Daniela Jacobsohn

My Story...

"Mine is a life that has been shaped by my passion for family, friendship, Jewish tradition, values, and community.

I was born in 1964 in London, England, adopted by my loving parents, Wally and Susana Bloch (née Leistner). My parents had met and married six years earlier in Israel. My Mom, the product of a staunch Zionist family, was there on a program after high school. My Dad was there on vacation. One evening, my Dad knocked on the door of an apartment expecting his date to greet him. Instead, he was greeted by the missing date's roommate—my Mom. She said that she would volunteer to take her roommate's place for the evening. It must have gone well as they were married just three months later and then returned together to London where my Dad worked as a dentist.

My Dad was born in Pietersberg, South Africa, to Boris and Rachel Bloch, who had come to the country from Lithuania in the early 1900s. My Mom was the daughter of Don and Rebecca Leistner (née Braunstein). My grandmother, Rebecca, was born in Galicia (eastern Europe) but was sent to Argentina in the late 1920s with the threat of Nazism looming. She later migrated north to Porto Alegre, Brazil, where my mother was born. My grandfather, Don, was born in Poland and was a contemporary of Menachem Begin. Begin had sent my grandfather to Brazil—where he met my grandmother—to be part of the local Zionist leadership. (When I married Eric Jacobsohn in 1990, Begin sent a telegram that was read at our wedding!)

When I was five and my little brother, Anthony, was just four-months-old, my family moved to Johannesburg where my Dad continued to practise dentistry and my Mom worked as an aesthetician. Johannesburg had a remarkable Jewish community. Strong, traditional, vibrant, and connected. I went to cheder on Sundays, we usually attended our Orthodox synagogue on Friday nights, and Shabbat dinner was mandatory. I played piano and participated in school athletics, including running, swimming, and netball.

While my life in Johannesburg was full, South Africa itself started to crack at the seams. The Soweto uprising of 1976 was a turning point for my parents. They decided to join the expanding wave of emigration and pursue the family's future elsewhere. In 1978, we arrived in Swan River, Manitoba, where we lived for three months before making our way to Winnipeg. My Dad was introduced to fellow Jewish dentists and joined a practice. We were settled in no time. I was 15-years-old and started attending Grant Park High School.

I felt accepted right away and made fabulous friends who are still by my side. I became active in my BBYO chapter (Gabriels) and took up the sport of racquetball in which I represented Manitoba at the Canada Winter Games in Quebec when I was in Grade 12.

After high school, I earned my Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from the University of Manitoba, followed by a BA in Recreation Studies. It was around this time that I met Eric Jacobsohn, a newcomer to Winnipeg from South Africa. He was a guest of my parents for Shabbat dinner, introduced to them by another newly arrived South African, David Folk, who was a patient of my Dad and a cousin of Eric.

Eric and I started to date and were married four years later in 1990. We got married twice, actually. Once with a justice of the peace in Halifax, and then under the chuppah at Herzlia Synagogue in Winnipeg.

Eric's medical career took us to Halifax, Rochester, Chicago, St. Louis, and then back to Winnipeg. At the Mayo Clinic in Rochester where Eric was pursuing a specialty in cardiac anesthesia, I had an internship as a Recreation Therapist. At the same time, I earned my Recreation Therapy degree through distance learning at the University of Eastern Washington. When we moved to Chicago, I worked as a Recreation Therapist at Evanston Hospital, affiliated with Northwestern University.

We then moved back to Winnipeg where our daughter, Maxine, was born in 1999. At that time, our dear nephew Marc was also living with us. In 2000, Eric accepted an exceptional job offer in St. Louis, and so we moved. Our second daughter, Sarah, was born later in 2000 and we stayed in St. Louis for six years. Life was outstanding there. We attended a remarkable synagogue, we made many great friends, and I became very active in my daughters' day school.

In 2006, we decided to return to Winnipeg to be closer to family and, again, Eric had an excellent job opportunity here. Life in Winnipeg has been wonderful. I remain connected to my friends from high school, I am able to spend a great deal of time with my parents as they grow older, our girls benefitted from a sound education at Gray Academy, and I have found my niche as a community volunteer. I am currently on the Board of Directors of the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg, Chair of the Lions of Judah division of the Combined Jewish Appeal campaign, and a member of the Community Planning Committee. I am a former Co-Chair of CJA Women's Philanthropy.

Through my work in the community, I have learned how important the CJA annual campaign is. Our bequest to the Leave More Than Memories Fund at the Jewish Foundation of Manitoba is intended to ensure that our annual campaign gift is available to the community in perpetuity.

I believe very much in the power of community and the importance of working together for an even better future. We do our best to open our doors to newcomers and when I work as a volunteer, I do so from a place of deep commitment and love for our Jewish community in Winnipeg.