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How Norman Stein, a long-time teacher in Winnipeg Jewish schools transitioned into an enventful career in the music business

In May 2021 I began what was supposed to have been a two-part story about the life of a man, Norman Stein, who left an indelible impression on so many Jewish students during his teaching career in the Jewish school system, which began in the 1950s and ended in 1967.
But – I’ve long been a procrastinator; it’s taken me over two years to return to Stein’s story.
Now 91, Stein left Winnipeg many years ago, but he still recalls his years teaching here – at the Talmud Torah, Joseph Wolinsky Collegiate, and the Rosh Pina Hebrew School, with great fondness.

When I published that initial story about Stein’s teaching career, which I began by delving into his childhood growing up first on Pritchard Avenue, later on Redwood, and finally on St. Anthony, I attempted to transcribe a line in Yiddish that I had recorded Stein as saying, but I mangled that line.
Here again is the anecdote Stein related about one time when he had wandered off on a Friday evening into the Ukrainian Labour Temple on the corner of Burrows and McGregor:
“Anyway, one Erev Shabbes – I was three or four, I snuck into the theatre and the manager asked me who I was looking for?
“I told him I was looking for my mommy. He said, ‘You just sit here’, and the next thing I know I’m watching the Priscilla Lane sisters playing tennis in their white shorts. I remembered that.
“The manager called me out and said, ‘Your mother’s here now.’ And I wondered, how could that be? because my mother doesn’t even know I’m here. I go out and there’s my mother and Mrs. Rubinfield, who ran a grocery store a few doors down, and had a pay phone – which they avoided using on Shabbes – but they called the police and the police asked, ‘Is there a favourite place he likes to go?’ and my mother said I like to go to the movies, so the police said: Maybe he went to the Labour Temple.’”

As Stein explained what happened next, when he was confronted outside the Labour Temple by his mother, Mrs. Rubinfield, and a “Bobby” who was with them, in addition to being scolded for wandering into the movie theatre, the Bobby added: “And you didn’t even pay”, to which, Stein said he answered (and remember, this is a four-year-old) – and this is the line I got completely wrong: “M’tur nisht trugen kein gelt oif Shabbes” – “You mustn’t carry any money on Shabbes.”

It may have taken me 26 months for me to correct that adulteration of the Yiddish language, but when I contacted Stein again recently to ask him whether he’d be willing to continue with the story of his Winnipeg years, the first thing he told me is how miserably I had failed in trying to transcribe that line.
Despite that very grave error, however, Stein did tell me that he quite enjoyed the May 2021 interview piece. I told him that piece also evoked a very strong and warm response from many of his former students and that many of them had told me they were very much looking forward to the sequel.
I ended the first part of my story about Stein by noting that, in 1966, he was involved in a very serious car accident when his car was rear ended by a truck. He said, “That’s a period I don’t remember well… I was in a coma for some time. I was a nervous wreck. My doctor suggested I go to some place relaxing, so I went to Hollywood.”

Thus began the next chapter of Norman Stein’s life, which we now take up here:
Stein was working for RCA Records in the A&R (artists & repertoire) department. One day a young, barefoot Black girl came in with a demo tape. She said her name was Natalie Cole (daughter of Nat King Cole).
Stein asked her why she didn’t take her demo tape to Capitol Records, since that’s where Nat King Cole had a recording contract? “She said she didn’t want to be attached to his apron strings,” Stein explained.
Apparently though, Natalie Cole was upset with Stein “and she stormed out of there.” I asked Stein whether there were any other memorable moments from his time in California, and he mentioned that he was still in the United States during the time of the Six-Day War in June 1967.
“The Israeli Philharmonic was touring in the States at the time and I did some PR for them. There was a celebratory concert at the Hollywood Bowl and the guest artist was Jack Benny.”

While he was still in California, Rabbi Witty, who was the then-principal of the Talmud Torah and Joseph Wolinsky Collegiate had phoned Stein and had asked him whether he would be prepared to resume teaching the humanities courses that he had taught to students in Grades 7-12 at JWC for years, including courses in the history of music and the history of art, philosophy, and library science.
I remember taking Stein’s course on the history of art. Part of the course was devoted to a study of architecture. Stein recalled how enthusiastic so many of the students in my particular class were when he gave us an assignment to “take photographs of sites in Winnipeg that would be comparable to some in Ancient Greece by the way they photographed.”
Stein did resume teaching those courses in the fall of 1967, but when he asked to take a leave of absence to attend various music conventions, Tamara Wiseman, who was the vice-principal of the Talmud Torah at the time thought that “it wasn’t fair to the students that I had to leave town to go to conventions to pursue a career in music,” and without even being given a chance to say good bye to his students, Stein was told that he should just “leave.”

I said to Stein that I had heard from someone by the name of John Einarson, who is arguably Manitoba’s foremost music historian – and who gave a brilliant presentation during a recent Jewish Heritage Centre event titled “The Soundtracks of our Lives” about Jewish musicians in Winnipeg through the years, that Einarson had worked for Stein at a time when Stein was selling records out of the back of Strain’s Camera Store on Portage Avenue.
I asked Stein whether he began doing that around the time his teaching career ended (in 1967)?
“We couldn’t get into Polo Park (because Polo Park wouldn’t allow a record store at that time) so we opened in the back of Strain’s (which was owned by the late Manny Wiseman. One of Manny Wiseman’s sons, Bob, went on to become one of the founding members of Blue Rodeo.)
“People were only going up to the camera department and we rarely got anyone coming into our section,” Stein observed.

In 1969, Stein made the move that was eventually to lead to a 10-year period when he achieved his greatest recognition in Winnipeg – with the opening of the famed Opus 69 record store.
“There was space above Clifford’s Ladies Wear “(at 412 Portage Avenue, the corner of Kennedy and Portage), Stein continued. (Cliffords was owned by Johnny Pollock. One of Pollocks’ sons, Harold, went on to become a renowned classical guitarist.)
Thus began Opus 69. Around the same time Stein became host of a nightly program on CKY FM called “Now Flower.” Randy Moffat was the owner of CKY at the time and he was so impressed with the program – and the number of different recordings that Stein was able to play that CKY “even put a console in Opus 69 with live broadcasting by a DJ between noon and 6 pm.”

I remarked that I remember well that second floor location for Opus 69 and how popular it was.
Stein suggested “that small location became the most popular record store in Winnipeg.”
In a 2016 article for the Free Press, John Einarson wrote about the huge impression Opus 69 made on music fans in Winnipeg when it first opened: “Once Opus 69 opened in the spring of 1969 on Kennedy Street just south of Portage, above an optometrist’s shop, it became my destination for music. Opus 69 specialized almost exclusively in rock music and had the most extensive selection in the city, including imported recordings, as well as listening stations to sample before you purchased.
“I remember the first time my friend and I did that, never having used headphones before,” recalls Grant Edwards.“We were busy yelling to each other until one of the workers asked us to please stop yelling as no one else in the store was listening to headphones.”
Unfortunately, while owner Norman Stein had great taste in records, his business acumen was wanting, and when Opus 69 moved to the more spacious ground-floor store on Kennedy north of Portage in the early ’70s it was under new ownership. However, it continued to boast a wide selection and knowledgeable staff.”
Around the same time that Stein was running Opus 69 he also had a company called “Campus Records Distributors,” which sold records to university bookstores across Canada. Campus Records was eventually bought by Deutsche Grammaphone.
As John Einarson noted, “Opus 69 moved to a new location on Kennedy Street (across from what used to be the Town and Country), but by the early 1970s Norman Stein was no longer the owner.” (He told me, during our interview, that he didn’t want to get into what happened with the business. Suffice to say that, by 1979, Opus was in receivership. Stein had long been out of the picture when that happened.)

Stein said that he remained in Winnipeg with his ailing mother until she passed, in 1980. Shortly thereafter, he moved to Vancouver. He did talk about his career in Vancouver, but I said to him that I preferred to keep the focus on Winnipeg.
Before our conversation ended though, Stein said he wanted to tell me one more story from his childhood – when he was about four. The story had to do with the quaint Jewish custom of “shlogn kapores,” during which on Erev Yom Kippur a chicken (or a rooster) is waved over one’s head and one’s sins are transferred to said chicken or rooster.
Here’s how Stein described how the ritual was practiced in his home – and what happened one year: “You have a tablecloth over a table, you take the live rooster and swing it around your head and say certain prayers from a Siddur (prayer book). When you do that you put the live rooster under the table, then you take it to the shochet for Yom Tov.
“Well, this rooster kept pecking at my wrists and hurting me but I was holding on tight, so I threw the rooster under the table. When I pulled it out, it had a limp neck. It was dead. I bawled my head off because it meant the rooster could not have absorbed all my sins. My mother was upset because she didn’t have a tarnigol (Hebrew for rooster) for Yom Tov.”
I asked: “Because it wasn’t slaughtered properly?”
Stein replied: “How could it be slaughtered? I choked it to death. It had an overdose of sins!”

I said to him that so many of his former students offered reminiscences, both in our newspaper and in the Facebook group “1950s and 60s Winnipeg Jewish Students”, about his having been their teacher, that I wondered whether he would be amenable to hearing from former students.
I mentioned to him that one of the contributors to that Facebook group was David Steinberg. I asked Stein whether he had ever had Steinberg as a student? That led him to tell this story:
“When I was teaching in the Rosh Pina Hebrew School the synagogue youth group had socials and David performed his jokes on stage. As I was teaching him, he knew, as an opportunist, that I had some connections with Chicago. He wanted to go to Second City – the famous comedy thing. He could not get in, but he could if he was a yeshiva student. So I wrote a letter to the yeshiva on his behalf and he got accepted into the Hebrew Theological College (from where Stein had also graduated) and, after that the Rosh Yeshiva said to me: ’So where is your David Steinberg?’ He disappeared after a while and Second City had rented in the Jewish community centre across the street from the yeshiva. I never saw him again until one year – it was around 1970, I went to Greenwich Village and saw a poster for a folk music group. At the bottom it said ‘opening act: David Steinberg.’
“A door opened and who comes out but David Steinberg? I said ‘Dudi?’ and he said, ‘Uh, your face is a little familiar…Oh yes, Norman, here’s my business card and we’ll have coffee in my private apartment ….and I never went to his apartment.”

I asked Stein whethe he would be amenable to my putting his phone number into this article so that former students could get in touch with him.
Although each time I’ve phoned Stein, we’ve had very pleasant conversations, I’m not sure whether he would have the stamina to engage in phone convesations on a regular basis with former students. Still, if he’s tired or preoccupied doing something else, I’m sure he would let anyone know. And, even though he says he has trouble remembering things, I certainly didn’t find that to be the case. Stein did say that he wouldn’t have any objection to my putting his phone number into this article, so here it is: 1-604-269-0961. Remember, he’s in Vancouver, so bear in mind the time zone that he’s in if you do plan on calling him.

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Chuck & Carol Faiman – a “Fien” team

Carol & Chuck Faiman

By GERRY POSNER Take two Jewish kids – a boy and a girl from the north end of Winnipeg, have them grow up in the 1950s, and you would probably be well familiar with their following the well-worn path of marriage, raising a family, professional success, and a continued connection with Manitoba. That pattern would well describe Charles or, as he is better known – Chuck, and Carol Faiman.

Carol was a Fien, daughter of Sophie and Harry Fien. Chuck was the son of Bessie and Max Faiman. Carol was a graduate of places well known to Winnipeggers, as in Champlain and Luxton Schools, St. John’s High School and the University of Manitoba, where she received a B.A. Later, she did post-graduate work in vocational rehabilitation counselling. As well, Carol has a well-known passion for art, stemming in no small part from classes she took in art history at the University of Winnipeg and later at the Cleveland Museum of Art.

Chuck’s parents, Max and Bessie Faiman, were part of a core group who founded the Talmud Torah Hebrew Day School, which Chuck attended. He was also a student at Machray School and, like so many other north enders, St. John’s High School. Hard though it may be to believe, he graduated high school at 15. By 22, he already had an M.D. degree.

He trained in endocrinology at the University of Manitoba Medical School, the University of Illinois, and later at the Mayo Clinic. Returning to Winnipeg in 1968, Chuck Faiman’s career took off as he became a Professor of Medicine and Physiology and later the head of the Endocrinology Laboratory. During his tenure at the hospital, one year Chuck took a sabbatical leave with his family at the Weizmann Institute in Rehovot, Israel.

In 1992, Chuck Faiman accepted an offer to become Chairman of the Department of Endocrinology at the Cleveland Clinic. At that time, all the family knew about Cleveland was that it was in Ohio and that they had a baseball team there. Five years later, the Faimans became US citizens and, to this day, hold dual citizenship. During the time when Chuck was growing the department, he had the opportunity to look after heads of state, crown princes and the Sheikh of the United Arab Emirates, where he also provided medical consultations and teaching. (It occurs to me that given Chuck’s connection, maybe he can persuade the Sheikh or his colleagues to consider taking into The United Arab Emirates some of the people floundering in Gaza.)

Chuck was an active player in his field, and is still involved in teaching and as a consultant in the department. He was honoured to receive an award as a Master of the American College of Endocrinology.
Carol also had careers, both in Winnipeg and in Cleveland. In Winnipeg, she worked as a vocational rehabilitation counsellor and ergonomist for the Society for Manitobans with Disabilities. She did not miss a beat when she moved to Cleveland, where she worked in physical therapy at the Cleveland Clinic with patients suffering from occupational injuries. She is now retired.

Now, not be overlooked is that the Faimans are a team. They just celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary in June 2023. They have three sons, all of whom were raised in Winnipeg: Barton, an MBA graduate of the Asper School of Business and his wife Michelle are still residents of Winnipeg. Gregg, a graduate of the University of Manitoba Medical School, trained with his father in endocrinology at the Cleveland Clinic – sort of a medical version of Gordie and Mark Howe and Bobby and Brett Hull in the hockey world. He and his wife Karrie have three children. Matthew, another U of M Medical School graduate, trained at the Cleveland Clinic in Internal Medicine. He and his wife Beth have one son. All the Faimans remain staunch Blue Bomber and Jets fans.

The Faimans were, and are still, very active in their community, both in their synagogue and other areas. For those readers who can go back that far, Chuck Faiman was largely involved in the amalgamation of the Talmud Torah and the Peretz Schools, not to overlook his term as president of Joseph Wolinsky Collegiate. That active participation continued in Cleveland with the Cleveland Federation.
Carol served on the Board of Rosh Pina Synagogue, as it was then known, and then in Cleveland as a board member at Park Synagogue. Moreover, Carol initiated a programme, which she ran for 14 years, for the National Council of Jewish Women at the Cleveland Museum of Art. For over 15 years the Faimans have also been regular attendees at courses offered by the Siegal College of Jewish Studies, a division of Case Western University.

What also keeps the Faimans very happy is the renewal of their Winnipeg roots each year when they return to the family cottage at West Hawk Lake. There is also a Winnipeg reunion of a different sort each winter in Florida. Likely what sets the Faimans apart from many other people who have moved away is that, although they do maintain strong connections to their history and friends back in Winnipeg, they have integrated well into the Cleveland community, even at an older age when they moved there.

So, for anyone who knows them, the recognition and success the Faimans have earned is well deserved.

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Debut novel from Montreal’s Ben Gonshar follows in the mould of Phillip Roth

Ben Gonshor/cover of The Book of Izzy

Ben Gonshor is an award-winning writer, actor, musician and entrepreneur. His play, “When Blood Ran Red,” won the David and Clare Rosen Memorial International Play Contest at the National Yiddish Theatre in New York. 
Now, with his debut novel, The Book of Izzy, Gonshor follows the likes of Phillip Roth in how The Book of Izzy is a captivating modern take on Jewish cultural touchstones and heritage.
“The Book of Izzy is a story about a man trying to find his own place between two worlds as he reckons with letting go of his painful past to focus on creating a fulfilling present. In the process, Izzy embarks on a fanciful, romantic voyage that not only forces him to come to terms with his Jewish identity, but to also confront the mystifying bird that holds the key to preserving the past and ensuring the survival of his heritage.
“Izzy is a writer who’s found himself in a series of downward spirals; between his recently failed love life, his faltering career as both a wedding planner and a novelist, and an ever-looming mental breakdown, he’s at his wit’s end. 
“Filled to the brim with wit, candid discussions about navigating life with a mental illness, and an engaging cast of characters, The Book of Izzy is a captivating modern take on Jewish cultural touchstones and heritage.”

Following is an excerpt from The Book of Izzy:
“Hi, I’m Sue-Ann,” the twenty-something waitress said to me, extending a hand forthrightly and with the other lifted a shot glass, clinked it with Luba’s and downed it with a “L’khaim” that made you pay attention.
“Doubtful,” I thought to myself and immediately began calculating that the combination of brown bottle curls and olive skin combined with breasts and hips that curved in a way my bubbe would have approved of, didn’t add up to Sue-Ann. Then again, the piercing blue eyes and nose that would have survived a Gestapo roundup, suggested I could have been dead wrong.
I wasn’t.
“Sue-Ann, shmuann!” Luba admonished her, then looked to me while pouring herself another shot. “Her name’s Soreh,” she said while pointing insistently to her new friend then drank, ripped a piece of bread from the loaf and tossed it in her mouth and proceeded to introduce me.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t get that?” Sue-Ann said re Luba’s unintelligible attempt to say my name in mid-chew.
“I’m Isaiah,” I introduced myself. “Friends call me Izzy.”
“Itzikl,” Luba offered with a giggle.
“ALubable!” Sue Ann said in that patronizing way common among dog-lovers when inquiring about a breed they’ve never seen around the run. “And so Jewish…I like that,” she purred then knowingly struck a pose that emphasized her personalities, while simultaneously resting her right palm on the flesh of its adjoining hip that now introduced itself into the conversation, teasing a hint of color that I imagined made for something interesting further below. She then capped it off with a smile that revealed two perfectly formed dimples on either side, the kind so charming as to inspire a Rumshinksy tune.
“You didn’t drink your shot,” she reproached me playfully, pointing at the offending glass on the table that I knew better than to touch. “How about a beer?” she suggested with pride, “we brew in house.”
“Sure,” I answered, still somewhat sensory overloaded. “But nothing too hoppy, I’m not into drinking flowers.”
“Double IPA coming right up!” she said, clocking my narishkeit then brushed her hand expertly on my shoulder as she turned to leave. “You’re right, he’s cute,” she said to Luba, then winked in my direction before heading off toward the bar.
“Let me guess,” I began to ask Luba, who looked at me with a Cheshire grin on her face that told me everything I needed to know: “She’s Leah,” I said, referencing the lead female character in The Dybbuk.
Her giggle this time was more of an outburst of joy, as she clapped her hands near to her face and rocked back and forth happily, like another bet she made was about to pay off.
“Where’d you find her?” I asked, gazing in the direction of the bar where Sue-Ann and her pals were huddled and looking right back at us.
“I didn’t, she found me,” Luba answered and waved in their direction. “I like her. We’ve been spending a lot of time together.”
“Clearly,” I said and returned my attention back to the table. “She’s an actress?”
“So why is she playing Leah?” I asked somewhat incredulously. Mind you, not that that it was any of my business but, knowing full well the chops required for the part, it seemed a fair question.
“She read for me, she feels the character deeply.”
“She speaks Yiddish?”
“Nope,” Luba answered again, with not an iota of concern in her voice.
“I don’t get it,” I said and continued, dumfounded: “You want me to play opposite someone who doesn’t speak Yiddish and on top of that you don’t even know if she can act?”
“I don’t know if she can act?!” she guffawed, repeating my question back to me aloud as if to make me hear how dumb it sounded. “What she just did naturally in that moment,” she continued, now more earnestly while gesturing with her finger in a circular motion as if to summarize a scene that had just played out at the table, “is more than some actors learn to do with a lifetime of training.”
“What do you mean?”
She didn’t answer, but cocked her head to the side instead and threw me a look like, again, I should have thought before I spoke.
“What?!” I said incredulously and could feel my cheeks starting to flush.
“She had you mesmerized,” she answered with a smile then drank another shot and tossed a piece of bread in her mouth.
“No she didn’t,” I lied.
Luba said nothing as Sue-Ann had now returned with my beer, a basket of gluten free tortilla chips and an assortment of cheeses, each of which she proceeded to describe as an award winning artisanal creation sourced from her friends at farms nearby, without specifying whether the pals she was referring to were the farmers or their animals cuz these days, you know, it could go either way. Regardless, as she side-straddled a chair that she’d pulled in from a nearby table and invited us to dig in, I thought better than to comment on the fact that without a quality goat on the cutting board, which admittedly was artfully presented along with an assortment of dried fruit and a delightfully sweet onion tartinade, what she put on the table was a whole lot of lactose intolerance.

The Book of Izzy

By Ben Gonshor

AOS Publishing

Publication date: May 2024

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Online Casinos: Why Are They So Interesting?

If you’re someone who likes to spend most of their time online, you’ve probably come across different types of entertainment. One form that gives you a good adrenaline bump is online casinos. Like with any kind of entertainment, there are good sides and bad sides to it.

The majority of online casinos are not expensive, and there are reasons they’re so popular and becoming more popular each day. Of course, some casinos offer 150 free spins for $1 deposit, but there are some things you should watch out for as well.

Good Sides of Gambling

Before we jump into the world of online casinos, let’s discuss gambling in general. Can we really say that there are good sides to gambling? Why not make it a little debate, let’s see what are the arguments for gambling in general:

  • It’s entertaining: There’s no doubt that it’s entertaining because you can feel the adrenaline of uncertainty and the rush when you’re about to win something. It can be a good game.
  • There are economic benefits: Of course, if you do win something, the type of game and the type of stakes can be different, so the economic benefits can be quite good. That’s a good argument for it.

It’s social: You can talk at most games, whether it’s a bet on a soccer match, a poker game, blackjack, or roulette, you’ll get a chance to socialize and communicate with others playing the same game.
Skill showcasing: Apart from spins where you’re just waiting to see if you hit the jackpot, some games require more than luck. Poker takes considerable skill to win, and you can be that hotshot who keeps winning and wins big.
Can be charitable: It’s not uncommon for the proceeds from different gambling games to go to some charity. So, even though it might be something where you can lose your money, you can find solace in knowing that it will go to a good cause.
Bad Sides of Gambling
So, we know that it might not even be necessary to write about this because you can read it almost anywhere, and you can hear it almost anywhere. These bad sides are very real and they will always be something to consider before participating in any gambling activity:
Harmful and addictive: A major argument for why it’s bad is the fact that it can cause addiction. The rush supplies your brain with enormous dopamine levels and this is how you become addicted to that feeling and become willing to do anything to get it again.
Exploiting weakness: Because of the addiction, a gambling person statistically loses more often than not, and this causes a need to try to win again which is a kind of exploitation of the financial weakness gamblers are destined to experience.
Gambling consequences: It’s all a chain of consequences, the addiction and the harm it causes, and further exploitation leads to an increase in crime, and other societal factors suffer the consequences.
Regulations and challenges: There’s an issue in regulating gambling because there are always loopholes in laws, and it’s difficult to maintain continuity to prevent some forms of gambling from reaching the wider public.
Uncertainty: It’s unpredictable because it’s largely based on chance. Of course, you’re going to use some skill when playing Texas Holdem, but there’s still a large chance you’ll lose unless all the other players fold.
Why Online Casinos Become More Popular Each Day
Online casinos are becoming more and more popular because they are extremely convenient. You can play any game online. Just type it into a search engine and you can pick your favorite casino game from your chair and play.
Online casinos almost always have some kind of promotion or bonus like free spins and welcome bonuses. They’re accessible all the time, every hour of every day of every week, etc. You’ll remain anonymous, and your privacy will be respected.
The main thing is that there’s global access to online casinos, you can go online and play casino games wherever you are. But, it also provides ample possibilities for players to practice their skills and learn more things about how to play games such as Texas Holdem.
What to Watch Out For in Online Casinos?
There are a few things you can always check before you engage in online casinos. If they’re transparent about their terms and conditions, and they include the possibility to see their licensing, you can rest assured that it’s safe to play games there.
However, it’s also good to look at possible payment options, different security measures they have, etc.
There are good and bad sides to gambling, it all depends on the individual. When it comes to online gambling and casinos, they’re fun and convenient, but you can never be careful enough when playing their games.

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