Montreal, Quebec and Canada has lost a true community leader with the passing of Gerry Weinstein.
Gerry was a true community activist. Although he had many accomplishments to be proud about, it was the B`nai Brith House, a large social housing development in Côte Saint-Luc, which brought the biggest smile to his face. He engineered its creation and spearheaded the fundraising for the $13 million project. Gerry was also relentless that there had to be another such building nearby to meet the demand. As a member of the Côte Saint-Luc Council, I can tell you that we had a pretty hard time saying “no” to his proposals. He made it happen and Chateau B’nai Brith will be constructed right next to the IGA on Côte Saint-Luc Road. It is so sad that Gerry will not live to see it. I have been told that the Quebec board recently unanimously approved a motion submitted by former president Eric Bissell to name the current Residence B'nai Brith House to two very worthy individuals, and the sign naming Gerry Weinstien and B'nai Brith leader Ted Greenfield is now proudly displayed above the entrance. "As humble as Ted is and Gerry was in their generosity, they refused to be named alone without each other," said Regional Director Harvey Levine
Gerry had many health problems over the years. Diabetes robbed him of most of his sight nearly 30 years ago, at which time he had to stop driving a car. But he never let that disability get in his way. “I have to be honest and tell you that I do not feel as if I have any impediments,” he told me.
In 2005 Gerry became the national president of B`nai Brith Canada. This occurred a short time after he underwent a lifesaving kidney transplant. “As a person with limited sight, and having dealt with kidney disease and a transplant, he has more vision than many sighted people and always maintains a positive outlook on things,” Greenfield told me at the time of Gerry's installation. “He has been, and continues to be, involved in a number of different community organizations and has served in leadership capacities in each one. I am proud to be called a friend by Gerry Weinstein. He is a modest man and a team player who uses his stature and energy for the benefit of others, rather than himself.”
Most mornings Gerry was driven to the Delly Boys Restaurant (until its closing) or the YM-YWHA by 6 a.m. and then to his office, where he ran the Nirvana Management real estate operations, as well as a giant warehousing complex. A lot of his time was spent fielding calls from different community leaders and organizations. I know because he would often call me a few times a week.
“Gerry is a man of compassion and passion,” Eileen Katz, the director of B’nai Brith House, told me in 2005. “I am fortunate to be in a position to be speaking with Gerry every day. He really cares about our building and the people in it. This is his baby and we recognize that we would not even be here if it were not for him. He has a real zest for life and it rubs off on others."
Weinstein was also president of the Jewish Hospital of Hope Foundation and a board member of the Jewish Eldercare Centre. Over the years he was integrally involved with B’nai Brith’s kosher food program and a leader of the Knights of Pythias fraternal organization. He was a past president of the Foundation for Research into Children’s Diseases, which sponsors an annual Telethon of Stars for the city’s two children’s hospital. Politically, he was an active member of the Conservative Party of Canada and served as president of their Mount Royal Riding Association. He was very active in last fall`s federal election, although because he considered both main candidates Anthony Housefather and Robert Libman good friends, he did not play a high profile role.
Gerry's kidney problems surfaced on March 14, 2002, while on vacation in Florida, with his wife of 58 years Lynn whom he called his “rock.” His kidney just shut down. The date coincided with his wife’s birthday. In an interview with my colleague at The Suburban, Bernard Mendelman, he said: “I told Lynn I got a private jet back to Montreal for her birthday.” He was taken to Pierre Elliott Trudeau Airport, where an ambulance waited on the tarmac to rush him to the Jewish General Hospital.
After spending a year on dialysis Gerry asked his doctor if he could be tested for a kidney transplant. He was deemed capable of accepting a new kidney. Kidneys for transplantation come from living donors or cadavers. The latter leave them in their will to be donated, or permission is given by the deceased person’s family at the time of death. There is a long waiting list. Years can go by until a matching donor is found. His angel turned out to be daughter Susee, whom upon discovering that her kidney was compatible insisted on being the donor. The surgery was successful and Gerry barely missed a beat.
I know he had a few close calls in the hospital in recent years, but each time I'd get a call with the words: "Mike, you know me well enough that I will always bounce back!"
I will truly miss my regular talks with Gerry and so much appreciate all of the support he gave me whenever I called him for help or advice.
Contributions in Gerry’s memory may be made to B’nai Brith House, (514) 223-2023. I attended his standing room only funeral. My friend and colleague Glenn J. Nashen wrote this beautiful tribute.