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A life cut tragically short – 50 years ago

Rebecca (Rebbie) Victor

It was 50 years ago this month that the life of a young woman who was loved by all who knew her was cut tragically short as the result of a totally unforeseeable incident.
I didn’t know Rebecca Victor (who was commonly known as Rebbie), although it turns out we weren’t far apart in age.

According to an obituary that was placed in the January 14, 1971 Jewish Post, “Rebecca Victor, age 15, passed away suddenly on Tuesday, January 5th, 1971, as the result of a shooting accident. She would have been 16 on February 12.

“Born in Winnipeg, she was a graduate of the I.L. Peretz Folk School and a student in Grade X at St. John’s High School.
“Active in musical circles, Rebecca had studied piano for a number of years and she was a student of voice with Mrs. Sara Udow. She sang in junior choir at Rosh Pina Congregation for several years and she had also participated in several productions with the Internationals at the Hollow Mug. She was formerly active at the Y.M.H.A. Community Centre where she had been the winner of a number of oratorical contests.”

In that same issue of The Jewish Post, Abe Arnold wrote a piece titled “The Meaning of a Young Girl’s Life”:
“A young girl is dead after an accidental shooting.
“Rebecca Ruth Victor – Rebbie to her friends – died a little more than a month before her sixteenth birthday. To ask why is to express a cry of anguish over the death by shooting of men and women everywhere in the world since guns were invented.

“This particular death, however, is a tragedy for many people and a catastrophic change in the lives of the immediate family.
“Rebbie Victor was a talented young woman with mature interests in the world around her. A student of music and of dance, she showed accomplishment at the piano and had a lovely voice, but music was not all and she had a great zest for the varied experiences of life.
“Rebbie had an earnest concern for other people demonstrated by her active interest in the cause of world peace and in political activities which, to her, were truly devoted to the achievement of a just society.
“Her desire for learning virtually exceeded the bounds of the school, but on January 4 she returned happily to her classroom to begin some new and more stimulating courses and, with the part of a new musical show to be performed later in the winter “The music for ‘Camelot’ sits on the piano at the Victor home and, alongside it, the music for a Gordon Lightfoot song.

“On January 5 she left school in the company of several classmates and apparently suggested a visit to a Co-operative House on St. Johns Avenue which has been serving as a community youth centre. Rebbie was a frequent visitor to the house, where she had been stimulated by impassioned discussions on war and politics and the injustice of our society.
“On this last occasion her companions were visiting the house for the first time and she was showing them around. They came to a room with a rifle hanging on the wall, which Rebbie herself had probably never seen before. In that place she could only conceive of it as a museum piece – a relic of violent death which she abhorred with all her being. To one of her companions, however, it was a curiosity to be investigated and it proved to be not a relic, but a live instrument of death.

“Can anyone imagine the shocked reaction of the young man – who squeezed the trigger in jest – at the deadly results? Can one conceive of the overpowering shock of the father on being suddenly called to the hospital to be told that his only child is no more? Can one grasp the grief of the mother who is told by her husband that their daughter has been torn from life? And can one conceive of the confounded feelings of remorse of the person who owned the gun, and of the others associated with the Co-op House?”

Abe Arnold’s piece goes on to try to place young Rebbie Victor’s death in a larger context relating to gun violence.
In light of the fact that it is the 50th anniversary of Rebbie Victor’s senseless death, Richard Yaffe, who was both a schoolmate of Rebbie’s and a good friend, contacted me to say that he wanted to mark the anniversary in some way – which is why you see the memoriam accompanying this article on this page and not on the usual memoriam page.
I noted that I did not know Rebbie Victor, but after I spoke with Richard I began to realize just how wide a swath of friends she actually had. In the normal course of a week I happen to speak with any number of different individuals about various matters. As it turned out, three different times when I mentioned Rebbie Victor’s name and asked different people whether they knew her I was greeted with the same reaction: “I knew Rebbie really well.”

From her obituary and Abe Arnold’s piece it is clear that Rebbie was a young woman of immense talent – and who, had she lived, was destined for great things.
I often remark to others that the stories in our paper which resonate most profoundly with readers are stories of lives cut tragically short – either as the result of a sudden accident or perhaps a premature death due to a terminal illness.
I have no special reason to want to pay tribute to Rebbie Victor beyond anyone else whose life might have ended all too prematurely, but it is somewhat significant to think that, as we are going through a period in which the daily recitation of the numbers of deaths from Covid has become a ritual which we would all like to be rid of, there are names attached to those numbers.
Fifty years on, will people think back to the period in which we are now living and remember the tragedy that befell so many of our loved ones? Thank you, Richard Yaffe, for taking the trouble to recall a life snuffed out 50 years ago – whose life, and tragic death, resonated to such a huge degree with so many others.

Rebbie Victor mem

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Winnipeg Jewish Theatre to open season with world premiere of “Pals”

Richard Greenblatt and Diane Flacks in rehearsal for "Pals"

By BERNIE BELLAN The opening show of Winnipeg Jewish Theatre’s 2023-24 season promises to be a clever and poignant take on relationships between men and women, when “Pals” makes its world premiere on November 9 in the Berney Theatre, running until November 19.
“Pals” is the third two-person show created by the team of Diane Flacks and Richard Greenblatt. Interestingly, when I spoke with Flacks and Greenblatt while they took a break from rehearsing the play in Toronto, they told me that their previous two two-person plays also had one word titles – with four letters in both: “Sibs” and “Care.”
“Pals” is the story of two friends, told over a 25-year time period. Their friendship survives many tribulations, including both characters entering and exiting many other relationships. The play uncovers the underlying tensions that permeate all friendships.
“Pals” opens with the two characters meeting for the first time. I asked Diane and Richard whether the notion of their having sex ever enters into the plot, but Richard was quick to exclaim, “We don’t have sex.”
Diane also noted that, in the case of her character, she is married to another woman. (Diane is a lesbian in real life.)
The fact that the characters maintain a friendship though becomes a source of friction within their respective relationships. It raises the question: Can you have an intimate, albeit platonic, relationship, with a member of the opposite sex all the while you’re in a physical relationship with someone else?
I asked whether the characters in “Pals” are Jewish (which both Diane and Richard are), and the answer was “yes.”
Both Diane and Richard have had past associations with the Winnipeg Jewish Theatre. Richard’s goes back a very long time – when he directed the critically acclaimed “League of Nathans” in 1995.
Diane Flacks appeared in a one-night performance of a show in 2021 called “25 Questions for a Jewish Mother,” which was a part of that year’s Tarbut festival. There were no in-person events that year, due to Covid, but “Jewish Mother” was available on Zoom and had a huge audience.
In addition to writing for the stage, Diane Flacks has written for TV, including Working the Engels, Baroness Von Sketch Show, Young Drunk Punk, PR, and The Broad Side.
Richard Greenblatt has performed in theatres across Canada and abroad, as well as in feature films, television and radio. He co-wrote 2 Pianos 4 Hands, which played on five continents and in over 150 cities since it opened in 1996.
Pals is directed by the internationally acclaimed director Jillian Keiley. More information, tickets and 5-show subscriptions can be found at: You can also reach WJT by phone at (204) 477-7478.

To watch a preview video from Pals, click here:

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Simkin Centre introduces Friday afternoon Shabbat services – open to all

By BERNIE BELLAN (Posted Oct. 31) The Simkin Centre held its first ever Friday afternoon Erev Shabbat service this past Friday (Oct. 27), led by Rabbi Matthew Leibl.

There were more than 30 residents in attendance, along with various other outside guests. The service was approximately 45 minutes long and was filled with stories and songs associated with Friday evening Shabbats – some from Rabbi Leibl’s own childhood and some from more recent years.

The Friday afternoon Erev Shabbat services are now to become a regular features at the Simkin Centre and are open to anyone to attend.

To watch a short clip of Rabbi Leibl introducing his first Friday afternoon service click

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The complete text of MP Marty Morantz’s speech at the community vigil for Israel on October 10

Marty Morantz at the community vigil for Israel October 10

Tonight we are all Israelis!
Conservatives stand with Israel.
Pierre Poilievre stands with Israel.
On Saturday we woke up to unspeakable images.
We must stand shoulder to shoulder with Israel as it defends itself from these criminal and barbarous acts.
On Shabbat, Hamas brutally invaded Israel, invaded homes, killing hundreds, taking hostage hundreds.
More Jews were killed in Saturday’s attack than in any single day since the Holocaust.
Some 1500 human beings killed in a single day would be like 6000 Canadians being murdered in a single attack.
They were children, babies, men, women.
They were young people just out listening to music at a dance party.
This was an unprecedented brutal attack.
As we speak Hamas is threatening to execute innocent hostages.
This outrage cannot, must not stand.
Don’t let anyone tell you Hamas is the legitimate voice of the Palestinian people. It is not a government.
They are a genocidal murderous and evil death cult and they must be defeated.
But friends, we have seen evil before.
Jews have been persecuted for millennia, but we have survived.
Conservatives unequivocally condemn the invasion of Israel by Hamas terrorists and the sadistic violence that Hamas has carried out against innocent civilians.
Now is the time for moral clarity. There is no moral equivalency between democratic Israel and the butchers of Hamas.
There is no response, no matter how strong, that would be disproportionate to the crimes Hamas has committed.
Israel has the right to defend itself against these attacks and respond against the attackers – as any other country would.
Theodore Herzl, the father of modern Zionism, said, “If you will it, it is no dream.”
In 1948 that dream became a reality – a homeland in Israel, the promised land.
Working together Israelis turned a desert into an oasis.
An island of democracy surrounded by a sea of autocracy.
A Jewish state where Jews could live in peace free from fear and persecution.
Let there be no doubt. Israel is the ancient and indigenous homeland of the Jewish people.
We will not let the butchers of Hamas take that dream, long realized, away from us.
Many politicians will stand with Israel when it is easy.
But listen to what they say when it is hard.
They will talk about “both sides.”
I’m here to tell you that there is only one side.
The side of morality.
The side of democracy.
The side of Israel.
We see too often politicians at the United Nations unfairly singling out Israel for criticism.
I will always stand against the unfair singling out of the Middle East’s only democracy.
Already there are calls for Israel to deescalate.
I ask you.
Would any country deescalate after having its people slaughtered in cold blood?
I wish the people of Israel and its brave soldiers Godspeed on their mission to defend the promised land from pure evil.
As Prime Minister Stephen Harper said:
Through fire and water Canada will stand with you.
Am Yisrael Chai!

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