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Jewish men of 1942-1943 Reunion. Photo from Jewish Heritage Centre’s archives.


By Sharon Chisvin, June 8, 2010

Like many men and women of a certain age, Gerry Posner and his buddies like to sit around and reminisce about the good old days growing up in Winnipeg’s Jewish community. But instead of just reminding one another of past adventures and of people and places long gone, they also like to share their good memories with others either too young or too old to have been part of their gang. It was in this spirit of sharing that they recently invited the public to a Jewish Heritage Centre of Western Canada sponsored event called Jewish Men of 1942 and 1943.

This event, held on June 7 in the Berney Theatre at the Asper Jewish Community Campus, featured the premiere of the short video Growing up Jewish in Winnipeg, as well as a panel discussion and an informal question and answer and anecdote-telling session. Jack London, one of the boys of the ’42-’43 club, served as emcee for the program, which attracted about 125 people.

London is also one of 14 men featured in the Growing Up Jewish video, which was filmed during a reunion the friends held in Winnipeg two years ago in celebration of their 65th birthdays. About 75 people, both from in town and out of town, attended that one day event.

In the video, the men take turns discussing their experiences growing up in Winnipeg in the 40s and 50s, at a time when the city’s Jewish population was at its peak. They recall the intense friendships they developed during that time, and give credit, in particular, to the north end, St. John’s Tech, the YMHA, B’nai Brith Youth’s AZA and Nordic’s Pool Hall for providing them with a sense of community and of belonging that have been central to their lives.

Those interviewed also eloquently discuss the differences that existed between the north end and south end Jewish communities, their relationships with their parents, the dating scene, and the freedom and innocence that they enjoyed. Posner, for example, recalls spending hours of his youth bouncing a ball against his front steps.

“There was a pride in being from Winnipeg when we were kids,” Jack London says in the video. “Winnipeg was the Little Engine That Could. It was the place that produced fabulous people worldwide and shouldn’t have. This was the place where you could exercise creativity and imagination in any way you could.”

“There was a feeling of unlimited future and a context of community closeness and identity,” he adds. “You knew who you were and you were secure with who you were.”

While all those interviewed on film were male, the four panelists that took to the stage at the Berney Theatre were all women.

Ethel Amihude, Gerry Lomow, Susan Cohen and Joni Rusen were all born in ’42 or ’43 and, whether they grew up in the north end or the south end, savour the same sense of nostalgia for their past as do their male counterparts. They unanimously agree that the era in which they grew up was special and that they felt privileged to have grown up in Winnipeg when they did.

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

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