Thursday, September 1, 2016

On the Canadian Prairie

Thirty-three years old at the time of his immigration, Grodno-born Rabbi Israel Isaac Kahanovitch was called to Winnipeg, Manitoba, after spending a year in Scranton, Pennsylvania. He had left his Russian homeland two years earlier in the wake of devastating pogroms and traveled across the ocean with his wife and several small children.

When Rabbi Kahanovitch and his family arrived in Winnipeg, the prairie city was still quite young and the Jewish community was composed of struggling groups of immigrants, most of whom had fled from Russia following pogroms in 1882 and 1905.

In addition to his high level of Torah knowledge, Rabbi Kahanovitch was known for his warmth, energy and dedication to the people of the region. He organized Talmud study groups and helped establish the Hebrew Free School. In addition to his rabbinic duties in Winnipeg, Rabbi Kahanovitch traveled throughout the Canadian prairies to support the larger Jewish community. He was involved in creating a Jewish school in Regina, a synagogue in Melville (both in Saskatchewan), and etc. He was often referred to as the Chief Rabbi of Western Canada.

A passionate Mizrachi Zionist, Rabbi Kahanovitch served on the National Executive of the Zionist Organization of Canada. This was not his only national activity. He was overwhelmingly elected to serve as a delegate at the first Canadian Jewish Congress in Montreal in 1919. Additionally, Rabbi Kahanovitch created Winnipeg’s Unity Charity organization.

Rabbi Kahanovitch passed away on June 22, 1945. His contributions to Canadian society were recently recognized by the Canadian government. In March 2016, a plaque in his honor was unveiled by Parks Canada, the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada and the Jewish Heritage Centre of Western Canada.

On September 1, 1905, Alberta and Saskatchewan, two of the three prairie provinces, joined the Canadian confederation.


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