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Janice Filmon
all photos by Gustavo Levy

L to R: Marjorie and Morley Blankstein, Frank Dimant, and Gail Asper

Tova and Larry Vickar

Richard Swyston, Cheryl and Earl Barish



by Rhonda Spivak, December 14, 2010

Honorary Chairs of the well attended event, at the Fairmont Hotel were Marjorie Blankstein, Tannis Richardson, James Burns and Arnold Frieman. Co-chairs of the event were Hennie Corrin, Jim Carr and 2009 Honouree Arni Thorsteinson. Frank Dimant CEO of B’nai Brith Canada from Toronto was present to present Filmon with her award.
The Program began with the lighting of the Menorah, which B’nai Brith has done since 1875 to re-dedicate itself its principles.
The first candle, lit by honorary Chair Arnold Frieman and his wife Myra Frieman, was  lit for “ Peace.” The next candle lit by Babs and Ruth Asper was for” hope” that anti-Semitism, racism and hate will be vanquished. The third candle lit for a vision of respecting each other’s human rights and harmonious intercultural and interfaith relations   was lit by Rev Rudy Fidel, Co-Chair of the Manitoba Jewish Christian Roundtable and Rev. Raymond McLean, co-chair of the Manitoba Jewish Aboriginal Roundtable. The fourth candle was lit for “justice” by Naomi Levine, former B’nai Brith Advocacy Regional Chair and Lyle Smordin, Past President, B’nai Brith Canada and Present Vice President, B’nai Brith International. The fifth candle for Democracy, (‘there is no war among democratic states”) was lit by Marsha Cowan, CEO of the Jewish Foundation of Manitoba and Richard Swyston, Chairman, B’nai Brith Student Human Rights Award 2010.    The sixth candle for Truth was lit by Larry and Tova Vickar. The seventh candle was lit for the brave Canadians and American forces in Afghanistan and members of the Israeli Defense Forces all of whom who confront terrorism to preserve the “values we cherish.” This last candle was lit by Cheryl Barish, Co-chair B’nai Brith Manitoba Jewish-Christian Roundtable and Earl Barish, Chairman of the National Executive Board.
A brief video presentation outlined the many activities of B’nai Brith, including providing special low income housing for seniors in Ontario, human rights and Israel advocacy, and a whole litany of activities and programs in Winnipeg.
Arthur Mauro, introduced Filmon saying he was her “oldest” friend, since “I’ve been around since Manitoba’s entry into Confederation.”
He captured Filmon’s character by saying she was an individual “that would rather light a candle than curse the darkness.”
Janice Filmon, on accepting the B’nai Brith Award of Merit, thanked the Honourary  Chairs and said she appreciated “the opportunity to identify with and help fund through this tribute dinner the good works of B’nai B’rith, the largest Jewish organization in the world.”
She said she accepted the award “on behalf of my parents – Marjorie & Harold Wainwright – my husband, Gary, my family, - my friends.”
She added, “I have no specialized field of interest or expertise. I’m a lover of life. My work is human nature. Real life is all I know.”
Filmon paid tribute to her parents and shared a poignant childhood story:
 “It was in our home, my younger sister and I were taught a “service” ethic and volunteerism was embraced. The pride of place and purpose I feel in this community started early. Let me share with you memories of time spent with my Dad.
“I don’t know what enabled me to spend a day alone with my Dad on the Winnipeg Beach Boardwalk, anchored at one end by the roller coaster and the roller rink at the other.   A place of magic for a seven year  old. He encouraged me to play the games of chance – I didn’t have much confidence. He would throw the first 2 balls – then say – C’mon – you throw the last ball – you can do it! By the end, of our playing, we had enough points for a prize. Before we chose our prize, we went for a drink. My favorite was Orange Crush. Before I’d finished my first drink, he called the waiter and said ‘my daughter would like another drink.’ I didn’t even have to ask. What a memory! I chose a pale green china tea cup with pink rosebuds. That cup has come to represent the love my father poured into me. It is one of my most cherished treasures. Love is often spelled T.I.M.E.”
Filmon spoke about life being a “series of choices,” and about being fortunate enough to attend University of Manitoba and meet her future husband Gary (they just celebrated their 47th anniversary) and make life long friends.
She continued by saying “I would like to speak to my children – for just a moment, I love being your Mom. I admire you and you teach me. But – I want you to know, good character is more to be praised than outstanding talent. Most talents are, to some extent, a gift. Good character by contrast, is not given to us. We have to build it piece by piece; by thought, choice, courage and determination. “I’m so proud of your fine character. I love you so much.” 
Filmon spoke about family, as the foundation of society: “A family is a circle, and in the end when everything is stripped away – it’s your family who is there for you.”
She spoke of the time she and Gary were guests of the Jewish National Fund, and travelled to Israel for the 3000th anniversary of Jerusalem.
“I spent 12 days there and was touched to my core… If I could choose to take my children for a visit anywhere in the world – I would choose Israel.”
She spoke of her chance meeting with an Argentinean Jewish couple on an airplane which led to the beginning of Winnipeg as a destination of Argentinean Jewish immigrants.
“The year was 1994. Winnipeg was the chosen Canadian site bidding for the 1999 Pan American games. Gary and I were flying with several others to Mar Del Plata, Argentina to the Pan American Sports Organization AGM. A few rows in front of us, on the plane, I saw a large hand across the back of the seat, and a huge foot up against the bulkhead…. As we deplaned, he stood up and he turned out to be 7’ tall. I tried to engage him, but he didn’t respond. I resorted to charades – do you play basketball? “Si” said the woman with him – who spoke a little English – and let  me know he’d played basketball for the Argentinean National team. 
“… With perseverance, I learned they had come to Canada to explore the possibility of immigrating. I enquired – “where are you thinking of moving to?” The reply “Toronto.” “Why not Winnipeg?” “WINNIE PEG” he said. “YES! WINNIPEG.”
“That was the beginning. He drove from Buenos Aires to Mar del Plata. He met us in the hotel each evening. He saw us off at the airport. We sent information on the immigration process. We had extended a sincere invitation for them to come and explore the possibility of Winnipeg. A couple of letters were exchanged, the last one suggesting they were considering coming in the fall.
“One October day, I received a call from the Viscount Gort desk clerk – there were people here wanting to see me. I knew exactly who it was – Emilio & Sofi.… Emilio & Sofi - chose Winnipeg. They came as entrepreneurs.
“We stood proudly with tears in our eyes, as they took their oath of citizenship. They were the beginning of the migration of Argentinean Jews to Winnipeg. They were followed by more than 500 families – who have moved here. They have injected creativity and lifeblood into our community.”
Filmon then shared some of life’s lessons:
 “Never say you don’t have enough time? You have exactly the same # of hours per day, as were given to Mother Teresa, Albert Einstein and Martin Luther King.
“‘Never deprive someone of hope; it may be all they have. I can relate through my own cancer experience and having the privilege of being active in the cancer arena for the past 21 years.
“Smile. Don’t be the best. Try your best. Lose without excuses. “Listen. Listen to your children. Listen to what your parents say – you may not agree – but listen anyway. Listen to music. Listen to your heart. Listen until you lose the gift of hearing.“
Try – get involved – dream. Everything starts out as a dream or an idea  Habitat for Humanity, the Civil Rights Movement – B’nai B’rith – Assiniboine Park. Canadian Human Rights Museum,  the Nellie McClung monument. The odds are – at least a few of your dreams are bound to come true.
“Don’t worry too much. “Have fun – lots of it! Watch the sunset. Watch stars twinkle. Play flashlight tag with your grandchildren Watch your language.”
Filmon spoke of lessons she learned at Davos, at the World Economic Forum which she attended for six years.
She learned “about taking the time each day to think”, about “ how important language is in negotiations, in the peace process.” She spoke about praying, “You can say your prayers or think them but don’t leave the job of fulfilling them to God – half the job is ours. Please know that some less fortunate people will only experience God’s warmth though you.’
Filmon added “I don’t know how many years I will be blessed with the privilege of serving my family and community – but my prayer is that I will use my energy to uplift and build. To become a significant person in my grandchildren’s lives; that I will surrender to surprise & opportunity; and try always to light the way so we can stand on higher ground.”
Filmon quoted Anne Frank, who said“How lovely to think that no one need wait a moment; we can start now, start slowly changing the world!” How lovely that everyone, great and small, can make a contribution toward introducing justice right away!
“This is your call to action,” Filmon added.
She ended her speech by asking: What is that you hold in your hand? Nothing you say? Look again. Every hand holds some special gift.
“A hammer, a broom, a pen.  A hoe, a scalpel,  an artist’s brush. A needle, a microscope A violin, a way with words. In the giving of faith and  hope. What is that you hold in your hand? Whatever your gift may be, it can open your door to abundant life. You hold in your hand the key.”

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

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