I was born in Winnipeg on November 14th 1942. My parents, Saul and Claribel (Katz) Simkin were also Manitoba born, my father in Pine Ridge to Fannie and Samuel Simkin, and my mother in Dauphin, to Sam and Rusie Katz. My Puppie Sam owned a general store in Dauphin and later moved to Winnipeg with my Mama Rusie. My Zaida Samuel farmed in Pine Ridge with my Bobbie Fanny and later started a coal and wood yard in Winnipeg when the family moved there. All my grandparents were from Russia or the Ukraine.
My sister Diane and I were raised at 217 Scotia Street. Dad made a skating rink in our front yard and all the neighborhood enjoyed our wonderful winters with us. We were part of the great Simkin Clan who did everything together, and certainly were participants in Winnipeg's close knit Jewish community, which has always felt like an extended family.
I attended Peretz Shul until grade 4, then Luxton and St. John's Tech, like my parents before me. In 1967, I obtained a law degree from the University of Manitoba, and went on to earn an L.L.M. at the University of London, King's College in l969. I was called to the Bar in British Columbia in l971 and to the Israeli Bar in l973.
From 1969 to l976, my life revolved around Israel...It seems that I was born with the right temperament to live there. I practiced law in Tel Aviv. After the war of l973, I joined the civil guard, having been too old for the army. I carried a World War II "checki" gun, which was larger than I, but truthfully, patrol duty involved more shnapps than shooting. Life was beautiful in Israel.
My father and his brothers Jimmy, Blackie, and Abe were in business together and had built BACM Industries, a company that encompassed building supplies and materials, heavy construction and land development. When they sold the company and eased into semi-retirement, they began developing Cathedral Canyon Country Club in Palm Springs, California. In 1976, I was asked to help with that project: it was my first step into real estate development. Subsequently, in 1979, I went to Florida to develop another project on behalf of my family, a high-rise condominium called 9 Island Avenue on Miami Beach. After the project was completed, I went out on my own, made a variety of venture capital investments and am still involved in business as a private investor through my company Simkin Management Inc. In 1994, my father passed away and I became involved with the Denver Brick Company for about 6 years. I have since sold that company. Work is interesting, keeps me very busy and is a source of personal growth.
I love to travel, especially to remote places like Borneo and Nepal. With the exception of Africa and the South Seas Islands, I have seen most of the world. I have a passion for fishing in the North in Alaska and Canada, and have a very serious interest in photography and cooking. I published a cookbook called Spices, Rices, and Other Vices. I collect art of the indigenous peoples of Canada, United States and South and Central America. But mostly, I love to celebrate! Wherever there is a Simcha, I try to be there. I enjoy my involvement in the lives of my sweet, fabulous nieces, Sara and Nikki Demeter, daughters of my sister Diane and my brother-in-law Steven. Staying in touch with my family and friends, through their times of deepest sorrow and greatest joys is what defines life for me.
I am very proud of the Jewish community in Winnipeg, and to have been and continue to be a part of it. I believe this community has a strong future. The Asper Jewish Community Campus has served to unite the community and I am privileged to have been able to contribute to it. It was also very satisfying for Diane and I to be involved together in the Sharon Home South project, named for our parents.
I feel most comfortable as a Jew: I could not be anything else. Going to Israel was a natural expression of who I am. I know this feeling was formulated as a child growing up in a very warm, very Jewish environment, from the noisy, and wonderful Lubavitcher Shul to the Peretz School and the Rosh Pina and of course because of the great good luck of having been born to my exceptional parents. Everything always ties back to Winnipeg, so no matter where I've been or lived, my heart home is here.