Salute to Seniors: From Survival to Thrival – Growing up in Edmonton

At the Jewish Senior Citizens Centre Growing Up in Edmonton program: Standing: Lewis Cardinal, Colleen Paull, Sam Koplowicz, Carley Haffner & Svetlana Pavlenko Seating: Beryl Nahornick, Elder Jo-Ann and Jerry Saddleback and Bev Sonmor.

By Colleen Paull

(AJNews) – On Thursday, March 7, the Jewish Senior Citizen’s Centre (JDIC) hosted a joint program with the Jewish Archives of Edmonton (JAHSENA). The program, “Growing Up in Edmonton” was a panel discussion with Indigenous and Jewish panelists. Lewis Cardinal, an Indigenous Leader, and Carly Heffner, JAHSENA’S Archivist facilitated the discussion.

Lewis Cardinal and Elder Jo-Ann Saddleback shared memories of their culture shock when moving into the city at their young age and the lack of other Indigenous families (none); their native language was not spoken, and they weren’t allowed to practice their traditions. Fortunately, the family members were able to pass some traditional knowledge onto the next generations. Elder Jo-Ann Saddleback shared her memories about members of her extended family who had a significant impact on her life choices and her desire to preserve and pass on traditional knowledge.

Bev Sonmor and Beryl Nahornick, the first Jewish twin girls born in Edmonton, spoke of being surrounded by Jewish families, attending Talmud Torah school and practising Jewish traditions. It wasn’t until they left Talmud Torah that they first met non-Jewish friends.

Bev recalled that during every holiday there was a lot of singing and music involved. She said that particularly family gatherings developed her love for music. Her favourite memory is when all the schoolkids lined up outside of their classes and their principal led them in singing Hebrew songs together every Monday morning. She also remembered the excitement she and others felt when the new sidewalk was built parallel to Jasper Avenue (between 92 & 93 Street) and it became a perfect roller-skating area.

Beryl said that one of the reasons they came to Edmonton was their uncle Abe Fratkin, who had a jewellery store in Edmonton. Abe had a musical talent and founded the Edmonton Philharmonic Orchestra in 1941. He was its conductor from 1941 till 1948.

Music runs in the family and the Senior Citizens’ Centre is very fortunate that Beryl is our life-long Purimspiel producer and Bev always plays an important part in it.

Lewis Cardinal said the “sharing of stories is important to learn each others’ truths.” This statement reminded me that it is important to tell our stories so we can start to recognize each other in those stories.

Thank you to Gerry Emas who videoed the session for archival purposes.

There are two more ”Growing Up in Edmonton“ sessions with Indigenous and Jewish panelists on Thursday, April 11 and Thursday, May 9 after lunch at 1 p.m.  This is a great opportunity to experience the similarities and differences between the two communities and get to know the Jewish panelists a little better.

We would like to acknowledge financial support of the Canadian Heritage, the Government of Canada.

2 Comments on "Salute to Seniors: From Survival to Thrival – Growing up in Edmonton"

  1. Daniel Barron | May 13, 2024 at 8:45 pm | Reply

    I was a great friend son Leonard of Bev Sonmor Can’t contact Leonard

  2. Daniel Barron | May 13, 2024 at 8:47 pm | Reply

    Leonard and me were at Hebrew School in Calgary

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.