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Rabbis Slam Winnipeg JCC for Early Shabbat Opening

Rabbis in Winnipeg have criticized a decision by the Jewish community center in the Canadian city to open earlier on Shabbat.

The recent decision by the Rose and Max Rady JCC to open at 8 a.m. on Saturdays instead of at noon means “the final vestige of observance of this most significant mitzvah … has now been erased from the institutional memory of our community,” said the Winnipeg Council of Rabbis in a statement.

The statement acknowledged that many of the JCC’s members are not Jewish and the “vast majority” are not Sabbath observant, and conceded that the move will have “little if any impact” on synagogue attendance.

The council “wishes simply to draw the community’s attention to this subtle, but significant shift. These kinds of decisions not only affect the current generation of Winnipeg Jews, but also, our generations yet unborn,” said the statement by Rabbis Alan Green, Larry Lander, Ari Ellis and Neal Rose.

“How much further down this road is it prudent for us, as a community, to travel? And what kind of message are we currently sending to our young people about the incorporation of Jewish values into their lives?” the rabbis asked.

In a statement on the center’s website, JCC President Eric Sawyer wrote, “I know that many members have indicated that they would like to work out on Saturday mornings and I am pleased that we are able to respond to this request.

“I would like to emphasize that this is a decision that the Rady JCC Board gave very careful consideration to. There will be some members of our community that may find this decision difficult and we respect this perspective.”

Sawyer added that “as is the current practice, there will be no exchange of money on Saturdays. Payment for any programs or services will need to be made prior to Shabbat.”

The Winnipeg center is now in line with the practices of JCCs in Toronto and Montreal. Vancouver’s JCC opens at 2 p.m. on Saturdays.

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