Brenda Gurvey — A woman who wants to give back

My Story...

Brenda was born in Toronto on August 14, 1958. Her parents Freda and William Goldstein were thrilled with their new daughter as she was the youngest of four children and the only girl. Her three older brothers are Eddy, born in 1953, Stanley, born in 1954, and Marvin, born in 1957. Her father William was born in Poland in 1924 and her mother Freda was born in Russia in 1925. William survived the Holocaust, but his parents and siblings were not so fortunate.

In 1941, when he was 16 years old, William left his hometown of Chylin, Poland, with his cousin Shimon to join the Polish Army. Once the army was defeated, William joined the Russian Army. When the war was over, William immigrated to Kapuskasing, Ontario and moved to Toronto in 1950. Given the choice between Winnipeg and Toronto, he chose Toronto after hearing about Winnipeg's cold winters.

Arriving in Toronto, William worked for his future brother-in-law Max Gross delivering meat to customers on his bicycle. It was at that time that he met Freda, his basherta, who had moved to Toronto in the 1930s. William and Freda married and worked together running the Forest Hill Meat Market.

Brenda's fondest memories of her life growing up were of the Jewish holidays. Her mother made gefilte fish and Brenda recalls the chopping of the fish and all the hard work that went into making the holidays so special. She also lovingly remembers her Auntie Sarah (Mima Sarah) attending these festivities. Mima Sarah was her mother's oldest sister and on Fridays, Brenda and her brother Marvin walked over to Mima Sarah's house from school for lunch and every Friday, they were treated to hotdogs and french fries. Mima Sarah and her daughter Esther also took Brenda to the Canadian National Exhibition in Toronto, which was a big treat for a young girl.

Brenda's family was enmeshed in Yiddishkeit and each one of the children was called by their Yiddish name.

In 1972, Freda and William went to Israel to meet his cousin Shimon with whom William had escaped from Poland. William and Shimon had separated when they left the Russian Army. Neither of them thought the other was still alive. In 1971, William received a phone call from a lansmen in Los Angeles who knew both of the men in Chylin. This man said that Shimon was alive and living in Israel. Freda and William went to Israel in August 1972 to meet Shimon and his family. It had been more than 30 years that they had last seen one another. This was a very emotional reunion. It was then that William learned that Shimon's brother was alive and living in Denver, Colorado and that there was a cousin in Toronto. William was pleased to learn about other members of his family.

On January 4, 1973, the unthinkable happened and Brenda lost her mother. Freda was only 46 years old when she passed away from the complications of a stroke. Brenda was only 14 at the time and she began to take over the household duties. She did the cooking and cleaning willingly and looked after her brothers and father to the best of her ability. Afterwards, Mima Sarah came to their house every Sunday to do mending and have dinner with the family.

Brenda attended Faywood Public School in Toronto from Kindergarten to Grade Four. She later went to Lillian Street Public School for Grades 5 and 6, Northmount Junior High for Grades 7 to 9 and Newtonbrook Secondary School for her high school years. She attended the University of Toronto majoring in psychology. Afterwards, she went to Seneca College, where she studied to be a dental assistant.

In January 1981, Brenda went on a blind date and met her future husband Martin Gurvey. They were married in August 1982 at the Shaarey Shomayim Synagogue. Martin was born in Winnipeg in 1957 and had attended the Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College in Toronto. Upon graduation, he did not want to stay in Toronto and returned to Winnipeg, where his parents were living, bringing his lovely bride with him.

The transition to life in Winnipeg was difficult for Brenda at first. She missed the Toronto bakeries where the smell of fresh bagels being baked in a wooden oven was so intoxicating. She was used to being surrounded by Yiddishkeit, listening to the sounds of Yiddish being spoken on every corner in her Toronto neighbourhood. This was not heard on the streets of Winnipeg. She was out of her comfort zone, but she soon began to join Jewish organizations in Winnipeg, where she made many lifelong friends.

She joined the National Council of Jewish Women and held Yom Tov dinners at her home, cooking the same foods that her mother had cooked. Brenda and her husband Martin began volunteering in the Jewish community and the community in general with organizations that meant something to them. Martin has been a member of the barbershop singing group Golden Chordsmen for 28 years and has sat on the Board of the Canadian Chiropractic Research Foundation for more than two decades. He is a past registrar of the Manitoba Chiropractors Association and has been a member of that association's Standards Committee. Martin plays Maccabia hockey and B'nai Brith baseball and is practising chiropractic at Main and Cathedral in Winnipeg.

Brenda was involved with the National Council of Jewish Women and served on the board of River Heights Learning Centre and the Winnipeg Jewish Theatre. She was involved with planning graduations of all three of their children, belongs to a book club and is currently learning how to play mahjong.

Brenda and Martin have three children: Faren, born in May 1986, Marli, born August 1987, and Harlan, born May 1990. Faren and Marli attended Brock Corydon Hebrew bilingual program and Grant Park High School. Harlan attended St. John's-Ravenscourt School from Grade 1 to 12. Faren and Marli are currently living in Toronto. Farin is pursuing a career in marketing and event planning and Marli is working towards her Chartered Financial Analyst designation. Harlan attends the University of Western Ontario and in the fall, will begin his studies at the Richard Ivey School of Business. Faren and Marli live together in Toronto in an apartment above the butcher shop in which their grandparents once worked.

Brenda wants to give back to her adopted Jewish community in Winnipeg, which welcomed her as a young bride and made it easy for her children to be part of that community. She has become a donor to the Jewish Foundation and will leave a legacy gift to the foundation as a way of giving back to the community that welcomed her and her family. Brenda Gurvey is one woman who is giving back the best way that she knows how.