PLANS to build a new Jewish Learning Centre in Winnipeg's south end just got a $640,000 boost from the federal and provincial governments.Winnipeg South Tory MP Rod Bruinooge announced $320,000 for the centre Sunday under Ottawa's new shovel-ready infrastructure stimulus fund. The province matched the amount.

"Clearly they were very happy. They broke into a song and dance and incorporated me into it," said Bruinooge following an informal celebration at the Chabad Torah Centre, housed in a leased storefront at 1825 Grant Ave. The new 17,000-square-foot learning centre, to be built across the street -- behind the Kenaston Boulevard Superstore -- will be a cultural and spiritual hub for every segment of the city's Jewish population, said Rabbi Avrohom Altein.

"The Jewish community, over the last decade, has been slowly migrating to the south," said Altein, director of Chabad-Lubavitch, the organization behind the building campaign, since 1972. The group currently runs a North End centre in addition to Chabad Torah. The new learning centre will merge both.

It won't be like a synagogue, the rabbi said, but rather will house a variety of intergenerational, educational programs for religious and secular folks alike.

"The idea is that there are a lot of people who are not that religious but who would want to feel more strongly Jewish," said Altein.

"In any Jewish community, the learning element is a very important part. This will make the Winnipeg Jewish community stand up and stand apart."
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