Winnipeg’s oldest Jew dies at 106

Sophie Shinewald

When people of advanced age die, their funerals are often small, as many of them have outlived their closest friends. But that was not so for Sophie Shinewald.

Shinewald died on Aug. 28, at the age of 106. As the oldest member of Winnipeg’s Jewish community – a title she acquired in November, following the death of Dolly Winston at the age of 107 – Shinewald outlived almost all of her contemporaries. Nevertheless, her graveside funeral drew about 200 mourners. That is because Shinewald was very much involved in the community, almost to the end of her life.

The octogenarian was blessed with good health. Up until two years ago, she was still living on her own, in an apartment in a Jewish seniors centre in a neighbourhood in which she had lived for most of her life.

As Rabbi Kliel Rose noted in his eulogy, Shinewald was born in Winnipeg in 1913. He recounted that in the summers while she was growing up, she used to help her aunt and uncle on their farm.

She found her bashert – the late Hy Shinewald – fairly early in life. They wed in 1934 and were married for 50 years before he died. The union produced two children, six grandchildren (including CJN columnist Ben Shinewald) and 15 great-grandchildren.

She completed her teacher training and worked for a number of years as a substitute teacher. But it was in retirement that she really made her mark on the community. She was a longtime member and volunteer at the Gwen Secter Creative Living Centre in north Winnipeg. As recently as six weeks ago, she attended an early afternoon concert at the seniors centre.

She also regularly attended synagogue services at Congregation Etz Chayim and its predecessor, the Rosh Pina Synagogue, which is located next to her apartment.

At the seniors apartment block where she lived, she took it upon herself to organize movie nights for many years. Every week, she would walk to the local library and select a DVD to screen for residents and visitors.

She also enjoyed taking continuing education classes at the University of Winnipeg, which she attended into her late 80s.

Among the highlights of her life was being acknowledged by Queen Elizabeth for her many years of volunteering, and celebrating her 105th birthday party with her family.

In mid-August, Shinewald fell and broke her hip. While the doctors did surgery to replace the hip, she nonetheless died shortly thereafter.

Sophie Shinewald was much loved and respected in the community and her many friends say they will miss her.