Family. Friends. Jewish living. Community involvement. These are the things that are important in life. I learned this from my parents; they learned it from theirs; and I’m doing what I can to share these values with my two daughters, Jessica and Shirley.
I was born in 1973 to Barry and Rena Shenkarow (née Stajer) in Winnipeg. Both of my parents were born in Winnipeg, as well.
I have wonderful memories of my father’s parents, Sam and Shirley Shenkarow (née Neaman), who were both born in Winnipeg. My Zaida Sam was a pharmacist and he loved to make jewellery and items out of plexiglass. While the family vacationed in Winnipeg Beach, he used to come by every night and take all of the grandchildren for ice cream (he would drive his wife’s car because he didn’t want to get his own car dirty!). I spent a lot of time with my Granny Shirley, including visits in Hawaii and a lot of shopping outings together.
My mother’s parents were Paul and Ruth Stajer (née Mandelman), survivors of the Holocaust. My Zaida was born in Klobuck, Poland; my Baba in Jedlnja, Poland. They both lost most of their families during the war, and met in the Bergen Belsen displaced persons camp. They married in Paris and arrived in Winnipeg in 1950. My mother was born a few months later. My memories of my Mom’s parents are vivid, centring mostly on Shabbat dinners at their house in Garden City. I spent hours and hours cooking with Baba Ruth and learned all of her recipes. Zaida Paul was a tailor and also owned and operated a number of grocery stores and hotels. He was seriously injured in a car accident in 1977, but despite his injuries, he did his best to live a full life.
From all four grandparents, I learned the value of family; the merit of hard work and perseverance; and the importance of building a good name for yourself. They were people of good character.
My family life growing up was beautiful. My sister Mira and I were – and still are – fortunate to have such caring parents who, like their parents, placed a very high value on family and community. My Dad was (and still is) an active businessman – for nearly 20 years he was part-owner and President of the Winnipeg Jets Hockey Club. It was a busy time for him, but he still carved out time for family and volunteering in the Jewish community and outside of it. My Mom was a “stay-at-home” Mom, but she was a vital support to my Dad’s career, especially through the hockey years. One of her great accomplishments was launching the Winnipeg Jets Goals for Kids Foundation which distributed more than $2 million to children’s charities throughout the province. She, too, has been an active volunteer in the community.
As a family, we enjoyed many fun and exciting times together including travel to Europe and Israel after my Bat Mitzvah, India, fishing trips in northern Manitoba, three unwinding months in Africa after my Dad sold the Jets, and much more. Above all, though, it was the simpler pleasures that flavour my memories and have shaped my values. Family Shabbat dinners and quiet summers in Winnipeg Beach – things we still enjoy – bring me great joy.
I also have great childhood and teenage memories of going to school at Ramah and Balmoral Hall; and of participating in Kadima and USY at Shaarey Zedek Synagogue, as well as BBYO. I played baseball and swam, and did a lot of arts and crafts, something I still love (and so do my daughters!). Of all my childhood connections and activities, though, the one that inspired me the most was BB Camp. To this day, when I step on Town Island, I am 15 again. Starting at the age of eight, I enjoyed 10 summers as a camper and staff member and, today, I am proud to be the Chair of the board. BB was – and still is – my “happy place.” In a lot of ways, camp made me who I am.
After high school, I earned a political studies degree from the University of Manitoba and also studied applied multimedia. I worked at the China Cabinet for a while, but I’ve mostly been a stay-at-home Mom raising my incredible daughters. Today, I represent a line of jewellery from a company called The Right Hand Gal. I got married to Ross Ransby in 1998 and we separated in 2011. Jessica was born in 2000; Shirley in 2003.
Aside from BB, I’ve been an active volunteer on the Combined Jewish Appeal’s Women’s Cabinet and a member of the Shaarey Zedek Synagogue board. I was proud to have organized the synagogue’s Purim Gala for five years. I’m also active with the Gray Academy Parent Advisory Committee. Not only do I enjoy all of this volunteer work, I want my daughters to watch me and learn of the importance and pleasure of community service.
My kids are still young, and I expect that there are many exciting and happy times in front of us. I hope that I will be seen as someone who cared, someone who tried to make a difference, someone who knew how to take care of people, someone who got things done, someone who embraced Jewish values, and someone who was passionate about family. Just like my grandparents. And just like my parents who always stood in front of a mirror and reminded themselves “to know before whom you stand.”
By participating in the Jewish Foundation of Manitoba’s Endowment Book of Life, I am making a statement about what matters to me – taking care of the future, and taking care of the community.