Photography by Tom Sandler

Clara Pasternak Halpern was born in Poland in 1937. Her parents left Poland when Clara was two months old and arrived in Christ Church, Barbados,
along with her two-year-old brother, Jack. Barbados was the only country that would give them refuge at that time.

Jews have lived in Barbados since 1654. This diaspora originally fled from the Spanish Inquisition in 1492 to Brazil, but then were forced to leave again when the Portuguese captured Brazil and another Inquisition took place. Although they faced many restrictions, Jews were quite successful in Barbados. Many left after a major hurricane in 1831, but a larger Jewish presence resumed around WWII.

Clara’s father started off as a pedlar, and eventually opened a very successful dry goods and leather shop. Her mother died when Clara was 19. By 1959, her father decided to move to Canada since there was no university in Barbados and, like many other Jews, he wanted his children to meet more Jewish families. Most, including the Pasternaks, decided to move to Montreal.

In 1957, Clara married Norman Halpern, who worked for Shell, in Montreal. In his role, they travelled extensively and eventually settled in Toronto in 1974. They have two daughters, Wendy, who works for the Jewish National Fund, and Karen, a speech language pathologist. They have four grandchildren: three girls and one boy.

For more than 20 years, Clara has worked with her husband as president of his management consulting business, Halpern Associates Inc.

Clara has had a wonderful life, and is so happy she came to Canada and eventually ended up in Toronto.