Helen Eisenstat z”l

When my own parents, and my husband Lou's parents cameto Canada close to one hundred years ago, they carried their Jewish heritage with them to an unknown land. Our generation, their children, have lived as Canadian Jews in safety, witnessing the terrible world calamities of war and anti-Semitism and holocaust, as well as the magnificent and proud unfolding of a rich Jewish life in the Diaspora, and the birth of our Jewish homeland, Israel. What can I — one person — say about the intertwining of my own life with my heritage as a Jew? Perhaps I should reflect on the Jewish values that have been the pillars of my life, in the hope that they will be passed on to future generations.

The first is family. Our extended families, as well as our own nuclear family of four children, have been sources of strength, mutual help, and pride. In all ways that we could, Lou and I provided a stable Jewish home for our children, and a meeting place for family and friends near and far. The challot that I baked in my kitchen were blessed on countless family simchas. We celebrated turning points in the lives of so many, and in turn received much love.

Next, we always honoured education. Our children's education,both Jewish and secular, was a prime motive in our family life. Seeing our children grow intellectually and contribute to society was a consolation for the interruption of Lou's and my education in the hard years. After Lou's death in 1979, I fulfilled a lifelong dream of going to University. I graduated with a B.A. in Jewish history when I was 70 years old.

Lou and I always made time for community life. Lou was active in B'nai Brith and our synagogue. Always an active synagogue member, I took on leadership roles in the L'Chaim Club, and later in the Association of Jewish Seniors. I was alwaysa faithful and active Adult Education student.

Family. Education. Community. These were the pillars of my life. I hope I have passed these values on to our children and grandchildren. That is the way we can reach beyond our own limited lives, and see the future.


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