OTHER END of the religious spectrum, the small congregation of one hundred families at Temple Shalom, Winnipeg’s only Reform synagogue, has generally gone about its business without becoming embroiled in the Jewish community’s politics. In larger centres in the United States and in Toronto, Reform Judaism has attracted many more worshippers. …Jewish Winnipegers, on the other hand, brought up in Orthodox or Conservative families, have tended to remain at the synagogues their families first belonged to – or at synagogues within the same branch of Judaism.
They also generally regard Reform Judaism with mild scorn – or as Abby Morris sarcastically observed, “like treif” (unkosher food) though attitudes have probably moderated further in the past decade. The synagogue has also faced increasing competition from Shaarey Zedey Synagogue, which has adopted a more liberal and accommodating approach, including the full participation of women in its services. At Temple Shalom, on an average Friday evening Oneg Shabbat, the synagogue attracts forty people, though many more attend Cantor Len Udow’s special music services, held every two months and there are more than 200 present on the High Holidays.
Beginning in the mid-sixties, Temple Shalom first held its services in the homes of members, then for many years at the Viscount Gort Hotel, and later at a renovated house on McMillan Avenue. The synagogue found a permanent home in a renovated church at the corner of Wilton and Grant Avenue. Its first two rabbis were Jerry Steinberg, a Winnipegger, and American Eric Silver.
In 1986, the synagogue hired as its rabbi Tracy Guren Kliers, the first woman to head a synagogue in Manitoba’s Jewish history. She returned to New York City two years later, however and was replaced by Rabbi Jeffrey Gale, who stayed for ten years. For more than two decades, lawyer Richard Yaffe had acted as Temple Shalom’s cantor and choir director but resigned both positions as a result of a contract dispute in June 1998.
The congregation next found a leader in Rabbi Michael Levenson, who had a maser’s degree in English literature from the University of Toronto and had spent time on Gabriola Island, near Nanaimo, B.C., learning about Chinese and holistic medicine. In short, he was not your ordinary Winnipeg rabbi. He had worked with the dean of Canadian Reform rabbis, Gunter Plaut at Holy Blossom Temple in Toronto, as well as at Reform synagogues in New York and Chicago. He had some success in building up memberships at his Chicago synagogues and believed he could do the same with Temple Shalom.
“Reform is growing in Canada, but not in Winnipeg,” he said in a Jewish Post & News interview soon after he arrived in Winnipeg. He planned to change that. In late 1998, the Temple Shalom board agreed to his request that he be permitted to perform same-sex marriages as well as mixed marriages (between a Jew and a non-Jew.)
Approximately thirty per cent of the synagogue’s members were in interfaith marriages and twenty per cent were married to a non-Jewish spouse who had converted. In mid-January 1999, Levenson publicly announced his intention to perform same-sex and mixed marriages, setting off an emotionally charged debate.
During the next few years, Levenson officiated at many marriage ceremonies for mixed and same sex couples. At the end of 2002, however, Temple Shalom could no longer afford to keep a full-time rabbi on staff and was forced to let him go. Rabbi Levenson retired and stayed in the city for several years. He died in Jerusalem in October 2008.
The synagogue and its congregation carries on, practising an all-inclusive form of liberal Judaism that (unlike the Orthodox and Conservative tradition) recognizes paternal descent. Its members celebrate bar- and bat-mitzvahs, sing Hebrew prayers and songs, rejoice in everything Judaism has to offer.
In October 2007, Temple Shalom had no choice but to open its own chevra kadisha for tending to the bodies of the dead. The community owned Chesed Shel Emes could not accommodate intermarried couples or perform religious rituals on bodies that were buried at Chapel Lawn, an interdenominational cemetery.
“It is not in keeping with what goes on in most of North America, says Huebner. “In most cities if a Jewish family wants someone prepared for burial, a majority of Jewish funeral funeral homes will do it and they don’t pay attention to what happens to the body once it leaves their home.” In Winnipeg, the community is more conservative in the political and religious sense of the word.
David and Janet Boonov’s
50th Wedding Anniversary
50 years that passed in a minute ..or two!
We have faced many wonderfully happy times, the saddest of times, adversity, joy, love, birth, sickness, death…all those life cycle events that we each must pass through during a lifetime.
Memories of the years we have travelled. With our families, the first date, standing under our marriage chupa in 1956, the birth of our children, their marriages, our grandchildren.
We first came to the Temple in 1966 when Sharon was 7 and Stuart 8 as we realized that a religious commitment was something our family needed. How impressive the tiny congregation that celebrated the High Holy days was at the first service we attended held at Council House on Pritchard & Salter. That day 40 years ago was the birth of a friendship with the Sokoloff family that is as strong today as any friendship could ever possibly be.
The warmth of the Friday nights at each other’s homes, the Holy Torah that was carried in car trunks from home to home. All so good!
The executive meeting when we were told that we could get a Torah from England that was rescued from Czechoslovakia. We passed the hat around at that meeting and ended up with enough money to pay for the cost to get it for our congregation. Unbelievably, it arrived in Winnipeg on Simcha Torah and how we danced with it that so special night.
David’s years as President of the Temple…essentially the keeper of opening and shutting Council House and chairing those long, long meetings.
Stuart’s Bar Mitzvah held in the bar at the then Ramada Inn on Pembina Highway, the bandstand resembling the Bimah of any small synagogue.
Sharon’s Bat Mitzvah when I was so ill I could not plan it. It was held at the Temple’s then home, the International Centre, on William and King. Our friends in the Temple banded together. Gladys took Sharon shopping (shopping is a chore that she avoids to this day) for her Bat Mitzvah outfit. All of the women baked and put on a glorious Oneg Shabbat taking all the tasks off our shoulders.
The choir that David, Sharon & I were all members of for so many years as it meant so much to us.
How pleased we were with the benevolence of the Viscount Gort that gave us the use of a closet to hold our treasures and a room in which to hold services
Stuart & Sharon’s confirmation class was taught by Bernie Melman, a former president of the Temple. Their confirmation, (with the Temple’s first class), was a major culmination to their education and commitment to Judaism.
The purchase of the Grant Avenue Baptist Church, the transformation into Temple Shalom and the construction of Shalom Gardens attached to it was a huge high note for us.
My parents sitting in the 3rd row on the centre aisle every High Holiday so we could share the meaning of the High Holidays. We cannot enter this sanctuary and not see them there!
And so the years passed. We are heart warmed by the presence of family, cherished friends and congregants. Through joys, illnesses and much time, David & I stand side by side today to thank you all for filling the frame of our lives with meaning, caring, friendship, and love.
Thank you, Steven Hyman, Len Udow, the Friday Night Live band, Phil Spevack, Theresa, and Judy for making this night so special for all of us here. To our friends and relatives that did so much baking for tonight, a heartfelt thank you. To our children and grandchildren that made tonight possible… the largest hugs and kisses we have ever given to you. We think you are all wonderful.
Shabbat Shalom & Goot Yomtov
David Boonov Remembers:
Temple Shalom Started in 1963.
Bernie & Karla Melman
Gabe & Phyllis Broder
Ben & Gladys Sokolov
Past Presidents (thank you to David Topper and Harvey Nairn):
Hyeman (Scotty) Barlin
Gerry Steinberg (~1971)
Elliot Strom (student)
David Powell and Eric Friedland (sent to us by the UAHC)
Michael Levenson 1999 – 2003
Asher Knight (student) 2003-2005
Uri Barnea (student) 2005-2006
Elizabeth Bandyk (student) 2006-2007
Karen Soria 2008-Present
Len Udow (current)
Services were held in members homes. Our first High Holiday Services was held in Council House on Pritchard and Salter. Before the Stafford home, services were held in the Viscount Gort Hotel.
Please advise us of any other information regarding dates, events and people to update/correct our history: