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L to R: Bob Robinson, Hirsh Lerner, Terry Braunstein

Hirsh Lerner

David Greenberg: Reminiscing with Curling Champions Terry Braunstein, Bob Robinson and Hersh Lerner

by David Greenberg, May 5, 2024

I recently had an opportunity to have lunch at the Simkin Centre  with Terry Braunsteirn, Bob Robinson and Hirsh Lerner where Hirsh now resides. Between 1958 and 1969  these three  Jewish curlers  led teams that captured five Provincial curling titles emblematic of curling supremacy in the Province: Terry Braunstein in 1958 and 1965, Hirsh Lerner in 1963 and 1966 and Bob Robinson in 1969.

In 1958 Terry Braunstein, who curled at the Granite Curling Club in a  Junior League together with his brother  Ron, Ray Turnbull and Jack  Hellemond stunned the curling world when the Braunstein team  defeated Marno Frederickson to capture the Povincial title. Braunstein was 18 years of age at the time and  his brother Ron was 16. The Winnipeg Arena where the final game was played  seemed to draw  the entire  Winnipeg Jewish curling community to witness that championship contest. Ron Braunsterin recalls the sports writers gave them little chance to win the contest. But Ron said he and Terry had been mentored by their uncle Eph Portigal at Maple Leaf Club  when they moved to Winnipeg and had the opportunity to fill in when he was short of a team member learning curling strategy from him.

However, in order to qualify to represent the Province, the team had to be affiliated as adult members of a curling club and as they had played as Junior curlers at the Granite Club, they  were not considered members . One  would think the Granite Club would have been honored to host a Provincial team that would represent them nationally and  grant them membership.

Terry recalled at the time they won the title a question arose because of their age whether they would even be qualified to represent the Province. However when the team applied to join  as adult members they were informed by the Granite Board there was no openings for new members and refused membership.  Two members of the Braunstein team, Ray Turnbull and Jack Hellemond were not Jewish. It became  clear they were denied membership because Terry and Ron were Jewish.

It was not until Gordon McTavish a Granite Club Board member threatened to resign his membership and go public with the reason for their refusal to be accepted  that  an opening for  membership to the team emerged three days before the deadline to qualify them  to be the Provincial representatives. Terry said  during this period of uncertainty they had a backup plan to affiliate with The Maple Leaf Curling Club. Braunstein again represented the Province in 1965 with Don Duguid joining the team to play third with brother Ron and Ray Turnbull on that team. The 1965 team won the Canadian  National Title  and  represented Canada in Scotland. Ron Braunstein, attending medical school at the time could not take time from his studies to travel and the team invited Gordon McTavish to replace him,

Both Hirsh Lerner and Bob Robinson were members of the Maple Leaf Curling Club located in Winnipeg’s North End  where the majority of Jews resided at the time. The Maple Leaf was known as a Jewish club having few non Jewish members.  Lerner  on his 1963 championship team had Coleman Staniloff playing third and Allan and Bobby Dudar. Lerner  again represented the Province in 1966 replacing Coleman Staniloff with Bob Lemecha.  

In 1969 Bob Robinson, better  known for his skills as a  talented    golfer   successfully represented the Province. His team consisted of Allan Shinfield ,Leonard Easton and Doug Strange,

Bob recalls his introduction to curling occurred when he and Hirsh attended the University of Manitoba and arose  from a casual conversation in the student lounge with Hirsh. Hirsh invited Bob to join him at a B’nai Brith bonspiel to be held in Saskatoon over a long weekend   Bob having  never curled  quickly realized that Hirsh needed transportation to Saskatoon and Bob owned a car.  

Apart from their curling skills these three Jewish curlers held among them four University degrees. Both Bob Robinson and Terry Braunstein held degrees in Chartered Accountancy and Robinson in addition held  a law degree as did Hirsh Lerner.

Both Braunstein and Robinson in their youth were focused on  professional athletic careers:  Braunstein attended college at  Houston Texas on a track and field  scholarship . Robinson played   organized hockey on the St Boniface juvenile team and declined a offer to enter the Montreal Canadians’ organization to advance his career, opting for an academic career. The sport of curling  did not offer the opportunity  to earn a living as a professional career.  While Bonspiels  were mostly held on weekends  and offered opportunities for competitions with curlers in other provinces, it  required  some degree of independence   from  their work  and expenses to travel.

While all three of these athletes acquired professional degrees they all gravitated to business  careers,Terry  founding a family marketing company;  Bob  while developing a national reputation as an expert in tax law , owned and developed  nursing homes  and Hirsh  acquiring a law practice  in Neepawa  Manitoba and gained  ownership of  Agassi  ski resort near  McLeary  Manitoba operating  it for many years while continuing the practicing law.

Perhaps for this reason all three men were able to continue there love of curling on a competitive basis  allowing  travel to other provinces to complete where they had success and gained the respect of their curling colleagues.

As to the final chaper of that antisemitic incident, you remember, I mentioned Coleman Staniloff  played  with Hirsh Lerner in 1963. His son Ian Staniloff in 1990  became the first Jewish President of the Winnipeg Granite Curling Club.











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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.