Michael and I believe it is important to understand our heritage in order to know who we are today. Our story therefore, begins with those who came before us.
All of our grandparents came to Canada in the early 1900s from Lithuania and Russia, arriving with nothing but their intellect, grit, and plenty of Jewish soul. They were among the early pioneers of Jewish Canada.
My paternal grandparents met and married on the Lipton Colony, a Jewish farming settlement in Saskatchewan, then moved to Edmonton. My maternal grandfather travelled from Edmonton to the Northwest Territories to trade fur pelts with the natives. My paternal grandfather opened a furniture store, although most of his time was spent following his passion — creating the many institutions necessary to support Edmonton’s growing Jewish community.
I remember growing up in Edmonton in a home filled with community news and stories. I remember the discovery of my grandfather’s Yiddish memoirs in a Saskatchewan farmer’s attic. They described in detail the difficulties of living on the frozen prairies. My father and I later published them in English — a part of our family’s legacy. I remember my parents’ persistence in establishing the Community Jewish Archives, thereby ensuring that future generations would have access to their own history and heritage. Perhaps that is why I have always had a special interest in documenting life through words and photographs, and what encouraged me to co-edit two archival books as gifts to the Toronto Jewish community: Voices from the Heart, and the tenth-anniversary edition of The Book of Life.
Michael’s grandparents established their Canadian roots by selling fruit and vegetables in Whitby and building homes in Aurora before moving to Toronto, where Michael grew up. His father was involved in the Holy Blossom Synagogue and was the founding president of the Council of Jewish Brotherhoods of Toronto.
Despite our different experiences in cities far apart, we were both raised in families who highly valued integrity, humility, respect, and a productive life. Michael, too, learned the values of legacy and education. In addition to serving on the boards and committees of many community organizations, he initiated the Family Philanthropic Forum of the Jewish Foundation, and from 1988 to 1992, chaired the Canadian Friends of Hebrew University for Central Canada.
We are grateful to our grandparents, but as well to our parents, Hy and Celia Baltzan, and John and Rose Shulman. Their courage, commitment, and determination laid much of the foundation for our life today, to live proudly as Canadian Jews. Our parents taught us to live with integrity and compassion for others. They encouraged us to look beyond our own communities and think beyond ourselves. They taught us well. Michael, I, and our children have gained much from our extensive travel over the years. We always return inspired by new cultures and the confirmation that Jewish values know no boundaries.
Our children — Jennifer Shulman and Bob Starkman, Jamie Shulman and Deborah Dalfen — and our grandchildren — Rachel, Mark, Samantha and AJ —share our values of integrity and respect. We love them and are very proud of who they are. They understand their heritage and know the importance of looking to the future with commitment and vision.
This legacy is in their honour.