Joanne Katz

My Story...

I have long been inspired by the words of writer Peggy Tabor Millin who said: "We never touch people so lightly that we do not leave a trace." I have been blessed with a colourful life, and many wonderful people who have left a trace.

I was born in 1953 in Hadera, Israel, to Eliezer and Henrietta Grossman (née Blum). My father was from Nyireghaza, Hungary, and my mother was from Czernowitz, Romania. They met and married in Israel and my father fought in the War of Independence. My parents, my sister (Sarah Grossman Kitcher) and I left Israel when I was only five. My memories of my early years in Israel are few and somewhat vague: a long row of grey concrete apartments in Hadera; carelessly swearing at an elderly Arab gentleman riding a camel; a family dog; a grocery store at the end of our row of apartments.

At the time of this writing, I am excited to say that I will be returning to Israel this coming winter for the first time since arriving in Winnipeg, and I look forward to rekindling my connection with the land of my birth, a land that served as a refuge for so many of our people after the Holocaust.

My paternal grandparents, Vilmos and Jolan (née Grosz) Groszman, perished in the Holocaust. My maternal grandparents, Frima and Anchel Blum, survived and ultimately came to Winnipeg in the early 1950s to start a new life. My Zaida, who started a house painting company, A. Blum & Son, also raised pigeons in his back yard. Every time he would see me in the back yard, he would comment (in Yiddish) that the pigeons had pooped on my nose, creating the freckles. Unfortunately, I did not get to know my Zaida all that well because he passed away in 1960, two years after my arrival in Winnipeg. My Baba would cook pigeon and I have vivid memories of her delicious cocoa "kipelech" made with yeast she purchased at Miracle Bakery.

My family followed Baba and Zaida and we arrived in Winnipeg in 1958. We lived at 311 Church Avenue. My father was a taxi driver and a peddler. He was a proud, well-groomed man. My mother was a hairdresser who learned her craft at Pollock's Beauty School. She was a loving, proud and caring person.

Sadly, my parents separated when I was about seven years old. It was a difficult time for my family, but with the help of Jewish Child and Family Service we persevered. The helpful counselling and financial support we received from JCFS allowed me to have a happy childhood despite our challenges. I enjoyed an active and fulfilling social life at Habonim and the YMHA, and I went to BB Camp for two summers. I remain grateful for what the community did for us and our support of JCFS and the Jewish Foundation of Manitoba's Endowment Book of Life program is, in part, motivated by my deep gratitude.

I attended I.L. Peretz School, Champlain, Luxton, Machray, Florence Nightingale (in Vancouver, BC), St. John's High School, and the Universities of Manitoba and Winnipeg.

As a teen, I went on a blind date with Sam Katz. We married in 1973 at the Bnay Abraham Synagogue. We have two children: Dawn Aviva Katz and Geoffrey Allan Katz. Geoffrey and his wife Candice have three children: Chloe Morgan, Ethan Joseph and Madelyne Michelle. I have the distinct pleasure of living next door to Geoffrey and his family in West St. Paul, just north of Winnipeg. Some of my happiest moments are spent being a fun and active Baba. I love jumping, dancing and playing with my grandchildren and I see them often. I see myself as a young and energetic Baba dedicated to my grandkids' well-being and happiness.

Professionally, I work as a Fitness Consultant. I develop fitness programs for individuals and I evaluate fitness leaders. Since 1984, I've been a member of the Manitoba Fitness Council and have been very active on their Training Committee for over 15 years. In my spare time, I love to play tennis and work in our garden. I also love to fundraise for CancerCare Manitoba and the MS Society of Canada.

I have lived an exciting and wonderful life so far filled with loving family, great friends and rewarding work. I am proud of our community and hope that our future will be one where more and more young people will see opportunity to stay in Winnipeg and embrace life in our nurturing and dynamic Jewish community.