Winnipeg Jewish Review Article - "The Joel Weinstein Memorial Scholarship: Honouring The Essence Of His Life"

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Winnipeg Jewish Review

Awarded to a student to study in Israel - March 31 deadline

by Rhonda Spivak

Joel Weinstein photos 1The Joel Weinstein Memorial Scholarship at the Jewish Foundation of Manitoba in the amount of $5000.00 will be awarded to a student who plans to attend a university, college or post doctorate program at an educational institution in Israel, who exhibits a strong commitment to community and volunteerism. The deadline for applying for this new scholarship is March 31. [For more information and guidelines, please click here.]

Joel Weinstein, was a committed Zionist, active member of Winnipeg’s Jewish community, and a senior tax lawyer at Aikins MacCauley and Thorvaldson, who passed away at age 61 on July 3, 2009. After his death, the scholarship was set up by his family in who “wanted to create a lasting tribute that represented his values,” his eldest son Benji Weinstein told the Winnipeg Jewish Review.

Weinstein, who was born on November 14, 1947, in Melville Saskatchewan, was six months old when the State of Israel was formally declared by the United Nations in May 1948.

His father Max Weinstein had emigrated to Canada from Poland shortly before the holocaust and his maternal grandfather had immigrated to Canada from Russia.

Joel’s parents, Esther and Max Weinstein, were dedicated Zionists, who “would have influenced Joel’s commitment to Israel”, but as his son Benji said, “My father’s level of enthusiasm and commitment was beyond what he would have been exposed to in his house growing up.”

Weinstein, became passionately committed to supporting Israel and to promoting and defending its right to exist.

After his family moved to Winnipeg in 1963,  Joel graduated from Grant Park High school in 1965. At the young age of 17, Joel made a decision that would forever cement his personal bond to Israel. He decided to spend a year in Israel working at Kibbutz Beit Zera and travelling.

This journey had a profound impact on Joel's life. Beit Zera, a kibbutz founded in 1927 on the southern shores of Lake Kinneret, was where Joel experienced first-hand the pioneering spirit, work ethic, and sense of dedication among kibbutzniks and Israelis. The term  ”Zera” means seed in Hebrew, and Beit Zera was literally a home where the seeds of  Weinstein’s connection to Israel were nourished and flourished.

“During that time my dad developed a deep and powerful connection to the State of Israel and its people. He returned from that year fluent in Hebrew,” said Michael Weinstein, his youngest son.

When the fateful Six day war in 1967 broke out, Weinstein, like a loyal son, returned to Beit Zera to help at the kibbutz while the kibbutz men were called up to fight in the war.

“My dad wrote letters to my mom during the Six Day war which we still have,” Benji noted.

On his return, Joel married the love of his life, Cathie, and they raised three children- Sara, Benji and Michael.

Joel Weinstein photos 2Weinstein returned to Israel in 1991 during the Persian Gulf War when Israelis rushed to sealed rooms wearing gas masks to protect themselves from Saddam Hussein’s missile attacks.

“As soon as the war ended my dad and a good friend went on their own personal solidarity mission to Israel without the family,” Benji Weinstein said. He did take the family twice to Israel when we were growing up.”

According to Benjamin, “During his time on kibbutz my dad met a couple, Aaron and Simcha who he became very close with and stayed in touch with throughout the years.”

Several months after his father’s death, Benji Weinstein returned to visit kibbutz Beit Zera.

“I visited with this couple who were like surrogate family to my dad when he first went there in 1965. I had been to the kibbutz with our family on previous visits as well, and as kids we had stayed overnight with this couple and their family.

“When I visited in 2009, the couple had recently moved into a new house on the kibbutz, and were very proud of it. The husband, Aharon gave me a tour of Beit Zera, and proudly showed off green fields that he and my father had worked to plant together. He had tears in his eyes as he told me how much he would have loved to show "Yoel" their new house, and how much Yoel would like it.  Sitting around their kitchen table that afternoon, his wife, Simcha, explained that Yoel was always like an angel to her - re-appearing in Israel during war-time, doing his part to make the country a better place.”

Benji added “Our hope with this scholarship at the Jewish Foundation is to inspire young people to continue this type of work and commitment to Israel.

“With the Foundation's leadership team, we set a very ambitious target. The team there was extremely helpful and we were very fortunate to have their guidance.

“We then reached out into the community and received unbelievable support - a true testament to the generosity of Winnipeggers.”

Son Michael noted that his father  who was  appointed Queen's Counsel in 1994,  “always believed in the importance of education.”

He was “a keen student of Israeli history and politics, throughout his life, and would always be happy to engage in debates and discussions about Israeli politics and the importance of Israel to the Jewish people.”

Weinstein always considered it important to give back the community He was a Board Member of the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg, the Jewish National Fund, and the Canada-Israel Committee; he was on the Board of Regents of the University of Winnipeg, a Director of the Winnipeg Jets Goals for Kids Foundation, on the Board of Governors of the Sharon Home of Winnipeg, a Board Member and Chairman of the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada, Winnipeg Chapter and the Board of Governors of the Canadian Tax Foundation, among others.

The scholarship is a way in which  the essence of Joel Weinstein’s life will continued to be honoured and the commitment to Israel and to education will be imprinted on future generations.

"The Jewish Foundation is honoured to have had the opportunity to work with the  Weinstein family in establishing this scholarship. Joel was a very special member of our community and this will also give a very special opportunity to many young students for years to come," said Marsha Cowan, CEO for the Jewish Foundation.

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