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by Rhonda Spivak June 10, 2016

Sidney Halpern was recently honoured on May 12 at a Members’ Recognition Dinner of CPA Manitoba at the Canadian human rights Museum  with the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award This constitutes recognition by the Profession of an individual who, the organization says, “has brought honour to the designation through distinction in service to the profession and  community.”


In his remarks at the ceremony accepting the award, Halpern firstly expressed his gratitude to his wife Esther (ne: Nepon) , with whom he has been on a "63 year odyssey," consisting of  "5 years of courtship and 58 years of marriage." As he said, "without Esther and her love and support here would not be a Sid Halpern," and as he told the Winnipeg Jewish Review, "Esther has been the key ingredient for everything I have achieved."


He noted  “the long road  from Winnipeg’s core area, my  Selkirk to Jarvis  avenues  community  center,  to the heights where he stood to accept the award – the Canaduian Museum For Human Rights –on  Israel Asper way ,  where his  intellectual friends Babs and Issy asper established  a beacon of light for the world, of dreams  coming to fruition and the quest for universal tolerance.”


“Without Esther and her love and support there would not be a Sid Halpern” he emphatically noted


Sid then expressed his gratitude to his parents  Chaim , & Bertha Halpern , who  settled here after arriving from Zeleshchiki Poland in 1929 ( Chaim worked hard as a pedler and Bertha as a "chicken flicker".) As Sid said, "My parents had  the courage to exit the killing fields of Europe, leaving their parents and siblings to a certain fate in unmarked graves, so my brothers and I would have a better life in Winnipeg, the gentlest and most caring society in North America.They instilled in us a titanium spine replete with resolve and determination. They had warm and caring hearts filled with love and compassion and a determination to build a better world and life for our family."


Sid noted that he was born at the height of the Depression but notwithstanding this his parents were optimistic, and worked hard to provide an education for their three sons. He graduated from St john's Tech and went to U of M to become a Chartered Accountant . "The reason I  became an accountant is because  my older brother Dave (who lives in Calgary) became the first accountant in the family. I  followed him," he said, with a chuckle. His older brother Izzy graduated as a Civil engineer and prematurely passed away in 1974


Sid's career started with "a lucky introduction to Max Shore by Izzy Peltz and  the apparel industry with what was to become the Rice group of companies , "the largest manufacturer of  mens' , ladies', and children's leather and textile outerwear and sweaters in Canada". Sid spent 36 rewarding years there, where he went from the more traditional role of being an auditor and accountant" to becoming an overall  business leader  "where I learned to lead, follow or get out of the way." Sid stressed that wisdom comes from learning to "thinking out of the box", and from being willing to question the "status quo.", to innovate, think differently, to be curious and ask "why" as well as "why not." He recalled how  "I learned to  calculate profit (loss was never in our lexicon) on the back of a napkin without detailed financials ...This was  an opportunity for me to learn how to communicate complex finances in simple lay people's terms,"


Halpern said that the most "important skill I learned was 'people skills'-just to be nice." All my contracts in life were handshakes." This at times meant sometimes going by train and staying overnight in the store of a rural customer to demonstrate respect."  Later he added, " and that if you  develop "personal relationships" with people, "all else will follow."


In addition to being president of the Rice group of companies Halpern was also very active in the business world in his capacity as President of the Manitoba Fashion Institute –The   Apparel Manufacturers of Manitoba; National Vice-president of the Canadian Apparel Federation- the National Association of Apparel Manufacturers. Sid thanked Jeffrey Gilbert for nominating him for this Lifetime Achievement Award.


The late Max Shore, was the one who gave Sid his career start and greatly influenced him as his mentor. As his daughter Ahava Halpern Lavitt told the Winnipeg Jewish Review, "My father started as a book keeper at Rice Sportswear and ended his career there as President. Max Shore was a mentor for my father. They had a kinship and affinity relating to Family,  Jewish Community -Zionist organizations and the values of Tikkun Olam." 


Regarding involvement in the Jewish community, Sid's strongest memories are often of being raised in a religious Jewish family, attendance at Talmud Torah School and Yeshiva , and at synagogue. "Synagogue was always a part of my life," he says, (he is a past president of Herzliya Adas-Yeshurun Synagogue)


 "My initial involvement in the community was through education," at Talmud Torah, during the time of Rabbi Kravetz, who Sid studied under and Joseph Wolinsky a wise mentor. "I was an accountant so I became treasurer of the BJE (Board of Jewish Education and then went on to become President . The key to Jewish continuity is Jewish Education, that is relevant, modern, and uses traditional texts and has teachers with skills to inspire children."  Sid says that he helped find money at the time for the first Yeshiva University retreat that occurred at Joseph Wolinsky Collegiate (when this Editor was a student at the school when Jerry Cohen was principal and Rabbi Charles Grysman was Vice Principal), a program which still exists today at the Gray Academy.  Sid says that "Being Jewish is a great way of life. It focuses on Family , education and learning."


Ahava says that her Esther and Sid parents were persistent that  "their children complete their twelve year education at Talmud Torah Elementary school and Joseph Wolinsky Collegiate. I also understood early on, due to our family home life, what it means to feel, perceive and live as a Jew, as well as to stand proudly and assertively as a Jew"     


As Ahava recalls "I do have some distinct memories of my father's community work. One of the earliest being in the 1970's. Our family put on our best clothes and went to a function that took place in the gymnasium at JWC on Matheson  Avenue.  I may have known that my father would be receiving a type of recognition but somehow I remember being surprised by it. Aside from the initial surface reaction of feeling proud for my father, I realized that it wasn't the honour that mattered but the purpose behind it." 


Sid is also a Past president of the Jewish Child and Family Service of Winnipeg, the Winnipeg Jewish Federation, and was the founding chair of the Sol Kanee Community Service Award, the Max & Mollie Shore Philanthropy Award and the community Kavod Awards, which was the result of his close friendship with the Kanee and Shore families.


As Sid said of Sol Kanee, "He was a great mentor. He  understood that you had to go out and get the great CEO's to work for you and then your Executive and Board didn't have to work too hard."


In 1994 Sid was the national president of the Jewish National Fund of Canada. From 1993 - 1999, he was President/Chair of the Sharon Home and spearheaded the development of the Simkin Centre. He has been a member of the Board of Governors of both the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg since 1992 and the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev since 2013 to the present.  


As Ahava has noted  "Many people have come up to me over the years and stated their appreciation on how my father had influenced their lives."


 Since 1995, Sid has been the executive producer and host for the Jewish Hour Radio Show. "He is continuing the legacy of Noah Witman," Ahava says. Halpern is regularly the leader of the weekly and holiday services at the Simkin Centre.


 He has been  a guest lecturer at the Asper School of Business and the MCI College for Design and Fashion. 


 Ahava says she now concurrently works with five to six non profit groups and "It would be no surprise then that my father and I would cross paths in this regard. ... we recently have come together to discuss one project that we are both working on concurrently. I hope that this would be the case for many years to come"


As Ahava adds, "My father is in his early 80's and people are still approaching him to commit to projects, create finance and marketing plans."


Sid told the Winnipeg Jewish Review that everything he and Esther did in life was for  their family, and today he enjoys seeing the accomplishments of his children and grandchildren.


" I learn lots from my grandchildren,"he says. "I am always learning."

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

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