Murray Gilfix

My Story...

I try to live a life that is rich in community connections; steeped in honesty, commitment, and hard work; and enhanced by family, friends, and interests.

I was born in Winnipeg in 1953, about 20 minutes before my brother Perry. Not only were we twins, we grew up as close friends. We were even models together once in a national Harry Rosen newspaper ad! Today, we are business partners and still extremely close. We talk every day, even when we're not working. My wife, Selma, jokingly refers to Perry as my "first wife."

Perry and I were raised by Nate and Riva (née Roseman) Gilfix. My father was born in Winnipeg in 1924 to Joe and Anne Gilfix, who came to Winnipeg from Poland. I never knew my paternal grandmother. My mother was born in Montreal in 1928, the daughter of Ben and Tanya Roseman. Ben came from southern Russia; Tanya from Belarus. They met on the boat on the way to Canada in 1924. They lived in Montreal until 1946 when they moved to Winnipeg for my grandfather to take a job as the foreman at Buffalo Hat and Cap.

My parents married in 1953. They were hard-working and wonderful people who provided Perry and me with a beautiful life on Semple Avenue in West Kildonan. As a teenager, my dad worked at Oretzki's Department Store before joining the Royal Canadian Air Force and serving overseas in World War II. When he returned to Winnipeg, he opened Gil's Grocery Store. My mom moved to Winnipeg from Montreal at the age of 18, and took a job at Chicago Kosher.

I had an active childhood with Perry and the neighbourhood kids. I played hockey, tennis, and golf; enjoyed skiing and curling; went to the YMHA every Saturday (eventually becoming a volunteer leader); and spent most of my summers at BB Camp as a camper and then a counsellor. We travelled as a family to Winnipeg Beach and Clear Lake, and enjoyed other special times together. I have strong memories of enjoying each other's company around the dinner table. While I'm not a synagogue-goer today, my Bar Mitzvah at B'nay Abraham connected me deeply with my sense of Jewishness; it was a very positive experience.

For school, I went to I.L. Peretz School, Jefferson Junior High, West Kildonan Collegiate, and the University of Manitoba. I left U of M in 1975 and, along with Perry, joined the family business, Modern Headwear. My Zaida Ben and my parents opened the business together in 1956, manufacturing hunting, fishing, baseball, and work hats. When Perry and I joined the business, we added outerwear to the product line. At one point, we provided employment to more than 150 sewers. Manufacturing has changed over the years. Today, Perry and I still run a successful business, working mostly with imported goods and a smaller staff.

In 1972, I met Selma Pressman at a Sadie Hawkins skating party after which everyone went back to Rabbi Shalom Rappaport's house. Even though I was at the party with another girl, Selma caught my eye. I called her a few days later for a date. We started going out and we got married in 1976. We have two sons: Daniel, born in 1980, who lives in Victoria; and Greg, born in 1984, who lives in Winnipeg. We provided our children with a Jewish education and summer camping experiences at BB Camp. We went skiing, golfing, and played tennis together, spent Jewish holidays with our families, and enjoyed visiting relatives in Alberta, Ontario, and California. We believe very much in nurturing family relationships. Today, Selma and I never miss a family simcha, no matter where it is, including weddings in Australia and Italy.

I've always believed in the importance of serving the community; it's a value Selma and I share. I believe in the power of Jewish peoplehood, and I express that through volunteerism. Years ago, I served as President of the Hebrew Bilingual Program at Centennial School when Daniel was a student there, and I was on the Parent Advisory Committee at the Gray Academy of Jewish Education when Greg was a student. I served on the BB Camp Board for 14 years, including a stint as Chair. I've been active with the Rady JCC for years having represented the organization on the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg Board and the Asper Jewish Community Campus Board. I served as the Chair of the Rady JCC Board, as well as working on the Sports, Finance, and Fitness Committees. I remain on the Board today as aDirector at Large. I've also been active with the Israel Pavilion at Folklorama for many years. Selma and I have co-chaired the bar and admissions together. I still chair admissions, and volunteer at the admissions table for virtually every show during Folklorama.

I've never been afraid to take a leading role (a characteristic I picked up as a camper and counsellor at BB), and I've always enjoyed rolling up my sleeves and getting to work for things I believe in. I've had the pleasure of working with remarkable people, and I look forward to many more years of satisfying volunteer work.

I hope that the legacy of my community work will be to see our organizations work together more cooperatively. I'd love to see more dialogue among Boards, where participants are always driven by the greater community good as opposed to the agendas of individual organizations. I expect the best from people, including myself.

Fundamentally, I am optimistic and positive about our future. Our city is a great place to live, work, and raise a family. I hope that my participation in the Endowment Book of Life inspires others to care about our community's success and invest in our promising future.