Cindy Yusim

My Story...

Through adversity I have learned to dance like there's no tomorrow, but it's my faith in tomorrow that has allowed me to gain the strength to make a difference.

I was born in 1963 in Winnipeg to Abie and Pearl (née Rittberg) Rosenberg. My father was the son of Frederick and Molly (née Karpel) Rosenberg, who were both from Poland. My grandparents came to Canada in 1930 with three young children; my grandfather was a watchmaker. They passed away before I was born.

My mother was the daughter of Alec and Norma (née Stein) Rittberg. My Baba was from Poland and my Zaida was from Austria, and I had a wonderful relationship with them. They met in Winnipeg at a dance hall. My Zaida was a chef for the CPR; my Baba ran a grocery store. I have fond memories of sleeping over at their home on College Avenue and baking with my Baba. They were passionate about Jewish life, and inspired the type of family life I lead today. My Zaida passed away in 1988, a few weeks after keeping his promise to be at my wedding; my Baba passed away in 1995.

My father was an honourable man, who passed away too young in 1998. He was playful and smart; a family man through and through. I remember waiting on the front steps of our Rupertsland Avenue home for him to return from work from his store on Main Street where he sold jewellery and sporting goods. My dad was a watchmaker, a trade he learned from his father. He worked very long hours to make ends meet. My dad belonged to Habonim; collected coins and stamps; curled, bowled, and played baseball; and, in his 60s, took up painting. He was a fun-loving character, always ready with an activity or a prank.

My mother remains a significant part of my life. She worked very hard at home — supporting me in school and extracurricular activities — and went to work as a secretary when I was in high school to contribute financially to the family.

Together, my parents provided a loving home for my sisters and me. Brenda, Michelle, Naomi, and I were given strong values and a strong sense of Jewish identity. Holidays, kashrut, and Friday night dinners were very important in our home. We walked to Chevra Mishnayes Synagogue on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, as the holiness of these holidays was always emphasized. Family picnics at Kildonan Park, fishing at Lockport, riding bikes together, and vacationing at Clear Lake, Winnipeg Beach, and Detroit Lakes are very fond memories. We were not wealthy people, but I can't imagine a richer upbringing; I am very grateful.

I attended Talmud Torah and graduated from Joseph Wolinsky Collegiate. I went to the YMHA, was a member of BBYO, and was active in USY through the Rosh Pina Synagogue. I earned Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Social Work, and Master of Social Work degrees at the University of Manitoba. My parents always stressed how important it was to further our education.

University was a major highlight, as it was there that I met my soulmate and best friend, Rob Yusim. We dated for six-and-a-half years, were married in 1988, and recently celebrated our 25th Anniversary! Rob and I are enjoying a beautiful life together. We are blessed with three wonderful children: Marlee (1992), Lauren (1994), and Adam (2000), who continue to bring us naches every day. We promote Jewish identity and values by keeping a kosher home, providing a Jewish education, celebrating the holidays, and encouraging and modelling acts of tzedakah and community service. We enjoy our time together as a family, and have especially enjoyed our family travel to Israel, Hawaii, and other places.

My volunteer work has included serving on the boards of Aleph-Bet Daycare and Big Brothers Association; volunteering at the Gray Academy of Jewish Education; and serving, with Rob, as an Ambassador for the Israel Pavilion at Folklorama (1999). We are also proud to have been among the first host families when Jewish families from Latin American started to move to Winnipeg.

While I enjoy a wonderful life, there has been deep sadness in recent years. Two of my sisters became ill with cancer and passed away: Naomi in 2010; Michelle in 2011. When my sisters were ill, I felt helpless and devastated. Through those many trying months, I became even closer to my sisters, especially Naomi (who was only 11 months younger than me), and their families. The impact of that time in my life has been very profound. Before their passing, my sisters and I were able to share a special "B'not Mitzvah" celebration on October 23, 2010, at Congregation Etz Chayim. Chanting our Torah portions and the Haftarah together was incredibly important and special to me. In honour of Michelle and Naomi, I have been an active participant in the CancerCare Manitoba's Challenge for Life walk.

I have chosen a career that requires empathy. As a social worker, I have been employed by Child and Family Services, M.A.T.C., Child Guidance Clinic, and I am currently with the Seven Oaks School Division. I have seen families in distress, brave children, and parents seeking solutions to major life challenges. Through my own grief and stress, I see my work through different eyes; I have been reminded that the human experience implores us to live lives of tolerance and respect while we all seek healing and well-being.

My participation in the Endowment Book of Life is a way to promote the well-being of our Jewish community and to set an example for our children and the next generation. Jewish life is very important to me and I am proud to invest in the community's future. It is a wonderful opportunity to join with others to ensure that our institutions and programs stay strong.