Dancing in the Sarah Sommer Chai Folk Ensemble as a teenager wasn’t just an activity for Ahava Halpern, “it was a pivotal cornerstone of my Jewish identity.”
Today, Halpern and her husband Frank Lavitt, are themselves pivotal cornerstones of a community of fans, donors, and sponsors that keep Chai thriving. Chai is proud to honour Halpern and Lavitt at the upcoming Ancient Roads concert to be held June 7 at the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre.
“Ahava and Frank have been generous donors,” said Sadira Garfinkel, Chai’s President. “We are recognizing them for their generosity, but also for their leadership, their enthusiasm, and their ambassadorship. Ahava has a long relationship with Chai. The fact that she remains active and connected speaks to Chai’s enduring presence and importance in the community.”
As a child, Halpern stumbled into dance on the suggestion of a doctor who told her parents (Esther and Sid) that she should try dance to strengthen her legs.
“We decided that I would try ballet,” said Halpern. “I remember enjoying the environment, but I didn’t enjoy the strict nature of a ballet class.”
When the YMHA started offering an Israeli dance class for kids, Halpern signed up and fell in love almost immediately.
“I loved the Israeli music and the Hebrew language. It unified everyone in the class and it was simply fun,” said Halpern, also an alumna of Camp Massad, BB Camp, and Joseph Wolinsky Collegiate. “I felt like I belonged. I felt like everyone belonged! Israeli dance was the highlight of my life in elementary school and I aspired to get into Chai as soon as I was old enough.”
As a talented dancer, she did indeed perform with the troupe for a few years and continued to hone her skills through the junior professional division of Winnipeg’s Contemporary Dancers. She continued to study modern dance and to this day studies the fine art of flamenco dancing. Throughout Halpern’s various dance pursuits and interests over the years, Chai has never been far away.
“In my mid-twenties I was honoured to be invited by Chai to dance in the Israel Pavilion at Folklorama, and I taught Israeli dance at the YMHA/Rady JCC in my mid-twenties and thirties,” she said. “My involvement came full circle when I danced with Chai at its 50th anniversary celebration a few years ago. Chai has been part of my life for over 40 years!”
Halpern is honoured to be recognized by Chai and is especially excited to share the honour with her husband. Frank Lavitt, the head of the Tax Department at Taylor McCaffrey LLP, is a respected leader in the legal profession and is known for his commitment to philanthropy and community service.
Halpern and Lavitt will be honoured at the concert and at a pre-concert reception. The concert itself will be a dynamic tapestry of dance, music, and song touching on the many journeys and cultures that have shaped Jewish life.
Tickets for Chai’s Ancient Roads go on sale to the general public on Friday, March 31. Until then, donors and sponsors can secure their tickets with a minimum contribution. Please contact the Chai office for more information. Honorary Co-Chairs for the concert are Diane and Sandy Shindleman, Robert Shindleman, and Carey and Bernie Simkin.
“Frank and I are proud to do our part to make sure that Chai remains active and vibrant for a very long time, and I hope others will join us,” said Halpern. “I feel that Chai is an important voice for the community and for the Jewish people.”