Shirley Freedman

My Story...

Perhaps my greatest source of pride and delight is my confidence that my five grandchildren will grow up knowing who they are, where they come from, and why it all matters. Creating a Jewish home and fostering a love of community have been priorities for my husband, Bob, and me. We are very pleased that our daughters and their families have embraced Jewish life with such remarkable energy and passion.

My parents' families immigrated to Winnipeg from Eastern Europe in 1920. My father, Alex Bober (the youngest of the boys in the family), came over to Winnipeg with his mother, Bertha Bober, and three siblings. His father, Moishe Bober, and oldest brother came first to work and save for the rest of the family. This family of seven came from Koritz, Poland, in the 1920s.

My mother, Ethel Bober (née Bernstein), was a young orphan girl. She came over with her older sister, a widow, and her three children and baby from Proskurov, Russia, in the 1920s. Three uncles brought them to Winnipeg.

My parents met in Winnipeg and were married in 1936 by the Chief Rabbi at the time, Rabbi Kahanovitch. Shortly after the wedding, my parents moved to Selkirk, Manitoba, and later to La Ross and Altoona, Saskatchewan, where they owned and ran general stores.

Education was very important to my parents. They chose to move their lives to Winnipeg when my sister, Sunny, was of school age so she could get a better education. They bought a business in Weston and called it "Bober's Grocery."

Weston is not a Jewish area. Those who were Jewish ran grocery stores like my parents. I like to tell the story of how the neighbourhood grocers would agree to close during the summer every Wednesday for half a day, and my dad would go off fishing to Lockport. It was a colourful time, but we experienced anti-Semitism in the neighbourhood. The memories of name-calling and accusations still sadden and anger me today, but strengthen my resolve to remain an active, engaged, proud Jew.

My parents instilled in Sunny and me the importance of Jewish life, identity in our heritage, responsibility of community, tzedakah, and strong love of Israel. My parents, my sister Sunny, and I moved to West Kildonan, but they kept the business and commuted. We moved while I was young so that we could be among members of the community and closer to Jewish education; I attended Peretz School from grades two to seven and on to Jefferson Junior High for grades eight and nine. I graduated from Garden City Collegiate. I took a few first-year courses at the University of Manitoba and then went to Angus School of Business and got my diploma. I got a position at Eaton's in the buying office. After a year I got promoted to the position of Assistant Buyer.

I was also very active at the YMHA as a child in clubs—as a member of the "Starlights." As I got older, I became a leader for clubs. I went to B'nai Brith Camp as a camper, counsellor-in-training, and then as a counsellor. It was my summer home.

My parents were ardent Zionists. Their dream was to one day visit Israel. Their dream came true. When they sold their business and retired, they travelled together to Israel, not once, but three times. They felt blessed. Alex died in 1993; and Ethel in 2002.

In 1968, I met Robert Freedman and we were married in 1969 at the Shaarey Zedek Synagogue. Bob and I are extremely proud of our daughters, Pamela and Susan, and their families. Pam is a physiotherapist who owns several clinics and lives in Boca Raton, Florida, with her husband, Winnipegger Jacob Cohen. He is a senior lawyer with the Public Defender's Office in Fort Lauderdale. They have three children: Eliana, Zachary, and Gabriella. Susie lives in Winnipeg and co-owns Sweet Pedtooties, a company that designs and sells modern upscale mukluks. She is married to Jason Tapper who is a pediatric physician at the Manitoba Clinic. They have two daughters, Madeline and Emily. They are all committed members of their communities, eager to achieve success for the organizations that inspire them.

Throughout my adult years, I have been inspired to volunteer. I delivered Meals on Wheels. I went into schools testing children's hearing as part of the National Council of Jewish Women's audiology program for elementary schools. I was on the Ramah Hebrew School PTA. I was a member of Hadassah, ORT, the Jewish Musical Club, and a member of the Mina Hollenberg branch of National Council of Jewish Women and then served on the board.

I like to think that, inspired by our parents and grandparents, Bob and I have laid a solid foundation for our children and grandchildren. I hope that our commitment to tzedakah, Israel, and community service will motivate others to get involved in making their communities better, no matter where they live. I am happy that we are participating in the Jewish Foundation of Manitoba's Endowment Book of Life program, for it stands for the same principles as I do.