Ruth Lehmann & Eric Ellis

My Story...

My life has been blessed. It is filled with relationships I cherish and experiences I value. I have tried to lead an ethical and conscientious life and believe it is my duty and my children's and grandchildren's responsibility to leave this world in better shape than we found it.

I was born in Winnipeg in 1952 to Maurice (Mossy) and Goldie Lehmann (née Margolis). My father was born in Russia in 1919 to Azery and Bessie. Due to pogroms, when my dad was a year old, he and other relatives came to Winnipeg and made their home in an apartment in the Continental Block on Main Street near Sutherland. We grew up hearing stories of my Zaida's generosity as a store owner, extending credit to those less fortunate than he was. My Baba Buzie (Bessie) was an old-fashioned, observant, and doting grandmother whose grandchildren could do no wrong. We were fiercely loved.

My mother was born in 1923 in Vermillion, Alberta, to Harry and Sara Margolis. She was raised in Canwood, Saskatchewan, in one of the town's two Jewish families. My Zaida, Harry, whom I never knew, operated a lumber store while my Baba, Sara, raised her family of five children while helping in the store. I remember this Baba as being more "worldly" than our paternal one, allowing us to parade along Main Street in her high heels, jewellery, and good clothes. "Worldly" later came to be understood as less observant and with Communist ideals.

My father loved being a Jew and lived his life in accordance with Jewish values. He was an honest and dedicated physician and surgeon, practising in the Boyd Building and at St. Boniface Hospital. He was very active in the YMHA, Shaarey Zedek Synagogue, the United Way, the Manitoba Medical Association, the Jewish Welfare Fund, and more. My mother was an adventurous free spirit who lied about her age to enlist in the Canadian Army. She did clerical work for the Army in England and Italy and settled in Montreal upon her return, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree. She was later a homemaker and an active community volunteer.

My parents married in 1949. They lived in the Lehmann family apartment for the first year of marriage before moving to Oak Street and later to Queenston. I have an older sister, Paula, a younger sister, Allie and three nieces of whom I am proud.

Our childhood was mostly happy. We had a large extended Winnipeg family with whom we celebrated all the holidays and visited regularly in between. My friends loved being in our home, mostly because of my mom whom they saw as non-judgemental and caring, and in whom they confided. Everyone would ask my dad for medical help which he freely gave no matter how tired or busy he was.

As a child, I was encouraged to pursue whatever interests I had. I took ballet, piano, and swimming lessons and participated in Brownies and the YMHA. My younger sister and I spent lots of time with our dad at Shaarey Zedek. As a Ramah student I was the first female to lead Shacharit at the Synagogue. My dad was bursting with pride!

We travelled a little bit as a family, occasionally renting a cabin at Clear Lake — and there was one major road trip to Disneyland. One of my most important experiences was summer camp. I went to BB Camp (Kenora and Pine Lake) for many years. My memories of camp life remain vibrant.

After high school, I took a year off to travel and live on kibbutz in Israel. I absolutely loved it — the work, the community, the philosophy. I worked in the laundry and I inoculated chickens, but my favourite job was working in the banana fields.

I returned to Winnipeg for university, but then went to Oakville, Ontario, to take a journalism course. I ultimately chose social work as a career, earning my BSW from the University of Manitoba in 1976, and my MSW in 1990. I retired in 2012 after a fulfilling career working in child welfare, in the corrections system, and for the last 20-plus years as a play therapist specializing in working with attachment-compromised children.

In 1976, I married Rudi Siegers and moved to Sooke, British Columbia. We had two children together — Michael ("Myth") and Ana — and practised with a spiritual community called the Rosicrucian Order. My marriage ended and I moved back to Winnipeg in 1981 and met Eric Ellis at work. After living together for many years we were married in a civil ceremony in 1996 and in a Jewish ceremony in 2001 after Eric converted to Judaism.

Like my dad, I love being Jewish. Keeping kosher, studying, attending shul, and adhering to Jewish values all strengthen my identity as a Jew and deepen my connections to Judaism.

My life is enriched by my relationships with my husband Eric and with my children and grandchildren. My son, Myth, and his wife, Sherry, live in Toronto and have one son — Zev Mossy. My daughter, Ana Blair, lives in Winnipeg with her twin daughters, Aislin and Erin. I am also blessed to have Eric's daughter, Megan, in my life as well as my stepdaughter, Christina, her son Dorian, and Samantha, another special young woman who is like a daughter to me.

Eric and I own a home on Saltspring Island in B.C. and travel there at least twice a year. But Winnipeg is home. I have many enduring relationships, am richly attached to Shaarey Zedek and the larger community, and won't leave my Winnipeg grandchildren.

It is a privilege to participate in the Jewish Foundation of Manitoba's Endowment Book of Life program. In return for the many gifts I have received in my life, this is one way I can give back.