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Morley BernsteinBy MYRON LOVE
It was better late than never for Dr. Morley Bernstein, who celebrated his bar mitzvah on June 17 at the Gates on Roblin in conjunction with his 80th birthday.


“It was great,” Bernstein says. “We had our children and grandchildren there. We had 60 guests from out of town and 150 in all.”
The retired orthodontist was originally scheduled to celebrate his bar mitzvah on May 13, 1950. He recalls taking lessons for a year, travelling three times a week from his home on Luxton (the family lived behind their grocery store – Harry’s Grocery and Meats on the corner of Luxton and St. Cross)  to a small shul, Ohel Jacob, i on Selkirk Avenue where he was one of about a dozen boys studying with Rabbi Finklestein.
Bernstein was all ready for the Big Day when disaster struck. That would be the great flood of 1950. On May 6, a week before the bar mitzvah, with their street waist deep in water,, the Bernstein family was evacuated with all of their neighbours.
“The flood eventually spilled over six feet of water over the main floor of our grocery store and our attached small house,” he recalls. “We had to move to Minneapolis for several weeks until the water subsided. All I remember is the large coolers that we had in our store along with all of the counters were floating in this cruddy, muddy Red River water.
“My parents had planned a big bar mitzvah with a dinner dance at the Hebrew fraternal lodge on Main and Machray. For my family that was quite a sacrifice.
“As my dad didn’t know where his next dollar was coming from after the flood, we never planned another bar mitzvah.”
A main impetus for Bernstein in choosing to celebrate a bar mitzvah after all these many years was his new friendship with Chazan Len Udow. “I came to know Len and I wanted to work with him,” the “bar mitzvah boy” says. “It was a good choice. My Hebrew had deteriorated considerably over the years. Len strongly encouraged me in my studies.”
Bernstein began preparing for the new “Big Day” about a year ago. His wife, Terry, notes that she went to bed many a night hearing Morley’s chanting.
Bernstein also wrote a song for the occasion – adapting the popular Israeli song “Hallelujah” to provide an overview of his life. “I have always been musical,” says the long time member of the Winnipeg Golden Chordsmen Barbershop Chorus.
Bernstein’s bar mitzvah was a Shabbat mincha service which consisted of two parshahs and the maftir. “We borrowed the Torah from the Gray Academy,” he says. “I also led the mincha service and havdalah. I used Len’s melodies and he accompanied me (for havdalah) with his guitar. It was a beautiful service.”
Bernstein says that he intends to follow up his bar mitzvah with some Torah study.
“Some of my friends have expressed interest in following my example,” he says.

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