• Print

By GERRY POSNER Whoever said history cannot repeat itself ought to have a conversation with Drs. Marty Koyle and Ken Wolch, former Winnipeggers living in Toronto.

They have proven the very opposite and from all reports, the second time around was better than the first, a mere 50 years ago. Marty & Ken re-enacted their bar mitzvah from the spring of 1965. The names were the same, the Haftorah portion for Shabbat (Hagadol) was the same, only the location and clergy were different. Why, even some of the guests could say that they saw the boys (now men) back in the old days.
How did this come about? For sure, it was not a long time in the making, as up until 2011, Koyle was not a resident of Toronto or Canada for that matter, having only moved to Toronto from the USA at that time. But, he and Wolch were long time friends, part of the original graduating class of Ramah Hebrew School in Winnipeg in 1964. The two kept in close contact over the years and have met on various occasions when the various classmates reunited. So close was that group that Koyle and Wolch had no problem reciting the names of their Shaarey Zedek Synagogue class list for bar & bat mitzvahs. In those days there were so many bar and bat mitzvahs that it was not uncommon to have double events, just as Marty & Ken had in 1965.
Back on  April 10, 1965, Rabbi Milton Aron officiated with Rabbi/Cantor Louis Berkal and Torah Reader Chaim Shielkowsky alongside, with the synagogue choir perched in a loft behind a curtain. The guests, who were invited by way of an announcement in the Jewish newspaper and some mailed invitations were in the many hundreds. The two boys did well, although they were nervous. Fountain pens and cufflinks were the order of the day for presents. It did not occur to Koyle or Wolch or anyone else then to donate a portion of the funds to charity. Fast forward 50 years and the presents were fewer, the choir absent, and the locale considerably removed from Shaarey Zedek, as in the First Narayver Synagogue, which would fit into the reception hall at Shaarey Zedek nicely. But, this time, the moment meant a great deal more to the now sexagenarians. Their hearts and minds were into it far more deeply; in 1965, it was a matter of rote.
Wolch is a dentist and Koyle a urologist, and they have a lot of titles to their names and years of activity in various organizations. Still, this return to their past was an unpredictable moment.
The men conceived the idea for this repeat experience not that long ago and a connection was made to Rabbi Ed Elkin of the Narayver Synagogue, which synagogue coincidentally enough has a significant Winnipeg membership. That a former Winnipegger, Harry Schacter, is the president made things move even more smoothly. And so, on Shabbat Hagadol, the two men took centre stage and each performed half of the Haftorah reading. They did have to relearn the trop, but they soon recalled the old Jack Garland (the former choir director at Shaarey Zedek) trops from their joint bar mitzvah some 50 years ago.
People came from all over to witness this reliving of history. Some of those in attendance of Winnipeg origins were: Eric Winograd, Marcia Knight Udow, Judy Nisenholt, Stephen Plotkin, Ted Rosenstock, Cheryl Schwartz, Harry Schacter, Nathan Isaacs (an uncle to Ken and now 92 and a long time Toronto resident now), Rob Rosenblat, Mory Hirt, Michael Minuk, Robyn Stein, Leslie Mitchell Gottlieb, Sara Wolch, Eitan Poskanzer and Sheila Gold Mitchell.
The moment was a big one, but the bar mitzvah bochers were not through yet. Six weeks after this joyous occasion, Ken’s daughter, Jordana, became a mother for the first time as she and her husband, Sean Weinberg, became parents of Emmett Carter Weinberg. The mitzvah continued for Drs. Wolch and Koyle, as Marty Koyle was honoured to perform the bris milah.
And now, they are planning another bar mitzvah at age 83, the traditional time for a second bar mitzvah (in their case, a third). Who would bet against them?