Honouring region's Jewish pioneers 0
By Greg Vandermeulen
The Red River Valley Echo
It's a page in Morden, Winkler and Altona's history that many no longer remember here.
And although all three communities are known for their Mennonite roots, Jewish pioneers played a big role in the early years of their existence.
Showing support for that history and Israel today is the motivation for Pamela Funk and Sweet Spirit Ministries Canada.
They organized an event that hosted the internationally acclaimed Sarah Sommer Chai Folk Ensemble at the P.W. Enns Centennial Hall in Winkler recently.
The ensemble is Canada's oldest Israeli dance ensemble, featuring more than 35 college-aged performers who sing and play instruments.
"We had 150 people in the audience that evening," CEO of Sweet Spirit Ministries Canada Pamela Funk said.
They were joined by descendants of the Jewish pioneers.
One who couldn't make it was Percy Goldberg - a man who worked in Altona in the 1950s and was celebrating his 90th birthday.
This isn't the first time Funk has organized such a big event.
In 2011, she organized an "All Nations Bless Israel International Conference". Seven nations were represented to share music and the arts in an effort to honour the Jewish pioneers and the Jewish community in Manitoba.
Funk said she and her husband first became interested in Israel in the 1980s.
"We're born into the Mennonite culture and chose the Christian faith," she said. "But we want to bless the Jews and bless Israel."
Funk said the old testament of the Bible seemed to light up for her, inspiring her to learn more.
She said there are now pockets of people in southern Manitoba learning more about Israel and how it relates to the Christian faith.
She said they've even been having Messianic rabbis come out to talk about ancient feasts and other traditions.
Making people aware of the contribution that Jewish pioneers have made is also important to Funk, who said many don't know much about that.
"I don't think they are aware at all, except the older generation," she said.
Despite hosting such a big event, Funk isn't ready to relax any time soon.
She is organizing Picnic on the Green, which will take place August 12 during the Winkler Harvest Festival at the Bethel Heritage Park.
It will feature performers Merv and Merla Watson, who have 50 years of ministry experience - 20 of which were in Israel.
They have written more than 500 songsincluding Jehovah Jirah.
Grace and Orlando Sukkau will also perform at the event, which takes place from 1 to 6 p.m.