"The Lavitts never had too much in a material way in the early days. But they did have love, devotion, faith and unbending honesty, and when you have those qualities you have everything." This quote by Vince Leah in the January 18, 1979 Tribune is describing my family.
My father, Isadore "Issy" Lavitt was born near Kiev, Russia in 1888 and came to Canada via Liverpool, England as a young man, together with his parents Katie (Sosin) and Frank Lavitt. They tried first to farm near Narcisse, Manitoba in the Bender Colony but later settled in Winnipeg. My grandfather taught Hebrew and Torah after school and even I, the only girl, could attend. There was always milk and cookies waiting for me — my Baba made the best cookies!
My mother, Clara Elizer, was born in Winnipeg in 1889. Her father Moses Elizer, who was born in Palestine, had come to Canada in 1886 together with his oldest son Charley. He worked at building the Canadian Pacific Railway in order to bring his wife, Rosie (Sosin) to join him, which happened in 1888. Later he too taught Hebrew and Torah. He was a founding member of the Rosh Pina Synagogue. They passed away before I was born.
I was born on January 19, 1931, the only girl and the youngest, with four older brothers — Lenz"l, Joe z"l, Jack z"l and Sam. I was raised in Winnipeg's north end, in homes on Jarvis, Stella, and Manitoba Avenues. My father was a musician and he played the violin beautifully. Whenever he could, he played in the orchestra pits for the silent movies. But such employment was scarce and after being virtually unemployed for many years, he went to work on the CPR train as a "newsie" selling snacks and drinks. I remember how his eyes shone when he brought home his first earnings! But his passion was music and he was a founding member of the Winnipeg Musicians Association. He later served as musical director of the Orpheum Theatre, the Capitol Theatre and the Met and played with the Winnipeg Symphony. He was also a wonderful father with a great personality who loved to tell a joke.
My mother was a pianist who often accompanied my dad. She had worked as a secretary and bookkeeper but once she had a family she was a devoted mother who was committed to the tenets of Judaism. I remember the chala she would bake every Friday for Shabat. We would walk downtown over the (then) Salter Street bridge and go to Eaton's for a special treat of a waffle sandwich — two waffles with ice cream between. She was an avid reader, and loved to sew and play bridge. She was active with Pioneer Women and Mount Carmel Clinic.
I was educated at Aberdeen, David Livingston, William Whyte and St. John's Tech. Life mostly revolved around spending time with friends; I also loved to read and to go skating. My brother Len, who was 18 years older than I, was a major influence in my life, not only because he bought me my first skates when I was about 5 or 6 or my first record player when I was in my teens. He was a very caring individual, an intellectual, interested in everything from music to history to science. He became a pharmacist in Flin Flon and we have fond memories of his cabin at Beaver Lake. He had no children but was always the adored "favorite uncle."
My brothers all enlisted during World War II and their safe return was topmost on our minds during that time. The end of the war was a day for celebration! Joe, Jack and Sam were natural athletes and Len the natural statistician! Sam played professional hockey, and loved baseball, football and track and field. Jack's sport was football. Joe played hockey exceptionally well but was deemed to be too short to play professionally.
In 1954 I married Albert Rutman. We have had 54 wonderful years together. We have three children: Ray, Sondra and Fred. Ray lives in Edmonton and is a lawyer. His wife Linda (Floom) is a social worker. Their daughter Leah is in law school at Columbia University in New York and their son Evan is studying business at the University of Alberta with hopes of becoming a Chartered Accountant. Our daughter Sondra lives in Halifax. She is a nurse. Her husband, Jason Brown, is a Math professor at Dalhousie University. Their sons Shael and Zane are 13 and 11 and we just celebrated Shael's Bar Mitzvah. Our son Fred is an MBA living in Toronto; he has yet to find the "right one". We love and are proud of our children and grandchildren; they are the center of our lives.
For a number of years I worked in the Payroll Department of the Seven Oaks School Division. I was active with Winnipeg Women's ORT and with the Beth Israel Synagogue. I am still an voracious reader and also love to knit. I have played mah jong with the same friends for over 40 years!
I hope to be remembered as a loving wife, mother, Baba, sister and friend. I am so proud of Al who, despite the constant pain of rheumatoid arthritis, never complains and faces life with optimism. I am proud of my family who are all "good", wonderful people and I wish them, and future generations of our family, good health, prosperity, love and above all, peace. I have been enriched by my Jewish heritage and hope for a safe Israel and that our local community would continue to grow, and that people will continue to have strong feelings of support for Judaism and for Israel.
" Love, devotion, faith and unbending honesty" described the Lavitts. May it also be said of the Rutmans.