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  • Marty Gold

Heartfelt Speech by Jeanne Beker Highlights Jewish Foundation Fundraiser

Supporters came out in droves to fill every table at the Jewish Foundation Luncheon on Friday, and they heard a tremendous personal story from Jeanne Beker about her parents' survival from the Holocaust and the important lessons she was taught by them about achieving a fulfilling life.

Over 400 people were seated at the RBC Convention Centre south wing fundraiser for the Women's Endowment Fund, now in its 25th year. The event began with brief remarks by Foundation chair, Dr. Eric Winograd.

“It’s our job to plan for the future we envision, and help shape it”

The sponsor of the keynote speaker, Larry Vickar (Vickar Automotive Group) and Mayor Brian Bowman invoked the Hamotzi blessing of the meal. After the plates were tabled, the chair of the Endowment Fund Grants Committee, Claire McComb, spoke briefly of the kinds of requests they fulfilled and those that needed more than was available from the coffers, in expressing appreciation to the assembly for their support.

She then introduced Beker, who gave a personal and somewhat emotional speech. “These legacies we are left with as children of survivors are as daunting as they are inspiring. They help light our paths ... in untold ways,” Beker said, noting the other children of Holocaust survivors in the room.

A complimentary copy of a memoir by her parents, Josio and Bronia, "Joy Runs Deeper", was provided to every luncheon guest, which included Mayor Bowman (his second Jewish event of the week), St. Vital Councilor Brian Mayes, Provincial Minister for the Status of Women Rochelle Squires, and Transcona MLA Blair Yakimoski and his wife. The most harrowing tale of her parents' history was recounted to the quiet crowd. Her parents met in Kozowa in eastern Poland. As Beker's father was a rather dashing figure - but in the Polish army - the relationship was kept secret as her mother's father, Moses Rohatiner, was very religious. When Josio went off to fight the Nazis, her mother was hidden in a bunker built under the house in advance by Moses. While hidden, footsteps above signaled that the Nazis were in the house searching, and they dug around in a futile attempt to unearth the trapdoor, before leaving. However in doing so, the air pipes to their secret basement bunker had been blocked - and nine members of the family suffocated, except for Beker’s mother.

A mother of two daughters, she described her parents both working hard to provide a good life after emigrating to Canada with older sister Marilyn.

They ensured their daughters heard their tales of survival and those of visitors to their home, where he operated “Quality Slippers”,  selling to retailers. She also told amusing aspects of her own career path, which included being the only mime performer in Newfoundland, which led to her first media gig as an Arts and Entertainment reporter for CBC Radio.

Beker went on to become one of Canadian cable TV's earliest pop culture stars as host of The New Music and then Fashion Television. She now focuses on her clothing brand as well as personal appearances for worthy causes, expressing thanks for her good fortune.

A "fireside chat" with Jeanne Beker, hosted by JFM Director of Communications Zachary Minuk

"(I've had) an absolutely amazing life, that was my obligation to them ... as they didn’t get to live out their dreams".

Her father encouraged "fearlessness and tenacity”, while her mother advised “expect the worst and you’ll never be disappointed.“

"They taught me everything that I know (and) the importance of keeping these stories alive... never forget.”


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