Synagogues



Beth Israel, New Bimah
Rights - JMABC
Posted by jyuhasz
                Interviewer: Marvin Weintraub & Cyril E. Leonoff
 
 
               MW:      Yes, well I remember very vividly your first visit to Congregation Beth Israel, Rabbi, when you came up from Spokane for the interview, for the position, I didn’t know that you were interested in [working in] Seattle also at the time. I’m glad we didn’t know, otherwise you would have gotten a much better deal with us! Can you recollect, now you didn’t come until the fall, I think August [1964]?
 
PS:          In August, yes.
 
MW:      Of that year, and by the time you both came I had the honour of being the first to welcome you, I was president of the Congregation at that time.
 
WS:        Yes that’s right. To us you were the image of the Congregation.
 
MW:      Oh yes.
 
PS:          You succeeded Albert Koch right?
 
MW:      Albert Koch was the president prior to me.
 
PS:          When we were hired.
 
WS:        That image hasn’t suffered at all.
 
MW:      Thank you. Can you recollect any of your impressions of our Congregation and of our Jewish community at that time when you first joined us?
 
WS:        Well not only I recollect my own impressions but all of the echoes in the community of what Beth Israel was to various people. And one of the things that at first shocked me was to know that there were many, many people who referred to our, to Beth Israel as the Reform Congregation.
 
MW:      Really? I hadn’t heard that.
 
WS:        I assumed that this was out of a lack of knowledge as to the difference between reform and conservative, but I think it was not entirely that, I think there was the impression that by contrast to Schara Tzedeck…
 
PS:          Which by the way, apart from Beth Hamidrash which was very small, were the only synagogues in town. Beth Israel, Schara Tzedeck and the small Beth Hamidrash.
 
WS:        The two synagogues, that’s right, people found it easy to sort of make things black and white. There’s so many grey areas in both congregations…
 
MW:      This upset you, did it?
 
WS:        At first. Not to the point where I felt crestfallen or anything like that but I felt that we’d have to do some image building here, and it wasn’t only for the purpose of giving the impression of being just as frum or Orthodox as you, but I intended to make the impression and the reality that conservative Judaism was not only just as authentic but just as intensive in many ways, not in only one direction, and could be more meaningful if it reached out to the community. So my…
 
MW:      So this became your [deliberate] program as a result of that.
 
WS:        My task was to see if we could approximate that goal.

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Posted by jyuhasz
 
 
                 MS:        Yeah, I think it started off…you see my dad was never very religious growing up. He was the only boy after four older sisters and he was like the Messiah and so, but he was kind of a bad boy, not like a bad, bad boy but like a jazz guy and out late. And he moved here from Winnipeg and he never was interested in his Judaism and ironically you know, he met my mom who was also a jazz aficionado, like a blonde haired non-Jewish girl who liked jazz and that’s how they met. And then obviously they got serious but he knew that, “Okay, now if I’m going to get married I’d better, she’d better convert,” and my mom was actually very open to it because her parents, my grandparents, were very open, amazing people. So she already actually had an affinity for Judaism and what it stood for. So of course she was the boss, my mom, and she created the Jewish house even though my dad would be like, “Are you kidding me, we’re going to keep kosher.”  But of course along the way they got more and more involved and more and more religious. I remember when we joined Beth Israel synagogue, I was probably in Grade 1, and in those days new members got to sit on the bimah [a raised platform in a synagogue] and my dad and I got to sit on the bimah and it was actually one of the most memorable moment of my Jewish life is being so proud to sit in this beautiful and sitting on the bimah.
 
So anyways the first involvement I think my parents had in the Jewish community was probably through the synagogue and they got involved. At one time my dad was president of the Men’s Club, my mom was president of the Sisterhood and I was president of USY [United Synagogue Youth, and then my dad went onto the board of the synagogue and he was involved in JNF [Jewish National Fund] and did a lot of work for the Jewish Family Service Agency. He started the Jewish Film Festival, that was one of his big things, when he was president of the Jewish Festival of the Arts he got the Jewish Film Festival off the ground. So he was very interested in cultural arts and my mom was very involved with the Sisterhood, Women’s League on the regional level and she went to Sisterhood conventions and was very involved in Hadassah. Until the day she died she was doing the books for her Hadassah chapter.

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Posted by jyuhasz
 
               MF:        I was brought up in a strongly ethnic community. Our first home when we arrived was on Georgia Street near Campbell Avenue. And lived there a short while. One of my, my oldest sister Rose was born there. Our second home was in the 700 block Union Street. Our neighbours in the first home, we had a very fine negro family. In fact, if you’ve heard of an artist Collins, what’s her name, Collins the singer. I’ve forgot her first name. She was, her parents lived right next door to us and they were lovely people. And our neighbours there were at that time mostly Italians and Russians. And this family of coloured people, very fine folks. On Union Street our neighbours on both sides were Russian Orthodox persuasion. And some of the early Jewish pioneers lived on Georgia on the 7, 6, and 500 block, on Keefer Street in the same 7, 6, and 500 blocks. And the Schara Tzedeck synagogue had not been built yet at that particular time. We used to hold services up to my earliest recollections in the 600 block Union Street in an old store. And two doors away lived the [McCarnon] family, [Jerry McCarnon] the boxer. At school [Jimmy Samuels] was in my class, his father lived in the area. It was just a rented store at the time that I recollect. [We had a movement with aim to] buy a building of our own which we first had one that still exists on Heatley Avenue and between Pender and what’s the next street, I forget, you must know the street…
 
DM:       Pender and Keefer.
 
MF:        Pender. Keefer, right! Between Pender and Keefer and that served as the synagogue for quite a while.

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Posted by jyuhasz
 
 
               SC:         I think I’ve mentioned before that Rabbi Pastinsky brought us to Vancouver because we were only one of two Jewish families living in New Westminster. That was in 1933. Our more of an involvement with the Jewish community started. We used to go to school at Strathcona and take two lunches. One was for the noon hour lunch and the other was after a two hour Hebrew class or Yiddish, I can’t remember which—our second lunch and then we would have two hours of Hebrew or Yiddish.
 
NK:         Can you I ask you who’s ‘we’?
 
SC:         The children, the young people, everyone lived…
 
NK:         Your friends?
 
SC:         No, all of the Jewish, there were only five hundred Jewish in the city, which meant that there were a few only not that many young children. All of the kids went to the Heatley Avenue synagogue. Jewish…
 
NK:         Friends from school?
 
SC:         Mm hmm. I believe Mr. Katznelson was the principal and Ms. Jaffe, Sylvia Jaffe was our teacher. We went for three years and then the Jewish community moved from the Schara Tzedeck which as I said was the only synagogue, the Orthodox, it moved from there to Oak Street.

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Posted by jyuhasz
 
 
               SB:         I was married in the year nineteen hundred and twenty-four. There wasn’t too many Jewish people in the city, but what there was usually concentrated at the Schara Tzedeck shul at the corner of Heatley and Pender Street. That was the centre of all social affairs and that was, a few years afterwards, the community centre was built on Oak Street. And that place then was the place where all the Jewish people had their social affairs. But the shul on Pender Street and Dunlevy was the only one in Vancouver at the time where on special Jewish holidays the people came to daven and hold prayers and meet others. A few years after I arrived they built another shul in the area now…
 
AK:        Where the present Schara Tzedeck is?
 
SB:        Yes, yes, you know where it is?
 
AK:        At Oak and 16th.
 
SB:        Oak and 16th. And then they built the other shul, Beth Israel, and they had a few different rabbis since that shul has been built. During those years, from 1924, many Jewish people came to Vancouver from all parts of Canada. At the first shul at Pender and Dunlevy the number of Jewish people living in Vancouver was very limited, but as the years went by and the people living here told their friends how beautiful the climate was and so on, by the year 1930 there was about 10,000 Jewish people in the city of Vancouver. People of very Orthodox and others progressive but they all came to the same shul. Later on a more progressive school opened up on Broadway. It was called the Peretz School. They done away with a lot of Orthodox principles, it was quite modern, so parents sent their children to the Peretz School where they were taught Jewish and Hebrew, and not many of the Orthodox things that the…learnt years ago. Most of the activities at that time was carried on at the Schara Tzedeck synagogue, social affairs and so on ‘til eight or ten years later the first community centre was built on Oak Street near Broadway. That was a gathering place for all social affairs. But on special holidays the very sacred ones and so on, all the Jewish people in the city of Vancouver until the community centre was built, met at the Schara Tzedeck at the corner of Heatley and Pender.

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Posted by jyuhasz
Object id: 
L.17181

Black and white photograph depicts Aliza Zabensky (nee Shoshani) in front of Schara Tzedeck synagogue. Aliza Shoshani married Joe Zabensky July 22, 1959.

Date: 
1960
Posted by jyuhasz
Object id: 
L.15061

Colour photograph depicts a group of children with adults, posing for photo in front of the Jewish Western Bulletin office.

Date: 
[1992]
Posted by jyuhasz
Object id: 
L.15060

Colour photograph depicts group of men and women holding miniature trophies.

Date: 
1990
Posted by jyuhasz
Object id: 
L.15059

Group of men and women holding signs that read: "I'm so far behind I thought I was first." Men in back row identified, l-r: Bregman, Cohen, Andrew.

Date: 
1990