Yakov Rybalovfacecommjul15.JPG




Tell us a little about your career.

I graduated from the Faculty of Industrial and Civil Construction of the Lviv College and studied Building and Construction at the Saratov Institute. I worked as Foreman, Chief of Construction, and eventually Deputy Head of Capital Construction. In Canada, my first job was as a shift supervisor at a metallurgical plant, and then manager at a reinforced concrete factory. But I was always attracted business, and I decided to open my own small business - a leather goods repair shop. It was challenging to find a suitable place to open a workshop, since the busy shopping centers only wanted to rent space to someone with experience, which I did not have yet. I had to open my first workshop in a small, half-empty shopping center. A couple of months after opening, to the surprise of the owners of other shops and center manager, my workshop always had a line, and I even had to hire two assistants. One shopping center manager came by and, after counting the number of people standing in aline outside my workshop, looked at the mezuzah on my doorpost and asked, “What is this?” I replied, “A mezuzah!" He said: “Remove it!" To which I replied: "I will not remove it.” As a result, in spite of a successful business for five years, they refused to extend my lease, and I had to start all over again. I decided to open a chain of workshops to repair household items, including. footwear, handbags, luggage, leather jackets, as well as making keys, engraving, sharpening skates, scissors and knives, and selling cosmetics. Our shops have been opened in larges hopping centers and department stores, such as Loblaws, Dominion (now Metro), K-Mart, A & P, and Honest Ed's - 15 workshops in total. On the door of every workshop was mezuzah, and we were closed on every Jewish holiday, which was given as a paid vacation to all employees. After many years of successful business, I sold all the workshops, and am now an active retiree.

How long have you lived in Ontario, and why did you choose Thornhill?

We emigrated to Canada in 1980 and settled in London, Ontario. We moved to Toronto in 1982, and to Thornhill in 1992. I like the area of Thornhill, above all, because it is a vibrant Jewish neighborhood with many synagogues and Jewish schools. In addition, the homes in the area are nice and comfortable, and we have many conveniences like shopping centers. After coming from a placed where it was difficult to be Jewish, where I was not able to learn about Jewish history, holidays and traditions, I am so grateful to live in Canada, where all have equal opportunities. 

What do you do in your free time? Do you have any hobbies?

As I said, I am an active retiree. In the morning I go to the fitness club, or go for a long walk (7 to 10 km.) I am also a member of the club of pensioners and businessmen. On Saturdays I go to synagogue at the JRCC West Thornhill, which I have been attending since its opening. I also attend lectures and seminars, read a lot, and volunteer with different organizations.

If you were given the opportunity to meet anyone, alive or dead, who would you choose, and why?

I would choose the Lubavitcher Rebbe. Personally, the Rebbe means a lot in my life. A portrait of him hangs in my homw, and I feel a spiritual connection with the Rebbe. I regret that I did not ask for an audience with the Rebbe during his lifetime. Now, I would go to him for a blessing, even if I had to stand in line all night.

How involved are you in JRCC programs?

I started to attend JRCC programs immediately after my arrival in Canada in 1980. I particularly enjoy attending lectures and classes on Jewish history and traditions, as well as participating in discussions and deliberations of various Jewish topics.

What are your future plans?

To live a healthy, active, fulfilling life.