(JTA) — Grigory Kanovich, a Lithuanian-born Jew and award winning author who endeavored to tell the story of his people despite Soviet pressure, died on Friday at 93 in his home in Tel Aviv.
Kanovich’s repertoire includes more than 30 plays and screenplays, a dozen novels and several collections of poems and short stories, almost all of which are devoted to stories of Lithuanian Jews.
Kanovich was born in 1929 in the shtetl of Janova, an almost entirely Jewish village just north of Kaunas, which was the capital of independent Lithuania in the interwar period. In his youth, the city was home to over 3,000 Jews, 80% of its population. There were hundreds of Jewish-owned shops, a Jewish bank and several synagogues and Jewish schools. Over 2,100 of Janova’s Jews were murdered in a series of massacres in the summer of 1941.
Karnovich’s family were among the lucky ones and escaped during the brief period of Soviet Occupation in between the Russian-German non-aggression pact in 1939 and Germany’s invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941. The family went east through Latvia and deeper into Soviet-controlled Central Asia, where they rode out the war.
When the war ended, Kanovich returned to the region of his youth to study at the University of Vilnius, but the world he knew there was forever gone. From as early as 1949, he began to put his thoughts about that loss down onto paper, both eulogizing the world of Lithuania Jewry and documenting the new Soviet Jewish reality.
Though he wrote largely in Russian, his works weaved the Talmudic thought of Lithuania’s yeshivas with the Yiddish wit that remained a part of Soviet comedy long after the Holocaust.
“Kanovich wrote about the fate of the Jewish people, about their relationship with Lithuanian and Russian culture. At the center of his works is the ‘little man,’ who stubbornly opposes evil and for the author embodies a person in general,” Wolfgang Kazak, a German Slavicist, once said of Kanovich’s work.
Kanovich’s first trilogy of novels, written between 1974 and 1979, and based on short stories he wrote in 1959 and 1967, was written through the eyes of a young yeshiva student navigating the Holocaust.
“Kanovich wrote about tragedy, but about the tragedy of people who, even in the face of inevitable death, did not lose either their dignity or a sense of belonging to their people and their civilization,” wrote Vitaly Portnikov, a Ukrainian journalist and editor, in a tribute for Radio Svoboda, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Russian service. “He took us back to biblical times, to the times of parables and prophets. We, his readers, felt human, we felt strong. We felt like we were in flight,”
The themes of Kanovich’s work, such as nostalgia for a past steeped in religiosity and struggle against assimilation, limited the reach of his work in the Soviet Union; it was only permitted to be published within the Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic, where he lived. Still, it became beloved by Jews throughout the Soviet Union. After the fall of the Iron Curtain, Kanovich was briefly elected president of the Jewish community in newly-independent Lithuania, but like so many other Eastern European Jews, he chose to immigrate to Israel in the 1990s. There he kept writing, continuing to tell the story of the Lithuanian shtetl, with work being published as recently as 2019.
“He was a stranger to Russian writers because he wrote about Jews. And he was a stranger to Jewish writers, because he wrote about those Jews whom Soviet literature did not want to know and notice – about the Jews of the Book and deed, about Jews who not only were not ashamed of their origin, but also did not consider themselves ‘little brothers,’ did not want to please the ‘big brother,’ tell him stupid jokes and share cooking recipes,” Portnikov wrote.
After the fall of the Soviet Union, Kanovich was a recipient of the Israel Writers Union Prize and the Commander’s Cross of the Order of the Grand Duke of Lithuania Gediminas — one of Lithuania’s highest honors — and was named the Laureate of the Prize of the Government of Lithuania in the field of culture and art. He is survived by his two sons and wife Olga.
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Phyllis Pollock died at home Sunday September 3, 2023 in Winnipeg, after a courageous lifetime battle with cancer.
Phyllis was a mother of four: Gary (Laura), daughter Randi, Steven (deceased in 2010) (Karen), and Robert. Phyllis also had two grandchildren: Lauren and Quinn.
Born in Fort Frances, Ontario on February 7, 1939, Phyllis was an only child to Ruby and Alex Lerman. After graduating high school, Phyllis moved to Winnipeg where she married and later divorced Danny Pollock, the father of her children. She moved to Beverly Hills in 1971, where she raised her children.
Phyllis had a busy social life and lucrative real estate career that spanned over 50 years, including new home sales with CoastCo. Phyllis was the original sales agent for three buildings in Santa Monica, oceanfront: Sea Colony I, Sea Colony II, and Sea Colony. She was known as the Sea Colony Queen. She worked side by side with her daughter Randi for about 25 years – handling over 600 transactions, including sales and leases within the three phases of Sea Colony alone.
Phyllis had more energy than most people half her age. She loved entertaining, working in the real estate field, meeting new and interesting people everyday no matter where she went, and thrived on making new lifelong friends. Phyllis eventually moved to the Sea Colony in Santa Monica where she lived for many years before moving to Palm Desert, then Winnipeg.
After battling breast cancer four times in approximately 20 years, she developed metastatic Stage 4 lung cancer. Her long-time domestic partner of 27 years, Joseph Wilder, K.C., was the love of her life. They were never far apart. They traveled the world and went on many adventures during their relationship. During her treatment, Phyllis would say how much she missed work and seeing her clients. Joey demonstrated amazing strength, love, care, and compassion for Phyllis as her condition progressed. He was her rock and was by her side 24/7, making sure she had the best possible care. Joey’s son David was always there to support Phyllis and to make her smile. Joey’s other children, Sheri, Kenny, Joshua and wife Davina, were also a part of her life. His kids would Facetime Phyllis and include her during any of their important functions. Phyllis loved Joey’s children as if they were her own.
Thank you to all of her friends and family who were there to support her during these difficult times. Phyllis is now, finally, pain free and in a better place. She was loved dearly and will be greatly missed. Interment took place in Los Angeles.
Gwen Centre Creative Living Centre celebrates 35th anniversary
By BERNIE BELLAN Over 100 individuals gathered at the Gwen Secter Centre on Tuesday evening, July 18 – under the big top that serves as the venue for the summer series of outdoor concerts that is now in its third year at the centre.
The occasion was the celebration of the Gwen Secter Centre’s 35th anniversary. It was also an opportunity to honour the memory of Sophie Shinewald, who passed away at the age of 106 in 2019, but who, as recently as 2018, was still a regular attendee at the Gwen Secter Centre.
As Gwen Secter Executive Director Becky Chisick noted in her remarks to the audience, Sophie had been volunteering at the Gwen Secter Centre for years – answering the phone among other duties. Becky remarked that Sophie’s son, Ed Shinewald, had the phone number for the Gwen Secter Centre stored in his phone as “Mum’s work.”
Remarks were also delivered by Raquel Dancho, Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St. Paul, who was the only representative of any level of government in attendance. (How times have changed: I remember well the steadfast support the former Member of the Legislature for St. John’s, Gord Mackintosh, showed the Gwen Secter Centre when it was perilously close to being closed down. And, of course, for years, the area in which the Gwen Secter Centre is situated was represented by the late Saul Cherniack.)
Sophie Shinewald’s granddaughter, Alix (who flew in from Chicago), represented the Shinewald family at the event. (Her brother, Benjamin, who lives in Ottawa, wasn’t able to attend, but he sent a pre-recorded audio message that was played for the audience.)
Musical entertainment for the evening was provided by a group of talented singers, led by Julia Kroft. Following the concert, attendees headed inside to partake of a sumptuous assortment of pastries, all prepared by the Gwen Secter culinary staff. (And, despite my asking whether I could take a doggy bag home, I was turned down.)
Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station
This is a developing story.
(JTA) — Palestinian gunmen killed four people and wounded four in a terror attack at a gas station near the West Bank settlement of Eli, the Israeli army reported.
An Israeli civilian returning fire at the scene of the attack on Tuesday killed one of the attackers, who emerged from a vehicle, and two others fled.
Kan, Israel’s public broadcaster, said one of those wounded was in serious condition. The gunmen, while in the vehicle, shot at a guard post at the entry to the settlement, and then continued to the gas station which is also the site of a snack bar. A nearby yeshiva went into lockdown.
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced plans to convene a briefing with top security officials within hours of the attack. Kan reported that there were celebrations of the killing in major West Bank cities and in the Gaza Strip, initiated by terrorist groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Hamas said the shooting attack Tuesday was triggered by the Jenin raid.
The shooting comes as tensions intensify in the West Bank. A day earlier, Israeli troops raiding the city of Jenin to arrest accused terrorists killed five people.
The Biden administration spoke out over the weekend against Israel’s plans to build 4,000 new housing units for Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also finalized plans to transfer West Bank building decisions to Bezalel Smotrich, the extremist who is the finance minister. Smotrich has said he wants to limit Palestinian building and expand settlement building.
Kan reported that the dead terrorist was a resident of a village, Urif, close to Huwara, the Palestinian town where terrorists killed two Israeli brothers driving through in February. Settlers retaliated by raiding the village and burning cars and buildings.
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