My participation in the Jewish Foundation of Manitoba's Endowment Book of Life program is my way of saying how much I love Winnipeg. It has been a special place to live.
I was born in Winnipeg in 1947 to David and Claire Dveris (née Miles). My dad, known to friends as "Butch," was born in Russia to Israel and Sarah Dveris. They came to Canada to avoid further pogroms. My zaida opened a kosher butcher shop when he got here. My dad worked for Perth's drycleaning, sold insurance, sold cars, and ultimately opened and ran his own car dealership.
My mother, Claire Dveris, was born in Winnipeg in 1922 to Jake and Esther Miles. Jake was from Pinsk; Esther was from England. My mom earned a home economics degree from the University of Manitoba, and was the anchor of our household. She's been involved with many volunteer causes over the years, including Hadassah and ORT.
My parents worked hard to ensure that my brothers Ron, Jeff, Greg and I had a comfortable, happy and secure childhood. We did. And it was full of joy and nurturing. I have wonderful memories of playing with friends, swimming, boating and horseback riding while at the family cottage at Winnipeg Beach. Our cottage was surrounded by other family cottages; there was plenty of visiting and laughter. Today, Jeff lives in Winnipeg; Ron lives in Mexico. I miss Greg, who passed away in Winnipeg in 2008.
We grew up in River Heights, but I spent many weekends with my grandparents on Pritchard Avenue in the North End, surrounded by aunts, uncles and cousins who were full of love. I was instilled with a sense of Judaism because of my memories of Shabbes mornings with my zaida and uncle at the Bais Yehuda ("the butchers' shul") on Manitoba Avenue near Main Street. Many people crammed into a small space, singing, praying and enjoying each other's company (not to mention the rye, honey cake and herring) — it's a vivid, sweet memory.
Although much of my childhood was spent on the back of a horse, I did find some time to go to school. I attended Brock Corydon, Robert H. Smith, Montrose, Grant Park and United College. For my Jewish education, I went to Shaarey Zedek Hebrew School three times a week (I got expelled a few times, I recall). I was active in clubs at the YHMA and was a member of BBYO's Kadima chapter. To this day, I remain in close contact with friends from my childhood and friends from my university fraternities, Sigma Alpha Mu and Alpha Omega. Friends from Winnipeg, I have learned, are friends for life.
In 1973 I married Linda Burstein, an interior designer from Minneapolis. We have two wonderful sons, Adam and Sean, who now live in Minneapolis. Adam and his wife Shari are the proud parents of our gorgeous granddaughter, Sadie Lauren. Linda and I continue to enjoy life in our community to the fullest. Being a good husband, father and now grandfather is absolutely essential to me.
It's also important to me to be a good dentist. Since graduating from the University of Manitoba in 1971, I've always practised dentistry as a healing health profession. I've been able to give back to my profession as a member and chairman of many committees, and as a former president of the Manitoba Dental Association, as well as a committee member of the Canadian Dental Association and as a lecturer teaching oral diagnosis at the U. of M. Faculty of Dentistry. My great source of pride as a dentist is the fact that I have fabulous patients — individuals and families who have been with me since I started my practice nearly 40 years ago.
As a volunteer, I am proud to have been a part of the group that started the dental program in the early days of Klinic on Broadway. It may have been a mitzvah to provide free dentistry to people in need, but it was also an honour to help out Klinic and its clients. In the Jewish community, I served as a member of the Jewish Foundation of Manitoba's Scholarship Committee for about a decade, including a stint as chairman.
In my free time, you can usually find me outside. I embrace our four seasons, and so far, I don't mind the cold. I enjoy downhill skiing and still have a passion for horseback riding. I recently lost my horse after 13 years but I expect to be back in the saddle soon.
And "back in the saddle" is probably a great way to capture my feelings about the state of our Jewish community. I had been concerned for many years about our declining population and the departure of many young people. I am happy to see that in recent years, many Jews from South America, Russia, Israel and elsewhere have chosen to make their homes here. I think our community is now in a state of revival and I hope that my Endowment Book of Life gift to the Foundation ensures that we will have top-notch institutions, facilities and programs for everyone to enjoy for many, many years. It is my wish that all of our youth, whether born in Winnipeg or elsewhere, can enjoy the same type of rich, textured, dynamic Jewish life that I have experienced so far.