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Belle Millo

Ellyn Shulman, co-chair

Murray Greenfield, co-chair



by Rhonda J. Prepes, P. Eng., May 4, 2011

Two years ago J-PEG, the Young Adult Division of the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg, organized a special evening at the Shaarey Zedek Synagogue called “And You Shall Tell Your Children”; a dinner and dialogue between J-PEG members and the Holocaust survivors in the community.
During discussion, it was discovered that many of the Holocaust Survivors never had a Bat or Bar Mitzvah celebration.  When asked if they would like the opportunity to participate in this rite of passage, J-PEG received a resounding yes by all who were asked. J-PEG was motivated to make this wish a reality.

Hence,  this year’s program “Become… Beyachad (Together) - J-PEG’s Holocaust Survivors’ Bat/Bar Mitzvah Program” was born. J-PEG organized this three event – two day program on April 29 – 30, 2011, which was  held at the Etz Chayim Synagogue.

The celebration  opened with a Kabbalat Shabbat service and Friday night Shabbat dinner on April 29, 2011 which was attended by some 200 JPEG members, Holocaust Survivors and their families

Belle Millo who edited the book “Voices of Winnipeg Holocaust Survivors” and has a personal connection to many of the Holocaust survivors spoke about the effect that writing Voices of Holocaust Survivors had on her and what the survivors had gone through and what they had accomplished.

As Millo, who is the chair of the Freeman Faily Foundation holocasut Education Centre said, "...let us never forget that when the survivors of the Shoah arrived here, many 2nd and 3rd generation Canadians simply did not want to listen, did not want to hear what had happened... Unfortunately, very unfortunately, the bravery and resistance of the Jews has been vastly under-reported. Today, we listen to our refugees from war-torn countries with a sympathetic ear and an open heart.  It was, most unfortunately, a very different time then. Shockingly, many survivors used and continue to use the word “resentment” to describe the reaction of the Jewish community to them.  I want to tell you that you are all heroes –  each and every one of you - to have survived everything that you did and start anew, building a new life." 
Millo added, "Our survivors arrived and immediately had to set about getting to the business of living. They did not receive the “therapy” and support that we offer to refugees today. After having survived such horrific trauma, they began life anew."

She concluded, "But survive and thrive they did. Our survivors went into business, got married and had children. They raised beautiful families and became an important part of our Winnipeg Jewish community whose cultural, professional, volunteer and philanthropic contributions to our community have been outstanding but have perhaps not yet been properly recognized. 

The drasha was delivered by Skye Kneller and her grandparents Ted and Marie Muller.

As Skye said, “We are here to honour the growth and strength of this community which has flourished as our survivors have been a part of it.”

“Our survivors have brought a taste of a world brimming with Jewish flavour with them into our lives.”

“We have become beyachad (together) to project into the future what was unfulfilled in the past… It is our responsibility to ensure that you (the survivors) receive the chance to fulfill your Jewish right to become B’nai Mitzvahed.”

Rabbi Larry Lander spoke about the importance of the connection between the generations and of sharing.

He  noted, “It is very inspiring and touching to see the survivors participate in the services… reclaiming a part of their birth rite taken from them long ago by the forces of evil… We wish for them that they may know many days of joy and pride and contentment…surrounded by adoring children and grandchildren and friends.” 

The celebration continued with a Saturday night Bat/Bar Mitzvah party with dessert, a live band (Special Blend) and dancing attende by about 110 people who noshed and danced the night away to Yiddish, Hebrew and English favourites. The Havdallah service was led by Justin Odwak and Sarah Sommer, both experienced and talented Chai members.

“The survivors couldn’t believe the extent to which we were willing to ensure that everyone could have an active role in today’s services and participate in their deserved rite of passage,” Ellyn Shulman, a co- chair of the event said.

Murray Greenfield, also a co-chair of the event concluded by saying, “I have received a whirlwind of phone calls, feedback and comments about how much this weekend has meant to the survivors and how grateful they are to have been given the opportunity to participate and celebrate their Bar/ Bat Mitzvah. I am delighted and proud that J-PEG was able to give them this chance.”

The entire weekend was sponsored by the Etz Chayim Synagogue, Arnold and Myra Frieman, The Jewish Federation of Winnipeg, J-PEG, the Asper Foundation, Shindico,  The Asper Foundation, Towers Realty Group and others.


On a related matter, Millo announced on May 4, 2011 the Freeman Family Foundation Holocasut Education Centre of the Jewish Heritage Centre has launched a new website at

“ For a long time now, we have hoped to spread our message to a much wider audience regarding our Holocaust museum [at the Asper Campus] our programming and upcoming events,” Millo said.

 She noted that  “ Not only will this site make our guide available to the educators who register for our symposium in a  user-friendly format, it will now be available to everyone who consults our website.”

In addition to the guide, the website provides a history of the Centre’s museum and some accompanying photos of the artifacts presently on display. Presentations can now be booked online, which will be a boon for educators who find it difficult to call during office hours. Next September/October, we will also have have the Symposium registration forms available online as well.
“Information about our outreach programs is also posted, as well as contact details. The "Awareness" section contains articles culled from newspapers all over the world regarding Holocaust-related issues. This will be updated as often as possible,” Millo said.
 “We think that it is particularly fitting that we launch our new site during Shoah Week as we remember our dear ones and indeed all of the six million men, women and children murdered during the Shoah,” she added.
“Tribute cards are available for purchase online-- our Jewish Heritage Centre cards, as well as a link to the Jewish Foundation of Manitoba tribute cards. There are several endowment funds established at the JFM under the umbrella of the Holocaust Education Centre Endowment Fund. The proceeds from this endowment fund help us to carry on with the work we do, such as our presentations, our symposium and special events.
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