Hilda Gotfried

My Story...

By meeting and marrying Isaac Gotfried, a Holocaust survivor, I learned at a very deep level what the result of hatred and discrimination can be. My participation in the Jewish Foundation of Manitoba's Endowment Book of Life program is motivated in part by my desire to see a future generation of proud, strong Jews who are engaged in community life, who are tolerant, and who appreciate their roots.

My own life took root in Winnipeg's North End. I was born in 1931 to Morris and Faye Goldberg who had arrived in Winnipeg from Poland in the 1920s. I was the youngest of eight siblings: Lil, Sam, Betty, Max, Charlie, Yetta, Israel, and then me.

My father worked in a factory and eventually had his own grocery store on Selkirk and Powers.

Home life was challenging as my mother was paralyzed by a stroke when I was only four years old. She passed away just a few years later in 1940. My father eventually remarried. Ida Goldberg was a remarkable stepmother, raising my dad's kids as her own. She was a good person, and I feel blessed that she was in my life.

My childhood was enriched by many sports and other activities. I played volleyball and badminton, and enjoyed skating. To earn money, I had part-time work at Oretzki's Department Store and also worked as a babysitter. I have childhood memories of going with my family to Winnipeg Beach.

When I turned 18, I took an office job at Jacob & Crawley, a clothing manufacturer. I was there for five years, during which time I met Isaac Gotfried who had arrived in Winnipeg in 1947 with his brother after surviving the Holocaust. We dated less than a year and got married at the Hebrew Sick Benefit Association hall on Selkirk Avenue in 1951.

Isaac was a "greener" and it took some time before he would share his wartime experiences in any detail. People here were very welcoming of Isaac and his fellow new Canadians. We were all astonished by the experiences they shared. For at least 25 years, Isaac would have frequent nightmares as he re-lived the horrors in his sleep. In my opinion, the release of Schindler's List in 1993 was a real turning point for many survivors and their willingness to tell their stories publicly. I'm proud that, starting in 1992, Isaac has made hundreds of school visits to share his experiences and to encourage peace and tolerance. He also continues to speak to university students and adult community groups.

Isaac and I raised four wonderful daughters (Irene, Susan, Marla, and Paula). They attended Peretz School where I worked for some time as an assistant in the kindergarten classroom. Today, three are married and one is engaged, and they are spread out among Winnipeg, Ottawa, Hamilton, and Antigonish. Isaac and I have seven beautiful grandchildren, ranging in age from 14 to 28: Jared, Laura, Casey, Callum, Rowan, Morgan, and Evan. And in the summer of 2011, we welcomed Makenna, our first great-grandchild.

As a volunteer, I've been active with Pioneer Women (now known as Na'amat) for 60 years. My Jewish identity is closely linked to my sense of connection to the State of Israel. Isaac and I have been to Israel four times and have worked as volunteers there in our senior years. I taught English and worked in a nursery school, while Isaac volunteered in a seniors' centre. For us, working in Israel was an important statement of our Jewish pride and an expression of optimism for the future of the global Jewish community.

Today, I enjoy playing bridge and exercising, and Isaac and I are fond of our summers in Gimli and our winters in Palm Springs. We have also enjoyed wonderful trips to China, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, and other places. We consider ourselves to be quite fortunate to be able to travel the way we do.

It is my hope that the Jewish future in Winnipeg is a beautiful one. I would like to see our kids get more involved in community life and seek ways to conserve their Jewishness. Despite the horrors we have witnessed in my generation, ours is a rich heritage very much worth celebrating.