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With the generous help of 700 donors, Winnipeg’s Chevra Kadisha closes in on fundraising goal for renewed facility

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The renovated building will make it easier to prepare the deceased in the Orthodox tradition, and to assist families in making burial arrangements (Photo: Chesed Shel Emes)

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Slow and steady – and quiet – has helped push the Chesed Shel Emes revitalization project in Winnipeg to within $50,000 of its capital campaign goal despite the Covid-19 pandemic, says the Executive Director of the Jewish Burial Society, or Chevra Kadisha, in the fabled North End. And Rena Boroditsky attributes it to one factor: “All we have is our credibility. We’ve done what we’ve said we were going to do. ”

The history of the charity, which held a ‘quiet launch’ for their $3.18M project in 2018, is inextricably intertwined with the history of Jewish families in Manitoba, as almost every one, sooner or later, arrives to be prepared for a dignified ritual departure. She says her job “is very much about ritual and making it relevant. And for me, very hands-on as I am also involved in the ritual preparation of our community ladies.”

Under the leadership of Abe Cohen, a “Jewish House of Ritual Purification of the Dead” was created in 1929. Winnipeg’s Chesed Shel Emes Society, was established in 1930 to assume the responsibility of preparing the deceased in the Orthodox tradition and to assist families in making burial arrangements.

By 1931, there were 400 members and the Society launched their first capital campaign. $500 was raised and in 1932, the Society bought a house on Main St. in Winnipeg. In 1945, after having outgrown its space, the Society purchased land, successfully raised $60,000 and built a new chapel next door in 1947. The original house was demolished in May 2020, and a 4000 sq. ft. modern facility will improve the level of service and safety on-site. Construction has passed the halfway point, with an expected finishing date in May 2021.

“One of our issues in the old building was narrow doorways and our cooler was limited due to the size of the room,” Boroditsky explains. “In the new building, we’ll have a modern facility with wider doorways, a lift and a cooler room. Much safer and designed for our requirements.”

Judaism has a long tradition of communal burial societies. Every major centre in Canada has one.  Chesed Shel Emes is unique in that it is entirely independent, not attached to any synagogue and does not own a cemetery. “Yet, no one is ever turned away. We’ve got to make sure that people are taken care of.” Doing so while navigating a move-out and project managers was challenging, Boroditsky says, but worked out well.

“In the middle of a pandemic, with all our work still continuing, we are the only ones who do this in all of Winnipeg. We moved our ritual services of safeguarding and preparing the deceased to a local licensed funeral home where we have our own dedicated space. We were up and running without missing a day. Our hosts at the Funeral home could not be more accommodating. Everything we own and the entire office has been moved to the chapel.”

Boroditsky raves about the professionals tasked with completing the project. “I am on site every day because my office is in the chapel. Everyone who has been involved in this project has been respectful, supportive of our fundraising and interested in our mission. The owners of Akman Construction & Republic Architecture are members of our community and have taken a personal interest in our relatively small project. Our on-site Akman Construction superintendent has been wonderful. I can’t tell you how proud I am about investing on Main St. right in the North End.”

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We asked what has been the most surprising thing about the construction process for her?

 “The paper trail generated by every question and change. The number of speciality consultants involved. The secret language the professionals use. The domino effect of small changes.  The sheer volume of concrete and metal that goes in the ground. The talent of the tradespeople and the pride taken in their work.

The flip side of the construction project, was the grassroots fundraising campaign of Chesed Shel Emes to pay for it. This seemed a daunting task, because as Boroditsky notes, “When we started, we had no database of clients, just a database of deceased people.”

“Since our quiet launch in Nov 2018- there have been about 700 donors. Our volunteers, board members and staff have contributed hundreds of hours over the years of planning. The board and volunteers had the faith and confidence in our ability to run a successful campaign,” she says, and she is especially grateful for “all of our advocates and ambassadors in the community. Today, we are only $50,000 from our goal. We so appreciate not only the donations, but the confidence people have shown in us.”

The transformation of the Chesed Shel Emes in Winnipeg to a modern burial preparation facility is seen in progress (Photos Chesed Shel Emes)

While the building alone will cost $3.18 million there will still be equipment and furnishings required for purchase. “Even if we are not fully furnished we will move our ritual operation back at our earliest opportunity,” promises Boroditsky, who is hopeful the generosity of the community will continue.

“Pledges may be paid over a number of years, monthly or annually. Gifts may be paid by cheque, credit card, or e-transfer. We also accept securities. Tax receipts are issued for every donation. Gifts over $1000.00 will be recognized on a donor wall in the new building.”

For more information or to make a gift, contact the office at 204-582-5088 or email at [email protected]

“Every gift we get is a vote of confidence. We very much work in the background, so to have so many people show their appreciation is amazing.”

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Our positioning as a Zionist News Media platform sets us apart from the rest. While other Canadian Jewish media are advocating increasingly biased progressive political and social agendas, TheJ.Ca is providing more and more readers with a welcome alternative and an ideological home.

We revealed the incursion of anti-Israel progressive elements such as IfNotNow into our communities. We have exposed the distorted hateful agenda of the “progressive” left political radicals who brought Linda Sarsour to our cities, and we were first to report on many disturbing incidents of Nazi-based hate towards Jews across Canada.

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Our ability to thrive and grow in 2020 and beyond depends on the generosity of committed readers and supporters like you.

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