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Winnipeg Jewish community’s newest centenarian gets surprise party at the Shaftesbury

100-year-old Ruth Gutkin

With her 100th birthday approaching, Ruth Gutkin was resigned to a low key affair due to the Covid situation. However, her younger son, Donald, had other ideas – such that the Shaftesbury Retirement Home resident was more than pleasantly surprised by what actually transpired.

The celebration became in Friday, October 9, the day before her actual birthday with a shout out from CTV’s Morning Show.
Then, looking out from her third floor balcony that morning, she saw below the Shaftesbury management in costume with flowers and streamers and a “happy birthday” sign who commenced to sing the birthday song for her.
Following that, as is traditional at the Shaftesbury, she was given a birthday tea party in the hallway – with the grand piano moved in to the hall for the occasion. “It was beautiful,” she says. “It was outstanding. The Shaftesbury staff outdid themselves.”
On her birthday itself, she was greeted by staff in 1950s and ‘60s attire who sat her in a special chair downstairs surrounded by balloons. Two large tables were set up – one with a huge birthday cake and the other with cards and well wishes from The Queen, the PMO, the Premier, the Mayor and other well wishers.
The celebrations ended with a private dinner for the honoree with her two sons, Terry and Donald and their wives, Carole and Belva, in the multipurpose room and an opportunity to connect with her four grandchildren and six great grandchildren via Zoom.
Of her sons, she says proudly that they helped her realize every Jewish mother’s dream. Terry is a lawyer and Donald a dentist.
At 100 years young – and despite having had a hip replaced about a year ago (when she was the oldest Manitoban to ever undergo that surgery) – Ruth Gutkin still looks 25 to 30 years younger than her chronological age – and her mind is little dimmed by age. The former Ruth Moscovitch was born into a family of eight on Argyle Street. She grew up on Boyd and Anderson in the north end and attended Machray School and St. John’s.
Her earliest memory, she says, was having her tonsils out when she was 6.
Her father, Benjamin, had a candy wholesale on Pacific Avenue, she recalls. “He would take some of us kids out on Saturday when he did his rounds,” she recounts. “WE would go to the grocery stores where he would take the orders. Then, we would go to the manufacturers to pick up the candies and, after we kids helped him sort and fill the order, we would deliver them to the stores.
“It was a real treat helping our dad.”
After Grade 11, the young Ruth set about looking for work. “It was the Depression,” she remembers. “You couldn’t get a job for love or money. I pounded the pavement trying to find work as a sales girl. I finally got a job part time at the Belgian Glove and Hosiery store on Portage near Edmonton. I got paid 25 cents an hour.
“We were worked to the bone. We couldn’t sit for a minute.”
Ruth met her husband-to-be, Jack, in 1940, shortly before he enlisted. Fortunately, he came home from the war early due to a medical discharge. The couple married in 1943.
For their honeymoon, they took the train to Kenora. “Jack had been a salesman before the war and Kenora was part of his territory,” Ruth recounts. “We got off the train. I was farputzed (dressed up) and wearing high heels. Jack said the hotel was just a short walk away. It wasn’t so close.”
She also recalls that the newlyweds visited one of the islands. On their way back, the canoe that they were paddling began to take on water.
“We weren’t wearing life jackets,” she says. “While we made it back to shore, I could see the headlines – Honeymooners Drown in Kenora.”
Back in Winnipeg, the young couple moved into a third floor walkup on Burrows and Salter. And while jack went to work for the late Harry Silverberg, Ruth set about raising a family, looking after the home – or rather, homes, as the Gutkins moved several times from Scotia to River Heights and back to West Kildonan – and throwing herself into volunteer work. Over the years, Ruth Gutkin was involved in Bnai Brith – where she was a chapter president, National Council of Jewish Women, Ort and the Rosh Pina Synagogue – and she and Jack co-chaired an Israel Bonds campaign.
Her real passion, she says, was cooking and baking – as well as decorating and entertaining. “I would get up early in the morning with Jack every morning and start baking,” she recalls.
Jack, she adds, made sure that the family went away for yearly vacations and, after he retired, they began spending winters in the southwest and seeing the world. “We had a wonderful time,” she says. “We went on cruises. We went to Hawaii and Florida, to Europe and Israel (many times).”
After Jack’s passing 16 years ago, Ruth continued to travel – including a tour to China when she was 87.
She moved into the Shaftesbury just four years ago after living at the Tuxedo Estates for 40 years.
Ruth credits her longevity to a lifetime of being physically active. As a teen, she says, she skated, swam, played baseball and tennis. “I have always worked out,” she says. “I joined the Rady centre right after it opened. I swam, took aquacize classes and did Zumba.”
“I never expected to live to 90, never mind 100. I guess the Almighty hasn’t decided that it’s my time yet.”

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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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