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Astonishingly good debut novel by former Winnipegger Sandy Shefrin Rabin

Sandy Shefrin Rabin/book cover

By BERNIE BELLAN
One of the great joys of being in the position of editor of a Jewish newspaper is being on the receiving end of what seem to be a never-ending series of well-written books, either by current Winnipeggers or former Winnipeggers.

In the past three months I’ve had the pleasure of reading books by Allan Levine, Jack London, and Mira Sucharov. I would recommend any of them to readers of this paper – as I have in previous issues.
But, when I was contacted by another former Winnipegger by the name of Sandy Shefrin (whose married name is Rabin) some time back, when Sandy told me that she had written a book and was looking for a good publisher, I must admit that while I remembered Sandy’s name as someone who had grown up in Winnipeg around the same time as me, unlike the three aforementioned writers, I had no idea whether Sandy was a good writer or not.
If truth be told, when Sandy had also written in her email to me that what she wanted to publish was her first novel, as someone who has also received many first-time novels, my expectations were not all that great.
And so, when Sandy contacted me again recently to say that she had published her novel – and had followed up my advice to contact Friesen’s Publishers – a company which I knew had a reputation of being a quality publisher, I replied to her that I would get to her book once I finished reading some other books whose authors I had promised I would review.

I shouldn’t have waited.
From the moment I began reading the first chapter of “Prairie Sonata” I realized that Sandy was a writer of immense talent. Her descriptive language was breathtakingly beautiful – not overly laden with the kind of flowery prose that one might have anticipated reading when a first-time writer wants to show off how expansive his or her vocabulary is, but so evocative that I could picture her scenes as vividly as if I were right there with her characters.
And, what should “Prairie Sonata” turn out be about, but a story set in a fictitious Manitoba town called “Ambrosia”, beginning in 1948. Ambrosia actually is a thinly-veiled version of Winnipeg in so many respects (and if you read the following article, in which I ask Sandy why she didn’t just use the real Winnipeg as the location for her novel, you’ll read the answer to that question).

The book opens with the narrator, an 11-year-old girl by the name of Mira, wistfully recalling her childhood:
“And I would go back there if I could. Despite the freezing winters and piercing winds. If I could be in the same house and look out of the same windows at the long, arching tree branches laden with snow and watch the feathery snowflakes waft down from the sky like fairy dust. And if I could hear my mother in the kitchen, the rhythmic tapping of her wooden spoon against the sides of the bowl as she turned flour and shortening into a delicious cherry pie, so delicious it was almost like a miracle.”
As the story develops we learn that Mira has what we might consider an idyllic childhood, surrounded by loving parents – her father the town surgeon, her mother a thoroughly competent homemaker who always seems to find the right thing to say to Mira, and her little adoring brother Sammy, who is three years younger than Mira.
Into this tableaux of happy characters enters “Chaver B”, as he is known – a new teacher in the Peretz School (a name familiar to anyone who grew up in Winnipeg’s Jewish community). Chaver B, or Ari Bergman, which is his full name, is a survivor of the Holocaust and, as one might anticipate, he carries an extremely heavy burden within him.
As it also turns out, Chaver B is an accomplished violinist, but for some reason he does not play the violin himself any more. He is invited to the Adler home for Sabbath dinner and, while there, he discovers that Mira is also studying violin.
He offers to give Mira violin lessons when he is told that her former violin teacher has left Ambrosia. What develops though is not just a warm relationship between student and teacher, it is an opportunity for Mira to learn about life and for Chaver B to have someone to whom he can open up about what has happened to him.

There are many insertions of Yiddish phrases, often whole sentences throughout the book, and while the author does provide translations for many of them, some are undoubtedly included just to add a flavour to the time and place in which the story is set. While it would undoubtedly help to be able to understand Yiddish in order to appreciate the precise aptness of a certain expression, as someone whose knowledge of Yiddish is rather limited myself, by sounding out the words in my mind I was taken back to a time when my own grandparents spoke Yiddish between themselves. I would think that even someone who knows no Yiddish at all can get a sense of the cadence of that wonderful language in reading the Yiddish in this book.
While there have been more books written about the Holocaust than any other subject in history, “Prairie Sonata” is not really another Holocaust book. It forms a major component of the story but, as Mira grows from a bright and cheery 11-year-old to a mature 15-year-old, we get a full sense of what life was like in a bygone era, not too long after the end of the Second World War (which, by the way, precedes Sandy Shefrin’s own childhood by several years; this is not an autobiography, as Sandy explained to me.)
Each chapter of the book begins with a quote from something written by a host of well-known writers – and although they reveal the extraordinarily eclectic breadth of the author’s acquaintance with a vast number of literary works, trying to understand the significance of each quote is a bit of a puzzle. I’ll leave it to others who have far more refined literary tastes than my own to figure that out – and perhaps get back to me with an explanation.

One other wonderful element to the story is the explanation of musical terms that may be familiar enough, but whose actual origin is likely known only by music students themselves. In one vividly drawn chapter, Chaver B explains to Mira how a sonata is actually structured. In doing so, the author is also explaining to the reader why her book is structured the way that it is.
Music plays such a central role in “Prairie Sonata” that I often had to stop reading to go and listen to an actual piece of music that is referenced so that I might understand why that particular piece would elicit the type of reaction that it does from Mira when she first hears it played.
To reveal too much of the plot would be a disservice to readers. Suffice to say that, as Mira learns more from Chaver B about what happened to him during the war, she begins to understand the meaning of anti-Semitism. Having grown up in a rather sheltered environment in Ambrosia she is really quite innocent, even though she would have been a young girl during World War II. Discovering the unparalleled cruelties of what happened to Europe’s Jews through Chaver B’s story is something that will resonate with anyone of any age – not just someone close to Mira’s age.
While “Prairie Sonata” might be considered a work of juvenile fiction, and it is definitely recommended for young readers – perhaps even pre-teens if they would be interested in a coming of age story, I would say that this book – if word of its brilliance spreads, will find an audience especially among Winnipeggers and former Winnipeggers who remember a time when life was somewhat simpler – without all the technological distractions that nowadays seem to combine to rob young people of the pleasures that come with encountering the world without having to experience it through social media.
Our community has produced a number of talented female writers whose books are intended for a young audience, including Carol Matas, Eva Wiseman, and Harriet Zaidman. While we can now add Sandy Shefrin’s name to that list, I would suggest that “Prairie Sonata” can fit into so many different categories of fiction that it will appeal to readers of all ages. And, at a time when so many of us are looking for something that will help take us through what, for most of us, is the most difficult period in history, I could recommend nothing more absorbing than taking your mind off what we are going through than this book.
Prairie Sonata
By Sandy Shefrin Rubin
Friesen Press, published 2020
267 pages
Currently available on Amazon in either print or Kindle format

 

Sandy Shefrin on growing up in Winnipeg and how she came to write “Prairie Sonata”
By BERNIE BELLAN
When I was first contacted by Sandy Shefrin Rabin quite some time ago, I told her that I remembered the name Sandy Shefrin from long ago – when we both were teenagers. When she went on to tell me that she was a first-time novelist, well – I’ve heard from a fair number of writers over the years asking me whether I’d like to read their books, so I can’t say that I was in any rush to read her book.
At the time that she contacted me I didn’t ask Sandy for any information about her background. It was only after I heard from her again not too long ago to tell me that her book was actually published – and she wondered whether I would like to read it, that I became interested in finding out more about her. I asked her to send me some biographical information.
So, in addition to her book, which she sent me as a pdf, she also sent me a picture of the book jacket. The back of the book jacket contains the following biographical information:
“Sandy Shefrin Rabin grew up in Winnipeg, Manitoba, in a community much like Mira’s. She holds both a B.A. in English and an M.D. degree from the University of Manitoba. She completed an Internal Medicine residency at McGill University and her Neurology residency at the New York Hospital Cornell Medical Center in Manhattan. She currently practices Neurology in Marin County, near San Francisco.
“Sandy has written for the Marin Independent Journal and has been published in several medical journals. She lives in Mill Valley, California, with her husband and has three sons. Prairie Sonata is her first novel.”

In a subsequent email I asked Sandy to expand some upon her educational background and how she ended up where she is.
Here’s what she wrote back:
“I grew up in north end Winnipeg on Inkster Blvd. I am a graduate of I. L. Peretz Folk School and St. John’s High. I earned a B.A. in English from the University of Manitoba and my M.D. degree from the University of Manitoba.” (She later told me she left Winnipeg after graduating from medical school, when she was 25.)

A neurologist, I thought – with a very impressive CV. So, why did she decide to become a novelist I wondered –and, to be honest, since I knew that we are close in age (and I’m not exactly a spring chicken), why did she wait until now to turn out her very first novel?
So, I asked Sandy that question. Here’s what she wrote back:
“I wrote the book for a few different reasons. I had just written an article about my mother in remembrance of the fourth anniversary of her passing, and although I felt good about having remembered her that way, I was left with an uneasiness; after a couple of generations, who would remember her, and who would remember my father who died almost fifty years ago? They would become no more than people in photographs or videos. Who would remember their essence?
“So I decided to write a story set on the Manitoba prairies and use my parents as prototypes for the main characters. I created a fictional town, Ambrosia, since my mother was born and grew up in Winkler. In the end, neither my father nor my mother became any one character in particular, but you can see glimpses of them in several of the characters throughout the novel.
“I feel privileged to have had a wonderful childhood growing up in the north end of Winnipeg. Much of what I create in the novel is based on the Winnipeg Jewish community – especially Peretz School – fictionalized and transplanted to Ambrosia. Peretz School was a unique and wonderful place with caring teachers, and I wanted to capture that experience and hope that I have done so in a positive way.
“Another impetus for the novel was the state of the world at the time I began writing. I started writing in early 2016 when ISIS was at its peak, and we were able to witness their atrocities on television. I was shocked that the world had descended to this level of barbarism, and it made me wonder if civilization had advanced at all over the ages. While growing up, I remember thinking that the world was definitely going to become a better place over the years, but it certainly seemed to be falling very short of that goal. Little did I know at that time that the next four years were going to bring even more turmoil — and not just Covid-19 – but also division among people and worsening racism and anti-Semitism around the world. These last four years serve as a lesson in how quickly a society can change when presented with misinformation and lies, and how we all need to remain vigilant against bigotry and hatred, issues that my novel addresses. Mira, my main protagonist, struggles not only to cope with the random uncontrollable things that happen in her life but also to understand why one human being would willfully perpetrate evil on another. Out of these ideas grew Mira’s journey from innocence to experience.
“There are various themes in the book, both timely and timeless, and I think it would be a great addition to high school and college reading lists, and book clubs. I’ve included a Discussion and Study Guide at the end. I hope people enjoy reading it.”

Once I finished reading the book – and, if you read my adjoining review, you’ll see that I was simply floored at how good it was, I had so many more questions for Sandy. (By the way, as I write this, I’ve handed the book to my wife, who is also an avid reader. She herself said she was astonished at how good the book was when she had only finished the first few chapters.)
I asked Sandy whether she still had any relatives in Winnipeg?
She wrote back: “I still have relatives in Winnipeg from both sides, Shefrin and Danzker. My mom’s maiden name was Clara Danzker and she married my dad, Sam Shefrin. I have a sister, Myrna Shefrin, who now lives in Vancouver and a brother, Hersh Shefrin, who lives near me in Palo Alto. He won the distinguished alumnus award from the University of Manitoba in 2019. He’s an economist.” (We had an article by Myron Love in our May 29, 2019 issue about Hersh Shefrin’s receiving that award, by the way. You can find it on our website jewishpostandnews.ca if you enter the words “Hersh Shefrin” in our search engine.)

Although “Prairie Sonata” is labeled a work of fiction, there are so many passages that will remind quite a few of our readers of their own experiences, especially for anyone who had ever attended Peretz School, that I asked Sandy how much of the novel is based on her own experience?
She replied: “Good question. Prairie Sonata is a work of fiction; it’s not a memoir. Like many authors, my novel is informed by my own experiences, but it’s not autobiographical. I am not Mira. I never had a teacher like Chaver B nor did I ever have a relationship with a teacher even remotely similar to Mira’s and Chaver B’s relationship. “I was the youngest of three, not the oldest of two. My parents were not professionals. I studied piano for most of my youth, and learned a little violin in Junior High School, although one of my sons plays the violin. However, I did go to Peretz School, and I definitely wanted to capture the uniqueness and character of the school.
“Although I grew up in the 60s, the story takes place in the late 40s and early 50s, and the historical events that I describe took place during that time period, or some even earlier. Even some minor things were not part of the 60s. For example, there was no Yiddish theatre in Winnipeg in the 60s, as far as I know. The Friday night get-togethers at Peretz School were long gone by then. So I hope that anyone who attended Peretz School “would identify with the book.”

Something that I kept wondering as I made my way through the book was: Why did Sandy create a fictitious town – Ambrosia, when so much of what happens would be so familiar to anyone who grew up in Winnipeg’s Jewish community?
Her answer was that “I debated that for a long time, and you may be right, perhaps I should have, but ultimately I came to the decision to not set the story in Winnipeg for a few different reasons. I initially thought I would model the protagonist after my mother, who grew up in Winkler, although in the end Mira turned out to be her own character. I was interested in a setting closer to nature, and believed I could best accomplish that in a rural setting. I didn’t want a “city” book; I wanted a “country book,” a book about all that the fields and sky and the landscape evokes. Natural imagery is a big part of the novel, both mirroring and contrasting with what the characters are experiencing, and the landscape almost becomes a character in of itself.
“Someone suggested that I use a real place, such as Altona or Winkler, but I didn’t want to do that either, because I really knew very little about them and didn’t believe that I could accurately portray them in that time period, and would likely receive criticism for my inaccuracies. As I said, the book is not autobiographical, and I thought that if it were set outside of Winnipeg, people would be less likely to view it as a memoir.
“The novel is about Mira’s journey from innocence to experience. Ambrosia is defined as “the sweet nectar of the gods.” I thought that was the perfect name for a place that embodies the sweetness of innocence, in particular Mira’s innocence.
“Overall, I believed that a fictitious town would make the story more universal. So, I don’t consider the town of Ambrosia to be a façade, and I hope others don’t either. I wanted to create a work of fiction, and I thought that was the best way to accomplish that goal.”

Finally, I asked Sandy about her married name. How did she end up marrying someone with the name “Rabin” I wondered- and, was this really her first novel? (which I found so hard to believe because it’s so beautifully polished from beginning to end).
Sandy responded: “Rabin is really my married name. Funny you asked about a nom de plume, because my husband often said I should take one. I was never sure if he was serious. As far as I know, it was just shortened from Rabinowitz, but we haven’t talked about it in a while, so I’ll ask him again tomorrow.
“This is my first novel. I think my last short story was in grade six about the Mystery of Cornelia Hilltop — the mystery being that she had a twin, and then I wrote a short story that I sent into Chatelaine when I was about 14 that was rejected. I don’t even remember what that was about. I wrote a poem when Bobbie Kennedy died and sent it to the family, to which they graciously replied, but no novels.
“I know I’ve said already many times that this is not an autobiography, but I did have to get into my 11 and 12 year old head to write the book, and once I did, it just seemed to take off. I often wonder if I could write the same book again, or any other for that matter. I hope I can and will, but once I got going, it just seemed to flow. It was a lot of fun to write.”

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Remis Lecture Group at Gwen Secter Centre attracts large crowds to hear from two well-known speakers

Mayor Scott Gillingham speaking to the Remis Lecture group at the Gwen Secter Centre Thursday, May 16

By BERNIE BELLAN On two successive Thursdays in May (May 16 and 23), the usual fairly small number of attendees at the Remis Lecture Group luncheons more than doubled in size as large numbers of guests came to hear two well-known speakers: Mayor Scott Gillingham (on May 16); and Doctors Manitoba President Dr. Michael Boroditsky (on May 23).

The Remis group is open to anyone to attend, but anyone who is not a regular member of the group is asked to notify in advance that they will be attending by calling 204-291-4362.

I thought it might be interesting to provide readers with snapshots of what both Mayor Gillingham and Dr. Boroditsky had to say, despite my writing for a Jewish newspaper (and website) and trying to think desperately how I could tie in either speaker to a Jewish theme. How about if I mention that the mayor said he really enjoyed the kosher meal provided by the Gwen Secter Centre, which featured kugel as the main dish?

In a separate article I’ll write about Dr. Boroditsky’s talk. (I have posted about his having said that a new association of Manitoba Jewish physicians has been formed. You can read that article at https://jewishpostandnews.ca/faqs/rokmicronews-fp-1/jewish-physicians-in-manitoba-form-association-in-response-to-antisemitism/: )

Scott Gillingham began his remarks by telling the audience that he was born and raised in Brandon, where he honed his skills as a very good hockey player. First elected to Winnipeg City Council in 2014 and reelected in 2018, in 2022 he ran for mayor.

Readers might remember that former mayor Glen Murray had entered that race and was, at first, considered the heavy favourite to win the election.

Gillingham told this amusing story about election night, which was October 26, 2022: Apparently CTV News had called the election in Murray’s favour shortly after the polls had closed at 8:00 pm.

But, as events transpired, CTV was quite wrong, and it wasn’t long before Gillingham took the lead for good. As he noted to the Remis group, “By 8:30 I had lost and won the election all within a half hour.”

Gillingham explained to the audience of 38 that, as this year is the 150th anniversary of Winnipeg’s incorporation as a city, he wanted to give them a brief history of the city.

The first mayor of the city was Francis Cornish, Gillingham noted, elected by a total of 398 people who voted in our city’s very first election. The Gillingham family’s own history of settlement in Manitoba began in 1907, he said, when the first Gillinghams arrived from England, “and headed as far west as they could go until they ran out of money.”

The key event in Winnipeg’s history, he suggested, came when businessman J.H Ashdown convinced the federal government of the day to route the first trans-Canada railway through Winnipeg rather than Selkirk. Ashdown was instrumental in Winnipeg’s quickly building a bridge across the Red River, which turned out to be decisive in the government’s eventual decision. “That kind of vision and action built the city that we love,” Gillingham suggested.

Continuing on the theme of building upon that which has been laid down already by visionaries in the city’s past, the mayor said: “The fortunate thing for me is stepping into this role has afforded me the opportunity to inherit what’s already in place.”

For that, Gillingham thanked the many generations of entire families that have contributed so much to “the health and welfare of this city. Yes, we have challenges,” he admitted… “we have struggles, we have potholes,” but we still have a great city, he insisted.

He pointed to two specific projects in Winnipeg’s history that came about as the result of great vision and determination: the building of the gravity-fed aqueduct from Shoal Lake and of the Winnipeg Floodway. Gillingham also noted former Mayor Stephen Juba’s role in the building of City Hall in 1962 as another example of vision, as was the construction of the Manitoba Legislative Building in an earlier era.

“As we look back over these past 150 years,” Gillingham said, “we realize there’s a lot to inspire us.”

Turning to some of the more immediate problems that continue to fester here (as they do in almost all major urban centres), the mayor admitted “we don’t have enough housing…I’ve challenged our staff to approve 8,000 units of housing in 2024.” (He added that, as of the day he was speaking, 3,500 units had already been approved, so the goal of 8,000 was well within reach.)

He noted, as well, that new census figures for Winnipeg are about to be disclosed “next month” – which means they may already be out by the time this is read, and the anticipated fairly large increase in Winnipeg’s population is only going to add more pressure to build more housing.

As Gillingham put it, “I love my kids, but I don’t want them to live with me forever.”

The mayor also referred to some of the improvements in technology that are underway in the delivery of certain services to the public. He referred specifically to an enhancement to 911 service that will allow anyone calling that number to send a photo to the 911 operator, which should lead to a much better understanding of what type of emergency situation is being talked about. (By the way, Gillingham noted, the very first 999 service – which was the antecedent of the current 911 service, began in Winnipeg, under Mayor Juba, in 1959.)

Gillingham spoke of the need to challenge the Chamber of Commerce to come up “with an actionable set of recommendations which Winnipeg should focus on.”

He noted, as well, that in meeting with business leaders throughout North America, he has learned that they are specifically “interested in Winnipeg – and not Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver, or Calgary” and each time he’s asked them “what it is they’re looking for and how we can provide it in Winnipeg?” Later in his talk he returned to this topic and elaborated on what it is that business leaders are looking for, saying they’re looking for “skilled labour and are we connected to markets?” As well, he noted, many are looking for “green energy and a quality of life for their employees” which, he suggested, Winnipeg has in abundance, with “world class arts, pro sports, universities, a diverse population, and cottage country within an hour and a half.”

At that point the mayor began to field questions from the audience. The first question posed was “Whether, in concentrating on growth for the future, are the needs of the inner city being ignored?”

Gillingham answered that there is currently a major investment in housing in the downtown. “There is $122 million in federal funding” earmarked for downtown housing, he said, of which “$30 million has already been received – which will lead to 600 new units of housing downtown.” He added that there will also be “new spray pads in the north end” this year.

The mayor also noted the creation of a new “concierge service” for anyone wanting to build something, whereby if “you call one number you can correlate all the housing requirements,” rather than having to contact a number of different city departments.

He also mentioned the next “round of funding” from the federal government, which “will focus on transportation infrastructure for rapid transit.”

Someone asked Gillingham to define what the term “affordable housing” actually means?

The mayor answered that it would be “80% of the market rate,” so that if housing is renting for $1,000 then $800 would be affordable. He pointed to new housing that will be going up where the old Public Safety Building once stood. “It will include units for less than $1,000 a month,” he said. “If a builder can include at least six units of affordable housing we’ll give them money to offer those,” he added.

Another question was about the Arlington Bridge and what will happen to it?

The mayor answered that “we’re waiting for a consultant’s report.”

I posed a question about cycling, noting that both the mayor and I are ardent cyclists, but for anyone who wants to take their bike downtown, it is extremely difficult to find a secure are in which to leave it. I suggested that the city ought to take one of the many vacant lots downtown and build a secure (above ground) compound, in which cyclists could leave their bikes. I even proposed to the mayor that it could be called “Gillingham’s Island.” (For anyone under a certain age that reference might be totally lost, but lucky for me the Remis group – and the mayor, are of sufficient age to have got the joke.)

Gillingham did address the issue of bike thefts in the city (and I just had another bike stolen not too long ago), saying that anyone can register their bike for free by going to 529garage.com. It would help police in locating the owner of a stolen bike if it’s recovered.)

The final questions were about Portage and Main. The first questioner wondered why this time around the mayor was in favour of opening up Portage and Main whereas in 2018 he was opposed?

Gillingham responded that “something happened between the plebiscite (whether to open Portage and Main to pedestrian traffic) in 2018 and today that’s shifted people’s attitudes.”

He was also asked “When you open Portage and Main will you be closing the concourse?”

The answer was “No, more information is needed.”

Finally, someone wondered whether the skywalk system could be extended to connect the west side of Portage Avenue to the east side – and thus to the skywalk system which connects east of Main Street.

Gillingham said that “We’re open to the conversation. The only date we have in mind is the reopening of the street at street level.”

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Connecting the Dots: Ari Posner- Meet Ari Posner

Ari Z. Posner, son of Barry and Bebe on the left and Ari P. Posner, son of Gerry and Sherna with the cap on the right

By GERRY POSNER I suppose we are not the only family to have inter-related connections. At least, not in the old days of the shtetl. What I do know is that finding my way through these family relationships took me years to figure out and understand. Recently, the dots got connected once again.

It all started (at least as far back as I can go) when around 1905, one Isaac Posner married one Kayla Shulman. They were living at that time in the same shtetl or at least close to the same shtetl of what was then known as Propoisk (now Slavgorod) in present day Belarus. From this marriage emerged three children: a daughter, Lillian Posner – later Romalis;l a son, Samuel L. Posner; and another son, Solomon Posner. That was simple enough. As it turned out, Issac Posner was an older brother of my grandfather, Herman Posner. Isaac’s wife, Kayla, was the sister of my other grandfather, Harry Shulman. Even that was not terribly complicated. In short, my father’s uncle Issac, married my mother’s aunt Kayla. That marriage linked the Posners to the Shulmans in Round 1.

When Isaac and Kayla’s kids married, a son, Sol, married a woman from Iowa City Iowa, named Rhea Markovitz. Not long after, in December, 1937 a son of Herman Posner (my grandfather) – Samuel R. Posner, (my father), married a woman named Rhea Shulman ( my mother) also from Iowa City, Iowa. She was a daughter to Harry and Anna Shulman of Iowa City. Thus, in Iowa City there were two first cousins – Rhea Shulman and Rhea Markovitz, born less than a year apart and both of whom later married men from Winnipeg, both with the initials SP – one Sol Posner and one Sam Posner. Of course, the marriage of my mother, a Shulman, to my father, a Posner, created Round 2 of the Posners and the Shulmans joining together. Are you still with me?

When, in the course of time, Sol and Rhea and Sam and Rhea began to have children, they created a relationship for their children in what might be considered by some to be almost incestuous. Rhea and Sol had two sons, Barry and Craig (of blessed memory), both of whom were and are likely still known to many readers to this day. My parents had Linda, my brother Michael, and me. We were, and still remain, cousins to Barry to this day. I was, and still am related to Barry and Craig in no less than three ways. Why? First of all, Barry’s father Sol was a first cousin to my father Sam. Secondly, Barry’s father was a first cousin to my mother Rhea. Thirdly, Barry’s mother Rhea was a first cousin to my mother Rhea. So the ties are deep. Confusing as well.

Of course, what solidified these roots even further was the fact that Sam and Rhea, my parents, and Sol and Rhea, Barry and Craig’s parents, all lived for the rest of their lives in Winnipeg. So, there were two S. Posners – three in fact, as Sol had a brother, Samuel L., a pharmacist. But, let’s not get sidetracked. The two Rheas were very close and I suspect there had to be much confusion about these two women with the same name and almost the same age. Moreover, the two families shared similar experiences each summer. That was because Rhea Posner – Barry and Craig’s mother, took her kids to Iowa City to spend part of the holidays with her parents, while my mother – Rhea, would also take my siblings and me to visit her parents in Iowa City, Iowa. My cousin Craig and I were the same age (born one month apart ) and hence spent much time together, both in Winnipeg and Iowa City. I never could quite get the picture as to why I saw him in both locations. All I knew was that he was my cousin.

Well, we all grew up with this similar history and genetic connections. When Barry married the former Bebe Melmed, three kids followed. The eldest son was Ari Z. Posner, who grew up in Montreal – where Barry and Bebe lived. When I married Sherna Bernbaum, we also had three kids, the eldest of whom was Ari P. Posner. The fact that these boys had the same name – Ari, was more of a fluke as they were not named for the same person. Oddly, (or maybe not given the past history) Ari Z’s middle name is Zvi, the same name as my son, only in the case of my son, Zvi is his Hebrew middle name. Ari Z. is about 5 years older than Ari P. That difference is about the age difference between Barry and me.

Recently, and to my delight, my son Ari had a good reason to go to L.A. to receive a music award and, to my greater delight, he expressed an interest in seeing the other Ari, whom he had never met. L.A. is where the other Ari Posner resides. As it turns out, their names were not the only dot that connected them. Both have made a career in the arts, Ari Z has done it in writing, creating and producing for TV primarily – and has been very successful in his field. Ari P. is a composer. He is not that far removed from the other Ari since he often writes music for TV in the US and Canada.

I think of grandfather Herman Posner and his brother Isaac. Would they not be amazed at this connection? Or better yet, what would my great-grandfather Shmerya and wife Yudasha have to say about two of their descendants now – approximately 170 years after their births, meeting and reinforcing the family ties. As much as so much has changed, this little bit of Posner history is the same.

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New website for Israelis interested in moving to Canada

By BERNIE BELLAN A new website, titled “Orvrim to Canada” (https://www.ovrimtocanada.com/ovrim-en) has been receiving hundreds of thousands of visits, according to Michal Harel, operator of the website.
In an email sent to jewishpostandnews.ca Michal explained the reasons for her having started the website:
“In response to the October 7th events, a group of friends and I, all Israeli-Canadian immigrants, came together to launch a new website supporting Israelis relocating to Canada. “Our website, https://www.ovrimtocanada.com/, offers a comprehensive platform featuring:

  • Step-by-step guides for starting the immigration process
  • Settlement support and guidance
  • Community connections and networking opportunities
  • Business relocation assistance and expert advice
  • Personal blog sharing immigrants’ experiences and insights

“With over 200,000 visitors and media coverage from prominent Israeli TV channels and newspapers, our website has already made a significant impact in many lives.”
A quick look at the website shows that it contains a wealth of information, almost all in Hebrew, but with an English version that gives an overview of what the website is all about.
The English version also contains a link to a Jerusalem Post story, published this past February, titled “Tired of war? Canada grants multi-year visas to Israelis” (https://www.jpost.com/israel-news/article-787914#google_vignette) That story not only explains the requirements involved for anyone interested in moving to Canada from Israel, it gives a detailed breakdown of the costs one should expect to encounter.

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