Les Rykiss

My Story...

I've been blessed with remarkable role models and exceptional friends. I've been inspired by the people in my life to work hard, be kind to others, embrace Jewish values, and share the important things in life with my children.

I was born in 1965 to Ben and Fay Rykiss (née Fink), who were both born in Winnipeg. My father's parents were Nathan and Dora Rykiss. They were born in Kremenitz, Russia, and came to North America after World War I. They lived first in New York, but ultimately settled in Winnipeg. They both passed away when I was very young. My maternal grandparents were Sam and Clara Fink. They came to Winnipeg in 1925 from Lemburg, Poland. Zaida Sam owned Winnipeg Sewing. He passed away when I was very young, but I have memories of bouncing on his knee as a toddler. I had a long and beautiful relationship with Babbie Clara — a strong, nurturing, and loving woman. She lived in an apartment across from Peretz School and I used to visit her almost daily for lunch. She passed away in 1995.

My Dad was born in 1923 and worked as a social worker for many years, both in Winnipeg and at the Selkirk Mental Hospital. He was active with Jewish Child and Family Service and with Deer Lodge Hospital. I inherited my love of sports from him. My memories of him will always include tennis, golf, and skiing. My Mom was born in 1927 and worked as a secretary before she got married and then turned her attention to staying home to raise her three sons. Her volunteer work included activity with Pioneer Women and B'nai Brith Women. She's a remarkable cook and baker. My parents still inspire me today with their energy and their enthusiasm as grandparents.

I am the youngest of three children. Mark and Neil are a bit older than me, but I have fond memories of our family times together — long car trips, going to Selkirk Park, and camping. I've always been motivated by my brothers to achieve and excel. They are wonderful men of whom I am very proud. I marvel at the lives they have built.

I had a busy, wonderful, Jewish childhood. I played a lot of sports and was active with Kadima, BBYO, and the YMHA. I have fond memories of Rosh Pina Synagogue and was always moved and inspired by Rabbi Shalom Rappaport Z"L. He was a brilliant leader and I had a great deal of respect for him. I spent many summers at Camp Massad, an amazing place where I built wonderful friendships. Massad is the source of many of my fondest childhood memories. For school, I went to Peretz School, graduated from Joseph Wolinsky Collegiate, and then studied at the University of Winnipeg, and graduated from the Faculty of Dentistry at the University of Manitoba.

I have been practising as a dentist in Winnipeg since graduating in 1990. I take my career seriously and view my long-term patients as friends. I try to give back to my profession by publishing and teaching, and have had the pleasure of delivering lectures in Canada and the United States. I also take great pride in the role I played as President in reviving Manitoba Alpha Omega, the provincial chapter of the international Jewish dental fraternity. I get excited about innovations in my profession and have always sought ways to incorporate new technology to improve the patient experience.

What drives me more than anything else is the love of my family. I was introduced to Lara London at her 18th birthday party. We were married a few years later in 1992 at Shaarey Zedek in a ceremony that was co-officiated by Rabbi Rappaport. Lara and I have two terrific children: Michaela (born in 1999) and Jaron (born in 2001).

They are outstanding children; I see goodness in them in how they engage with their friends and in how they welcome newcomers to Winnipeg. Our family times together are joyous, and I like carving out one-on-one time with each of my children.

When I carve out time for myself, I like to golf, run, and work out. I also place a great degree of value in building and maintaining friendships. My life has been enriched by close friends like Michael Tessler, Lorrie Kirshenbaum, David Buckhalter, the late Joy Proctor and so many others. I try to learn from every relationship; a virtue that my children are starting to understand and embrace.

I am proud to participate in the Endowment Book of Life program. It's my way of investing in the future of the community; it's my way to help preserve and enhance community life. I do fear sometimes that too many of us are losing our sense of affiliation and belonging. By investing in the future, I hope that we can restore and amplify our community's identity. I am proud of our community and want to see it be the best that it can be—for my children, for their children, and for all time.

I hope to be remembered as a straightforward, generous, and caring person who tried to treat others the way I wanted to be treated.