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By Alan Levy, October 2, 2012



As a child I grew up on Smithfield and Main Street in a basement apartment in the North End of Winnipeg. My father worked like a dog in a sweatshop on Princess in 1960s. I remember when a kid at school who lived in a very grand-house on Scotia Street told me I was poor. Much has been written about the meaning of poverty. It deprives people of their security and well-being. It deprives people not only of water and adequate food, clothing and shelter, but takes away people’s rights, and their freedoms, dignity and peace of mind. In short, it puts people's lives in danger.

But in Canada it does not rob a person of his or her future, since we can rise above our class with hard work and the great assistance allowed for by our social welfare system. We in Winnipeg are a wealthier city today than we were in the 1960s, but we must never forget that it was a good educational and health care system that gave us the wealth we enjoy. We are not a perfectly meritorious society, far from it, but as Winston Churchill stated about democracy we are the best of the worst of societies in the world today. Although we do need to re-learn something our grandparent’s generation had--- charity and empathy for others.

We have become a meaner, more selfish and more self absorbed society as countless social studies have shown. This includes the Winnipeg Jewish Community. We often lose our way in life because of the lack of social values. Certainly, the shift in societal values away from collectivism and toward individualism ("You're on your own"), away from civic responsibility and toward self-gratification, and away from meaningful contributions to society and toward personal success (as defined by wealth, power and status), have also contributed to the cultural messages of narcissism in which people are presently immersed. We cannot replace the meaning of family and friends in our lives, as we all need anchors to keep us on the straight and narrow. We are also a celebrity obsessed society, yet few of these celebrities live well anchored lives.

The real celebrities in our world are the single mothers struggling to support their kids, the military heroes home from Afghanistan with lost limbs trying to re- integrate into the hometowns in which they grew up, the mentally disabled persons who do not understand what has happened to them or why, but who struggle to get through each day.

Zaida (Yiddish for Grandfather) - I have three universities degrees. I am a University Professor now, and you came from a small Polish town with little formal education. Yet you taught me so much more than what I ever learned in my formal education. You taught me charity and empathy for others. Something we must all remember. For one never knows when the misfortune of life may occur to any one of us. Thank You Zaida, Thank You !!


Assoc. Professor Alan Levy BA, MIR,LLM teaches Human Resources, Labour Relations & Dispute Resolution Department of Business Administration at Brandon University and The International Institute of Dispute Resolution, Tel Aviv University, Ramat Aviv, Israel

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