My mother, Lena Shapiro Wolinsky Z"L, and my husband, Irwin Gold Z"L, profoundly shaped my life. Their lives are intrinsically woven within mine. Their stories, like vibrant silk threads, create a beautiful legacy of community, family and love. Our endowment at the Jewish Foundation reflects the values that I learned in my mother’s home and within my marriage. It’s my way of ensuring that the feeling of belonging to a wonderful Jewish community is available to others.
I remember my mother, who immigrated to New York from Russia at the age of nine, telling me a remarkable story. She and her family were detained in Liverpool because her baby brother was ill and needed milk. My mother left the quarantine area and went on the streets crying ‘Milche.’ People would pat her on the head, not understanding her Yiddish. Then, a man in a black coat and beard came up to her and said, ‘Don’t worry Maidela. I will help you.’ He was a renowned Rabbi who spoke to Immigration, seeking permission for them to live in his attic until they could travel to America. Even then, my mother was taking care of her family.
As a very young widow, my mother continued to take care of everything and everybody. Later, she married Joseph Wolinsky, a generous, loving man. My mother left a heritage of giving, caring and strength. She placed tremendous value on education. I studied social work at the University of Pittsburgh. This experience was immensely satisfying. It served me well as I moved on to work extensively with the Jewish Community Centres, JF&CS, and in private practice. I had an understanding and acceptance of people that found their roots in my mother’s life story.
At University, I met my husband Irwin right after the war. We had a wonderful marriage. We were blessed with three children, Donna, Lisa and Larry Z"L, and six grandchildren. Irwin adored, and was adored, by them. He was a kind, dignified and well-respected man, as was his father, a well known Yiddishist.
Irwin became the Director of the Jewish Community Centres in three North American cities and worked in Federations for 17 years. His last position was in Toronto, our favourite city. This move was, in part, because of our caring, generous families: the Wolinskys from Winnipeg and the Rosnicks with whom Irwin grew up in Toronto, who were so proud of his dedicated community service.
Irwin had a special way of interacting with people. He was loved wherever he worked. He and I were part of a lively group of Jewish Communal Service professionals.
What we are seeing at Federation today is marvelous. The outstanding leadership inspires committed community involvement. That is why this endowment fund, that provides scholarships to prospective JCC professionals, is very close to my heart.
Family, giving, friendship, love and continuance are the threads of my life.