- ca. 1943-ca. 2001
Hy and Bess Altman were active in a variety of Jewish organizations in Vancouver from the 1970s to the end of the 1990s. They also raised money for Israeli institutions and won recognitions for doing so.
Hy and Bess Altman were active in a variety of Jewish organizations in Vancouver from the 1970s to the end of the 1990s. They also raised money for Israeli institutions and won recognitions for doing so.
Gloria Gutman and Carol Gutman were born to Rachelle and David Chertkow and were two of four sisters; Patsy and Judy being the remaining two. Their mother Rachelle was a concert pianist with the Seattle Symphony Orchestra until she married David Chertkow and moved to Drumheller, Alberta, where David was a lawyer. During her childhood, Gloria lived in Seattle, Drumheller, Calgary, and lastly, she and her family moved to Vancouver in 1945.
Gloria Gutman (née Chertkow)
Gloria Gutman was very involved with the B’nai B’rith youth organization where she served as Intergroup Chairman, Sentinel, Treasurer, Vice-President and lastly, District President. Gloria graduated from Prince of Wales High School and afterwards received a BA in Psychology from UBC, an MA in the Psychology of Aging from the University of Alberta, and a Ph.D. in Developmental and Social Psychology from UBC. As quoted on SFU’s website; “Gloria Gutman, Ph.D., developed the Gerontology Research Centre and Department of Gerontology at Simon Fraser University (SFU) and was Director of both from 1982–2005. She is currently a Research Associate and Professor Emerita at SFU. Dr. Gutman is the author/editor of 23 books”. In 2012, she was awarded a Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal, by the Government of Canada, and in 2016, she was appointed to the Order of Canada, the country’s highest civilian honour.
Carol Herbert (née Chertkow)
Carol Herbert graduated from UBC with a Bachelor of Science in biochemistry in 1966 alongside first-year Medicine when she was 19 years old. Carol became a family practitioner which combined her passion for the sciences, arts, and humanities. After dedicating herself to family practice research and teaching at UBC and chairing the department for ten years, Carol moved to London, Ontario. At the University of Western Ontario, she was appointed Dean of Medicine & Dentistry. Here, Carol was able to find a generous donor, renaming the faculty to the “Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry”. The school expanded and under Carol’s supervision, a campus in Windsor, Ontario, was opened. This doubled student enrolment and doubled research funding and introduced an undergraduate medical sciences degree. After retiring from her position as Dean, Carol returned to Vancouver where she became a visiting professor at UBC.
Fritz and Olga Langer fled Vienna with their son Michael Hans Max Langer (later Livni) and their daughter Lucy (later Laufer) at the outbreak of World War II, when Lucy was only 7 months old. The family escaped to France, where they waited in the suburbs of Paris for approximately 8 months until they were allowed into Palestine in February of 1939. Times were tumultuous in Palestine, and Fritz struggled to find work. In 1942, the Langers left Palestine for Canada, where Fritz’s previous employers in Austria had emigrated. The influence and financial support of the Bloch-Bauer (later Bentley) and Pick (later Prentice) families made it possible for the Langers to be included in the 112 Jews who were admitted to Canada by Order in Council in that year. The first stop was Trinidad, where they waited to receive visas to travel through the United States. After getting their visas, the family boarded a ship called the Robert E. Lee. One day out from port, the Robert E. Lee was torpedoed and sunk within minutes. The family’s important documents, money, and Olga’s jewelry was lost, but the family survived on a lifeboat. They were eventually rescued and taken to port in New Orleans. The Langers were able to see their family in St. Louis, Missouri and New York, New York before they finally arrived in Vancouver, four years after they first left their home in Austria.
Olga Langer (born Spitzer) was born in 1900 in Vienna. She grew up in a moderately upper-class household and completed grade 12, including some Jewish education. Following her education, Olga worked as a bookkeeper for her father. She married Fritz Langer in 1924, in Vienna. The couple enjoyed travel and recreation together in their youth. The transition from her life of relative ease in Europe to the struggles of life in Canada was difficult for Olga, but she proved herself a devoted mother and incredibly supportive wife. Olga worked full-time in her husband’s store and ran the household, a life member of Hadassah who was too busy to ever attend a single meeting. She died in Vancouver in 1982. Olga’s parents were Alfred and Else (born Selinko) Spitzer.
Friedrich (Fritz) Langer (born Lowy) was born in 1891 in Vienna. Fritz was an officer in the First World War in the Mounted Artillery of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Fritz was an insightful and practical man; He changed his last name from Lowy to Langer in 1918 to avoid discrimination. Fritz received a law degree from the University of Vienna and worked managing cotton mills for the Picks and Bloch-Bauers, eventually helping his employers get out of Austria following the Nazi invasion on the 12th of March in 1938. In Canada, Fritz first worked for Pacific Veneer and Plywood in New Westminster, and in 1944 opened The New Stamp Shop on Hornby (later West Pender), which he ran until a few years before he died in 1976 at the age of 84. Fritz’s parents were Morris and Helene Lowy.
Olga’s mother Elsa was born to Rosalie Kaufman and Franz Salinko in 1875. She worked as a private English teacher and maintained the home. Elsa died of cancer in 1929. Alfred was born to Morris and Yohanna (born Goldstein) Spitzer in 1870 and died in 1959. Alfred was a bank director and bookkeeper, and moved to St. Louis, MO in the United States as a refugee in 1939. Alfred re-married following Elsa’s death, to Ella Than. Alfred and Elsa had three daughters: Olga (born 1900), Elizabeth (Liese, born 1901), and Margaret (Grete, born 1902, married Arthur Golz).
Fritz’s father Morris Lowy was born in 1855 in Bratislava to Adolf Lowy and [Jetty Schwarz], and moved to Vienna with his family at a very young age in the late 1850s. As an adult he owned a company that manufactured children’s clothing. Morris died in 1927. Helene was born to Heinrich and Caroline (born Mayer) Lemberger in Vienna in 1862 and died of cancer in 1915. Morris and Helene had two children: Fritz and Marianne (Mimi, married name Geyerahn).
Murray Goldman was born in Opatow, Poland August 24, 1920 and moved to Montreal when he was three years old. By 13, Murray had quit school to contribute to family income and by 16 he was a shy salesman with the Fuller Brush Company. Soon Murray was attracted to fashion - and began his fashion career by sweeping floors and selling shirts and ties at Cortly's Menswear. At 21, Murray was recruited into the army stationed in Comox, BC where he became a member of the Canadian Army Boxing Team. On leaving the army, Murray moved to Vancouver, got a job at the Hudson Bay Company and in 1944 he married local girl, Shirley Lapides. Murray and Shirley had two children: David and Penny.
Murray Goldman turned the store that carried his name into the store that carried his personality and in doing so he discovered that the best way to sell suits was to sell himself. Murray then embarked on a marketing campaign that is today the stuff of local legend by writing, narrating, voicing, appearing and directing his own print, radio and TV commercials. He was a 1-man marketing show - with a very funny brand of totally off-the-wall humor. Through his flamboyant marketing and gimmicks Murray opened more stores with a young men's department called The Ivy Room. Murray became sought-after personality and MC of many fund raising 'roasts'. He wrote a famous daily "tidbits" column in the now defunct Vancouver News Herald, and ended them with the mysterious words...."good evening Mrs. Johnson". In time, Murray had a half hour Sunday morning comedy show on CKNW. He was so well liked that in 1964 he was voted Vancouver's most popular radio personality, on the strength of his commercials alone!
Behind the scenes, Murray was committed to his family and his Orthodox Jewish faith. He was president of the Schara Tzedeck Synagogue Men's Club, a founding member of today's Jewish Community Centre, a fifty-year member of B'nai B'rith, and a long time board member of the Louis Briar Home for Jewish seniors. Dedicated to community service, Murray was and a member of Variety Club International for over fifty years and while awards were not his motivation, he accumulated a list of awards that go on longer than his tape measure:
1971 - Businessman of the Year - Vancouver Junior Chamber of Commerce
1972 - Man of the Year by Big Brothers
1974 - Man of the Year by Canadian Council of Christians and Jews
1982 - Big Brothers created the 'Murray Goldman Award' given annually to the person or organization showing exemplary support towards Big Brothers.
1986 - Vancouver Centennial Award by the Governor-General of Canada
1988 - Presidents Advisory Board of the Big Brothers of Greater Vancouver
1989 - Honorary Chairman, Big Brothers of Greater Vancouver
1990 - National Presidents Award; Big Brothers of Canada
2000 - Order of British Columbia
2003 - Medal for the Golden Jubilee of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.
The earliest known ancestors of Vancouver's Nemetz family were Avrum and Surah Nemetz. The name is the Russian word for "German". When the pogroms came through, the Russians heard the Jews speaking Yiddish which they thought was German, so they called them “Germans.” In the 19th Century when surnames became mandatory, the family apparently used "Nemetz" and "Deutsch" (Yiddish for "German") interchangeably.
It is not known where the family originated, but by the 1800s, a small village near Odessa, called Svatatroiske (formerly Volochonsk and now Troickoe), was their home. Their community was a Jewish "shtetl". Avrum and Surah may have had at least two children.
Schmiel (1821-1916), the oldest brother settled in Bogopaul, had eight sons, five daughters who came to America. Only the story of “Dudie Deutsch” or David Nemetz (1830-1892) David Nemetz is known. David and his wife Leah, had eight children, five daughters and three sons, the youngest of whom is Abraham (Avrum) Nemetz (1865-1927). He married Toby (Tuba) Pollock (1870-1942), and they had nine children: Charlie (1888-1973), Samuel (1891-1952), Sarah (1892-1957), David (1894-1981), Harry (1897-1991), Chava (1900-1988), William (Bill) (1903-1992), Leo (1906-1985), and Esther (1909-2006).* Note: For the biographies of the nine children, see below.
Often referred to as Avrum "Kostuf" or Avrum the butcher, Abraham was well respected and delivered meat to a nearby hospital. He was also a merchant who traded in wheat. Abraham and Tuba lived a comfortable life in Svatatroiske, belonging to the upper class merchants' shul. They lived in a beautiful home with lilac and fruit trees, they had a housekeeper and kept farm animals, pheasants and peacocks. The Rabbi and Schohet lived next door and life was good - until 1917.
The pogroms began - stampeding horses, broken windows, people being dragged through the streets. With violence increasing and a shortage of food, they felt unprotected and afraid. The oldest sons had already left the village and had emigrated to Canada, but many family members remained. Toby Nemetz became ill and the family moved to the neighbours across the street. A gypsy fortune teller came one day and said to the youngest child, Nadia (Esther), "If you give me a piece of bread, I will tell your fortune." So Nadia took her across the street to see her mother. The Gypsy woman told Toby Nemetz they were going to leave. A blonde man would come to get them and they would go across water. Toby felt she would not live to see America but the Gypsy woman insisted she would recover well enough to travel, although her husband Abraham would not live long after he arrived.
Several months later a blonde man, acting as an agent, arrived saying he had come to take them to Poland where a family member would be waiting to take them across the ocean. They arrived in Canada September 3, 1922 aboard the RMS Antonia, docking at Halifax.
Making their way to Vancouver they joined the other members of the family where they remained until their death. Abraham died in 1927, five years after he arrived in Canada, leaving Toby as the matriarch of one of the most interesting families of early Vancouver.
Charlie Nemetz (1888-1973)
Because of pressure to become a revolutionist, Charlie, the oldest of nine siblings, was the first to leave the village of Svatatroiske. In 1912, at the age of 24, he boarded a cattle boat for Buenos Aires to begin the first of many adventures. A year and a half later Charlie returned to Russia to do military duty for his brother Sam, so Sam would not have to quite engineering school in Odessa. After serving four years in the frozen wastelands of Siberia, Charlie left for Canada to join Sam, who had emigrated during that time to Winnipeg.
Charlie’s life was full of ups and downs. His high-flying adventures led him to fur and fish trading, the grocery business, speculative real estate and automobile dealerships. He left Vancouver in 1933, his ventures taking him to Mexico, India and back to Argentina. He lived in Nevada and in Oregon, where he bought the Pendleton Hotel. Later he moved to Los Angeles, finally returning to Vancouver in 1969.
Charlie remained flamboyant throughout his life and had a million stories to tell. When he could, he spread his generosity around. He had a soft spot for his younger sister Esther, whom he showered with gowns and furs sent from wherever life’s journeys took him. He was an elegant man, “dressed to the nines.” Supported by the other brothers for most of his life, he always looked good, maintaining his affiliations with the Elks, Masons and Shriners.
He and his wife Annie (née Levson) had three sons: Harry who lived in Tacoma with his wife Lee; Hymie who lived in San Jose, California, with his wife Edith; and Dr. Arnold Nemetz, who lived in Vancouver with his wife Faye (née Gordon).
Samuel Nemetz (1890-1952)
Samuel, the second oldest and a bright student, attended technical school in Odessa. When he emigrated to Canada in 1913, Sam was a graduate electrical engineer. While working at an electrical firm in Winnipeg, Sam met his wife, Rebecca (née Bardach – later became Burich), a highly intelligent and ambitious woman. In 1916, with their three year old Nathan, Sam and Rebecca moved to Watrous, Saskatchewan. Sam became a merchant, buying a small department store which he renamed McMillan Rivers and Nemetz. A second son, Herman was born three years later.
Joined by his brother David whom he had trained as an apprentice, and Charlie, the entrepreneur, they planned to bring electrical power to the small towns of Saskatchewan. Starting with the purchase of one abandoned and broken down generator, and eventually buying eight other generators, they brought power to 18-20 small communities. Selling their company to an American firm, Samuel Nemetz and his young family moved to Vancouver in 1923, and with his brother Charlie became the automobile dealers for Essex, Hudson and Overland. Losing their dealership in 1928, they then went into wholesale electrical supplies. After a brief partnership, Samuel went out on his own as an electrical contractor, founding Western Electric.
Nathan, greatly influenced by his mother’s love of learning, became a lawyer, later to be appointed Chief Justice of the Supreme Course of British Columbia. Herman, following in his father’s footsteps, became an electrical engineer. Both of Sam’s grandchildren inherited the family’s love of education. Dr. Peter Nemetz (wife Romy) is an economist at the University of British Columbia and Dr. Georgia Nemetz (husband Sylvain Sinchein) is a psychologist.
Sarah Victor (née Nemetz) (1893-1957)
Sarah, the oldest daughter, arrived in Winnipeg with her brother Harry. At 21, Sarah (or Sonia as she was known in her family), secured a job as a sewing machine operator. A passionate idealist, Sarah quickly became a political activist organizing a union for garment workers. Married in 1917 to Bernard (Baryl) Victor, an apprentice newspaper pressman, they became active in Maccabees, a group of young Zionists.
With their two small daughters, Rose and Judith, they moved to Watrous in 1923. When Baryl was offered a job as a pressman at The Vancouver Province, they moved to Vancouver, where their son Maurice (Morris) was born. Sarah became involved in the Jewish Socialist movement, and a group called the Arbeiter Ring. Later Sarah and Baryl were instrumental in founding the Sholem Aleichem School, precursor to the Peretz School.
Sarah also had astute business skills. In 1929, she managed to buy a farm in White Rock. There she planted large gardens, made cheese, and in the tough years of the 1930s fed the entire Nemetz family every weekend. Sarah befriended the First Nations in White Rock, trading clothes she had made for their apples, blackberries, and eggs. She also taught the First Nations how to use many of the crops they raised. Under Rabbi Pastinsky’s guidance, Sarah took food parcels to the ill at Essondale and to the imprisoned at Oakalla.
Driving a car in 1926, she did volunteer work at T.B. clinics and started a lunch program at Charles Dickens school. In 1936 Sarah became a founder of the Jewish Welfare Bureau, which later became the Jewish Family Service Agency.
In the 1940s Sarah bought a deli on Robson and Thurlow and began a career in catering. For banquet of up to 500 people, 2000 potato knishes might be made in a day. She developed packaged cake mixes and had a hot food take-out service for those living in rooming houses. Family seders, done with her sister, Chava, were for over a hundred people. In the 1950s Sarah purchase a piece of property in the West End of Vancouver, which she and her brother-in-law Ben Dayson developed.
Never forgetting her labour idealism, Sarah was involved in the founding of the C.C.F. party in Canada (which later became the N.D.P.) and was close friends with Grace and Angus McInnis and J.S. Woodsworth. Sarah also became a personal friend of Golda Myerson (Golda Meir), the future Prime Minster of Israel, who stayed at the Victor home during a trip to Canada sponsored by Pioneer Women.
When Sarah Victor died at the age of 64, she was remembered at a funeral attended by 800 people as “the kindest woman in the Jewish community.” With most modest demeanor she taught her children the obligation of community service to people of all races, because, as Sarah said, “that is what you do.”
David Nemetz (1894-1981)
David, named for his grandfather, left Russia in 1912 at the age of 18. With a suit, a pillow, a change of clothing and some bread and jam, he took the train to Luba, boarded a cattle boat for Hull and then The Lake Erie for Quebec City. From there he began the journey to Winnipeg, with only 50 cents and some food given him by the Jewish Immigration Aid Society.
Sitting on the handlebars of his brother Sam’s bicycle, David rose to his first job: wrapping hams for 9 ½ cents an hour at Swift Canadian. When asked to work on Yom Kippur, he quit and became Sam’s assistant. After working for the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway and later the C.P.R., Dave got a better job in Port Arthur, Ontario, doing electrical work on mine sweepers. He became very skilled at everything mechanical and electrical.
Fascinated by the charismatic personality of Theodore Herzl, David became active in the Young Zionists, organizing Young Judaea in Winnipeg in 1917 and attending the first Zionist Convention in Canada. In 1921, in Regina, Dave met Chaim Weitzmann, who had a major impact on his life.
While visiting his brother Sam in Watrous, they negotiated the purchase of an abandoned generator to bring power to this small town. However, at this time Dave agreed to return to Europe to bring out the remaining Nemetz family members, and could not stay to complete the project. Financed by his brothers, he went to Poland but soon found the $7,000 he had brought was not enough to carry out his plan. His sister Chava was married, and there were cousins, and more cousins, who also wanted to come. Borrowing money, Dave Nemetz paid out over $10,000 – sometimes putting two on a passport – saying they were twins! Hiring an agent to go to the family’s village, moving them through the countryside at night and sleeping in haystacks, he was able to bring out 30 people including his parents and siblings.
Back in Watrous, David met Rose Baru, a school teacher, and he proposed to her shortly thereafter. With $5,000 they moved to Vancouver and bought an old store, Standard Furniture, renaming it Standard Electric. Dave ran Standard Electric for 25 years, and for a short time also operated a 139-acre dairy and cattle farm in Pitt Meadows. In the 1950s Dave began to develop property, and founded the Greater Vancouver Apartment Owners Association.
Dave Nemetz devoted his life to Zionism, raising money for Palestine and motivating youth. He founded Young Judaea in Vancouver, and seeing the need for a Zionist youth camp, started Camp Hatikvah at Crescent Beach under the auspices of the Zionist Organization of Canada. He was also responsible for moving the camp to its present location in Oyama, BC. One of Canada’s best known supporters of the Jewish National Fund, Dave’s name was for many years synonymous with Vancouver’s for those in Israel. In 1947 Dave and Rose secretly helped to train a group of youngsters, including his nephew Sonny Wosk, to fight in Israel’s War of Independence. In 1949 Dave made his first trip to Israel, and repeated this trip almost every year until his passing in 1981.
Dave and Rose Nemetz travelled all over the world during their lives. They had no children, and Dave loved to find relatives in the places they went, later entertaining the family with stories about those he discovered. Recording the story of his life, Dave said, “I never was, or wanted to be, very rich. I only wanted to be comfortable and be able to help others in the world.”
Harry Nemetz (1897-1991)
At the age of 16, Harry boarded a freighter with his sister Sarah. His brothers Charlie, Sam and David were already in Canada and Harry did not want to miss out. Harry joined Dave in Port Arthur, Ontario where he became his assistant doing electrical work for C.D. Howe. Moving back to Winnipeg, the Nemetz brothers all relocated to Watrous, Saskatchewan. Harry’s strength was as a merchant and he moved to Zelma, Saskatchewan, where he bought a store and also became Postmaster for the town. Soon he bought a second store in Watrous.
Harry married Ann Karasov. They lived above the store with their two small children, Milton and Phyliss, until they decided to move to Spokane, Washington, to go into the jewelry business with Ann’s brother. In 1925 Harry and Ann moved back to Vancouver, and, with the Nemetz brothers’ aptitude for electrical work, opened a small business called Dominion Electric, which later became Domino Refrigeration. Their youngest son Alvin was born. They lived at the very fashionable Ferrara Court on East Hastings, the residence of many young Jewish couples, including the family of David Marks, whose daughter Mary was to become the wife of comedian Jack Benny.
Harry was very active in B’nai B’rith and, together with Ann, became District Leaders. Harry remained active in B’nai B’rith for 62 years. In the 1940s Harry started buying downtown real estate and by the time of his death in 1991, he had amassed a large portfolio of property on Hornby, Homer and Richards streets.
Harry’s daughter Phyliss married Dr. Irving Snider, travelling the world as a journalist and travel agent. Harry’s oldest son, Milton, and wife Frances (née Ratner) died tragically in a car accident, leaving two teenage daughters. Alvin received his MBA, pursued a career in banking and married Sheila.
Chava Wosk (née Nemetz) (1900-1988)
Young Chava Nemetz was a beautiful woman. Stories are told that when she had to leave the house during the pogroms, her mother put soot on her face so the soldiers wouldn’t bother her. Arriving in Watrous, Saskatchewan, in 1922 with her husband Abrasha Wosk and their baby daughter Esther, life was fraught with problems. Esther had become ill in Poland en route to Canada and had become deaf. A trip to the Mayo clinic financed by Chava’s brother Dave confirmed that Esther would remain deaf.
After two difficult years in Watrous, Chava and Abrasha moved to Vancouver to join her brothers Sam, Dave and Bill. Abrasha’s brothers-in-law purchased a broom factory for the young couple, which Abrasha ran. Later they bought a butcher shop on Main and Hastings. Chava had two more children, Saul (Sonny) and Rosalie. Living in a rented home on Parker Street, everyone, including the children, worked long hours. Later Grandmother Tuba Nemetz lived with them.
In 1948 they gave up the butcher shop. Sonny went to fight in the War of Independence in Israel, Esther went to California to meet a young deaf boy named Hyman Aheroni, and Rosalie, at the age of 17, married Joe Segal, whom Abrasha quickly and wisely trained in community service. In the 50s they purchased an apartment block on 16th at Cypress. Her step-mother-in-law, Hinda, continued to live with them, creating exquisite handmade table cloths for each member of the family.
Chava Wosk was a perceptive and intuitive woman. She became the “glue” that held the family together. She was wise and knew the strengths and weaknesses of everyone. She was the negotiator, the arbitrator, the judge and the jury. If one was smart, one knew never to cross her. A woman of astute business skills, Chava once told Abrasha “Go, let me run the business, you go build the community!” And he did. Abrasha together with Chava became involved in most of the organizations serving the growing needs of the Vancouver Jewish community. Active in the Schara Tzedeck on Heatley Street, and spearheading the move to its current location, they remained community leaders for more than 50 years. They were the founders of the Jewish Home for the Aged on 13th Avenue, directing two subsequent moves culminated in the present Louis Brier Home and Hospital. Chava worked to establish the Ladies Auxiliary to Louis Brier, serving many terms as its president. Many other institutions had their origins in the Wosk home. The Achduth Lending Society, B’nai B’rith Women, the Muter Farein of Peretz Schul, the Chevra Kadisha, and the funeral chapel on Broadway. Talmud Torah and Jewish Family Service were the focus of dinner conversations for years in the Wosk home.
Abrasha was an outspoken advocate of community needs until he died at the age of 80; Chava the family matriarch for her entire life.
William (Bill) Nemetz (1903-1992)
Bill was the seventh of the nine children. Brought to Canada by his brother Dave, he travelled with his parents, brother Leo and sisters Esther and Chava. First settling in Watrous, Saskatchewan, and then Vancouver, he established Domino Electric with his brother Harry, later branching out on his own, retaining the name Domino Electric.
Married to Florence (née Toban) in 1927, Bill was widowed in 1946 and left with a young son Arnold. At a dinner party given by his sister-in-law, Annie Nemetz (Mrs. Charlie Nemetz), he was introduced to Sylvia Davis. Sylvia had come from Toronto with her two small daughters, Gloria and Deborah, and Annie instinctively knew this was a good match. They were married in 1947 and Bill adopted Sylvia’s children. Together they had Ted, who became a lawyer.
Bill continued throughout his life as an electrical contractor and apartment developer, retiring in his 60s. His son Arnold and grandson Steven followed in Bill’s footsteps and became electrical consulting engineers.
A life member of B’nai B’rith and the Schara Tzedeck, Bill was also a generous supporter of the Jewish National Fund. He enjoyed golf and bridge, but his family was the greatest importance to him. Yearly trips to Hawaii and to Israel with his wife Sylvia were highlights for him as were frequent trips to Los Angeles to stay with his god friend and closes brother, Leo.
Leo Nemetz (1906-1985)
The youngest of six brothers, Leo came to Watrous, Saskachewan, in 1923 with his parents, brothers Bill and Leo and sister Esther, moving to Vancouver several years later.
In Vancouver Leo met Bessie Perlman. Married in 1927, they remained in Vancouver until 1938 when they moved to California. Their young daughter Ada suffered from asthma and Leo and Bessie sensed that the warm weather of Los Angeles would be better for her. Leo and Bessie left the security of their family in Vancouver and moved south.
They established a grocery and liquor business. In the very rough neighbourhood of Watts, they worked long and dangerous hours. But Leo and Bessie led a good life. He loved to cook and have over friends and relatives who often drove from Vancouver to stay with them. He and Bessie also had two sons: Harold, who became a dentist; and Jerry, who although disabled, became a doctor then later a lawyer. Leo was a kind and generous man, adored by his grandchildren and great-grandchildren who always came first with him.
Upon his retirement, and his wife’s death, Leo moved from Beverly Hills to a retirement village in Camarillo. Always maintaining his Shriner affiliation, he continued to march with them in their annual parade.
Leo was a character. With a great sense of humour he coped with the tragic illness that would take his life. In his last moments, his granddaughter Patrice asked him if he would consider reciting the “Shema”, a prayer often said before one’s passing. Leo managed to laugh as only Leo would, and said “Leave me alone…where I’m going they don’t say prayers, they play ‘Kaluki’!” That was Leo Nemetz.
Esther Dayson (née Nemetz) (1909-2006)
The youngest of nine, Esther didn’t know her older brothers, Charlie, Sam and Harry, nor her sister Sonia until she arrived in Canada in 1923. Travelling with her parents, brothers Bill and Leo, older sister Chava and her husband Abrasha and their baby, she met her brother Dave for the first time in Poland. He informed her that her name would be Esther, not “Nadia,” as she had been called at home. It was a bewildering experience for a little girl.
After staying in Watrous for a few years, Esther moved with her parents to Vancouver where they had a home on Inverness Street, later moving to 11th and Hemlock. Esther got a job at the Army and Navy as a cashier, leaving it after ten years to go into the clothing business. At an early age she volunteered to help newcomers to the city. Involved in Young Judaea, the Junior Section of the National Council of Jewish Women, and B’nai B’rith, Esther organized and chaired many events. Doted on by her brothers, particularly Charlie, she became a glamorous young woman. When she attended parties and events, she was well chaperoned by her brothers.
When Esther convened a Valentine’s Ball at The Commodore Ballroom, a childhood friend from Svatatroiske named “Boozie Deezik” – later known as Ben Dayson – saw her picture in the Vancouver Sun. At that time living in Myrnam, Alberta, Ben came to Vancouver and courted her. In 1936 they married, in a ceremony attended by 400 people at the old Jewish Community Centre on 11th and Oak Street. They were the first couple to be married at the old JCC.
Esther and Ben settled in Viscount, Saskatchewan, where Ben had purchased a general store. They lived there for 13 years. Life was good to them and Ben purchased a second store, Hawkins Meat Market, in Saskatoon. Lonely for Esther’s family, they moved to Vancouver in 1949 with their two young children, Philip and Shirley.
Ben opened the “Western Five and Ten” in Marpole and Esther created Shirley Anne Dolls. From the 50s until they passed away, Ben and Esther had been in property development, starting with a piece of land on the corner of Burnaby and Nicola, owned by Esther’s sister, Sarah Victor. In 1951, they built their first apartment building in the West End in downtown Vancouver.
Ben’s and Esther’s business acumen rewarded them generously and the community benefited from their devotion and philanthropy. Special interests in Jewish education, Jewish social services and the Jewish National Fund of Israel attracted their generosity. Esther’s activities in ORT and Hadassah are legendary, as is Ben’s involvement in B’nai B’rith.
Their children carry on their role as community workers: Shirley with the Jewish Family Service Agency, Hebrew Free Loan Association, and the Jewish Museum and Archives of BC (just to name a few); Philip (born 1936) with the Habonim Youth Movement and Camp Miriam. Shirley (born 1941) married Peter Barnett in 1967 and they have two sons: Jonathan (born 1969); and David (born 1972). Philip married Iris (née Fader) in 1964 and they have one son: James (born in 1978).
They also carry on the family business founded by Ben in 1956, Dayhu Group of Companies, a real estate investment, development and property management company. Today, Dayhu continues to build and grow its portfolio, now led by Jonathan Barnett, President and CEO, their third generation of family.
William Seidelman, who was born in Budapest in 1854, came to North America around 1879, eventually arriving in Vancouver by way of Kansas and Seattle. In 1879 he served as a postmaster in the town of Guelph, Kansas. After settling in Vancouver, William married Esther Pearlman [Dalkin] from Winnipeg on August 30th, 1896. In that same year, William opened a general merchandise store in Cedar Cove on the South side of Powell Street at Victoria Drive. In 1900, a post office was opened in the store and Seidelman became Cedar Cove's first postmaster. The Seidelman home was located at 1735 2nd Avenue, East Grandview (the house is still standing today). William and Esther maintained Kashrut and he slaughtered chickens in accordance with the laws of Shechita using a traditional Chalif which is in the possession of the JMABC. Their children were: Edward Joseph [Joe] who was born in 1897; Rachel, [Rae] who was born in 1898; Harry who was born in 1900; and Benjamin [Ben] who was born in 1902. William Jr. [Bill] was born after the father died in 1907. Their mother, Esther, passed away in 1937. William Sr. is buried in the Bikur Cholim Cemetery in Seattle. Esther is buried in the Schara Tzedeck Cemetery in New Westminster.
Joseph, Rachel and Harry attended Macdonald Elementary School. Rachel also attended Seymour and Grandview public schools. All three attended Britannia High School. Joseph went to the University of British Columbia (then a branch of McGill University). At UBC, Joseph joined the Western University Battalion which fought in France in World War I. He saw service along with fellow UBC students. Joseph was killed in the Battle of Passchendaele on October 26, 1917, the first member of Vancouver's Jewish community to give his life for his country. Joseph's name is included on a plaque in the War Memorial Gym at UBC that commemorates those UBC students who fought and gave their lives in World War I.
Harry, at age 17 (1917), joined the Canadian Pacific Ocean Services as a cadet. He sailed the Pacific Ocean on the Empress of Japan and on the RMS Niagara before returning to Vancouver. He subsequently served on the Union Steamship Line that sailed between Vancouver and Alaska. After working for Buckerfields Feed Company, Harry joined the United Milling and Grain Co. Ltd. as a partner. He remained with the United Milling & Grain until 1961 when the company went out of business due to the City of Vancouver expropriating the land for housing.
Harry married Esther Blank of Winnipeg in 1938. Harry and Esther lived in Vancouver and were strong supporters of the Jewish Community Centre and charter members of the Beth Israel Synagogue. Harry died in 1972 and is buried in the Beth Israel Cemetery. Harry's children are Perry Seidelman, the first Jewish vice principal of a high school for the Vancouver School Board and the first Principal of King David High School. Perry lives in Vancouver.
Dr. William (Bill) Seidelman is a retired physician, formerly of the Universities of McMaster and Toronto medical faculties. At the beginning of his career, Bill was the first full-time family physician to practice at the Reach Clinic, one of the earliest walk-in medical clinics in Vancouver. He continues to be a world renowned authority and lecturer on medical ethics as a consequence of his research into the legacy of medicine during the Third Reich. He now resides in Israel with his family.
After high-school, Rachel attended UBC and Normal School and taught for a few years at Strathcona Public School. In 1919 Rachel became involved with the Jewish community and volunteered with Hebrew Aid, B'nai B'rith, the National Council of Jewish Women, and joined the effort to start a Reform Synagogue. Rachel taught English to landed immigrants at night school, played tennis and basketball and later took up golf. Rachel met Dr. William [Bill] Morris at the home of Ruth Mahrer, Rachel's best friend. Rachel and Bill were married in 1925 and lived in Vancouver. Rachel died in 1985 and is buried in the Beth Israel Cemetery. Rachel Morris's [nee Seidelman] daughters are Judy Zaitzow, Dorothy Grad, and Lillian Fryfield, all of whom live in Vancouver.
Ben married Sarah Weis of Winnipeg. Ben and Sarah did not have children and lived at various places throughout B.C. including Port Mellon on the Sunshine Coast and Crofton on Vancouver Island. They eventually moved to Los Angeles to be near Sarah's family. Ben died in 1983.
Bill married Hazel. They lived in Vancouver their entire married life and had one child, Roy, who is living in Summerland B.C. Bill died in 1983, the same year as his brother Ben.
Morris Soskin (son of Abraham Soskin and Annie Hankin) was born on November 21, 22, or 23 1889 or 1890 in England. He passed away November 11, 1940 in Vancouver, BC and he is buried in the Schara Tzedeck Cemetery.
Rose Soskin (née Hyams; daughter of Amalia Lichtenstein and Mayer Hyams) was born on April 5, 1896 in Montreal. She passed away April 24, 1987, in Vancouver, BC and she is buried in the Schara Tzedeck Cemetery.
At the end of 1920 or the beginning of 1921, Morris Soskin went to Montreal to attend a Zionist meeting. At this event he met Rose Hyams and a love-affair for the ages began. Only a few days later in Montreal Morris proposed to Rose, which she happily accepted. However, Morris had to return to Vancouver, so they decided that they would continue a courtship by writing letters. With little money, they agreed that the only gifts they would buy for each other would be books, so they often mailed books to each other as well. Rose often signs her letters Rosana, and Morris sometimes addresses his letters to Rosana.
Their plan was to remain engaged until Morris was financially ready to be married. However, due to the stress of the situation and Rose suffering from a bought of depression, they didn't wait as long as they had originally planned and they were married in Montreal July 21, 1921. Soon after the wedding, they moved to Vancouver. Rose went through another period of depression and separation anxiety, which Morris helped see her through.
When Morris first moved to Canada, he lived in Montreal where he helped found the Young Men's Hebrew Association. In ca. 1915, Morris came to Vancouver. He was a founder and the first president of the Jewish Community chest, a past president of the Zionist organization, and a past dictator of the Loyal Order of Moose Vancouver lodge. Morris had a very successful law practice. For a short time he had a partner, Soskin and Levin, but for the most part he worked independently as Morris Soskin.
Rose was a homemaker and was very involved with volunteer work. Rose was one of the original members of what was then called the Daughters of Zion, which later became Hadassah-WIZO. Rose became involved with Hadassah in 1917 as their secretary in Montreal, and continued to volunteer with Hadassah throughout her life in Vancouver. She was first involved with the Lillian Freiman Chapter, and later the Weizmann Chapter. Rose was also actively involved with the National Council of Jewish Women when she moved to Vancouver.
Morris and Rose had two children, both born in Vancouver: Theodore Samuel Soskin (March 7, 1926 - October 13, 1985) and Helen Coleman (née Soskin) (June 10, 1929 - ). In ca. 1950, Helen married Robert (Bob) Coleman (ca. May 29, 1923 - May 31, 2015). Bob Coleman together with his brother Sid Coleman ran Dependable Furniture (name changed to Flexsteel Furniture in 1953), a furniture manufacturing business that they sold in 1973. Helen and Bob had three children: Morris, Bruce, and Jonathan.
Sadly, Morris died when he was only 50 years old, leaving Rose to raise their two children. For a few years, Rose's three brothers helped support her financially, until she told them that she could support herself. Rose took what little savings she had and began investing. She turned out to be a natural businesswoman, and did very well for herself and was able to support herself and her two children on her own.
The Toft and Toban families both have roots in Eastern Europe. Sarah Toban (nee Kramerman), born 1873 in Latvia, married Samuel Toban, born 1871 in Russia. Together they had 6 children: Harry Toban, Dave Toban, Florence Toban, Louis Toban, Alfred Toban, and Minnie Toban. Samuel Toban arrived in Vancouver in 1910. He sent for the rest of the family shortly after, and the Sarah Toban and her 6 children immigrated to Canada in 1911, aboard the C.P.R. Steamship, “Lake Michigan”. They arrived in Quebec on May 11, 1911, and traveled to Vancouver to join Samuel Toban. After moving to Vancouver, Samuel Toban ran a shoe repair shop on Davie Street. Samuel Toban died April 14th, 1951, in Vancouver, BC. Sarah Toban died on February 3rd, 1965 in Vancouver BC.
Sarah and Samuel’s eldest child, Harry Toban, was born in 1895 in Ukmerge, Lithuania. He was known as the proprietor of Toban's Shoes and Quality Shoe Stores in Vancouver, along with his brother Dave. Harry Toban also bought Millar & Coe. China store, which was located on Hastings and Homer. Millar & Coe. sold china, glass, and pottery. Harry was married to Mona Toban (nee Krackovsky) in August of 1924. Together they had 4 children. Harry Toban was active in the Jewish community in Vancouver. Being Schara Tzedeck's president in the 1940's, Harry Toban led the synagogue's move from Heatley Street in Vancouver's East End neighbourhood of Strathcona to Oak street in Vancouver's Fairview neighbourhood, in South Vancouver. Harry Toban died on June 26th, 1995 in Vancouver, BC.
The next son, David Saul Toban, was born in May of 1898 in Ukmerge, Lithuania. He married Shirley Toban (nee Hinda/Singer). They had one child together: Ronald Stanley Toban, born December 28th, 1935, died August 27th, 1970. Dave Toban ran Toban's Shoes and Quality Shoe Stores in Vancouver in conjunction with his brother Harry. Dave (David) Toban died August 25th, 1985 in Vancouver, BC.
Their first daughter, Florence Rita Nemetz (nee Toban) was born July 15th, 1906 in Ukmerge, Lithuania. She married Boris (“William”) Nemetz in 1927. They had one son, Arnold Nemetz. She died October 28, 1946 in Vancouver, BC.
The next child, Louis Toban, was born in 1909 in Ukmerge, Lithuania. He married Eva Jennie Toban (nee Goodman). They had 2 daughters: Arliss Miller (nee Toban) and Myrna Mitchner (nee Toban). In 1926, Louis opened up a chain of 12 drug stores, called Toban’s Reliable Drug stores. Louis was a philanthropist and was active in the Jewish Community in Vancouver. He was recognized as one of the early organizers of the Easter Seal Campaign, and served as a director of the campaign for many years. Louis also served as Schara Tzedeck president and board member, and was an active participant in the Jewish National Fund. Louis Toban was also a supporter of health care, and donated to Vancouver Children’s Hospital, and St. Paul’s Hospital. He was made an honorary member of the B.C. Pharmacy association and received an award in 1969 for his outstanding contribution of the pharmaceutical profession.
There is not much known about Alfred Toban. He was married and had at least one son, Martin E. Toban.
Mina (Minnie) Toft (nee Toban) was born in Ukmerge, Lithuania in 1910. Minnie attended the Mount Pleasant School, a Vancouver public school near the intersection of Broadway and Kingsway. She worked in a City Hall office until her marriage to Fred Toft, a furrier from Winnipeg, in 1937. Fred opened his own fur shop, Alaska Fur Co., on Granville Street. They had two children, Milton Toft, and Arthur (Art) Toft. After her children got older, Minnie began working in the licensing and permits office of the Provincial Government. She retired at age 65 and started volunteering in the Congregation Schara Tzedeck office, serving as treasurer amongst other duties for the Schara Tzedeck sisterhood from 1981 to 1984. Minni Toban died on January 30th, 2007 in Vancouver, BC.
Minnie and Fred’s first child, Arthur (Art) Toft, married Rachel Eiger. They had three children: Amir Eliezer Toft, Oren Amir Toft, and Karen Ann Toft.
Minnie and Fred’s second child, Milton Toft, married Jackie Kappe.
The Toft family also originated in Eastern Europe. Moshe Toft, born in 1871 in Lithuania, married Channa Rashe Toft (nee Tobias). (Some early documents record the family name as 'Tobias', likely due to confusion surrounding Channa Toft’s maiden name, Tobias). Moshe became a blacksmith and a piano teacher. Moshe and Channa had 4 children: Miriam Rivka Epstein (nee Toft), Saul Toft, Altke Viner (nee Toft), Harry (Chonka) Toft. Channa Rashe Toft then died at an unknown date. Moshe remarried around 1907 to a piano student, Rachel. Moshe then had 5 more children with Rachel: Brynke Toft, Fred Toft, Leonard Toft, Dvorah (Devierke) Toft, and Bluma Toft. Not much is known about Brynke Toft, Leonard Toft, or Bluma Toft.
Fred Toft was born in the town of Trope (Traipe), Lithuania on September 15, 1910. Fred immigrated to Canada at an unknown point in time, and traveled to Winnipeg with his nephew (Aaron/Aharon Leifer) and his half-sister (Miriam Rivka Epsetin). Money was sent to Canada from an uncle (Lazarus) and Aaron, Miriam and Fred were able to buy a house. Fred married Minnie Toban in 1937, and they had two children (Milton Toft and Arthur/Art Toft). He became a furrier in Vancouver, BC. His store was called Alaska Fur Co., and was at 262 West 25th Ave, Vancouver B.C. Fred died May 6, 2006 in Vancouver, BC.
Miriam Rivka Epstein (nee Toft) was born 1897. She married Eliezer Leifer in Russia between 1914-1918. After their marriage, Eliezer Leifer was taken by Russian soldiers to fight in the first world war. It is not clear what happened to him. Miriam traveled to be back with her family once Eliezer was taken away to fight. She had a son by Eliezer, named Aaron (Aharon) Leifer, who was born in Russia. She traveled to Winnipeg with son Aaron and half-brother Fred Toft at an unknown date. She married Israel Zelig Epstein around 1932 in Winnipeg, Manitoba. She had two children with Israel: Anne Ruth (Channa) Epsetin and Saul Epstein. Miriam died May 6, 1982 in Winnipeg, Manitoba.
Altke Viner (nee Toft) was born in 1903 in Lithuania. She married Ephriam (Laibke) Viner and died at an unknown date in Lithuania. They had one child together: Liable Viner.
Saul (Shaul) Toft was born ca. 1901 in Lithuania, and died ca. 1918 in Lithuania.
Harry (Chonka) Toft was born in 1905 in Lithuania. He married to Clara Bronwine in Winnipeg in 1933. They had four children: Bernard Toft, Beatrice Toft, Marsha Toft, and Gail Toft. He died March 18, 1981 in Vancouver BC, Canada.
Dvorah (Devierke) Toft was born in 1914 in Lithuania. She married Ephraim Shulma and had two daughters. She died at an unknown date.