By Regan Treewater-Lipes
(AJNews) – A new rollout of provincial restrictions was presented last week – and just as the weather took a turn for the better. In ideal circumstances Edmontonians would be making plans for long-weekend barbecues and bountiful backyard bashes. But the reality of the continuing global pandemic is that ‘creativity’ is the name of the game. People have been challenged to conjure up innovative ways to stay active and engaged.
This May long-weekend, in the spirit of imagination and inspiration, Beth Israel Synagogue and the Jewish Archive and Historical Society of Edmonton and Northern Alberta (JAHSENA) are proudly introducing a completely restriction-adherent and exciting way to become a junior-historical-detective while enjoying a leisurely Victoria Day.
“We call it the ‘Staycation Long-Weekend Road Trip,’ it’s a Jewish themed treasure hunt through Edmonton,” explained Beth Israel’s Shul Director and program coordinator Moshe Siderson in a recent phone interview.
“We first discussed the possibility of an event like this last summer, but it was too late to put anything together, and as the pandemic wore on, we all saw the need to do something as a community in a non-virtual format. The idea is to get outside and discover the city we live in from a Jewish perspective. Many people might pass sites daily that have historical Jewish significance, and not even realize it. Now people can get to know these places, along with their families, from the safety of their cars.”
Siderson elaborated that: “So many of us go on long aimless drives these days just to get out of the house, so we thought, why not do it in a fun way?”
With significant support from JAHSENA’s sole archivist Colleen Paull, Siderson and team have worked to create a challenging and dynamic treasure hunt through the sites and centres of Edmonton’s Jewish culture and history.
“Without giving anything away, we put a lot of effort into finding diversity among our locations.”
To this end, organizers sought input from Colleen Paull throughout their creative process.
“There really is so much history here, and it is wonderful that more people will become familiar with it,” she commented. “I tried to provide relevant information that could be used for clues and conducted additional research when necessary. We were even able to make use of family histories as well as all the other resources we have in the archives here.”
Armed with clues and a supply of nosh and nibblies (included in the registration fee) participants will make their way through the city – problem solving, pondering, and postulating possible answers along the way.
“We have arranged a few different routes to ensure that people don’t arrive at the same locations all at once. Once a family has solved a clue they can snap a picture of themselves at the location.”
Siderson and the team intend to compile all collected photographs into a collage following the event. “We have some fantastic prizes to award for those who complete the treasure hunt along with numerous other surprises,” commented Siderson, “but the main goal here is to get out as a family and have a good time. This is about spending a meaningful afternoon making good memories, just in a safe way.”
As so many in the community struggle with feelings of listlessness, isolation, and mounting frustration, there is no better time for a ‘Staycation Long-Weekend Road Trip’ with the family. Rabbi Zolly Claman commented, “During these hard times it is of utmost importance to stay engaged and active. We can’t exist as solitary people, we are a community, and we need one another. It has been a struggle to find safe ways to engage, but we also have to take advantage of every one of those opportunities.”
For only $18 per vehicle, this opportunity presents a chance for community engagement through an intriguing activity. “This is a fun-raiser – no ‘d’ and a big emphasis on fun,” reiterated Siderson.
Although people are still restricted to their own vehicles, and unable to socialize with other families, Siderson explained that, under the circumstances, there’s no better way to actively participate with the Edmonton Jewish community than learning more about its origins and significance.
“I think it is really important to mention that this is a community event,” he continued. “Yes, Beth Israel is presenting it with the support of JAHSENA, but this is intended for everyone – we are one Jewish community here in Edmonton.”
Those interested in accepting the challenge of the ‘Staycation Long-Weekend Road Trip’ can register on the Beth Israel website: . https://www.familyshul.org/. Please remember to register by May 21st to secure your spot! And for those who want to learn more about Edmonton’s Jewish legacy, please follow JAHSENA on Facebook for further interesting facts and intriguing historical finds.
Regan Treewater is a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter for Alberta Jewish News.