Peace activist Vivian Silver, killed in the Oct. 7 attacks in Israel, remembered in a service in her native Winnipeg

Hundreds gathered at Winnipeg’s Asper Jewish Community Campus to pay tribute to peace activist Vivian Silver, who was killed in the Hamas attack on Kibbutz Be’eri on Oct. 7.

The remembrance service, held Dec. 14, was organized by the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg.

Silver, 74, was born and raised in Winnipeg, moving to Israel when she was in her 20s. She lived on Kibbutz Be’eri with her late husband and her two sons for 33 years, where she was involved in social justice projects with residents of Gaza and the nearby Bedouin communities.

It was feared initially that she had been taken hostage to Gaza during the Hamas attack—but her remains were identified several weeks later.

Silver’s two adult sons from Israel, Yonatan and Chen Zeigen, her sister, Rochelle Gamliel of Winnipeg, and brother, Neil Silver, from Calgary, attended the service.

Manitoba Lieutenant-Governor Anita Neville spoke about Silver’s legacy.

“Vivian Silver worked to make a better and more just world possible. She co-founded an important peace movement,” Neville said.

“She built bridges of understanding. How can we pay tribute to a woman who lived her values so profoundly and whose murder was such a cruel denunciation of those values? We can work for a culture of listening and understanding. We can build bridges in our own neighborhoods and communities. We can teach our children to hold hope close in their hearts.

“It is unlikely that anyone here has a plan to create world peace. But, perhaps world peace is the sum of billions of small acts of peace. Perhaps in that way we can help Vivian Silver’s vision become closer to reality. May we all find peace in our hearts and offer kindness to others at a time when the world needs it so desperately.”

Paula Parks, president of the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg, called the gathering “a moment of unity, remembrance, and of honouring a life that illuminated the path” toward peace and understanding.

“Vivian’s journey, which began right here in Winnipeg, eventually traversed borders and transcended boundaries,” Parks said.

“From her pivotal role at the Arab Jewish Center for Empowerment, Equality, and Cooperation to her founding involvement with Women Wage Peace, Vivian strived to build bridges among communities in Israel, Gaza, and the West Bank.

“Her words, her actions, and her unyielding determination were catalysts for change. She challenged norms and fearlessly stood for what she believed was right. Vivian’s legacy extends beyond borders, beyond political divides, embodying the belief that peace is not just a distant dream but an achievable reality.”

Silver’s son, Chen, an archeologist currently studying in the United States, said his mother continued all her life “to embody Canadian values” pursuing social justice for all peoples, promoting gender equality and always favouring reconciliation over fighting and peace over war.

“Since October seventh, we’ve witnessed the rapid transformation of our mother into a symbol,” he said.

“Her political legacy has undoubtedly touched the hearts of many. We’ve always been proud and respectful of Vivian Silver the public figure, awestruck by her unwavering struggle for a better world, and her inspiring achievements. But for us, she will always remain a loving mother and grandmother.

“She would march for causes and tuck us into bed at night. She would arrange encounter groups between Israelis and Palestinians in the morning and enquire about our feelings after we came home from school. She would orchestrate international peace rallies during the week and bake elaborate cakes for her grandchildren’s birthdays.

“She was a woman of the world, but she had unbendable rules in her family, friendships and community. Growing up it was made clear to us that family is important, and that sheer distance should not act as an obstacle to maintaining strong ties with close and extended family alike.”

His mother’s ideology never became indoctrination, he stressed.

“In our personal mischief, whatever trials and tribulations we encountered, there would always be a hug waiting for us and a deep, sometimes tedious dialogue so that we could understand our motives and psyche,” he added.

“We thank the Jewish Federation for granting us the opportunity to mourn our mother’s death with our Winnipeg family and with the Winnipeg community.”

Yonatan Zeigen said that the family misses their mother and grandmother immensely, and are “grateful for the time we had together.”

A fund named in her memory has been established in Israel, to recognize “women with outstanding achievements in the promotion of peace and a shared society between Jews and Arabs in Israel and policy making,” he said.