Naomi Levine IMO Paul & Zlata Bookhalter and Louis & Sophie Levine

My Story...

From the Guberniya, or province of Mogilev, in Belarus, lie the origins of the Levine family. Their roots trace back to a shtetl known then as Propoisk, and later, between 1900-1910, to Canada.

The Bookhalters, from Novozykbov in the Chernigov region of Eastern Belarus, were among a large group that arrived in Winnipeg in 1912, which included Paul Bookhalter. Paul’s brothers and sisters were part of the family who settled in Winnipeg, and even their father, Sholom Moishe Bookhalter - born in 1856 - came to Winnipeg sometime after the death of his first wife, Sheindl.  Sholom was the son of Simcha Abraham Ish Horowitz Lockshin, who also died in Russia. Paul Bookhalter and a brother of his operated a business known then as Ontario Garment. The family was one of the founders of the Lubavitch synagogue on Magnus Avenue, a shul comprised, as it turned out, of many Propoisker families.

In the story of the Bookhalter family, it is said that Paul and Zlata were first cousins, a not-so-uncommon occurrence in the old country. Moreover, in yet another family legend, the Bookhalter name was adopted by Paul to avoid compulsory military service. Another brother took on the name Horowitz/ Gervich, but the real family name was Lockshin.

Zlata Gervich (an adaptation from Horowitz) descended from the Gervich line, and one of her and Paul’s three daughters was Sophie Bookhalter, who later married into the Levine family.

The Levines had a dairy farm on what is now South Drive in Winnipeg and later operated a restaurant known as ‘L and L Grill’ across from the train station at Main and Broadway. They had eleven children, so many Levines were floating around Winnipeg at one time, and even to this day (in 2022).

Lou Levine, whose parents were Sam and Sarah (Duboff), descends from a family whose name was Levin in White Russia as it was then known. Records reflect that a Chassid, Baruch Levin, was the father of Leyte Boruchov Levin, a banker, the father of Sam Levine, who came to Canada in 1905.

Sam and Sarah Levine had seven children: Maurice (Tilly), Lillian (Sid Pickett), Bessie (Sam Kay) then Louis Leonard, Max (Dorothy), Phillip (Anne) and Howard (Vicki). Lou was not the eldest of the seven Levine children (three were born in what is now Belarus), but he was the first to be born in Canada. Not so surprisingly, there was not enough money to send Lou to university, so he went into business with a partner, Harry Stuart, in what was then called Long’s Hats. In 1958, when Lou was 40, he changed course and moved into real estate, where he became a very successful commercial and land appraiser, working for Aronovitch and Leipsic. After his retirement, he continued in the field, where he served as a member of the Tax Appeal Board. Lou was often called upon to provide expert evidence in hearings. He was an active community member with B’nai Brith and the Menorah Branch of the Masons.

Sophie Bookhalter graduated in 1939 and married Lou in 1944. They had much in common, starting from their original Russian roots and the fact that they were both born in 1918. Sophie was fluent in Yiddish, English, French, and German, so she was far ahead of the country in that respect, then and now. Sophie’s linguistic skills often resulted in her having to act as an interpreter in the Provincial Court of Manitoba. After her two children were older, Sophie worked as a volunteer at the French library in St. Boniface and the Winnipeg Public Library.

Sophie had a twin sister, Ethel, and a younger sister Goldie. Most importantly, Sophie and Lou Levine raised two children, Naomi and Martin. The focus for the Levine family, like many other Jewish families of that time, was on education and learning. The emphasis was to become a professional, and many of the Levine family members did just that - it was a Levine gene. Martin carved out a career as a consul in the Canadian Diplomatic Service, and his son is a senior officer in the British Air Force. Naomi was well known as a lawyer and was recognized for her show on CBC radio for seven years, called ‘Levine’s Law.’ She also served as an administrative judge for the Canadian Armed Forces and was Executive Director of the Centre for A Higher Education and Development at the University of Manitoba.

Lou and Sophie were able to travel a great deal and even participated in a program in Israel in 1986, where they spent three months working on a kibbutz. They tried to visit their siblings each year in New York and Florida. What stood out about Lou and Sophie Levine was the great love and affection each had for the other, which flourished through into older age at the Sharon Home where they spent their last years. Sophie was a particular favourite at the Sharon Home as she was well regarded for her heart of gold, her magnetism, and her sharp intellect.

It was important to the Bookhalters and Levines - all of them - to give back to the community, and this commitment to the Jewish Foundation of Manitoba is one way of expressing their gratitude to this community which was, and is, an integral part of their lives.