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Photography by Hudson Taylor
Edna and Michael Levitt arrived from Scotland in 1983. Michael was 13 years old. His father had died suddenly in 1979 at the age of 43 and Edna decided that she and Michael should come to Canada. She came into Michael’s bedroom one night and said to him, “I think you and I should go on an adventure. I think we should go to Canada.”
She had considered Los Angeles and Toronto and chose Canada. She thought it would be more like Scotland as it was part of the British Empire, and likely shared similar values.
All their relatives were still in Scotland, and they only had met a few people from Canada who told them that Canada was a great place. Edna’s mantra that she lived by and taught to Michael was, “Always be brave and curious.”
They had to make many adjustments when they came to Toronto. It was not as much like Scotland as they expected, and they had no previous exposure to North American culture. Edna enrolled in York University and graduated on her 50th birthday. Her first job was working at the Baycrest Foundation for five years. Following that, she held two other fundraising positions in the Jewish community. Some years later, she decided to reinvent herself and became a personal trainer for older adults, owning a business called “50 Plus Fitness.” It is still running successfully today. She has been a great role model for Michael.
Both Michael and his mother are happy they moved here for the many opportunities that have been possible for both of them. Canada has lived up to his mother’s hopes for a brave start to a new life. In 1995, Michael met Barbi Benjamin, and they were married in 1997. They have two children: Jessica and Casey.
Michael was elected Member of Parliament for York Centre in 2015 and again in 2019 and has served in various roles, including Chair of House Foreign Affairs Committee and Chair of the Canada Israel Parliamentary Friendship Group. In 2020, Michael resigned from Parliament to take on the position of President & CEO of Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies.
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