By MYRON LOVE Class reunions are most often a once (or twice)in a life time event. I myself have attended two smallish reunions of my Peretz School cohort as well as Aberdeen School’s 100th anniversary and St. Johns High School’s 75th and 100th anniversaries. While many welcome the opportunity to reconnect with former classmates – and others not so much – several members of the I.L. Peretz Folk School class of ’63 have in recent years made class reunions a regular happening.
Back row, standing, left to right: Bailey Rayter, Eric Posen, Lanny Silver, Harold Silverman, Mark Waintman, Ron Charach, Leslie Hatklin.
Middle row, left to right: Ethel (Levine) Kofsky, Bella (Sapoznik) Ben-Ari, Sharon Winokur, Ester (Schwartz) Kagan, Clara (Ross) Smukler, Barbara (Shoib) Murray z”l, Phyllis (Chrzan) Wollach.
Front row, seated, left to right: Annette (Feldman) Nagler z”l, Sharon Love, Sharen (Martin) Hogarth, Betty Eisenstadt, Janis (Swick) Wisher, Hilda (Szternfeld) Smith, Anita (Ladner) Bakal, Nettie Schwetz.
Our teacher Mrs. Brooks is on the left and Mr. P. Herstein, the principal, is standing on the right.
Top photo taken in Vancouver at the home of Bob and Reesa (Margolis) Devlin, August 2015, during our 65th birthday reuni
Seated, left to right: Leslie Hatklin, Brenda (Grushko) Casey, Arthur Itzkow, Ethel (Levine) Kofsky, Carol Pollock, Janis (Swick) Wisher, Gity (Shklarsky) Morris-Finkel, Candy Zell.
Standing, left to right: Ron Charach, Harold Abosh, Faigie (Raber) Samson, Earl Zimmer, Sharon Love, Lanny Silver, Myrna Shefrin, Bailey Rayter, Bella (Sapoznik) Ben-Ari, Reesa (Margolis) Devlin.
Now that bond that these former classmates have formed has been given international recognition in the pages of the prestigious Atlantic Monthly magazine. In the April 2 edition of the magazine, writer Julie Beck, under the aegis of her “Friendship Files” column, interviewed five of the classmates about their enduring friendship through the years. The five – Ron Charach, Reesa (Margolis) Devlin, Ethel (Levine) Kofsky, Sharon Love (my sister) and Bailey Rayter – reminisced about their elementary school days, growing up in Winnipeg’s Jewish community, the nature of their bonds over the years and how the reunions began.
As noted in the article, the first reunion was held 20 years ago to commemorate the 50th birthdays of the graduating class of ’63. Reesa Devlin, a former business owner and food writer, recalled that after she moved to Vancouver from Winnipeg – 25 years ago – she reconnected with some of her Peretz School classmates living there and they began to see each regularly. There were 14 of them living in Vancouver. It was the Vancouver group that organized the first reunion, which was held on the May long weekend in 2000. Since then, there have been three more reunions - alternating between Winnipeg (where the other large segment of the former classmates, including Love and Rayter, still live) and Vancouver – each commemorating milestones – either birthdays or other significant moments.
The second reunion, Sharon Love notes, took place in Vancouver over the November 11th, 2010 weekend, in celebration of the cohort’s 60th birthday. The third reunion was in Winnipeg in June 2013 - the 50th anniversary of their graduation from Peretz School. The fourth was back in Vancouver in August 2015, celebrating 65th birthdays. The last reunion was supposed to be last June in celebrating the 70th birthdays of the former classmates. That, however, was changed to a Zoom get together due to Covid restrictions.
Devlin noted in the article that the weekend reunions are replete with structured activities, including home dinners, some touring and a farewell brunch.
It was Ron Charach who got the ball rolling in regard to the Atlantic article. The Toronto-based psychiatrist and author (who was profiled in a recent Jewish Post & News column coinciding with the launch of his new children’ book) had written a lengthy non-fiction piece about the reunions, called “Elementary Reunion”.
“I got a reply from the editor of the Atlantic’s Family section saying she liked the idea but wanted one of her own writers (Julie Beck) to interview some of us,” Charach says. “I was asked to recommend four of my fellow students to join us in a joint interview.”
He chose Sharon Love because, he says, she has become the group’s unofficial historian (having written about the reunions in this newspaper). Bailey Rayter and Charach were best friends growing up. Reesa Devlin was one of the organizers from the Vancouver contingent. And Ethel Kofsky, Charach notes, added the perspective of being a child of Holocaust survivors.
Love reports that “the interview of us five talking lasted about an hour and a half. We did a lot of talking and, as a writer, she had to put together something that I am sure a lot of people can relate to”.
“Julie crafted a fine article,” Charach observes. “We were very happy about how it turned out.”
He adds that he is surprised at how many people have read the story. “This story has legs (in news media parlance),” he observes. “My daughter, for example, found out about it from a colleague at work.”
“We were fortunate that a special camaraderie developed within our group,” Bailey Rayter adds. “And it wasn’t just through our school ties. We saw each other a lot outside of school as well. Our lives were intertwined. We lived in the same neighbourhoods. We knew each other’s siblings. There were some family connections. We all went to the Y and many of us joined BBYO.”
As a psychologist, he points out that studies show that, particularly for boys, friendships we form can last a lifetime.
It is not so much a case of these former classmates having been lifelong best friends though, Charach points out. “After graduation, many of us went our separate ways. It is just that when you reconnect with former classmates there is a comfortable familiarity (similar to family) that you don’t share with friends who don’t go back that far.”