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Well-known Canadian lecturer and author Ben Sperer turns 100
As a longtime supporter of Federation CJA, Mr. Sperer has contributed for many years to the cultural backdrop of the Montreal Jewish community.
By: Federation CJA
Friday, March 19, 2021
Well-known Canadian lecturer and author—and now centenarian—Ben Sperer’s earliest memory spans back to when he was two-years-old in his native Turkey, accidentally turning his mother’s soup blue when he knocked a pencil out of his father’s shirt pocket right into the pot. With a sharp memory and a kind, steady voice, Mr. Sperer turns 100 years old, happily recounting many lively stories from his youth.
Mr. Sperer has contributed for many years to the vibrant cultural background of Montreal as an active member of the Montreal Jewish community and long-time supporter of Federation CJA. A retired pharmaceutical executive, he spent his formative years involved in the British embassies in Ankara and Istanbul, where he brushed shoulders with official envoys and even befriended who he refers to as “one of the most important German spies”—unbeknownst to him at the time. He married his first wife in Turkey where she worked for British Airways, a job that allowed the couple to travel the world on a dime. For many years he was chairman of a Jewish Association in Turkey and was always heavily involved in the cultural and social development of Jewish people.
In 1960, Mr. Sperer and his wife emigrated to Montreal, where Mr. Sperer began his own medical publishing company. He re-married after his wife’s death and, unfortunately, became widowed a second time. He sweetly acknowledges both his late wives and also his late mother, who died when he was just a bar mitzvah boy as his, “three guardian angels.” He has a married son and two grandchildren, all living in Montreal and with whom he cherishes a close relationship.
When asked what he’d like to impart on the younger generation, Mr. Sperer’s reply is simple: “Be honest with yourself and those around you. Teach your children by example.” He has certainly demonstrated this as an active and involved member of the community always giving back throughout his life. For Mr. Sperer, taking care of those around him is important and, for him, “Being a Jew means to be a mensch.”
Since the pandemic hit, Mr. Sperer has remained optimistic, fortunate that he has never suffered from any serious health ailments throughout his long life. He still lives independently, and spends his time writing short stories and speaking at various Canadian universities on history—giving virtual lectures at McGill as recently as last month. When asked about his plans for his milestone birthday, Mr. Sperer says he will be celebrating over Zoom with close family and friends in London, Turkey, and Montreal. His one wish? Chocolate cake—his favourite.
On behalf of Federation CJA, we thank Mr. Sperer for his years of dedication to our community and we wish him a very happy and healthy 100th birthday. Ad’me’ah ve’esrim!