Feb. 2, 2000: Kiriat Shmona, Israel: This evening marked the history- making premiere performance of Winnipeg's Hai Folk Dancers. The troupe, founded in the mid '60's has been waiting on tiptoe for this visit for thirty years, though not always the same toes. The performance, of a magnificence rarely seen in these parts, was topped only by the discovery of former Winnipeg native Barry Silverberg lurking appreciatively in the audience, accompanied by two or three (Kiriat Shmona native) daughters.
Barry was born Boruch Velvel I, to Alan Silverberg and Bella nee Litvack) in May, 1952, "still wet behind the ears" as they say over there. Actually, in those days, a lot of people were still wet behind the ears from the famous Red River flood of 1952, which destroyed, among other things, all evidence of his parents' marriage. For years, his sister teased him that she was the rightful heir to the Silverberg fortune; he had in fact been found on a doorstep, and was, perhaps, an offspring of the Winnipeg Co-op Dairy.
Young Boruch did "The Jewish Thing," attending first Talmud Torah kindergarten, where he learned to sing "Yaddayim Yaddayim, tra-la-la*," then the Day School, where he learned to sing "Raglayyim, Raglayyim, Tra-la-la**" and on through graduation from JWC - the Jewish Highschool-- class of '69. [ lets forget about the song for now, OK?]
First Grade (which we called Grade One) was "quite the challenge" for a little Jew on the prairie. This was before the discovery of modern educational concepts such as learning 'disabilities' and 'speaking' to pupils. "I remember penmanship class," he reminisced to our virtual reporter, "It must have been in Grade Three, we had just learned script. Every afternoon we spent an hour copying a proverb off the board over and over. The other kids were already nearing the bottom of the page writing out 'The Pen is mightier than the sword,' and I was still sweating over my first "Pen is". I was miserable. The Age Of Information was on its way, and I would never be ready for it if I couldn't write an F without getting it backwards."
In Grade Seven, in desperation, he began to amass a collection of puns and poetry in a 'scribbler' (Canadian for notebook) called "School Junk" which was passed around the school, mostly during lessons. This phenomenon reached a peak, if you can call it that, in Grade 10, when his Fiddler on the Roof parody was actually produced. Somewhere along the line, he began wearing a Kipa and keeping Shabbat, a sure way of gaining the ostracism of his Jewish friends.
"Fall of '69. The Jewish highschool graduated us after Grade 11, and we still had a year to go. Enrolled at the local Garden City Collegiate (GCCI, though nobody ever knew what the I stood for, Igloos maybe): enrollment: 25% Jewish, 65% Ukrainian, 10% Bison. There I was, with a Kippa the size of a satellite disk winged by two truly remarkable ears. The year proved to be a Turning Point! New friends, new ideas! The 60's had finally come to town! As Dylan put it, 'The tides of change are churning our waters.' And my waters certainly got churned, mostly thanks to Ruthie, a ninth grader who introduced me to kissing. Sfattayim, Sftatayim, Tra-la-la***"
By April, all he needed was love. And he found it. Fortunately, she came from a religious family. Unfortunately, they were religious Lutherans, who knew that the beanie was there only to cover up the horns. So, when the year ended, final exams were 'written', he was off for Israel, never to return. (Except for the summers of '71 and '73, but that lowers the dramatic impact of the line).
A BA from Bar Ilan University was followed by Post Graduate studies in the IDF. The years flew by like the snow flurries of his youth. Barry, now married with 5 children -collect them all! -- lives on the slopes of the Naftali Mountains, in Kiriat Shmona. His parents, also native Winnipeggers, spent 1971-2 fruitlessly searching the rec-room for him, and when they realized the truth, burned all his Mad Magazines and came after him on Aliah, dragging his sister Claire (now a lawyer in Ra'anaanaa and a Hai Dancer alumnus in her own right!!), and brother David (now a Vet in Ramat Gan - not a Hai dancer but he did do a stint in Cantor Brownstone's choir) in their wake.
OUR ON-THE-SPOT REPORTER ASKED HIM THE FOLOWING QUESTIONS:
Q: What do you miss most about Winnipeg?
A: That's a toughie, as it's been a long time and I now eat food with spices. Well, I used to go rafting along the railroad tracks in those big puddles when the snow melted. That was good. And Tobogganing eh?
Q: What's your reaction to the Prime Ministers plan to offer up the Golan Heights to Syria?
A: Well, I've heard when the old Talmud Torah / JWC building had to be sold to the Goyim, a lot of people in the community were really upset. But let's face it: that's just a building.
Q: Why did you make Aliah in the first place?
A: Hmmmm. Several reasons. A: I caught Carlebach at the Playhouse in '68, and my heart started pumping hot chicken soup through my veins. B, my girlfriend's parents were beating her up because I, as they put it with the quaint politeness of Western Canadians, had 'killed' their 'Lord,' and C, I wanted to live in a place where you couldn't see snow.
Q: Why did you choose to live in Kiriat Shmona?
A: Where else can you see snow?
Q: You spent the formative 18 years of your life in peaceful West Kildonan where nothing ever happened. Why did you seek out a community where border skirmishes are routine and rockets are accurately aimed and fired at your neighborhood every few months?
A: Uh, huh. I don't understand the question?
Q: Recently another Barry from Winnipeg has made international headlines and weblines with a sensational book. Is there any connection between the two of you?
Q: You know, what really amazes me is -- How is it that you, a resident of Israel, have let a whole interview go by without even touching upon the subject of schnorring?
A: Funny that you brought that up. Right now I am trying to interest the Western Canadian Jewish Federation to sponsor a daring venture that combines architecture, medicine, engineering and romance in the Northern Galilee region; precisely, my daughter's orthodontist bills. Any donor whose heartstrings pull down over $1000 will have a modest dental plaque mounted in his/her honor.
Do I see any Yaddayim, Tra- la-la -la -la?
Barry Silverberg, February 2 (groundhog day), i.e. 2/2/2000 toot toot to you to!
*Free translation: My Hands! My Hands! Tidley tidley pom, an early work by the Great Zionist Laureate, Winnie the Weitsman
** Free translation: My Feet! My Feet! Tidley tidley pom, an mid-life work by the Great Zionist Laureate, Winnie the Weitsman
*** Free translation: My Lips! My Lips! Tidley tidley pom, a late work by the Great Zionist Laureate, Winnie the Weitsman