I was born in Winnipeg in 1965 to Guy Kroft and Hester Kroft (née Israels).
My father's parents were Charlie (originally Btsalil ("Tsali") Krawcjenski) and Heloise Kroft (née Cohn). My mother's parents were Abraham Montague (Monte) and Sally Israels (née Kalef). Charlie and Sally both emigrated as young children from Eastern Europe to Canada in the early 1900s, whereas Monte and Heloise were born and raised in Canada. As such, my grandparents' values and aspirations were a product of this merger of old and new worlds.
My grandfather, Charlie, started life in Winnipeg with nothing, having to quit school to find employment to support his family. Driven and determined, Charlie found his calling in the Canadian grain trade where he rose to the rank of President at the publicly traded McCabe Grain. Charlie's interests extended into the community at large and were not restricted to the world of grain. His involvements included being a founding member of Glendale Golf and Country Club, a founding member of the Jewish Foundation of Manitoba, and serving on the boards of the Bank of Canada, the Winnipeg Football Club, and the Winnipeg Foundation. In contrast to Charlie, my grandfather Monte's path was one of formal university education leading to a successful career in law. Monte, too, valued community service. Monte was the first President of the Jewish Historical Society and, like Charlie, was a founding member of the Jewish Foundation of Manitoba. Monte was the first Director of the Law Society of Manitoba's Bar Admission course and, to this day, an award is given out annually in his name to a Bar Admission student demonstrating both academic excellence and promise in terms of giving back to the community. My grandmothers, Heloise and Sally, were partners in every aspect of my grandfathers' lives. They, too, were very active in the community, albeit in a less public way, but were also the anchors of their respective families. I am fortunate to have known and learned from all four of my grandparents.
My parents, Guy and Hester, were born in Winnipeg in 1934. They were high school sweethearts. My father spent his working career as a lawyer and then as a judge of both the Court of Queen's Bench and the Court of Appeal; my mother worked as a teacher until she became pregnant with the first of her children. She did not return as a teacher, choosing instead to focus on raising me and my siblings, Jonathan Kroft, Deborah Hoffman, and Sarah Morry.
Following the example of their parents, community service in one form or another was part of everyday life in my parents' household. Hester's and Guy's involvements spanned both the Jewish and greater community, locally and nationally. In terms of the Jewish community, my mother served as the first female President of the YMHA, was a life member of National Council of Jewish Women, and a leader in the Combined Jewish Appeal. My father was President of both the Winnipeg Jewish Community Council and the Jewish Foundation of Manitoba.
My family and I grew up in the "south end" of Winnipeg on Oxford Street, in the same house in which my father grew up. I remember our home as a busy one, full of grandparents, cousins, and friends. Many meetings and planning sessions occurred in our living room and basement. Summers were spent at the family cottage at Falcon Lake, save for my weeks at B'nai Brith Camp, tennis camp, and, on one occasion, a trip to Israel with our close family friends, the Aspers.
I did not go to Jewish day school as my parents firmly believed in the public schools. I attended Robert H. Smith, River Heights Junior High School (French Immersion), and Kelvin High School (French Immersion). I gravitated towards student politics and at Kelvin was school President. My real exposure to synagogue and Hebrew was through regular at-home Hebrew tutoring (I never gave it the time it deserved), my Bar Mitzvah training, and six years of active participation in United Synagogue Youth at Shaarey Zedek.
Following high school, I attended the Faculty of Arts at the University of Manitoba and then pursued a law degree at Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto.
I returned to Winnipeg after law school in 1989 and shortly thereafter met my wife, Ellen Lerner, on a blind date arranged by my sister Sarah and my now sister-in-law, Hillary (Kaufman) Lerner. Ellen and I were married on June 27, 1993, at Shaarey Zedek Synagogue. We have three children: Julia (1997); Sam (1999); and Adam (2003). Julia is a graduate of Gray Academy of Jewish Education and, at the time of writing, Sam and Adam are students there.
I am fortunate to have been given opportunities to give back to the city and community that have given me so much. Professionally, I have been privileged to have served as a Bencher of the Law Society of Manitoba and as a Board member of the Manitoba Law Foundation. In the general community, I will never forget my tenure as President of Jocelyn House Inc., a hospice for the terminally ill. In the Jewish community, I am honoured to have served as president of the Jewish Federation of Manitoba and, nationally, as a Board member of the Centre of Israel and Jewish Affairs.
It is my wish that my children will appreciate and draw upon the great legacy of their family and the Winnipeg Jewish community at large, and that each in their own unique way, and with utmost humility, will build a life where giving back blends seamlessly into the mix of family and career. This has been, and will continue to be, the key to our survival and, very importantly, personal fulfillment.