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Montreal Jewish center opens on Shabbat

NEW YORK (JTA) — A Jewish community center in Montreal opened on Shabbat for the first time, but a compromise limited Sabbath desecration.

The controversial decision to open the Canadian city’s YM-YWH/JCC on the Jewish day of rest, made several months ago, went into implementation on Oct. 31 after a compromise was reached with community leaders who opposed the move, the Jewish Tribune reported.

According to the agreement, only some of the center’s facilities, such as the gym and pool, will be accessible to the public on Saturday. Also, no Jewish employee will be required to work that day, use of electricity will be minimal and the offices and restaurant will remain shut.

While the Montreal Board of Rabbis still objects to the Shabbat opening, it said it welcomed dialogue with other members of the Jewish community.

"The dialogue is consistent with one of the core missions of the MBR, which is to build bridges between all segments of Montreal’s Jewish community and to foster communal unity," Rabbi Adam Scheier, president of the rabbinical board, was quoted as saying by the Jewish Tribune.

In August, board members voted in favor of opening the center to the public on Shabbat, promising to be considerate of those who opposed their decision. The decision caused a storm of controversy in the community.

"We are more than aware of the debate around this issue," Executive Director Michael Crelinsten told The Suburban newspaper. "We have spoken with many members of the community. We have met formally with Federation CJA and a number of key rabbis, and have had conversations with others. We’re fully apprised of the range of feelings people have about this."

Proposals to open the center on Shabbat were voted down in 1999 and 2003.

A statement issued by the center said its decision to open on Saturday reflects its commitment to reach out to children and families who wish to use its facilities over the weekend.

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