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B'nai B'rith

  • Instelling
  • 1843-

The Independent Order of B’nai B’rith (Sons of the Covenant) (IOBB) is an international fraternal organization which aims to unite Jews in service to their community and the world at large (1). The organization does not aim to support or draw its membership from any particular Jewish congregation (i.e. reform, conservative) or group of national origin (i.e. Russian Jews, German Jews). It was established in 1843 in New York by twelve German-Jewish immigrants, led by Henry Jones. The Preamble to the first B’nai B’rith Constitution is as follows:

B’nai B’rith has taken upon itself the mission of uniting Israelites in the work of promoting their highest interests and those of humanity; of developing and elevating the mental and moral character of the people of our faith; of inculcating the purest principles of philanthropy, honor and patriotism; of supporting science and art; alleviating the wants of the poor and needy; visiting and attending the sick; coming to the rescue of persecution; providing for, protecting an assisting the widow and orphan on the broadest principles of humanity (2).

Since its inception this statement of principles has guided the work of B’nai B’rith which takes as its motto Benevolence, Brotherly Love and Harmony.

The Constitution also set up a central power, the Supreme Lodge, responsible for issuing charters to new lodges, and enforcing the laws and ordinances of the Order. In the first twenty-five years of operations, several hundred lodges were established with membership in the thousands. Geographic districts were then set up to organize the work of lodges in the regions. District 4 included the U.S. states of Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah and Washington, and the province of British Columbia.

In 1895, as a result of a recommendation by the delegates at the Constitution Grand Lodge Convention, the District Grand Lodges were authorized to establish auxiliary groups for women, these women’s organizations to be known as ‘Daughters of Judah.’ Membership generally was drawn from the wives and daughters of the members of the men’s lodges. As the number of groups grew, Women’s Districts were organized following the same geographical divisions as the Men’s District Lodges, with the first Women’s District formally recognized in 1922. In 1938 the B’nai B’rith Convention delegates agreed to allow women representatives to attend the Supreme Lodge Convention. In 1940 the next step was taken when representatives of the then existing six Women’s Districts met in Washington D.C. to formally organize the Women’s Supreme Council as a coordinating body. In 1956 the Supreme Lodge officially created the National Organization of B’nai B’rith Women.

The men’s and women’s groups take on both separate and joint program work. These programs include work to preserve Jewish culture, encourage positive interfaith relations, defend human rights, combat discrimination, support scholarship, assist veterans, contribute to institutions that care for the sick, needy, orphaned, and aged, and raise funds for both the Jewish and general community.

A significant segment of B’nai B’rith program work focuses on Jewish youth services. One of these programs starting in 1923 has been the Hillel Foundation, named after an outstanding scholar and teacher in Jewish history. This organization serves the needs of Jewish college and university students. Each Foundation operates through a Hillel House building located on campus, from which a program divided into six main categories: cultural, religious, fellowship, community service, personal guidance, and inter-faith activities is run. The first Hillel House was located on the campus of University of Illinois.

Concurrent with the beginnings of the Hillel Foundation program, another program developed in Omaha Nebraska to give Jewish youth, in grades nine through twelve in particular, an understanding of Jewish history and Judaism and a sense of belonging in the community. The first chapter of Aleph Zadik Aleph, or AZA, was organized in 1924 and within months several more chapters were established in other U.S. cities in the mid- West.

On an informal basis, girls groups have also been organized since 1927 through sponsorship by B’nai B’rith Women’s chapters. In 1944 these groups were joined into a national B’nai B’rith Girls organization.

Alongside these two groups for teens, Young Men’s and Young Women’s groups were also organized to accommodate the more mature youth. Consequently, also in 1944, B’nai B’rith authorized the creation of a Youth Commission with jurisdiction over all four youth agencies. In 1949 the Young Men’s and Young Women’s group merged to form the B’nai B’rith Youth Organization (BBYO)

The declared aims of these three youth groups; AZA, B’nai B’rith Girls, and the BBYO are as follows:

  1. To help their members feel at home in the Jewish community, identify themselves with the common aspirations of the Jewish People, and make contributions of distinctive Jewish values to the mosaic of their country’s culture,
  2. To afford their members group life experiences which give them an understanding of and loyalty to our democratic heritage.
  3. To offer supervised leisure-time activities in which youth make happy adjustments to real life situations by making friends, exploring and expressing individual interests and developing skills.
  4. To provide learning experiences whereby youth become ethical and altruistic in human relationships, devoted and competent in the fulfillment of family and community responsibilities (3).

B’nai B’rith in British Columbia

  1. Victoria Lodge #365
    Victoria Lodge #365 was instituted September 8, 1886. It was the first B’nai B’rith organization in B.C., and the third Lodge to be formed in all of Canada. In the first year of its operation, the Lodge had difficulty in recruiting members, collecting dues, and there was poor turnout at meetings. The last record of a regular meeting is in August of 1887. At this meeting a new panel of officers was installed. There is evidence (penciled notes upside down at the back of the minute book) of a Lodge meeting taking place more than four years later, on Feb. 7, 1892.

  2. Victoria Lodge #758
    Victoria Lodge #758 was instituted July 19, 1914. Last record of activities is an entry of minutes for Sept. 15, 1925.

  3. Vancouver Lions’ Gate Vancouver Lodge #668 (Samuel Lodge #668 ; Vancouver Lodge #668)
    Lodge #668 was inaugurated as Samuel Lodge on June 26, 1910, with 56 charter members, named in memory of the son of Solomon Weaver, a pioneer member of the Vancouver Jewish community. In appreciation of this honour, Mr. Weaver donated a substantial sum to help fund the startup of the Lodge. Samuel Schultz was the first president.

Samuel Lodge was the fifth B’nai B’rith Lodge to be formed in Canada. In June of 1924 it hosted the first District Convention to be held in Canada. The event was the 61st Annual IOBB District Grand Lodge Convention.

To provide athletic activities for Lodge members, the B’nai B’rith Athletic Association was organized in May 1925. The Association formed a bowling league which was later amalgamated with the Hebrew Athletic Club league. Particularly up to World War II, the annual B'nai B’rith picnic, held at various locations such as Grantham’s Landing, Howe Sound, were important community events.

In 1939 the Lodge officially changed its name from Samuel Lodge #668 to Vancouver Lodge #668.

The Lodge participated financially in building the old Jewish Community Centre in the late 1920s and the new Centre in the late 1950s. It was a major permanent tenant of the old facility at 11th and Oak.and assisted financially in its maintenance. The men held bimonthly meetings there.

Vancouver Lodge #668 changed its name to Vancouver Lions’ Gate Lodge #668 in 1985, with amalgamation of membership from Lions’ Gate Lodge #1716. In 1992 the Lodge opened a senior’s facility, the Haro Park Lodge, in downtown Vancouver.

  1. B’nai B’rith Auxiliary Chapter; Vancouver Chapter B’nai B’rith Women #77; Jewish Women’s International
    The Ladies Auxiliary of B’nai B’rith was instituted on December 7, 1926 with 53 names listed on the charter, including six members of the Samuel Lodge #668. Among the early projects adopted by the group was fundraising for the Vancouver Jewish Community Centre built in 1928, and starting in 1930 scholarships to be awarded to needy Jewish students. Fund-raising projects included an annual garden party and in the early 1930s the group worked with the Hebrew Aid Society to establish a clothing depot, providing used clothing to needy members of the Jewish community. The chapter also provided equipment for a Boy Scout kitchen at Crescent Beach, raised funds for flood victims in the Vancouver suburbs, and furnished a four bed ward at Vancouver General Hospital, a room at the TB hospital, four wheel chairs for Shaughnessy hospital and a transport bus for the armed forces. During World War II, the group raised $6000 for an RCAF training plane. In 1947 the auxiliary became a B’nai B’rith Women chapter, founded as the Louise Mayer Chapter.

  2. B’nai B’rith Youth Organization:
    a. AZA (Aleph Zadik Aleph) - Chapter 119
    AZA Chapter #119 was installed on 11 November 1929. Dr. Jacob Gorosh, president at the time of Samuel Lodge, was a founder of the Chapter.

b. AZA (Aleph Zadik Aleph) – Totem #646
No information available.

c. AZA (Aleph Zadik Aleph) – Churchill
No information available.

d. BBG (B’nai B’rith Girls) – Tamar #269
No information available.

e. BBG (B’nai B’rith Girls) - Elana #668
No information available.

f. BBG (B’nai B’rith Girls) – Exodus
No information available.

g. BBG (B’nai B’rith Girls) – Chapter 229
No information available.

h. BBG (B’nai B’rith Girls) - Aviva Girls Chapter
No information available.

i. BBG (B’nai B’rith Girls) - Rishona Girls Chapter
No information available.

j. BBYW (B’nai B’rith Young Women)
No information available.

k. BBYM (B’nai B’rith Young Men)
No information available.

l. BBYA (B’nai B’rith Young Adults)
No information available.

  1. Vancouver B’nai B’rith Hillel Foundation
    On November 20, 1946, Vancouver Lodge #668 and Vancouver Chapter #77 unanimously endorsed a petition proposing a Vancouver Hillel program at U.B.C. The next month the petition was granted by the National Hillel Commission. The Vancouver B'nai B’rith Hillel Foundation was then registered as a Society in July of the next year. As a result of efforts led by Lodge #668 member Max Waterman, U.B.C. agreed to sign a contract allowing Hillel the free use of land for a Hillel building on the campus. With fundraising underway construction began behind Brock Hall of a Hillel House, the first in the Hillel network to be purpose built rather than adapted from an existing campus structure. Construction was soon completed and the House dedicated on November 5, 1947. In January of 1948 the first Hillel Night was held at the Vancouver Jewish Community Centre. This event continues as an annual fundraiser for Hillel programs. (Local to the Vancouver Jewish Community, the Menorah Club of B.C., organized in 1925, was a forerunner to the B’nai B’rith Hillel Foundation. The Menorah Club was established for the express purpose of “keeping the younger element of the community together and giving them advanced study on Jewish history and affairs.”)

  2. Lions’ Gate Lodge #1716
    The Lions’ Gate Lodge #1716 was formed in 1947 as a ‘Young Men’s B’nai B’rith.’ Its membership was comprised by a group of young men in the Vancouver Jewish community, many of them soldiers returned from World War II service. For the first two years of its operation the Lodge maintained an age restriction on its membership, with an upper limit of 35. The Charter, granted by District Four of the B’nai B'rith International was presented to the inaugural executive, with Ed Friedman president, by Executive of the long-established Vancouver Lodge #668. The by-laws of the older Lodge were adopted temporarily by the newly-formed Lodge, and a meeting schedule set up for the first and third Mondays of the month in a room at the Jewish Community Centre at 11th and Oak Streets in Vancouver.

In an effort to ensure that there would be no conflict between its service work and that of other organizations in the community, the Lions’ Gate Lodge decided that its first service project would be to take over a non-sectarian scout troop in the process of being formed. As well, the new Lodge helped to support other B’nai B’rith projects such as Hillel House at U.B.C. and the B’nai B’rith Youth Organization (BBYO), and to establish a non-sectarian Lions’ Gate Boxing Club for young men of BBYO age.

Planning work done by the Lodge and its committees was divided between service projects and organizing events for the membership, such as stag nights, dinner and dance parties, ‘Monte Carlo nights,’ picnic outings, and sports leagues (golfing, bowling). These were fund-raising events, with the service work of the Lodge being financed primarily by such efforts and secondarily by membership dues.

The membership formed a men’s baseball team, which won the international Softball Championship in the 1955 Tournament of B’nai B’rith Northwest Lodges. In 1966 the Lodge was instrumental in organizing and forming the Brotherhood Interfaith Society of B.C., with the aim of developing and promoting interfaith relations with all organization in the province. (The Society was registered in B.C. in 1990.) In liaison with a number of other groups, such as the Knights of Columbus (a Catholic organization), the Vancouver Chinatown Lions’ Club, the Confratellanza Italo-Canadese (Italian Association), and the Kiwanis Club of the Pacific, the central activity of the Society was an annual dinner honouring a member of the community with a “Man of the Year” award.

The charter of Lodge #1716 was retired in 1985, when the membership amalgamated with Vancouver Lodge #668, which then was renamed Lions’ Gate Vancouver Lodge #668.

  1. Vancouver Pacific Chapter B’nai B’rith Women, Lions’ Gate Chapter #763
    This women’s group was established in September 1951, primarily from the membership of the Women’s auxiliary assisting the project work of Lions’ Gate Lodge #1716. In 1954 the Chapter began sponsoring a Brownie Pack.

  2. B’nai B’rith Women’s Council
    The B’nai B’rith Women’s Council was inaugurated in 1952 to coordinate the activities of the three local Women’s chapters. Starting in 1953 the group coordinated participation by these chapters in an annual B’nai B’rith Women’s Brotherhood Night. The Council also organized visits from district and national B’nai B'rith women officers and encouraged support of the various B’nai B’rith youth groups, including the Hillel Foundation at U.B.C. Starting the late 1950s, the Council sponsored a booth at the Pacific National Exhibition in Vancouver and worked with the Fairview Branch of the Canadian Legion to co-sponsor annual outings for veterans at Shaughnessy Hospital.

  3. Centennial Chapter B’nai B’rith Women
    This chapter of the Women’s group was organized in 1958. It provided parties and needed equipment for a ward of boys at Woodland’s School, a facility for mentally challenged children. This work earned them a Sydney G. Kusworm Award from B’nai B’rith International. Members of this chapter also worked with deaf and blind children at Jericho School.

  4. Evergreen Lodge
    Evergreen Lodge was proposed as a young men’s B’nai B’rith Lodge, circa 1960. There is no information yet available as to whether or not it received a charter. It was disbanded soon after first efforts were made at establishing prospective membership.

  5. Regina Philo Chapter B’nai B’rith Women
    Regina Philo Chapter B’nai B’rith Women was a Victoria Chapter named after the mother of Louis Mahrer. Not much information is available. Dates are likely early 1900s.

  6. Shari Chapter B’nai B’rith Women
    Shari Chapter B’nai B’rith Women was established in the 1970s (exact date not known) in Richmond. The Shari Chapter B’nai B’rith Women contributed to the community of Richmond by founding a ‘Family Place’ in Minoru Park through a grant from the Provincial lottery fund.

  7. Vancouver B’nai B’rith Women's Council #57
    The Vancouver B’nai B’rith Women’s Council #57 was established in the 1980s (exact date not known) in Vancouver. It was established as a coordination body for the chapters. Project work included Soviet Jewry Rally, Red Cross Mobile Blood Bank, and the Kosher Food Bank. Members were involved with B’nai B’rith Oakridge Bingo which donated $10,000 towards a Sunshine Bus for Pearson Hospital. They won the Sydney Kusworm Award for best community service.

  8. Lions’ Gate B’nai B’rith Building Society
    In July of 1974 the Lions’ Gate Lodge #1716 established the Lions’ Gate B’nai B’rith Building Society as a B.C. non-profit organization, with the use of the B'nai B’rith name sanctioned by District Four of B’nai B’rith and International B’nai B’rith. The work of this Society focused on two major seniors’ projects offering subsidized housing. The first was a thirteen story high rise residence, Haro Park, in the downtown area of Vancouver. Completed in 1980 the facility includes three floors of Long Term Care.

The second project was a nine story 65 suite residential building for seniors, B’nai B’rith Manor, completed in 1988.

(1) Secondary sources: A.J. Arnold, B’nai B’rith Family in British Columbia is 48 Years Old, Jewish Western Bulletin Centenary Issue, June 30, 1958, pp. 30-38; Rebecca Becker, The B’nai B’rith Family, B’nai B’rith Women, 1985; Maurice Bisgyer, ed., This is B’nai B’rith: A Story of Service, Supreme Lodge of B’nai B’rith, Washington, D.C. 1955; Arthur Daniel Hart, comp. and ed., The Jew in Canada: A Complete Records of Canadian Jewry From the Days of the French Regime to Present Times, Jewish Publications Limited, Toronto and Montreal, 1926; Cyril E. Leonoff, Pioneers, Pedlars, and Prayer Shawls, Sono Nis Press, Victoria, 1978; B’nai B’rith, Celebrating 150 Years of Service: Honoring the Past, Building the Future - Commemorative Journal, Lions’ Gate Vancouver Lodge No. 668, Vancouver, 1993; B’nai B’rith Manor, Lions’ Gate Vancouver Lodge No. 668, Vancouver, 1989.

(2) This is B’nai B’rith: A Story of Service, p. 28.

(3) This is B’nai B’rith: A Story of Service, p. 83.

National Council of Jewish Women, Vancouver Section

  • Instelling
  • 1924-

The National Council of Jewish Women, Vancouver Section, founded in 1924, is a voluntary organization which was chartered in affiliation with the International Council of Jewish Women and the National Council of Jewish Women of Canada. The Branch has operated continually since that time, offering services to Jewish and non-Jewish families locally and internationally in the areas of education, social service, and social action.

Projects initiated at the local level over the years include assistance to refugees from Europe before and during World War II and sponsorship of a Jewish orphanage in Bergstitiching, Holland. During the 1950s the Section concentrated on matters of health care for children and seniors including the study into the emotional care of children in hospitals, and reports and recommendations regarding the social needs of senior citizens. During the 1970s the Branch initiated a Kosher Meals on Wheels program, managed a mobile preschool and purchased a mobile hearing testing bus for preschool children (first van was presented in 1983; second van was presented in 1985). Studies into the care of seniors continued. Members also worked in liaison with other Jewish organizations such as the Jewish Family Services Agency and the Canadian Jewish Congress in matters such as care of seniors and the treatment refugees. Through the 1980s members of the Section participated in matters of national and international concern, such as the meeting for the United Nations Decade for Women in Nairobi, Kenya in 1985.

Other projects and services are: English classes for immigrants; volunteer training programs; establishment of Golden Age Club at the Jewish Community Centre in 1950; various World War II projects including library hut for soldiers in Terrace; sponsorship of L’Chaim Centre for Adult Daycare with Jewish Family Service Agency; scholarships and bursaries at SFU and UBC (in ethnic relations, gerontology and general studies); prizes to students at Emily Carr Art School and UBC Faculty of Music; financial support for annual symposium on Holocaust education at UBC for Lower Mainland high school students; support for various services to children, seniors and newcomers, including Red Cross Child Abuse Prevention program; Citizenship Court hostesses; volunteers for Canadian Cancer Society and Vancouver Children’s Festival; publication of Shalom Community Directory with UJA; and “Best of Council” cookbook.

The Branch operates with a locally elected Board of Directors which is responsible to the membership. The Board President reports to the President of the National Council of Jewish Women of Canada and attends meetings at the national level. Policies and policy directives from the National level influence the Section’s stands on matters such as abortion, human rights, and health care.

A number of separate meeting groups have existed through the Section’s history. The demographics and purposes of the groups may be characterized by their titles, such as the Evening Group, The Bride’s Group, The Business and Professional Women’s Group, Hannah G. Soloman Branch, and the National Council of Jewish Juniors, with activities keyed to membership talents and interests. Until 1958, each meeting group kept their own minutes and records of activities on an informal basis. Starting that year each group or sub-branch elected a Board of Directors and minutes and other records were directed toward the president of the Afternoon Branch, who served as overall Section President.

In 1960 an Inner Council was formed by the President of the Vancouver Section, Past Presidents, and members of the National Board of Directors, a recording secretary, a corresponding secretary, and a member from each operating group. In 1983-84 Branches and groups were again functioning autonomously, without the recognized authority of a Section president. This led to the development of a coordinating or CORE committee, under the co-chairmanship of Miriam Warren and Ruth Weinberg.

Vancouver Section Highlights:
1924 – Vancouver Section formed and Sunday morning Religious School founded
1926 – Opened “Council House” on Jackson Ave., precursor to the JCC opened in 1928
1927 – Established Well-Baby Clinic
1932 – Published first Council Cookbook
1933 – Set up Noodle Factory to create employment for newcomers on relief
1937 – Opened Council Camp at Crescent Beach, first permanent Jewish camp in Western Canada which became Camp Hatikvah
1942 – Provided and furnished library hut and recreation area for soldiers at Terrace, BC
1949 – Sponsored English night school classes, and sent aid overseas through “Ship-A-Box”
1949 – Donated $12,500 to JCC Building Fund for Golden Age Lounge
1950 – Opened Golden Age Club at JCC, due to organizing efforts of Bessie Diamond and Thelma Ginsberg
1953 – Ran Thrift Shop until 1979 to raise funds for projects and outfit the needy
1956 – Helped resettle Hungarian refugees
1965 – Initiated first Head Start preschool in Vancouver in Riley Park area
1970 – Established Jewish Historical Society of BC with Canadian Jewish Congress, Pacific Region
1971 – Initiated Schools for Citizen Participation
1971 – Established Welcome Wagon/Info Centre at JCC
1972 – Inaugurated preschool hearing screening program, leading to gift of two mobile vans to Vancouver Health Department
1973 – Coordinated Tay Sachs clinic
1982 – Co-sponsored and provided seed money for creation of L’Chaim Adult Day Care Centre
1985 – Published first edition of “Shalom! – Welcome to Vancouver” Directory
1987 – Hosted International Council of Jewish Women and NCJW of Canada Conventions
1988 – Published second edition of “Shalom!” directory, funded by Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver

Ames, Tracy

  • Persoon

Tracy Ames provided contract services to the Jewish Family Service Agency (JFSA) to produce a video and a commemorative book for JFSA’s 50th anniversary in 1986.

Levine, Morris, Dr.

  • Persoon
  • August 14, 1903-October 9, 1990

Morris Levine (Jewish name Maishe Simcha Doctorovich) was born August 14, 1903, in the Red Bank district of Manchester, England. His father, Jacob, was born in Vilna, Lithuania, coming to England with his four brothers at the very end of the nineteenth century. Morris’ mother, Sarah, was born in Smolensk, in White Russia (now Byelorussia). Sarah came to Manchester, after arriving in Hull in Eastern England. Like many Jews of that time she was travelling through England on her way to the United States of America – the new promised land. Sarah’s mother died in Philadelphia and her sister ended up in Cincinnati, Ohio. Sarah did not travel on to the USA because she met Jacob.

Sara and Jacob had met in England and were married in 1899 or 1900. Their first son Samuel was born in 1901. When Morris was born, his birth registration listed his last name as “Le Vien.” His 1931 marriage certificate listed his family name as “Levene”. And when he came to Canada in 1947 he became “Levine” (rhyming with “fine”, he was probably surprised to discover was the Vancouver custom). After Sammy and Morris, Sarah and Jacob had five more children, all born in Manchester: Elsie, Becky, Bailey, Harry, and Sarah.

When Morris was a baby, the Levene family moved away from Red Bank to the district of Salford, one of Manchester’s inner suburbs. He grew up speaking Yiddish, which was the language of the street in that largely Jewish quarter of the Salford district, in the shadow of the infamous Strangeways Prison. Nowadays, the Jews have moved north to the outer suburbs of Manchester and the house on Pimblett Street is currently being used as a sweat-shop factory, staffed by Bangladeshi immigrants.

The house on Pimblett Street was small – two-up, two-down, like many English terraced-houses, without electricity or in-door plumbing. It was heated by its coal-fireplace, over which food was cooked in a large pot. Morris only ate with a spoon until he was nine years old. His parents kept an orthodox Jewish home: there are family stories that his father, Jacob, was a Hasid.

Jacob Levine worked a variety of jobs. He was described as a “cigar-box maker” on Morris’ birth certificate. He also did some street-peddling and other odd jobs. At some point during Morris’ youth, his parents set up a corner-store in their front parlour. Sarah helped out, as did the girls. Like many immigrants, Jacob and Sarah literally worked themselves into early graves by toiling for eighteen-hours a day when their family was growing. By the time they were in their forties, they were physically worn-out and increasingly supported by their children’s earnings.

Morris was the only one of the six surviving children who went to school past the age of twelve. Like Sammy before them, the girls - Elsie, Becky, and Bailey - all left school at the minimum school-leaving age: twelve. They bitterly resented Morris’ prolonged schooling because they had been required to go out to work as little more than children while he went to Manchester Grammar School on a scholarship. (At that time – and, in fact, until the present - MGS has been known as the most famous grammar schools in Britain.) Sammy emigrated to the US in 1918 (where Sarah’s parents and siblings had moved), eventually rising to become a department store manager in Jackson, Michigan. Harry, too, like his sisters, left school at twelve. He ran a little tailoring factory; he had been a sewing machine operator. Sarah died as a baby.

Morris went to Southall Street School and won an open scholarship to Manchester Grammar School at the age of eleven. Seven of the twelve open scholarships to MGS were won by Jewish boys from Southall Street School in 1914. At Manchester Grammar School, Morris blossomed into a classical scholar, completing the “Transitus” (Latin and Greek) “with distinction”. His success won him a scholarship and admission to Brasenose College, Oxford. However, he turned it down and used the funds from his scholarship to pay for his tuition at Manchester University’s Medical School, from which he graduated in 1926. As the oldest male child living in Manchester, he was expected to provide for his parents, to release his sisters from that obligation, and to provide them with modest dowries. He therefore declined the prestigious opportunity to study at Oxford and had to turn his back on employment in the John Rylands Library in Manchester.

Morris Levene married Ruby Hattenstone on August, 18, 1931; he was 28, she was 26. The Hattenstones were well-off in contrast to the Levenes. After their honeymoon in Devonshire and Cornwall, they moved into an apartment above his medical office on Ashton Road in Denton, Manchester, where he was a GP as well as doing psychiatric work. He was also the physician-on-call for the local police constabulary.

In March, 1933, Morris and Ruby’s first son, Sefton Lewis, was born in Manchester. In the late winter of 1940, during the period known as “the phony war”, Ruby and Sefton, together with a large number of aristocratic ladies and their children, boarded a ship in Liverpool which was to take them to relative safety in Canada. Ruby and Sefton came to Vancouver, living with Ruby’s widowed mother (Jane Groberman Hattenstone), as well as her sister (who was then Doris Schwartz – later Doris Berg) and her son (David Schwartz – later David Berg) on West 35th Avenue in the Dunbar neighbourhood, where they stayed until 1945. Meanwhile Morris had been enlisted in the military in England and given the rank of captain; he spent the war years in public service, continuing to work as a doctor in Manchester.

In the summer of 1945, after VE Day, Ruby and Sefton returned to England. In October, 1946, Morris and Ruby’s second son, David Cyril, was born in Manchester. A year later, after Morris’ parents had both died, the family left England from Liverpool aboard a CPR ship, “The Empress of Canada”, arriving in Quebec City in November, 1947. From there, they took the train to Vancouver. Before leaving for Canada, Morris cut all ties with his siblings in England.

When the Levine family came to Vancouver, Ruby’s mother, Jane Groberman Hattenstone, had purchased them a house on 49th Avenue, just east of Hudson Street. However, they moved almost immediately to 5990 Hudson Street, where they lived until 1989.

Morris wasn’t expecting to continue practicing medicine in Canada (he had been a doctor for twenty years by this time). He thought he could get a job with his wife’s relations, the Groberman family in Vancouver. That didn’t work out. He had to study all his basic medical courses once more in order to re-qualify so that he could be licensed to practice medicine in Canada. To do this, he went to Toronto in 1948, taking exams to gain his medical license.

Once he had re-qualified, Morris set up his practice in the Birks Building, on Granville Street in downtown Vancouver, where he employed one nurse. However, Morris was not interested in a high-overhead medical practice and he would move down-market, whenever his rent went up. In the early 1960s he moved from the Birks Building to a medical-dental building on East Broadway at Main Street. There, he maintained a low-cost, family practice and worked alone, without a nurse. In the 1970s he moved again, taking an office on Kingsway below Main Street.

Morris worked as a doctor to make a living; he had a core group of patients, mainly from the working and lower classes. At that time, there was no medicare and he often waived a fee for his services. As a family doctor, he looked after pregnant women, delivered babies, cared for infants, counseled adolescents, and was the doctor-on-call for his patients and their families. For many years, he was a geriatric-doctor working with the city’s large number of older men and women who lived alone, in retirement, or in “private hospitals”, which were located in large houses in the West End before the massive demolitions and their replacement with high rise apartment blocks.

In the 1950s Morris began to write poetry. He had a few poems published in local literary journals such as The Simon Fraser Review during his lifetime and was much more interested in this activity than in his medical practice. He was an avid reader and surrounded himself with books. He read widely and passionately – literary essays, short stories, classical Greek and Latin poets and playwrights, as well as personal favourites such as William Blake, Thomas Hardy, and John Cowper Powys. He subscribed to, and followed debates in Encounter and The New York Review of Books. He was also drawn to twentieth-century poets such as Nikos Kazantsakis, George Seferis, Osip Mandelstam, and the poet laureate Ted Hughes.

Morris had a prodigious memory and took great enjoyment in showing it off by reciting, off the cuff, favourite bits to visitors and family members before launching into a disquisition that careened from one interesting idea to another, often in no obvious order. He just loved an admiring audience, and there was much to admire and lots to infuriate his listeners. He was not particularly interested in debate since he often said that he refused to be bound down by other people’s categories.

He wrote largely for himself. His own poetry, which by the end of his life added up to many shoeboxes full of papers, was almost exclusively in the form of Shakespearian sonnets. Much of his work was composed in bed, after midnight, and seemed to have the attraction of a mental challenge. The sonnet form suited his purposes. He admired their shapely concision – the two-line turn at the end and the chance they offered, in fourteen lines to compress a great deal of word play and allusiveness.

He was not fazed by the fact that many of his listeners found his allusions opaque – and, indeed, he sometimes admitted that years later he was himself unsure of his references. He took great pride in his sense of difference, achievement, and experiences. Much of his poetry is shot through with personal reminiscences and reflections of self-discovery. He poured himself into his writing – his ghetto childhood of deprivation, parental love and sibling rivalry, his opportunities for advanced classical education, his experience of medical practice, and his life-long awkwardness in his own skin. He was ambivalent about authority, in whatever guise, and was suspicious of power, in whatever form it took.

By the 1960s, as he was increasingly drawn to his literary pursuits, he would often close his office, leaving a note on the door that emergencies should go directly to Vancouver General Hospital and all others should call him at home so that he could provide them with a home-visit in the evening. On such sunny days, Morris Levine was to be found at Spanish Banks, sitting on a deck chair reading or else composing his own verse. He was torn between his two callings and, increasingly, he became aware that his commitment to science was lagging behind the dramatic new innovations that transformed medical practice in the post-war era.

In these years, he was a quintessential family doctor – running a practice of the kind that was being out-dated by new developments in group practice and specialization. Aware of the leaps and bounds being made in medicine, when his patients needed more specialized care, he would arrange for it to be made available for them. His willingness to refer his patients to specialists created tensions with the BC Medical Plan; they thought that Dr Morris Levine was providing too much care-per-patient. In any event, Morris retired from his medical practice in the late 1970s.

Like many couples, Morris and Ruby Levine didn’t see eye-to-eye – he enjoyed the company of counter-culturalists while in contrast she wanted to be involved in Vancouver’s Jewish society. Their divergent interests and obstinate personalities resulted in a kind of stalemate. Morris had developed an alternative work and lifestyle, becoming connected to a group of “beatniks”. These young people referred to him as “Uncle”, because that was how the charismatic David Berg referred to him.

Morris was opinionated and not in the least shy about arguing passionately about anything and everything. He was gifted with a fabulous memory and remained mentally alert all his days. Intellectually, he was something of a gadfly. He was also very cheap – it was said he quit buying “LifeSavers” when the manufacturer put a hole into the candies. Before it was chic, he took great pleasure in dressing shabbily. He might have been born into an orthodox Jewish family, but Morris Levine was an atheist and a communist in his youth; as he grew older, he soon became disillusioned with party-politics and developed into something of an anarchist in his attitude towards hard-line authority of any stripe. He was always contemptuous of The Royals and suspicious of privilege. He always felt like an outsider yet he always wanted to be given the “respect” that his own position as “the Doctor” provided. Like so many people, he was a bundle of contradictions.

Morris was a terrible driver and, in the interest of public safety, gave up his license in the late 1970s, when he retired from his medical practice. No longer driving, he was isolated on Hudson Street but he remained a mesmerizing storyteller and a prolific writer of sonnets. He would recite Homeric verse with (or without) an invitation to do so. He also took enormous pleasure in composing naughty limericks.

Morris had been a heavy smoker, from the 1920s-1950s, smoking as many as four packs-a-day. Then, in the 1950s he quit “cold turkey” but subsequently he put on a great deal of weight. In 1973, while vacationing in Hawaii, he suffered a heart attack. In response to this setback, he threw himself into a rigorous program of power walking and diet restriction. His weight dropped from 230 pounds to 165 pounds in a couple of years.

In retirement, he spent a lot of time working in his garden, reading, writing poetry, and actively grand-parenting Sefton’s three children – Sara, Jason, and Ben – who lived nearby, on West 46th Avenue. He always took enormous pleasure in having his grandchildren sitting on his knee, telling them stories about “Jimmy and Teddy and Inspector Smith”. Having the grand-kids sit on his lap, rubbing his “story spot” in the middle of his forehead, he would reach back to his Manchester childhood and “gurn” - making-faces by sliding his false teeth in-and-out. Morris Levine was in his element. Later, when David’s children, Matthew and Rachel, would come to visit from Toronto, the same mad-cap antics prolonged his grand-parenting, which was a special joy to an old man.

Sometime in the early middle 1980s, Ruby became afflicted with Alzheimer’s Disease. Morris tried to provide in-home care but it became increasingly difficult as she became violent, anxious, and mistrustful of anyone and everyone. In 1989 Morris and Ruby sold their house on Hudson Street, moving to Toronto to live with their son David and his family. In a state of deep depression, and feeling bereft of hope as Ruby’s mental competence slipped away, in July 1990 Morris had surgery for an abdominal aortic aneurysm. To his great surprise and disappointment, he survived the surgery.

Morris had thought that he was killing himself by electing to have this surgery. A short while after recovering from this surgery, Morris took matters into his own hands. He stopped eating and drinking. Nine weeks later - on October 9, 1990 - Morris Levine died; his death was an attenuated form of suicide.

By this time, Ruby was living in a care facility with advanced Alzheimer’s Disease. At the time of Morris’ death, she was incapable of understanding that he had died. After Morris died, Ruby lived for almost three more years, increasingly losing touch with the world around her; she died on August 18, 1993 – the 62nd anniversary of her marriage.

Both Morris and Ruby Levine are buried in a family plot in the Beth Israel Cemetery in Burnaby – a long way from Red Bank, Manchester.

Barer, Ralph David

  • Persoon
  • July 8, 1922 - August 15, 2004

Ralph David Barer was born July 8, 1922 to parents Michael and Fanny Barer. He had one brother, Harry Barer, and one sister, Thelma Stein (nee Barer). Ralph grew up in Vancouver, attending Magee Secondary School before going on to UBC, where he received a BASc in Engineering in 1945. This was followed by varied industrial and academic experiences, including a period as an assistant professor at UBC. He completed a Masters degree in Metallurgical Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1948. Ralph married Aileen (nee Gordon) in Sarnia, Ontario in 1950, after which he spent over a year working for Cominco in Trail, B.C. He then accepted a position in Victoria to head up a new material science and engineering group for Defence Research Canada in the fall of 1952. This group focused on material failures in naval, aircraft and military equipment. He led this group for 36 years, until his retirement in 1988. Ralph enjoyed raising a large family, and was particularly proud of the achievements of each of his children in their own pursuits. Ralph and Aileen had five children: Morris, Denise, Daniel, Philip and Steven. He was able to enjoy the early years of all ten [at the time of this publication in 2004] grandchildren: Justin, Naom, Michael, Ariana, Lisa, David, Benjamin, Elliot, Amichai and Simon. Ralph was an avid hiker, and spent some of his happiest times tramping through the woods of southern Vancouver Island. Walking the woods with him was always an education, as he had extensive knowledge of all things that move and grow in the Pacific Northwest. He was a passionate supporter of many of the environmental groups struggling to protect the dwindling wilderness places in British Columbia and the rest of Canada.

When Mr. Barer arrived in Victoria in 1952, the Emanuel Congregation had a lay rabbi who led infrequent services and a Jewish community which was run by a few individuals. Due mainly to his and his wife’s desire to create a Jewish environment for their growing family of five, Ralph became actively involved in the Jewish community with special emphasis on the revival of the synagogue. This led to over 50 years of dedicated work on many different committees, serving on the board, serving as a president and editing for 12 years the synagogue’s bulletin “Koleinu” (Our Voice). The results of his work were spectacular. Professional Rabbis were hired and took care of the spiritual life of the growing congregation, funds were raised to improve and enlarge the physical structure of the synagogue, Jewish teachers grew the Hebrew school, and as a result membership grew larger.

Canadian Zionist Federation. Pacific Region

  • Instelling

Now operating as a program under the administration of the Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver, CZF is an umbrella organization for all Zionist groups in the community. It also provides information for Israel tourism and trade.

Nemetz (family)

  • Familie
  • 1821 -

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.

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