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Educating Vancouver’s Jewish children: the Vancouver Talmud Torah, 1913-1959 Kent, Rozanne Feldman 1994

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EDUCATING VANCOUVER’S JEWISH CHILDREN:THE VANCOUVER TALMUD TORAH, 191 3-1 959byRozanne Feldman KentB.Ed., University of British Columbia, 1986A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OFTHE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OFMASTER OF ARTSinTHE FACULTY OF GRADUATE STUDIESDepartment of Social and Educational StudiesWe accept this thesis as conformingto the required standardThe University Of British ColumbiaFebruary 1994©Rozanne Feldman KentIn presenting this thesis in partial fulfilment of the requirements for an advanceddegree at the University of British Columbia, I agree that the Library shall make itfreely available for reference and study. I further agree that permission for extensivecopying of this thesis for scholarly purposes may be granted by the head of mydepartment or by his or her representatives. It is understood that copying orpublication of this thesis for financial gain shall not be allowed without my writtenpermission.(Signature)Department of 5C;C4t * dL(cH G/ <-+c{QSThe University of British ColumbiaVancouver, CanadaDate ‘2-- ?/yetDE-6 (2/88)IIABSTRACTThe purpose of this study was to research the early history of the Vancouver TalmudTorah, from 1913 to 1959, in order to determine how one group of Canadian Jews attempted toretain their separate identity while functioning in Canadian society. Two sources provided thebulk ofthe material for this study. Twenty-five interviews with former students, teachers, parentsand Board members provided first-hand information and back issues of the Jewish WesternBulletin, the Vancouver Jewish community weekly newspaper, from 1925-1959 served as awritten primary source. A book of minutes from 1944-1947 was also very useful in verif,’ingfacts. All of this information was then integrated with research on Jewish education in other partsof Canada, especially Western Canada, to establish the Vancouver Talmud Torah’s connectionwith similar efforts across Canada.There are two main divisions to this thesis. The first section covers the period from 19 13-1948, during which time a group of Vancouver Jews dedicated themselves to the establishmentand continuation of a Jewish afternoon school. The second section examines the first decade ofthe day school from 1948-1959 where a full program of Jewish and secular studies was offeredto Jewish children during the regular school day. This study examines why the day school was setup. Some insights are also offered regarding whether both the afternoon and the day schools weresuccessful in meetings the goals set out by the organizers and the needs of the community whichit served.There is no easy way to determine the success or failure of a school. Many problems arebeyond the control and scope of a school’s mandate. The findings of this research indicate thatthe Vancouver Talmud Torah endeavoured to provide the best possible Jewish education for itsstudents under unfavourable conditions. The primary obstacle comes in comparing the quality ofIIIJewish education in Vancouver with that in other major Jewish centres in Canada, because of theVancouver Jewish community’s relative isolation from other communities and its smallpopulation. The shortage of qualified teachers and the lack of adequate teaching materials andprofessional development programs have made it difficult for the school to provide a Jewishstudies program on the same level as its secular studies program (which was excellent).Furthermore, too much responsibility for the children’s Jewish education and identity had beenplaced on the school, with the family and community assuming a lesser role than it historically did.This has not only made the task of the Talmud Torah very difficult, it has also created a chasmbetween the school and the community, with the teachers and students left to battle it out in themiddle. Therefore, under the circumstances, the Talmud Torah has provided the best possibleJewish education for its students. However, if the family and community would have maintainedtheir responsiblity in guiding the religious and cultural education of their children, the TalmudTorah would have been in a much better position to fulfill its supplementary role in the educationofJewish children. It is interesting to note that the same comments could be made today, some35 years later.ivTABLE OF CONTENTSAbstractTablesPhotograph CreditsAcknowledgementsChapter One: Historical and Methodological Background.Part I Historical BackgroundJewish Education in CanadaPart II State of Research in Jewish EducationUnited StatesCanadaPart III Sources and MethodologyChapter Two: Forces Shaping the Destiny of the Talmud TorahSettlement of the Jews in VancouverA Changing Jewish DemographyThe Language Debate11viviiix1591011141821212527Chapter Three: The Early Years of the Vancouver Talmud1913—1948The Vancouver Talmud TorahCurriculum and TeachingThe World of TeachersThe School and the CommunityExtra—Curricular ActivitiesThe World of the StudentsTorah33333744526066Photographs 70VChapter Four: The First Decade of the Day School1948—1959.Founders and Their Vision.Implementing the VisionBuilding the Day SchoolPhilosophy of the Day SchoolThe TeachersThe CurriculumStudent and Parent Perspectives on the CurriculumSchool InspectorsTransition to Public SchoolParental and Community Support of the SchoolChapter Five: The Social and Religious Orientation of the School1948—1959SocialSchool AtmosphereAttitudes Towards Israel and the HolocaustReligiousHolidays, Festivals, and Religious ObservancesJunior CongregationChapter Six: Conclusion 138Sources Consulted 147Appendix CAppendix D 1Appendix D 2Appendix ETalmud Torah Day School Principals, 1948—1959.Excerpts from Student Newsletters, 1930’s . .Excerpts from Student Notebooks, 1950’sChanukah Concert Program, 1958• . 163• • . 164• . . 170• • . 176• 80• 80889293107109114117119123123124127131131133Appendix A 1 Letter requesting participation 159Appendix A 2 Consent Form 160Appendix A 3 Follow—up Letter 161Appendix B Interview Questions 162viTABLESTABLE 1. Jewish Population of BC and Vancouver,by Religion, 1901—1951 25TABLE 2. Number of Canadian-born and BC-born Jews,byRacial Origin, 1921—1951 26TABLE 3. Number and Percentage of Jews with YiddishasaMotherTongue, 1931—1981 30TABLE 4. Jewish School Enrolment in Canada with Percentages in 1955. 86TABLE 5. Comparison of the Number and Percentage of JewishChildren in Jewish Schools in 1933 and 1958 in Canada. . . . 86TABLE 6. Number of Jewish Children in Vancouver, 1931—1951 . . . . 87TABLE 7. Enrolment at the Vancouver Talmud Torah, 1925—1957. . . . 91viiPHOTOGRAPH CREDITSSchara Tzedeck synagogue, circa 1928, Heatley Street, East End of Vancouver.Courtesy of Jewish Historical Society of BC 70Jewish Community Centre, Ca. 1930.Courtesy of Jewish Historical Society of BC 70The first separate building which housed the Talmud Torah, 814 W. 14th Ave.(1944-1948)Photograph by Rozanne Kent 71Kindergarten children at school in the above house, circa 1947.Courtesy of Hannah Mimer Smith (Cohen) 71The boy standing is practicing the recital of the Shabbat kiddush on Fridayafternoon, circa 1947.Courtesy of Hannah Milner Smith (Cohen) 72Vancouver Talmud Torah school, circa 1950.Courtesy of Jewish Historical Society of BC 72Paintings auctioned off during a 1940’s fundraising art auction.Photographs by Rozanne Kent 73Early teaching staff, 1949.Courtesy of Jewish Western Bulletin 74Secular studies students, taught by Mrs. Esther Gervin, March 1954Courtesy of Jewish Western Bulletin 74Kindergarten class October 1950.Courtesy of Vancouver Talmud Torah 75Kindergarten student lighting shabbat candles, June 1951.Courtesy of Vancouver Talmud Torah 75VIIIFirst graduating class, 1954.Courtesy of Jewish Western Bulletin 76Grade 6 graduation, 1956.Courtesy of Jewish Western Bulletin 76Grade 3 or 4 class, circa 1957.Courtesy of Vancouver Talmud Torah 77Grade 5 or 6 class, circa 1957.Courtesy of Vancouver Talmud Torah 777th Anniversary of State of Israel, 1955.Courtesy of Vancouver Talmud Torah 78Presentation at 8th anniversary of State of Israel.Courtesy of Vancouver Talmud Torah 78Lighting the Chanukah candles, December 1954.Courtesy of Jewish Western Bulletin 79IVfrs. Gita Kron and students in the 1960’s.Courtesy of Vancouver Talmud Torah 79ixAcknowledgementsI would like to thank the following people for their invaluable assistance during thepreparation ofthis thesis. To my advisor, Dr. J. Donald Wilson, for encouraging me to pursue thistopic and for his unswerving guidance over the past two years. To Dr. Richard Menkis for hisknowledge and expertise in the field ofJewish history and for pushing me to do my very best. ToDr. Peter Seixas for his contagious enthusiasm and insightfW comments on my early attempts atwriting this thesis which I finally managed to grasp before the final draft. To Dr. William Bruneaufor agreeing to be the external examiner and to Dr. Neil Sutherland for agreeing to chair mydefense. To Ms. Elizabeth Nicholls for her monumental efforts at proofreading and editing theentire thesis several times. Her clear and direct suggestions on how to improve the final copyhelped me make sense ofwhat was sometimes an overwhelming task. To Mrs. Sheila Aceman forher careful reading of several chapters, her many helpful comments and especially for herencouragement when my enthusiasm waned. To Mr. Sam Kaplan and the staff at the JewishWestern Bulletin newspaper, who opened up their archives and their office to me in a mostfriendly and welcoming manner. To the 1992 Talmud Torah Board for allowing me to do thisresearch and especially to Mr. Michael Moscovich for facilitating my access to valuable researchmaterial. To my father-in-law and friend, Dr. Ian Kent, for his constant guidance andencouragement and to my mother-in-law, Jeanne Kent, for coming to the rescue on manyoccasions. To my parents, Marilyn and Clive Campbell, for their generous support during thewriting of this thesis and for kindly offering to donate bound copies to Jewish organizations ofmy choice. To Mrs. Reta Wolochow for her assistance and skill in tracing people through herexperience working on the Vancouver Talmud Torah Jewish Telephone Directory. A specialthanks to all those who allowed me to interview them. All oftheir testimonies added to this thesis,regardless of whether or not they appeared in print. Most of the names appear throughout thethesis except for two people who wished to remain anonymous and four people from the 1970’sand 1980’s, whom I interviewed before I realized it was impossible to do a complete history ofthe Talmud Torah. I thank them all for their invaluable assistance. To Yonatan Wagman andRahel Aceman, young friends who have been involved in my thesis and life for the past sevenmonths and whose bright presence has helped me keep everything in perspective. And finally, tomy husband and loving friend, John, for his genuine interest in my work, unfailing belief in mycapabilities, masterful computer skills and shared desire to pursue the truth in order that we mayall live a more peaceful existence.ICHAPTER ONEHistorical and Methodological BackgroundA discussion of Jewish education is much more than a simple reporting of one area of communitylife. It is a discussion of the community itself which, through its beliefs and desires with respect to religion,language, ideology, politics and Jewish customs determines the education of its children. By studying thehistory of Jewish education one inevitably discovers the level of importance each Jewish community hasplaced on the education of its young. But that is not all. The quality of Jewish education also reflects thedegree to which the religio-ethnic community desires to preserve its culture and to instruct its children in whatit knows and believes. Some Jews place great importance on religious or cultural education almost to theexclusion of all else. Others abandon their particular religion or culture in order to integrate into the societyaround them. Still others attempt to find a happy medium whereby their beliefs and customs are preservedand transmitted to their young, at the same time teaching skills which will enable them to live in thecommunity at large. This thesis will explore the path taken by those Jews of Vancouver, British Columbiawho were involved in the formation of the Vancouver Talmud Torah school, as they attempted to educatetheir children both as Canadians and as Jews.This study of the Vancouver Talmud Torah1 traces its beginnings as an afternoon school in 1913through to the end of its first decade as a Jewish day school2 in 1959. One of the main questions concernshow the Talmud Torah (as one of many examples of Jewish education in Canada) and the surrounding Jewishcommunity attempted to convey the Jewish heritage and religion to its students while helping them becomefull participants in the secular world as well. In other words, how has this group of Vancouver Jews tackled1. The Vancouver Talmud Torah is also referred to in this thesis as the Talmud Torah.2. A Jewish day school is the equivalent to public school with both secular and Jewish subjects being taught during the day. Incontrast, in a supplementary or afternoon school, Jewish students study Jewish subjects after public school hours (usually inthe late afternoon and early evening as well as on Sundays). The Jewish day school will be referred to from now on in thisthesis as the day school.2the problem of creating a separate identity in a liberal democratic society? I will explore several questionsdirectly related to this topic. First of all, why did the Jews of Vancouver establish a Hebrew school3?I willalso discuss the founders and supporters of the school, obstacles they encountered, the teachers, the studentsand the curriculum and why the learning during the first half of the twentieth century seemed to be so highlyvalued by the Vancouver Jewish community. What were the educational and philosophical goals of theschool? The next major question deals with the circumstances that led to the formation of the day school.Who were the people who were instrumental in the establishment and subsequent operation of this schooland how did the school create a balance between the Hebrew and secular studies curricula, including adiscussion of the teachers, curriculum, students and social and religious orientation of the school?The final section of the thesis is a discussion of the school in the periods, 1913-1948 and 1948-1959, including personal observations and conclusions, and suggestions for further research. What changestook place during each period with respect to curriculum, religious observance, student body, teachers andgeneral policy? How successful was the school in meeting its goals and the goals of a changing community?Why did education seem to be more valued in the period before the 1940’s than in the period following? Whathave been the criteria over the years for hiring teachers and administrators? Does one have to choose betweenmodernity (adopting modem ways) and ethnicity (perpetuating longstanding values, customs and practices)or can the two coexist? Does the history of the Talmud Torah add to our understanding of the developmentof Jewish education in Canada? And finally, how does this study add to our understanding of Canadianeducation in general?There has been very little scholarly research on Jewish education in Canada. Moreover I am notaware of a single comprehensive case study of a Jewish school in Canada to date. The Vancouver TalmudTorah has been in existence for almost as long as the Vancouver Jewish community itself. It is, therefore,important to document the history of this school not only for the interest of the community, past and present,but also to help those interested in Jewish education gain insight into how one Jewish community has3. A Hebrew school is either a supplementary or a day school where Hebrew as well as other Jewish subjects are taught.3attempted to educate its children both as Canadians and as Jews and thus to maintain its own identity withina liberal Canadian society.There is much similarity among Jewish schools in Canada, especially with respect to their historyand development.4It is therefore safe to assume that a history of a school such as the Vancouver TalmudTorah would be comparable in many respects to histories of other such schools across Canada. This studyis also important for Canadian educational history in general because of the vast number of minority groupsin Canada many ofwhom established their own ethnic or religious schools. This study could presumably beduplicated for other such ethnic or religiously-based schools allowing a basis for worthwhile comparison.Such studies would contribute in their own way to a fuller understanding of the development ofmulticulturalism in Canada since its official proclamation in 1971.I chose to study the Talmud Torah because of my interest in Jewish education. Although I did notattend a day school, I did attend an afternoon school for many years. As an adult, my interest in my Jewishheritage (language, religion, customs, history) has been renewed as I have become more observant of theteachings of the Jewish religion and of the cultural aspects of being Jewish. It is a topic that has muchmeaning for me, both as an educator and a Jew.I believe that an intensive Jewish education, in combination with living a life in accordance withJewish values (of which the family and the community are the most important agents), is necessary for a Jewto identify strongly with his or her people.5Up until the 1700’s, when European Jews still lived in isolatedcommunities, it was much easier to live a Jewish life and to guard one’s children from outside influences.However, with the dissolution of these tight-knit communities came a straying from the teachings of Judaismand a dispersion of a once cohesive group of people. Hirschberg, who studied Sephardi and Ashkenazi64. See later in this chapter for a discussion of research in Jewish education in Canada and the United States.5. Kurt Lewin, a social psychologist whose work on group dynamics is well-known in academic circles, believed that a strongidentification with the group to which one belongs is essential for personal well-being. Many members of minority groups findthemselves stuck between trying to leave behind their loyalties to their group and trying to become accepted by the majoritygroup. Jews who are no longer sure why they should remain Jewish but find themselves rejected by non-Jews are a primeexample of people in a state of confusion and unrest.6. Ashkenazi is the name given to those Jews who moved from the ancient Middle East (Babylonia, Egypt, Palestine, Persia,Syria, Yemen and India) to the Germanic countries, France and Eastern Europe. Since most settled in the Germanic countries,they were given the name Ashkenazi, the Hebrew word for German (Kolatch 1985). Sephardi is the name given to those Jews4Jewish school children in public and Jewish day schools in Montreal in the 1980’s, agrees that the family andcommunity are veiy important for an ethnic group to survive but believes that education plays a much lesserrole than expected. His study revealed that “formal, parochial education does not effect an increase in thelevel of ethnicity, and that parental and community factors are the primary determinants of a child’s ethnicidentity.”7Hirschberg found that the day school students’ attitudes towards being Jewish were not as positiveas those of the secular school students even though the former had received much more instruction in Jewishsubjects. It seemed that the day school students had the knowledge but had not internalized what they hadlearned to the extent that it became important to them.Finally, this thesis is not the definitive history of the Vancouver Talmud Torah. It is merely one ofmany possible histories as seen through the eyes of some of the many people who were associated with theschool, interpreted by someone who has no connection whatsoever with the school other than through thisresearch. As Henige put it so succinctly, “The past has happened and cannot change, but the interpretationand understanding of it continues to happen and will never stop changing.”8I hope that this thesis has donejustice to the Vancouver Talmud Torah and to the people who helped it grow and develop into a thrivingcommunity school.The research on Jewish education in Canada to date is extremely scanty and often unreliable. Acomprehensive study of the history of Jewish education in Canada, whether on a national, provincial orlocal level, would add to the existing material about the Jews of this country. The following literature reviewcomprises two sections. The first section includes a brief overview of the history of Jewish education, fromits beginnings in biblical times, to Europe and subsequently to Canada. The second section provides a criticalwho settled in Spain and Portugal (Sephardi means Spanish in Hebrew). Those Jews who remained in the Middle East werecalled Oriental Jews; however, today they also are commonly referred to as Sephardic Jews.7. Jack J. Hirschberg, “Secular and parochial education of Ashkenazi and Sephardi Jewish children in Montreal: A study inethnicity (Ph.D. diss., McGill University, 1988), ii.8. D. Henige, Oral Historiography (London: Longman, 1982), 129.5review of recent literature on the subject of Jewish education in Canada and in the United States9 for theperiod in question (1913-1959).Part IHistorical BackgroundAccording to the Jewish Encyclopedia, “The moral and religious training of the people fromchildhood up was regarded by the Jews from the veiy beginning of their histoiy as one of the principal objectsof life.”0 The aim was, and still is to varying degrees, to create a people who are strongly attached to thebeliefs and teachings of their ancestors. As the Jews were forced to move from country to country followingthe destruction by the Romans of their second Temple in Jerusalem in 70 AD. they faced enormous outsidepressures to give up their religion and to assimilate into the dominant society. Resisting assimilation hasalways been one of the greatest struggles for the Jewish people and one which continues just as forcefullyto this day. In spite of enormous pressures, a core of Jews has always managed to remain strong and sure intheir faith. Until the eighteenth century the European Jewish community was bound together by a commonJewish tradition1’.Most of the mores, manners, customs and prayers were learned in the family, with thesynagogue playing a secondary role. The only formal training occurred in the cheder (one-room school)where young students (usually boys) learned Yiddish, Hebrew and mathematics and in the yeshiva whereolder students (only boys) studied the Talmud (Jewish law) and its commentaries.12Traditional Judaismneeds no justification in educating its children other than the divine imperative, “And you shall love the Lord9. Since the histories of Jewish education in Canada and the United States are very similar, I have decided to include information onthe United States in order to add to the little that is available on Canada.10. The Jewish Encyclooedia, 1903 ed., s.v. Education, 42.11. I will be focussing on the Eastern European experiences as the logical context for the developments of the VancouverJewish community as it was the Eastern Europeans who not only made up the vast majority of Vancouver Jews during the firsthalf of the twentieth century, but who also had the most influence over the various Jewish institutions in the city during thisperiod.12. See Jacob Katz, Tradition and Crisis - Jewish Society at the End of the Middle Ages (New York: The Free Press of Glencoe,Inc., 1961) and Michael Stanislawski, Tsar Nicholas I and the Jews - The Transformation of Jewish Society in Russia (1825-1855),(Philadelphia: The Jewish Publication Society of America, 1983).6your G-d’3 with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words which Icommand you this day shall be upon your heart. And you shall teach them diligently to your children,speaking of them when you sittest in your house and when you walkest by the way, when you liest down andwhenyourisest up.. . “(Deuteronomy 6:6,7). This instruction recorded in the Torah is known to virtuallyall Jews regardless of their degree of religious observance or synagogue affiliation.Since the late 1800’s there have been four major events which have greatly affected the Jewish peopleand have subsequently “influenced the goals, structure and content of Jewish education, as well as the socialcomposition of Jewish schools.”4They are the Haskaiah (the Enlightenment or the Emancipation); the vastemigration of Eastern European Jews (mostly Ashkenazie Jews) beginning in the 1880’s and continuingthrough to the 1920’s; the Holocaust of World War II; and the birth of the State of Israel in 1948.The Haskalah, which originated in Western Europe in the latter part of the eighteenth century, “wasa cultural movement that encouraged Jews to adopt national and scientific modes of thinking and the culturalperspectives, wisdom, and behavior of the modern Western world.”5With the onset of the Haskalah camemajor changes for European Jewry with regard to education, religion and demography.’6For the first time,Jews were free to own property, reside where they desired and enter into a more varied occupational andeducational market. Most Jews saw this as an opportunity to break away from the isolation andrestrictiveness of the traditional Jewish community and to enter into a much wider societal environment.Others feared that this new-found freedom would be detrimental to the cultural and religious richness ofJudaism and would weaken Jewish identification.’713. Jewish law instructs Jews not to write or say the name of the Almighty unless it is for the purpose of praising Him. Thisderives from the third commandment “Do not take the name of the Lord in vain’. Therefore the orthodox tradition is to write orsay the name of the Almighty in a slightly altered manner when one is not praying.14. Harold S. Himmelfarb. “A Cross-Cultural View of Jewish Education.’ chap. in Jewish Education Worldwide: Cross-CulturalPerspectives. (Lanham, Maryland: University Press of America, Inc., 1989), 5.15. Ibid.16. See Jay R. Berkovitz, The Shaping of Jewish Identity in Nineteenth-century France (Detroit: Wayne State University Press,1989); Calvin Goldscheider and Alan S. Zuckerman, The Transformation of the Jews (Chicago: The University of ChicagoPress, 1984); David Sorkin, The Transformation of German Jewry, 1780-1840 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1987); andJacob Kat2, Out of the Ghetto- The Social Background of Jewish Emancipation, 1770-1870 (Cambridge, Massachusetts:Harvard University Press, 1973).17. l-limmelfarb , 5.7The proponents of the Haskalah saw education as the fastest and most effective means of integratingJews into society. Judaism continued to be taught in most Jewish schools but was now accompanied by thestudy of foreign languages, general history, philosophy and mathematics. The main focus of the AllianceIsraelite Universelle, an organization of young Jews from the social and intellectual elite of late eighteenthcentury France, was the introduction ofmodem schooling, modem trades, and agriculture, with the principalmeans of “regeneration” being the modern school. The Alliance Israelite Universelle wanted to spread themodem ideals of the Haskalah to areas such as the Balkan countries and Moslem lands where Jews wouldnot otherwise have the opportunity to develop education and training in modem skills.18The proponents of the I-Iaskalah were met with opposition by such great German scholars as RabbiSamson Raphael Hirsch and Rabbi Moses Sofer, both of whom believed strongly in the wisdom andimportance of the teachings of a religion that had survived for thousands of years. Rabbis Hirsch and Soferbelieved that once the influences of secular society were permitted to permeate Jewish life, Jews would ceaseto be a distinct people and Judaism would eventually be diluted beyond recognition. Therefore, both menfounded traditional schools in the early 1800’s in response to the rapidly growing Haskalah movement, Theschools offered a more demanding curriculum of Torah study than was available in the modern schools ofthe Haskalah. The argument between those Jews (such as Hirsch and Sofer) who believed that it wasimperative to safeguard tradition at the expense of integrating into society and those, such as the proponentsof the Haskalah, who believed that tradition could be sacrificed in order to fit into society continues to thisday. We will see the relevance of these opposing views and their impact on education at Talmud Torah duringthe period covered in this thesis.19The second major event occurred during the five decades around the turn of the 20th century whenapproximately three million Jews left Eastern Europe. Eighty’ percent of them emigrated to the United Stateswhile the rest migrated to Western Europe, Israel, Canada, Australia, Argentina and South Africa. Thus, the18. The Encyclooedia Judaica, 1972 ed., s.v. “Education.”19. See Katz 1973 and Sorkn 1987.8world Jewish population underwent drastic changes in its lifestyle and literally had to start anew, setting upsynagogues, community relief agencies and schools. These institutions reflected the traditions of the EasternEuropean Jews, who had, to a large extent, rejected the modem changes proposed by the Haskalah, ratherthan the assimilationist attitudes of their Western European counterparts.2°The Eastern Europeans exerteda strong influence over Jewish education in North America. It is they who were largely responsible for theemergence of the day school movement as well as many other forms of Jewish education and it is upon theirexperiences that I will be drawing largely for this history of the Vancouver Talmud Torah.The third factor was the Holocaust. Two-thirds of European Jewry (over one-third of world Jewry)were destroyed as a result of Nazi hatred during the Holocaust. Whole communities were eradicated alongwith some of the greatest institutions of Jewish learning. The terror and destruction of the Holocaust greatlyaffected the Jewish community worldwide. Some people were witnesses to the horrors, others lost family andfriends, while those communities who received the war refugees were affected by the huge emotional andfinancial burden that helping their fellow Jews entailed, often at the expense of their own religious andeducational needs. Europe, once the centre of Jewish learning and spirituality, was now left to rebuild itselffrom the rubble, while Israel and Jews in the United States took over as the leaders in Jewish education andspirituality.2’Tn 1948, just three years after the Holocaust ended, the modern State of Israel was established. Atlast there was a country to which any persecuted Jew could turn. Jews throughout the world experienced arenewed sense of pride and a long-awaited feeling of unity. Israel has “played an instrumental role inrevitalizing Jewish culture through language, art, music and literature” and has also “provided educationalmaterial, personnel, and finances to Jewish schools throughout the world.”22 In the years following 1948,Israel would play a vital role in reshaping Jewish education in the Diaspora (lands outside of Israel),especially in terms of language, history and customs.20. Himmelfarb, 9-10.21. bid, 10-11.22. Ibid, 11.9In summary, Jewish identification up until the late 1700’s in Eastern Europe was not at risk becausemost Jews lived in isolated or insulated communities, often forced into ghettos by unfriendly governments.As Jews began to disperse and live in mixed communities, Jewish identification and socialization becamea problem. The main goal of Jewish schools then shifted from providing knowledge to providing experiencesthat would assist the students in developing their Jewish identity. This is the main difference between schoolsin Israel and schools in the Diaspora. “In Israel, the major goal is to add knowledge to an identification thatalready exists from the experience of everyday life. In the Diaspora, there is a need to create the experienceto which knowledge can be related.” Unfortunately, schools are much better at transmitting knowledge thanthey are at transmitting experience.24The latter remains largely the task of the family and community.Jewish Education in CanadaWhen the Jews first arrived in Canada in small numbers in the 1760’s they began setting upafterschool programs to teach their children the language, customs, history and religion of their ancestors.The schools first operated out of the cheder (one-room school), then over the years moved to a basementclassroom in the shul (synagogue), then to a rented or purchased house and finally to a modern schoolbuilding often attached to a synagogue. At first, the religious training consisted of mechanical reading ofprayers in Hebrew, without understanding, and translation of the Pentateuch (The Five Books of Moses) intoYiddish. The instructor was a melamed- an untrained religious teacher. When people realized that this typeof education was inadequate, an enriched program of Jewish studies, taught by a qualified professionalteacher, was introduced.25The day school in Canada has its roots in the small local talmudel torah (TalmudTorah schools), afterschool programs first set up by Eastern European immigrants at the beginning of the20th century. Although these schools were first established to serve the predominantly Orthodox community,23. bid, 23.24. See information on Hirschbergs study on pp. 3-4.25. Jerome Kutnick. “Jewish Education in Canada. chap. in Jewish Education Worldwide - Cross-Cultural Perspectives(Lanham, MD: University Press of America, Inc., 1989) 140-141.10they later became community schools with student representation from all the various groups into which Jewsare usually divided: Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, Reconstructiomst, Egalitarian and unaffihiated. Thefirst Talmud Torah in Canada was established in Montreal in 1896.26 The first day school was the secularistYiddish Peretz School in Winnipeg, founded in 1920.27In 1867, when the British North America Act was passed, there were fewer than 2000 Jews inCanada. The Canadian government, therefore, did not take the Jews’ educational needs into considerationwhen it instructed each province to “guarantee access to the existing Catholic and Protestant [public]schools” which received provincial funding. Since the existing public schools were unacceptable to manyJews, they began negotiating with their provincial governments in the early 1900’s to establish funding forJewish day schools, without success.Part IIState of Research in Jewish EducationApart from a few chapters which appear in historical surveys and articles in Jewish or Americanjournals as well as a handful of masters and doctoral theses, little has been written about the education of theJews in Canada. Schools, which are generally understaffed and underfunded, have neither the time nor themoney to collect and interpret their history. They are too busy financing their day-to-day operations,preparing and revising cunicula and hiring and overseeing teaching and administrative staff. Consequently,very few statistical or historical documents exist. Those that do exist are not collected centrally, and arespread throughout the country. It is only possible to access these documents through writing to or telephoningeach separate school or school board (if one exists).29 As a result of this shortage of accessible historical26. Louis Rosenberg, Chronology of Canadian Jewish History (Canada: National Bicentenary Committee of the CanadianJewish Congress, 1959)14.27. bid, p.21.28. Jerome Kutnick. ‘Jewish Education in Canada” in Jewish Education Worldwide - Cross-Cultural Persoectives, (Lanham,Maryland: University Press of America, Inc., 1989), 137.29. Rabbi I. Witty telephone interview.11material on Jewish education in Canada, literature from the United States is often consulted by researchersand educators. Due to the similarities of the two societies, I consider it appropriate to cite material from theUnited States in this study.Harold Himmelfarb reported in 1989 that “the field of Jewish Education [in the U.S.] is still in itsinfancy... . there is an unsettling feeling that we know very little about what Jewish educational efforts looklike, how they impact on people, and what directions need to be pursued in the improvement of the field.”3°Barry Chazan3’argues that “the problem is not lack of people, issues, or procedures for research, but rathera lack of theory to guide the role of research in affecting Jewish educational practice.”32According to DavidResmck, an American researcher in Jewish education, the problems include the absence of a clearly defmedphilosophy of Jewish education, the lack of an ongoing research enterprise, the unavailability of socialscience journals in Jewish education, and the frequent exclusion of those most directly involved in education(teachers, principals, parents) from deciding what is researched or how.33 These problems also apply toCanadian Jewish education and further research is needed to fill in the gaps of our knowledge. The followingsection begins with a discussion of the research available on Jewish education in the United States andconcludes with a look at Canadian research on the topic in an attempt to shed some light on what has beendone to date in the field of Jewish education and what remains to be explored.United StatesIn order for the Jews to survive as a people they must provide their children with the most intensiveJewish education possible, supplemented, of course, by a solid home and community life. This position is30. Harold Himmelfarb, quoted in Ronald G. Wolison and Stuart Kelman, Research in Jewish Religious Education,” ReligiousEducation, 17:692-698, (Nov- Dec 1980): 5-6.31. Barry Chazan, 1983, quoted in A. Harry Passow, “Research on Jewish Education In the Diaspora: Some Reflections,”Jewish Education. 53-3 (Fall 1984): p. 6.32. Himmelfarb quoted in Wolfson and Kelman, p. 6.33. Passow, p. 6.12corroborated by the recent research of Efraim Inbar34,a modern researcher in the field of Jewish educationin the United States. Inbar reports that since the arrival of Jewish immigrants in the United States in the lateeighteenth century, there has been a constant debate over how best to educate one’s children in an opensociety. Some have believed strongly in intensive Jewish education (such as the day school), some havedeemed afterschool instruction sufficient, while still others have felt that it is best to integrate totally into thegeneral society and in no way appear different from the mainstream. Inbar, a strong advocate of the dayschool movement, sees the day school (the most intensive type of Jewish education), as the answer to theproblem of Jewish survival. He believes that the day school is a viable solution to the issue of assimilationand loss of Jewish values, especially among American-born Jews.Inbar continues to discuss the development of Jewish education in the United States through adiscussion of some of the people and movements active during this period and their differing beliefs on thetopic ofhow best to educate their children. During the period under study (1913-1959), most immigrant Jewsbelieved that they could reach a happy medium between guarding their traditions and beliefs and fitting intothe dominant society by sending their children to public school during the day followed by a supplementaryJewish school in the afternoon. Educators, such as Isaac B. Berkson, a New York educator and author whohelped set up the first system of Jewish education in the United States, believed that this arrangement wouldallow Jewish children to share experiences with those of other nationalities and religions in the public schoolduring the day and continue their Jewish studies after school. During this period, these beliefs were foundamong Diaspora Jews throughout the world, including those in Canada. This arrangement, however, createdthe major problem ofJewish children being exposed daily to religious beliefs and customs which were foreignto Judaism. In some parts of the United States and Canada, Jewish children were exempt from religiousactivities which were in opposition to their beliefs. The majority of American Jews accepted a distinct34. Efraim Inbar, “The Hebrew Day Schools - The Orthodox Communal Challenge,” The Journal of Ethnic Studies 7-1 (Spring1979): 13-29.35. Inbar refers to this as the ‘integration-survival dilemma. The “integration-survival dilemma’ is not a problem for the OrthodoxJews because, although they participate and contribute to American society, their first allegiance is with the Jewish people. This isusually not the case with other Jews who have great difficulty viewing the Jewish people as a nation and not simply a religious group.13separation of church and state. The Jewish Orthodox minority, on the other hand, rallied for the inclusion ofsome form of religion (such as silent prayer) in the public school. Although few of their children attendedpublic schools, they believed that this was preferable to a completely secular educational system which mightpromote atheism and possibly antisemitism. Orthodox Jews were the first group in the United States tosuggest that a supplementary Jewish education was “not successful in inculcating the knowledge and valuesan educated Jew should have.” They believed that the only solution was the Jewish day school. The critics,both Jewish and non-Jewish, of the day school claimed that it was “Unamerican” because it was a segregatedschool. They believed that children who attended Jewish day schools were deprived of important intergrouprelations and were limited in their ability to integrate into American society afterwards.Inbar describes the reasons for the emergence of day schools in the 1900’s which taught both Jewishand secular subjects. These schools were founded on the belief that knowledge of the Torah accompaniedby secular subjects would serve to enhance both Jewish and American life. Although there was always astruggle for the Jews (as for most minority groups) between the desire to adhere to their faith, language andpeople and the need to adjust to the host society, it became more and more pronounced after World War II.In this period, the immigrant generation had aged and there was a marked increase in American-born Jewsand children of American-born Jews enrolled in intensive Jewish educational programs for two reasons.Firstly, there were simply more American-born Jews as the immigrants settled and had families. Secondly,many Jews realized that they had become assimilated into the American culture and had lost much of theirJewish tradition in the process. They therefore believed that a more intensive Jewish education was necessaryto fill the void created by a less traditional Jewish home and community life.Inbar relates that the struggle for the American-born Jews to remain Jewish was even greater asthey were already partially assimilated as a result of the desire of their parents to be successful in Americansociety and to ensure that their children would have the best social, economic and educational opportunitiesavailable to them, in other words, they did not want their children to be seen as outsiders. Jewish educators36. tnbar, 16.14responded to this situation by fmding meaningful ways to attract Jews to Judaism. Most educators thoughtthat adherence to the teachings of the Torah and dedication to Israel (as an ideal at first, and then after 1948as a concrete reality) were the best and truest ways of ensuring that Jews remained loyal to their heritage.CanadaProbably the most extensive study of Jewish education in Canada is Jerome Kutnick’s chapter inJewish Education Worldwide - Cross-Cultural Perspectives37.Kutnick explores Canadian Jewty’s strugglewith its heritage as reflected in the education of its children. He notes the close ties maintained betweenAmerican and Canadian Jewiy which have had a profound effect on Jewish education in both countries. Hereports in detail on the history of the day school movement in Canada as well as the controversy involvingday vs. supplementary schools. He includes a section for each of the cities with large Jewish educationalprograms, including statistics as to the number of schools and school enrolment. Kutnick’s chapter also givesexplanations as to the varying patterns of Jewish education across Canada, demonstrating that these patternsdepend, to a large extent, on the origins of population as well as the extent of the population’s commitmentto Judaism.In the late 19th century and early 20th century, Montreal Jews struggled with the pre-existingProtestant and Catholic school boards in an attempt to receive equal treatment for their children as well asfor themselves. This controversy, often referred to as the “Montreal School Question” is a well-researchedand widely-discussed issue.38 In order for Jewish children to be admitted to one of the existing public schoolsystems (the Protestant being the system of choice) they were designated as “Protestants” for school purposesand yet their parents were not eligible to stand for election to Protestant school boards and thus have input37. See Jerome Kutnick, Jewish Education in Canada,” in Jewish Education Worldwide - Cross-Cultural Persgectives, (Lanham,MD: University Press of America, Inc., 1989) 135-169.38. See Gerald Tulchinsky, Taking Root - The Origins of the Canadian Jewish Community (Toronto: Lester Publishing Limited,1992); B.G. Sack, History of the Jews in Canada (Montreal: Harvest House, 1965); Irving Abella, A Coat of Many Colours -Two Centuries of Jewish Life in Canada (Toronto: Canadian Museum of Civilization, 1990); Michael Brown, Jew or Juif? -Jews, French Canadians, and Anglo-Canadians, 1759-1914 (Philadelphia and New York: The Jewish Publication Society,1986); and Dr. Joseph Kage, ‘The Education of a Minority - Jewish Children in Greater Montreal, chap. in Sounds Canadian,ed. Paul Migus (Toronto: Peter Martin Associates Limited, 1975) 93-104.15in the operation of these schools. The beginning of the 1900’s saw many Jews becoming increasinglyfrustrated with the situation and as a result they began to set up their own schools.Two informative histories of the Canadian Jews by Arthur Chiel and Stephen A. Speisman39providemuch valuable information on the histoiy of Jewish education in Manitoba and Toronto respectively40.Theyincorporate social, political, historical, financial and religious issues into the discussion of education, andinclude numerous facts, figures, names and dates in the recounting of the educational endeavours of the Jewsof these two communities. These two histories also include discussions about philanthropy, various Jewishimmigrant groups, community problems, conflicting ideologies, acculturation and the influence of the non-Jewish society on the educational activities of the Jews. A detailed discussion of the types of schools set up,teachers hired and curriculum is also included. These surveys are helpful for those doing preliminaiy workon Jewish education in Canada.Yaacov Glickman41provides a thorough overview of the history of Jewish education in Canada, fromits roots in the tightly-knit communities of Eastern Europe to the wide variation of religious content, languageof instruction and organizational features ofmodern Jewish schools across Canada. His article is one of onlya few which not only systematically outlines the origins of Canadian Jewish education but also discussesdifferences among various schools across the country with respect to ideologies, programs, organizationalaffiliations and histories. Glickman correctly points out that Jewish “education” does not merely denoteJewish “schooling”. There are many other organizations (Canadian Jewish Congress, community centres,synagogues, summer camps, B’nai Brith Hillel Houses located on university campuses etc.) which educateand instruct people of all ages in the language, culture, religion and history of the Jewish people. Glickmancites a study in which sixty key figures of the Toronto Jewish population were asked to list the major recent39. See Arthur Chiel, The Jews of Manitoba- A Social History (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1961) and Stephen A.Speisman, The Jews of Toronto- A History to 1937 (Toronto: McClelland and Stewart Limited, 1979).40. Gerald Tulchinsky’s 1992 publication entitled Taking Root - The Origins of the Canadian Jewish Community, an excellentaccount of the history of the Jews in Canada, provides some information on Jewish education in Canada, although nowherenear as extensive as Chiel and Speisman.41. Yaacov Glickman, Jewish Education: Success or Failure?’ The Canadian Jewish Mosaic, (Toronto: John Wiley & Sons,1981): 113-127.16disputes in the community. The majority of responses were related to education. These included issues ofgovernment aid to Jewish schools, the relative importance of day and supplementary schools, rabbinicalauthority, control of funds and educational philosophies. Glickman’s article shows that Canadian Jews placea high degree of importance on educational issues and as a result have set up many Jewish educationalprograms and institutions. However, he also points out that many issues remain to be tackled.Glickman makes a clear distinction between modem North American Jewty’s educational system andthat of the small towns and ghettos of Eastern Europe prior to the Second World War. For the latter,education was an integral part of everyday life. For the former, education is a means to an end, which usuallyincludes improving one’s social or economic status. Glickman concludes that “the profile of Jewish schoolingin Canada shows a trend towards the all-day Jewish school”42,supported by a growing number of CanadianJews who see the importance of preserving Jewish culture while still participating in modern Canadian life.Glickman reveals that Jews are fairly unified when it comes to the importance of Jewish education.However, despite these fmdings, Jewish educational institutions have not been very successful in producingmore committed or more identified Jews. Why is this? The family, contrary to popular belief, has retainedits role as the main influence on the child with respect to its socialization and community identification. AsWalter Ackerman declares, to assume “that formal education or any kind or educational programme. . . is anadequate substitute for the impact of a total culture is to stretch the parameters of identity formation beyondreasonable limits.”43 Jewish schooling coupled with education in the home are both necessary as eachreinforces the benefits of the other.Rabbi David Kogen’s thesis44 provides a brief history of Jewish religious life from its biblicalbeginnings to Judaism’s split into Reform, neo-Orthodox, Conservative, and Reconstructionist movementsbeginning in the 1700’s. He then discusses the status of Jewish religious life in mid-twentieth century42. bid, 125.43. Quoted in ibid, 127.44. David Kogen, “Change in Jewish Religious Life’ (Master’s thesis, University of British Columbia, 1951).17Vancouver (with respect to observances such as Shabbat, kashrut,45 religious festivals etc.) through meansof a questionnaire which was submitted to a large number of Hebrew school students from the Talmud Torahand synagogue schools. He found that kashrut observance was fairly strong, Sabbath observance was veiyweak, and there was full attendance for Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur46 services at the synagogues. RabbiKogen’s thesis supplies invaluable information on Jewish education in Vancouver during the early 1950’s,where vely little exists. It also includes statistics and information on the Talmud Torah gathered during thisperiod.The information presented in this chapter serves not only to provide background information on thestudy of Jewish education in Canada but also to show what research has been done so far in this area. Clearly,little substantial research has been undertaken regarding the histories of individual schools. Further, mostof the literature to date deals with Jewish education in Eastern Canada. It is therefore important to provideresearch on Jewish education in the West where different issues such as lack of materials due to inadequatefunding and limited availability, a shortage of qualified teachers, and geographical isolation, created problemsfor the Jewish schools.45. Shabbat is the Jewish Sabbath, the day of rest, which is observed on Saturdays. Kashrut is the collection of Jewish dietarylaws outlined in the Bible and later interpreted by various Jewish scholars.46. The synagogue services for Rosh HaShanah, the Jewish New Year, and Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, are the mostwidely-attended of the Jewish religious festivals.18Part IllSources and MethodologyThe information gathered for this thesis was based largely on oral interviews with former students,teachers, parents and Board members of the Talmud Torah from the 1920’s to the 1950’s. In total, Iinterviewed 24 people, many of whom fit into more than one categoiy.47 I interviewed 14 students, five fromthe 1920’s and 1930’s and nine from the 1940’s and 1950’s. Ten parents from the 1940’s and 1950’s wereinterviewed; most of this group were also involved in the school in some other way. Four Board memberswere interviewed, all ofwhom served between 1930 and 1959. Although I approached thirteen teachers fromthe 1940’s and 1950’s, only four agreed to be interviewed. This rate of cooperation was significantly lowerthan that of the other three groups. Possibly this was because teachers did not want to discuss problems orunpleasant experiences which might have taken place, not wanting to dredge up old memories or feeling asif it was so long ago that they did not think they had anything worthwhile to say or did not feel some of theissues should be exposed to public view.I developed a list of questions48pertinent to the themes I wished to explore. During the interviews,I used the question list as a guide to directing the course of the conversation. Since I wanted people to talkfreely about their experiences I felt that a formal interview would inhibit their responses. After transcribingthe interviews I selected those parts that pertained to the issues I had decided to pursue. Throughout theprocess many selections were deleted as I became more aware of the exactly what shape I vanted the thesisto take. Finally, suggestions from my committee assisted in further refining the information.I encouraged people to allow me to use their names. In all but two cases (where different reasonswere given for not wanting names used) names are used throughout the thesis. Sherry Thomas believes thatusing real names is part of doing oral history. I mean I changed names when I had to, butI felt like I lost a small piece that matters to me a lot. . . that absolutely ordinary people47. I also interviewed three students and two teachers, all from the 1980’s, and one student from the 1970’s, but later decided tolimit my thesis to the period from 1913-1959. The information gathered from these sources provided me, nevertheless, with a moreglobal view of the evolution of the school and thus influenced the writing of this thesis.48. See Appendix B for a copy of the interview questions.19matter and count and their stories are important and we need all of their stories, and thatwhen you start changing the names you take away some of that basic belief system.49Thomas also ably expressed her views on accountability.The big issue for me. . . was that I felt a tremendous question about accountability to thematerial. Given what I was doing with the transcription, given that I was severely editingthe pieces, that I was taking myself out of all the pieces so that it looked like a first personquestion-and-answer form, was I being faithful-- to the voice, to the content of thematerial? Could I really take four sentences from here and put them at the end of anotherwhole section and be faithful to the flow and the content and the mood and the tone of thepiece? I felt a tremendous seriousness about that, and ended up having to say I had to trustmyself, my sense of that person, my sense of the connection out of those long talks, and mysense of the shape of what they were trying to convey about their lives.50I share Thomas’ deep concern about properly representing those I have interviewed. It was verydifficult to extract pertinent pieces of information gathered from the interviews and insert them intoappropriate sections of the thesis without losing the flow or the meaning. It was for this reason that I senteach interviewee a copy of the parts of their interview that I planned to use in my thesis for careful readingand comment. Approximately half responded with suggestions for minor changes or general approval of thematerial. The rest, I assume, were satisfied with the material as they were informed that if they did notrespond by a certain date then I would assume I had their complete approval. I can only hope that I have donejustice to the testimonies and experiences of the interviewees who so generously shared with me theirrecollections of the Talmud Torah.The rest of the information was gathered from several other sources, the main one being back issuesof the Jewish Western Bulletin51,a weekly Vancouver Jewish community newspaper (known by several othernanes before 1930) from 1925 to 1959. This proved to be an excellent source. Almost every weekly issuehad something on the Talmud Torah as it was one of the few Jewish institutions in the city. I also consulted49. Sherry Thomas, “Digging Beneath the Surface: Oral History Techniques,” Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies 7, 1 (1983):55, quoted in Penelope Sian Stephenson, “Portraits in the First Person: An Historical Ethnography of Rural Teachers and Teachingin British Columbias Okanagan Valley in the 1920’s (MA. Thesis, University of British Columbia, 1993) 82-83.50. Thomas, quoted in Stephenson, 84.51. The Jewish Western Bulletin is a weekly Vancouver Jewish community newspaper that has been in operation in one form oranother since the 1920’s and continues to publish to this day. Previous names include The Vancouver Jewish Bulletin, CentreBulletin, Weekly News and Jewish Centre News.20photographs stored at the Jewish Western Bulletin, the Talmud Torah and in private collections. Some ofthese appear on pages 73-83. Many of those interviewed were kind enough to lend me old photographs,report cards, correspondence and notebooks which added to the project as whole. A book of minutes fromthe 1940’s, carefully preserved by Dr. Al Bogoch and brought to my attention by Michael Moscovich, servedas the only written primary source (other than the newspaper) regarding the early days of the Talmud Torah.This book is a record of Talmud Torah Executive Board meetings from October 25, 1944 to July 1, 1947.Most of the infonnation deals with the fmances, budget, tuition, fundraising, committee reports, elections,staffing and daily operation of the school. I was unable to locate any other minute books. I also consulted awide-range of secondary material including books, articles, doctoral and master’s theses, and CanadianCensus reports from 1901 to 1981 to provide background information and to steer me in the right directionwith my research.21CHAPTER TwoForces Shaping the Destiny of the Talmud TorahThe first section of this chapter gives a brief description of the pioneer Jewish settlement inVancouver in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. The purpose of this background is to place the VancouverTalmud Torah in its proper historical context. This chapter adds to the information given in the previouschapter, focusing on how these external forces influenced the development and operation of the school. Thisis followed by a discussion of demographic changes in the Jewish population in Canada for the perioddiscussed and the debate over Yiddish or Hebrew as the language of instruction. There were many forcesshaping the destiny of the Talmud Torah. This chapter endeavours to outline the major ones and to providea brief discussion of each.The Settlement Of The Jews In VancouverThere were two distinct waves of Jewish immigration to British Columbia in the latter part of the19th and early part of the 20th century. The first wave, from 1858-1871, involved several hundred WesternEuropean Jews who immigrated because of the gold rush. They came primarily from California and mostsettled in Victoria.’ The second and larger of the two waves occurred in 1886-1914, and brought EasternEuropean Jews, poor immigrants who were fleeing pogroms in their homelands. The majority settled in thelow-income East End ofVancouver (often referred to as Strathcona). Arriving with almost nothing, they did,however, bring with them their religion (Orthodox Judaism), their language (Yiddish), their families and astrong determination to give their children a better life. They possessed a strong sense of family and1. Christine Wisenthal, Insiders and Outsiders: Two waves of Jewish Settlement in BC, 1858-1914 (M.A. Thesis, University ofBritish Columbia, 1987), ii.22conm1unity, a passion for learning, great respect for democracy, Zionist2 ideals and the practise of tzedakah(charity and justice).3However, by the late 1920’s they were already exchanging the spiritual values of Judaism formaterial possessions. Buildings and monuments were becoming more important than the study of Judaism.4Furthermore, an inunigration policy adopted during the 1930’s in Canada basically stopped the inflow ofEastern European Jews. This resulted in further isolation of the Jewish community from the vital sources ofJudaism in Europe.5Once in Vancouver, most of the immigrants became tailors, dressmakers, scrap dealers,shopkeepers, wage earners and petty traders in the East End.6Mordecai Jaffe7,who arrived in Vancouver in1926, remembers the early Jewish immigrants. “[Tjhey started humbly as peddlers with horse and buggy,second hand shopkeepers, tailors and shoemakers. Their life was hard and it is only the second generationthat was able to reach a higher educational level and become the leaders of the community.”8Zebulon Franks was the first religious leader in Vancouver. He arrived in 1887 from a town nearOdessa in Russia where his father was the High Rabbi.9A brilliant young scholar very dedicated to religiousstudy, he held services in his small rented home on Water Street from 1887 to 1894.10 In 1907 B’nei Yehudah(Sons of Israel), the first Orthodox congregation in Vancouver, was established11 with Zebulon Franks as its2. Zionism is a movement whose goal is the return of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel.3. The Zionist organization began in Vancouver in 1909. From Leon Komar, “Mordecai Jaffe 1894-1961 His role and achievementson the Vancouver scene’ (unpublished paper), University of British Columbia, Vancouver, B.C., 1991, 7.4. Komar, 9,10.5. Ibid, 10.6. Wisenthal, u-ui.7. Mordecai Jaffe was a writer and educator. His interests lay in promoting Hebrew and Jewish education, preventing assimilation,the propagation of the Zionist ideology and the revival of the Yiddish language and culture. Although he taught briefly at the TalmudTorah and was president in 1933, he was not satisfied with teaching Hebrew exclusively. He felt that Hebrew and Yiddishsupplemented each other. As editor and author for the “Yiddishe Velt” (The Yiddish World), a Yiddish magazine with some Englishwhich was published from 1928 to 1935, Jaffe was able to educate the community as to his beliefs on Judaism in general, and morespecifically Jewish education. The magazine dealt with concerns of interest to British Columbia Jews of that time. Education wasdiscussed in every issue as this was Jaffe’s main interest. (from Komar, p. 5)8. Komar, 3.9. Cyril Edel Leonoff, Centennial of Vancouver Jewish Life: 1886-1986 (Vancouver, B.C.: Jewish Historical Society of BritishColumbia, 1986), 10.10. Congregation Schara Tzedeck “Celebrating 80 Years” 1907-1987, (Vancouver, B.C.: Caroline Productions, 1987), 14.11. Ibid, 14.23president. Services were held in rented halls until the first synagogue was built at Heatley and Pender in191 112.12 By 1914 the Vancouver Jews had formed their own traditional segregated community, in whichthe focus of life was the Orthodox congregation.13In 1917 the Orthodox synagogue was incorporated andrenamed Schara Tzedeck (Gates of Righteousness).’4The following year Reverend Nathan Mayer Pastinskybecame the spiritual leader. Although he was not an ordained rabbi, he was so loved and revered by all thatmany called him “Rabbi”. He was also the shochet (ritual slaughterer), mohel (one who is trained to performritual circumcisions) and chazan (cantor or prayer leader) of the community and he was known to welcomeall into his house regardless of their religion or status.15 A man of great wisdom, devotion, talent and atireless worker, he served the community for almost 30 years, from 1918 until his death in 1946.16 Both ofthese men contributed greatly to survival of the Vancouver Jewish community. By sharing their knowledgeand wisdom they helped to keep Judaism alive in Vancouver.As the community grew, the synagogue was no longer large enough to accommodate everyone forthe High Holiday services so various halls were rented to accommodate the overflow. The resultinginconvenience spurred the community to acquire its own larger building. In 1921 a new synagogue withseating for 600 was built at the corner of Heatley and East Pender.’7By the 1930’s the Strathcona Jewishneighbourhood was a thriving community complete with synagogue, school, Talmud Torah, Zionist hall,Neighbourhood House, kosher butcher shops, grocery and confectionary stores, doctors’ offices and drugstores.1812. Cyril Edel Leonoff, Centennial of Vancouver Jewish Life: 1886-1986 (Vancouver, B.C.: The Jewish Historical Society of BritishColumbia and The Jewish Western Bulletin, 1986), 10.13. Ibid, 11.14. Ibid, 10.15. Joseph Youngson interview. Dates of interviews will appear in section entitled Sources Consulted.16. Leonoff, Centennial of Vancouver Jewish life, 10.17. Congregation Schara Tzedeck. “Celebrating 80 Years”, 15.18. Leorioff, Centennial of Vancouver Jewish Life, 11.24Most of the Jewish immigrants lived in the area of Strathcona Elementary School.’9Their childrenattended this school during the day and learned Hebrew and religious studies afterwards, either at the TalmudTorah or with private tutors.2°In this way they could learn to read and interpret the lessons of the Bible atHebrew school as well as improve their standard of living and integrate into Canadian society by attendingpublic school. Joseph Youngson, one of the first teachers at the Vancouver Talmud Torah, reflected on thechildren of the era. He noted especially the diligence in their schoolwork and the ambition placed on themby their families to be successful in this new country.Most of the children went to [public] school. And [at] that time all the children, the Jewishchildren, seemed to distinguish themselves in the schools. They all walked away with thehighest degrees [marks] because, you know, they knew that their aim is to study and to learnbecause in Russia, wherever they came from, the parents could never reach the heightwhat the children could reach here and they saw such wonderful opportunities, and learningamong Jewish people is always accepted highly.2’This East End community endured until the 1940’s. “It was a strongly ethnocentric community boundtogether by the shared religious and cultural inheritance of Orthodox Judaism.”22They were able to “practisetheir religion openly and to live fully as Jews, without the constant threat of pogroms.”23Youngson describedthe close-knit Jewish community as he knew it in the late 1920’s and the 1930’s.It was a very nice [Jewish] community. People were closer, one to another Today, ifyou want to see somebody, you have to make an appointment or they have to invite youbefore and make an appointment ahead of time. There, if you felt like seeing somebody, youjust walked in, in the house and. . .. You [would] go to Georgia Street on a summerevening. Everybody would be sitting outside on the veranda and chatting, talking and wewere all together.2419. Strathcona, Vancouvers first public school, opened its doors in January of 1887 at the 500 block of East Cordova Street. It wasoriginally called East School.20. Leonoff, Centennial of Vancouver Jewish Life, 12.21. Joseph Youngsori interview.22. Wisenthal, 132.23. lbid, 135.24. Joseph Youngson interview.25By 1948 many families had afready moved uptown to Oak Street. At that time there were threeseparate congregations. The Beth Hamidrash25synagogue, established in 1941 by a group of Orthodox Jews,opposed the modem changes taking place at the Schara Tzedeck synagogue. The Schara Tzedeck synagoguewas moved in 1947 to a new building at 19th and Oak and in 1948 the present-day Talmud Torah Hebrewday school and the Beth Israel26 Conservative synagogue were built.TABLE 1. Jewish Population of BC and Vancouver. by Reli2ion, 1901-19511,384 1,000 72.25%1,654 1,248 75.45%2,666 2,372 88.97%3,235 2,742 84.76%5,969 5,566 93.25%100,401 1.00%117,217 1.06%246,593 0.96%275,353 1.00%344,833 1.61%A Changing Jewish DemographyBy the mid- 1940’s the majority of Canadian Jews were, for the first time, native-born (see chartbelow). This was the first of two changes that occurred during this period which had a major effect on Jewisheducation in Vancouver. The second change was the purchase of a separate building for the Talmud Torah25. Beth Hamidrash, originally an Orthodox Ashkenazi synagogue (today a Sephardi Orthodox synagogue), was established in 1941in Vancouver on Heather Street near 16th Avenue. The Beth Hamidrash catered to the needs of the ‘oldtimers who wereuncomfortable with the modern changes that were taking place in the Schara Tzedeck (neo-Orthodox) synagogue (eg. sermons inEnglish and not in Yiddish). (Kogen, pp. 127-128)26. The Beth Israel Conservative synagogue was incorporated in 1932. It was first housed in the old Jewish Community Centre atOak and 11th until enough funds were available to purchase a separate building at Oak and 27th in 1948. The main differencesbetween this and the existing Schara Tzedeck were that in the Beth Israel men and women could sit together, some prayers were inEnglish, there was improved decorum, shorter services and a mixed choir. (Kogen, 129-130).554 202 36.46% 26,133 0.77%From Canadian censuses, 1901-1951The increase in the number of Vancouver Jews from 1921 to 1951 was even more pronounced (over 350%) than the increase inthe number of B.C. Jews for this same period. This demonstrates that more and more Jews were moving to the city.*This information compiled by Vancouver Public Library.26in 1944.27 Basing his information on the 1931 and 1941 Canadian censuses, Louis Rosenberg reported thatthe changes (lower rate of increase in Jewish population, increase in Canadian-born Jews) which had takenplace in the Canadian Jewish population since 1921 were typical of a primarily urban minority group whosecontinued immigration had been severely restricted by the Canadian department of immigration, and who,despite a relatively low rate of intermarriage and high degree of determination to retain its religious andcultural identity, had quickly adapted to the social, educational, economic and political conditions of themajority group.28 By 1951 more than half of the Jews in Canada were Canadian-born and no longer couldlook to the immigrants to guide them in their Judaism. Now they were the leaders and would have to teachtheir children the already watered-down Judaism that they had acquired from living in an open society.TABlE 2. Number of Canadian—born and BC—born Jews, by Racial Origin, 1921 — 1951Year Born in Total # of Jews inCanada % of total BC E of total Canada j BC1921 50.892 40°c 609 37°c 126.196 1.65400.1931 68,703___________________________________________________1941 X.892____1951 103.599Source: Census of Canada, 1921-1951 tables on racial origin of the Canadian-born and population by racial origin.43%51%57%1,1509553,00843%30%50%156,726170,241181,6702,666.003,235.005,969.00The above chart includes the infonnation used by Rosenberg for his study as well as additionalstatistics from before and after the period in question. This chart shows the increase in Canadian and B.C.-born Jews from 1921 to 1951. The greatest increase occurred after the onset of World War II, between 1941and 1951. The chart clearly demonstrates the shift in the Canadian Jewish population, from a predominantlyimmigrant population to a native-born one. From 1921 to 1951 the number of Canadian-born Jews had morethan doubled (an increase of over 100%) whereas the total number of Jews in Canada had increased by less27. See Chapter Three, “The School and the Community’.28. ‘Facts About Canada’s Jews Jewish Western Bulletin, 18 May 1945, p. 1. Hereafter referred to as J.W.B.27than 50%. However, the total number of Jews in B.C. had increased by more than 150% from 1921 to 1951.This indicates that more and more Jews were leaving the East and moving westward to seek a better life.What effect did these substantial increases in the numbers of Canadian-born Jews, and especiallythe phenomenal growth of the Vancouver Jewish community29,have on Jewish education? For the first time,Canadian Jews found themselves without a dominant immigrant population on whom they could depend forthe transmission of Jewish knowledge and traditions. The first generation Canadian-born Jews, who hadafready experienced a tangible loss of their cultural knowledge as a result of trying to integrate into Canadiansociety, were now faced with a new generation of Jews, their children, who did not have the same advantageof living in a traditional Jewish home as they had had. Thus the need for Jewish education outside of thehome was even more important. It is therefore no surprise that Jewish schools became more prevalent andmore well-attended around the middle of the centuly.The Language DebateHebrew, for the Jewish people, has always been the language of the religious text. It is the languagein which Jews all around the world pray. Yiddish, like Ladino, is a combination of Hebrew and the languageof the host country, which in the case of Yiddish was Germany and in the case of Ladino was Spain. Bothof these languages were used in everyday speech, not in religious services. The Hebrew language became aliving language once again with the emergence of the state of Israel in 1948. The renewal of Hebrewencouraged many Jews to devote more time and money to improving Hebrew language programs. This gaverise to an area of great contention, the issue of the language of instruction in the school. The Hebraists3°believed that Jewish studies should be taught in Hebrew while the Yiddishists believed that Yiddish shouldbe the language of instruction. Still others, like Israel Baruch, a principal of the Talmud Torah in the mid29. Most of the Jews living in British Columbia after 1880 (the beginning of the wave of Jewish immigration from Eastern Europe)resided in the Vancouver area.30. Hebraists are advocates of Hebrew just as Yiddishists are advocates of Yiddish.281930’s, advocated a mixture of Yiddish, Hebrew and English. He wrote on this subject in conjunction withhis views on the curriculum.It is insufficient to teach him [the child] to pray or merely to read without understanding.This tends to make him dislike the prayers. He must learn to understand the prayers[through the use of English if the child’s Hebrew was not adequate], the Bible, someHebrew speaking, and the reading of a light book. He must also be able to write, have ageneral knowledge of our histoiy, a fair knowledge of Yiddish, a general idea of Jewish life,especially of the religious aspect, such as holy days, customs, laws, etc.31Baruch believed strongly that “the solution is not a choice of Yiddish or Hebrew but a combinationof Yiddish and Hebrew.”32He summarized his position by defming Yiddish as the language for conveyingthe Jewish people’s history, songs, jokes and culture and Hebrew as the language of the people for all times.However, many believed that Yiddish should be the language of every day use while Hebrew should bereserved for prayer. The Yiddishists (the advocates of Yiddish) also feared that a revival of Hebrew as aspoken language would seriously threaten the survival of Yiddish as the language of communication of theJewish masses. They were often hostile towards the Hebraist-Zionists (advocates of Hebrew being spokenin the land of Israel, the home of the Jewish people) whom they believed wanted to destroy the Yiddishlanguage.33 Most of the Yiddishists immigrated to Canada in the early 1900’s. The majority were Jewishintellectuals “who had been part of the Yiddish and socialist-cultural movements in Russia.”34 The LabourZionists and the Socialist-Territorialists or Bundists were the two main groups of Yiddishists. The LabourZionists believed in the return of the Jews to their homeland in Palestine where they would speak Yiddishand live under the tenets of socialism, that is, collective ownership, self-labour and the non-exploitation ofpeople. The Socialist-Territorialists held the same beliefs about socialism and speaking Yiddish but differed31. “Talmud Torah To Reopen Sunday, J.W.B., 29 November 1934, p. 1.32. I. Baruch, “Hebrew and Yiddish, J.W.B., 3 October 1935.. 9.33. Aron Horowitz, Striking Roots— Reflections on Five Decades of Jewish Life, ( Oakville, Ontario: Mosaic Press, 1979), 65-66.34. Chiel, 102.29from the Labour Zionists in that they “believed in Jewish cultural autonomy within a socialist state whereversuch a condition was possible”35.Both of these movements were secular in nature and the members of these movements whoimmigrated to Canada naturally opposed the Talmud Torah’s traditionalist curriculum with its focus onreligion. Rather, they wanted a school that would teach the Yiddish language and the socialist mentality usingmodem pedagogical methods.36Chiel, who wrote a book on the Jewish Community of Manitoba, providesus with an account of the conflict in Winnipeg as to which language was to be taught in the school. Althoughthere is no similar documentation of the situation in Vancouver, it is possible to use this source to provideinsight into what likely also occurred on the West Coast as a similar group of Vancouver Jews formed theirown secular Jewish school in 1924, first called the Sholem Aleichem Folk Institute and later in 1945 renamedthe Vancouver Peretz Institute.37 The Vancouver Peretz School, as it is commonly called, like others acrossCanada, had a non-religious (not necessarily anti-religious) and Yiddish (rather than Hebrew) orientation.38The school was set up by a group of people who were dissatisfied with the Orthodox-run religious schoolsand wanted a school that would foster the Yiddish language. The school’s main aim, as stated in its 1945charter, was to “advance and teach the cause of progressive and modem Jewish learning, culture, andeducation, and the Jewish [Yiddish] language.”39In Winnipeg, troubles arose when the Socialist-Territorialists insisted on teaching only Yiddish whilethe Labour Zionists wanted to teach both Hebrew and Yiddish. Since most parents wanted their sons to learnHebrew for their Bar Mitzvahs, the Socialist-Territorialists bowed to the wishes of the Labour Zionists.4°Rabbi Aron Horowitz, a leading educator in the Calgary Jewish community41 affirmed that the differences35. Ibid, 103.38. Ibid, 104.37. Leonoff, Pioneers, 152.38. Josette McGregor is completing a Ph.D. thesis on the subject of the Vancouver Peretz School at the University of BC.39. Vancouver Peretz Institute, ‘Societies Act Declaration, 10 November 1945, Vancouver, British Columbia.40. Chiel, 104.41. See further references to Rabbi Horowitz in Chapter Four.30between the Yiddishists and the Hebraists were mainly pedagogical. He was convinced “that we cannotpossibly impart to our children both Hebrew and Yiddish under the dire circumstances of Galut [diaspora].In view of the revival of Hebrew as the spoken language in Eretz Israel, it is through Hebrew that we will beable to preserve and develop some kind of Jewish life in the diaspora.”42As the European-born Jews began to die out and a new generation of Canadian-born Jews wasemerging in the 1930’s and 1940’s43,the Yiddish language began to slowly disappear. English became thelanguage of communication. This had a significant impact on the curriculum of the Talmud Torah. Thefollowing chart indicates the rate of disappearance of the Yiddish language and the resulting decrease in itsuse as a subject in Hebrew schools. It is important to note that by 1961 (following the first decade of theTalmud Torah day school) the percentage of Jews with Yiddish as a mother tongue in Canada had beenreduced to one third of its size thirty years earlier. Moreover, Vancouver’s use of Yiddish during 1931-1941decreased more rapidly (51.8%) than the decrease in Canada as a whole (18.8%) for the period. Yiddish wasdisappearing much faster in the West, probably due to the small number of Jews and the great distance fromother larger Jewish populations.TABLE 3. Number and Percentage of Jews with Yiddish as a Mother Tonue, 1931—1 9811931 I I ‘“Canada 149,520 129,806 103,593 82,448 49,890 31,490(95%) (77%) (51%) (32%) (18%) (11%)Vancouv n/a 1,144 1,370 1,269 925(98%) (48%) (n/a) (n/a) (n/a)__________Source: Census of Canada, 1931 to 1981, tables on population by mother tongue.Percentages from 1931-1941 from Rosenberg, The Jewish Populaiton of Canada— a Statistical Summary from1851 to 1941, p.31.Percentages from 1951—1981 are estimates from Statistics Canada in Brym, Shaffir and Weinfeld’s The Jewsin Canada, p. 155.2,627(99%)1,323(39%)1,531(n/a)1,459(n/a)1,090(n/a)660(n/a)615(n/a)42. Horowitz, 156.43. See Table 2, p. 25.31Another major problem of Talmud Torahs across Canada was that they were set up in the traditionof the East European cheder which reflected the needs of life in the shtetl (small Jewish village of Europe).This tradition however was not in harmony with modern life in Canada. According to the cheder mentalityJewish education meant giving the children some knowledge of Yiddish so they would be able tocommunicate with grandparents and other relatives, teaching them the Hebrew language and grammar sothey would be able to pray and study the Torah (although they rarely reached the level of competence neededin order to appreciate and understand the Torah), and teaching them Jewish history (which usually ended withthe destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem).With regard to the pronunciation of the Hebrew language, Rabbi Horowitz believed that theSephardic pronunciation44,“the living pronunciation that is used by those who are reviving our Hebrewlanguage in Eretz Israel”45 should be used. This proposal was accepted with great hesitation, for it departedfrom the traditional approaches to Jewish education of the Eastern European Jews. Nevertheless, Calgarybecame the first community in America to begin to teach the Sephardic pronunciation of Hebrew. InVancouver, this practice was not consistently followed until the influx of Israeli teachers in the 1950’s.There were several forces shaping the destiny of the Talmud Torah in the years leading up to theformation of the day school in 1948. Yiddish, once the everyday language of European Jewiy, wasdisappearing as the Jewish immigrant population was being replaced by a much larger group of Canadian-born Jews. The debate over the whether the language of instruction and learning should be Yiddish orHebrew caused tensions within the community. Furthermore, the desire of this new generation of Canadian-born Jews to fit into the mainstream meant that they would have to abandon much of the language, religionand culture of their parents and grandparents. It was under these circumstances that the Talmud Torah hadto operate in their attempt to educate a new generation of Jews in the religion, culture and values of their44. Although there is only one Hebrew language there are two distinct pronunciations: sephardic (originating from the Middle East)and ashkenazic (originating from Europe). When the Ashkenazic Jews settled in Israel in the latter part of the nineteenth centuryand began to revive the Hebrew language, they decided to adopt the sephardic pronunciation because they believed it was theclosest to the original Hebrew spoken in ancient Palestine. They also preferred the smoother, more melodious sound of thesephardic pronunciation. North American Jewry first learned Hebrew using the Ashkenazic pronunciation, however, once IsraeliHebrew was established the majority began learning Hebrew using the sephardic pronunciation.45. Horowitz, 106.32people. The task was formidable as the immigrants who had been such a source of knowledge and inspirationwere becoming fewer in number. Thus, the disappearance of the Yiddish language, the changing demographyof the Canadian Jews from an immigrant to a native-born population and the increasing desire of the newgenerations to assimilate into Canadian society all exerted an iiffluence on the Talmud Torah. The schoolnot only had to contend with internal struggles such as lack of teachers, teaching materials and fmances, butit also had to deal with external forces out of its control.33CHAPTER THREEThe Early Years of the Vancouver Talmud Torah1913—1948This chapter consists of a discussion of the years between 1913’ and 1948. The following topics areexamined: the origins of the afternoon school; the changes that took place in the curriculum, and factors thatinfluenced those changes; the ways in which the Hebrew teachers assisted the conmiunity in maintaining aseparate Jewish identity; and the effect of anti-semitism and pressures towards assimilation on VancouverJews. Included are sections on student and parent perceptions of the school, as well as a description of extracurricular activities. This chapter serves as a background for the second part of the thesis which describesthe first decade of the school’s operation as an all—day dual—track program, 1948-1959.The Vancouver Talmud TorahWhat are the origins of the Vancouver Talmud Torah? Where was it first located? Why did theVancouver Jewish community deem it necessary to establish such a school? What did they hope to transmitto their children? How much support did the school receive from the community? The following section, inan attempt to address these questions, looks at the early years of the Vancouver Talmud Torah, from itsbeginnings as an afternoon school in Vancouver’s East End, to its new location at the Vancouver JewishCommunity Centre2at 11th and Oak in the 1930’s and early 1940’s, and subsequently to its first independentpremises on 14th Avenue near Oak Street in 1944.Although most of the 100 families of Vancouver Jews in the early 1900’s were happy that theirchildren were attending public school, they nevertheless wanted them to learn about their Jewish heritage and1. It is highly likely that the Talmud Torah existed in one form or another before 1913 but I have not been able to locate any records thatwould substantiate this supposition. The earliest written reference that I have found to the Talmud Torah appears in an article from theJ.W.BCentenary Issue, June30 1958, p. 44. The article mentions a Chanukah program put on by children of the Talmud Torah on Dec.28, 1913.2. The laying of the cornerstone of the Jewish Community Centre was in April 1928.34language. At first a melamed (a private tutor)3 was used to instruct the children, but as Bernard Reed, astudent of the Talmud Torah in the 1920’s, explains, it was not as effective as having a class.There were private teachers, a couple,. . . where they came to the house and they gavelessons.. . . They were not too successful. They did it because they made a dollar or two,and eveiybody was struggling and starving then. But you were never a good student if youhad private lessons. You had to go to Talmud Torah. The class created an impetus inteaching. Being in the class, you learnt better than being alone.4As a result, the idea grew of establishing an afternoon Hebrew school. There were specific religiousand cultural needs which were not provided by the regular school system, in particular the need for instructionin the language and history of the Jewish people in a classroom setting. In 1913 afternoon and eveningHebrew classes taught by the Rosengard sisters were offered to children in a house at 514 Heatley Avenuenear the old synagogue.5It was not until 1918 that a small group of people came together to organize aneducational institution for the children of the community. Thus that year the Vancouver Hebrew School wasestablished at the site of the afternoon school. In 1921, when the new Schara Tzedeck synagogue was builtat 700 East Pender Street, the school moved into two rooms of the new synagogue.6It was not until 1934 thatthe Vancouver Talmud Torah became officially independent.7This move probably made the school moreavailable to a wider range of people since it was no longer officially associated with the Schara Tzedecksynagogue which was Orthodox. Thus, Jews who were not members or did not agree with the ideology of thesynagogue could feel comfortable sending their children to the school.Bernard Reed describes the first permanent location of the school.In the same building [as the Schara Tzedeck synagogue], [in] an annex building borderingthe lane and facing on Heatley was the Talmud Torah at that time. [It was] upstairs.Downstairs was a community hall where they had Junior Congregation meetings, etcI think . . . [the Talmud Torah building] was built [at] roughly the same time [as the3. A melamed was a private Hebrew instructor who would go to immigrant homes in the late afternoons, evenings and weekends to teachthe children Hebrew reading and the Bible. He could not support a family as a melamed so he usually had another job. Teaching inpeople’s homes was not conducive to study due to overcrowding, noise and other disturbances.4. Bernard Reed interview.5. Leonoff, Pedlars, 150.6. Harry Wolfe, Talmud Torah History,’ J.W.B. 2 September 1948, p.6.7. E.R. Sugarman (Chairman, Talmud Torah Committee), ‘Vancouves Talmud Torah Has Been Re-Opened, J.W.B., 13 December1934, p.1.35synagogue], which would be around 1920.... [I know because] in 1920 I was one year old[when] the cornerstone, the foundation, was laid and they commenced building it. How doI know? They had a big thing, with a lot of drapes and flags and eveiything, and a table.And my dad plunked me up on the table [and] took a picture of it.8The Talmud Torah, in the 1920’s, strove to provide “a place where the Jewish child is taught thathe or she has a language, a literature and a history. It is where they are taught to read and write the languageof their own people and where national observances, sorrows and festivals are first revealed to them.”9Theclasses took place after school from 4:00-8:30 p.m. Monday to Thursday (with the junior classes beforedinner and the senior after) and Sunday mornings.’° Bernard Reed talks in detail of the early Talmud Torahclasses.There was no parochial school in those days. It was unheard of [because people were toopoor]. So you went, starting 4 o’clock for an hour, an hour and a half, depending on whatgrade you were in [older grades were in the evening] . . .. And I went there for many years11The classes were small)2The Talmud Torah likely held close to 20 students in all.13 Gertrude Zack(née Fouks), a contemporary of Bernard Reed’s, recalls that there were approximately three girls and fiveboys in her class. Most of these students came from the East End. At that time most people felt that girls didnot need a Hebrew education’ ‘, which meant that the enrolment of the school was lower than it mightotherwise have been.Stories in the Jewish Western Bulletin indicate that the school seemed to be forever on the verge ofclosing down because of fmancial difficulties as the community was unable to properly support the school.’58. Bernard Reed interview.9. “The Talmud Torah,’ The Vancouver Jewish Bulletin, 14 August 1925, p. 2.10. Gertrude Zack and David Youngson interviews.11. Bernard Reed interview.12. Bernard Reed, Gertrude Zack and David Youngson interviews.13. This conflicts with the information provided by the J.W.B. (See chart on enrolment in Chapter Four) revealing a probable error in oneof the sources.14. Gertrude Zack interview.15. See “Talmud Torah,” The Vancouver Jewish Bulletin, 15 October 1925, p. 2.36The years that followed were characterized by continuous re-organization as the school went from the controlof one group of people to another in an effort to deal with the fmancial difficulties. In 1928, a meeting wascalled to decide whether or not to amalgamate the Schara Tzedeck and the Talmud Torah. Althoughamalgamation would interfere with the school’s independence with respect to planning, curriculum, staff andpolicies, it would also alleviate some of the fmancial burdens of the school. After much discussion followedby a secret ballot a resolution was passed: “That this meeting of the members of Congregation ScharaTzedeck go on record as being in favour of the amalgamation of the Synagogue with the Talmud Torah.”6Although the school was closely associated with the synagogue, a 1932 article nevertheless describes it asan “independent organization controlled by members of the community”.’7Yet in 1932, the Schara Tzedeckfelt that it could no longer bear the financial burden of the school and believed that support for the schoolshould be the responsibility of the whole community, that is, members of Schara Tzedeck, Beth Israel andunaffiliated Jews.Nonetheless, it was decided that the Talmud Torah should stay under the auspices of the ScharaTzedeck synagogue, as an independent Talmud Torah could not survive financially. Even so, the membersof the Schara Tzedeck congregation insisted that “great reductions should and could be made in view of thepresent depression. . .. [and] Greater economy must be pursued, and the Talmud Torah, like every otherinstitution, must budget its expenses in accordance with its receipts.”18 In December of 1934, the schoolofficially became the Vancouver Talmud Torah Association, an independent organization under the“Societies Act” of B.C.’916. Schara Tzedeck,” The Centre Bulletin, 10 November 1928, P. 2.17. Talmud Torah, J.W.B., 15 December1932, p. 1.18. “Talmud Torah Meeting, JW.B., 22 December 1932, pp. 1 6.19. E.R. Sugarman (Chairman, Talmud Torah Committee), “Vancouver’s Talmud Torah Has Been Re-Opened,’ J.W.B., 13 December1934, p.1.37Curriculum and TeachingThe curriculum changed very little during the 1920’s and 1930’s. Since the school was primarily areligious one, the basic subjects taught included Hebrew language, Bible, Jewish history, prayers, customsand laws. Minor variations in these subjects occurred from time to time depending on the pedagogicalapproach of the person in charge and the teaching styles of the individual teachers. For example, if a teacherwas a Zionist, then this ideology was reflected in his or her teaching. However, for the most part, thecurriculum followed the guidelines set out by the school.The Jewish Western Bulletin kept the community informed of the changes to the Talmud Torahcurriculum. As mentioned above, the cun-iculum changed only slightly during the early period as new subjectswere introduced while old ones were deleted. Sometimes, as was the case in the 1930’s with Yiddish, a once-deleted subject was revived. The Talmud Torah also assumed “full responsibility to instruct the Bar Mitzvah[Jewish boy who reaches the age of 13 and is ready to assume full religious responsibilities] in everythingconcerning this event in tradition, Laws, mafler [a reading that is done following the reading of the Torah]and speeches in every language required according to the ability of the pupils.”2° The September curriculumfor 1935 consisted of Hebrew, Yiddish, Jewish history, Bible study, religious customs and traditions.2’InOctober of 1935 a post graduate school was established for Talmud Torah graduates and adults. Lecturesand courses were being offered in Judaic subjects such as Hebrew literature and language, Prophets and thepoetry of Chaim Bialik.22 In November 1937 all children were studying Hebrew and Yiddish three times aweek. Classes took place from 4: 15-5:30 p.m. for the younger students, 5:30-6:00 p.m. for those studyingfor their Bar Mitzvah, 6:00-7:30 p.m. for beginners in Yiddish and 7:30-8:00 p.m. for advanced classes inGemorrah (part of the Talmud) and poetic parts of the Bible.2320. “Vancouver Talmud Torah,” Jewish Centre News, 22 May 1930, P. 7.21. Board of Education, “Talmud Torah Reopening”, J.W.B., 29 August 1935, p. 1.22. “Post Graduate School is Established by Talmud Torah,” J.W.B.,31 October 1935, p. 2.23. “Talmud Torah Taxi Service Increases Attendance 100%,” J.W.B., 5 November 1937, p. 2.38At the same time, the principal of the school, Israel Baruch, organized a class for children from 14-16 years of age consisting of lectures in Yiddish on Jewish history.24 In September of 1938 special classesconsisting of Yiddish, Siddur (Hebrew prayer book), History and Jewish holidays were being offered forchildren aged 10-13 •25 A few months later the first Jewish kindergarten in Vancouver for children from theages of three to six was formed at the Talmud Torah. Similar programs already existed in other Jewishcommunities across Canada.26 The kindergarten was still functioning in March 1939. At this time, thesubjects offered in the other classes included Hebrew, Yiddish, Siddur, Chumash (The Five Books of Moses,also pronounced Chumish), Songs, Religious Customs and Traditions.27By September 1939 the curriculumwas basically the same except for the public announcement that a “thorough modern Hebrew28education isprovided”.29This was most likely intended to show the parents that the Talmud Torah was keeping up withthe changes in the Jewish world and the world at large. Yiddish classes and Jewish History classes taught inEnglish were offered. Sunday was designated as the day when a general assembly for the whole TalmudTorah was held, including a sing-along of Hebrew and Yiddish songs.3°In the years preceding 1930 the Talmud Torah ran periodic exams to test its students’ knowledge.These exams were first conducted orally. In May 1930 a new method of examining was introduced whichincorporated both oral and written questions. The Board of Examiners (a group of rabbis, Board membersand lay people chosen to test the knowledge of the Talmud Torah students31)reported that “This system [ofexamination] enables us to declare that the Talmud Torah of our community deserves to be considered as oneof the outstanding educational institutions in our country and that the children are receiving there, instruction24. Talmud Torah To Celebrate Chanukah,” J.W.8., 26 November 1937, P. 2.25. Talmud Torah Seeks Pupils,’ J.W.B., 9 September 1938, p. 1.26. ‘Kindergarten Is Step Towards Child Education, J.W.B., 18 November 1938, p. 1.27. “Kindergarten and Talmud Torah Announce Program” J.W.B., 31 March 1939, p. 8.28. Hebrew not only refers to the language but also to the other Jewish subjects in general. For example, a child will say that he or shegoes to Hebrew school, meaning a Jewish school where the Hebrew language is just one of many components.29. J. Youngson (Chairman, Board of Education), “Talmud Torah Classes,” J.W.B., 28 September 1939, p. 1.30. “Talmud Torah,” J.W.B., 13 October 1939, p. 1.31. “Report of the Talmud Torah Board of Examiners,” Jewish Centre News, 1 May 1930, p. 8.39in all subjects of Jewish religion, culture and literature.”32Almost 90% of the children passed and it wasdeclared that “the institution has made splendid progress during the last term” The exams were conductedat both the Heatley Branch and the Community Centre Branch.34 Kiva Katznelson, then Chairman of theBoard ofEducation, reported that “the children were so proficient in their subjects. . . that the exams servedas a splendid demonstration of the knowledge gained by our pupils in all the studies taught at our school”.35Although most ofthe Vancouver Talmud Torah students understood Yiddish from listening to theirparents and other members of the community and could speak it to some extent, Bernard Reed recalls that“we didn’t know how to write it and we were picking it up improperly. So they decided, about the sixth orseventh grade [in the late 1920’s], to start teaching us Yiddish properly. So our grammar and everythingwould be positive and correct. So they did. It was our class only, I think. . . . Basically, they taught usgrammar, how to write it.”36 Yiddish was still being taught several years later in the late 1930’s and early1940’s when David Youngson attended the Talmud Torah.37 Joseph Youngson talks about his son, David,learning Yiddish. “Yiddish, he [David] learned by himself. He used to take the paper, the Jewish [Yiddish]paper upstairs when he went to bed. In the morning he would come down and he would ask me, underline allthe words that he didn’t know and I would tell him the meaning of the words. He speaks and writes Yiddishand he speaks and writes Hebrew.”38 However, there were those who were opposed to the teaching ofYiddish as they saw it as being in opposition to the religious national (Zionist) nature of the Talmud Torah.The battle was between the defenders of Orthodoxy and tradition who opposed the teaching of Yiddish andthe left-wing Socialists who advocated it as the language of the working class people.3932. “Report of the Talmud Torah Board of Examiners,” Jewish Centre News, 1 May 1930, P. 1.33. “Report of the Talmud Torah Board of Examiners,’ Jewish Centre News, 1 May 1930, p. 1.34. “Report of the Talmud Torah Board of Examiners,” Jewish Centre News, 1 May 1930, p. 7.35. K. Katznelson (Chairman, Board of Education), “Vancouver Community Talmud Torah,” J.W.B., 27 April 1933, p. 1.36. Bernard Reed interview.37. An article in the J.W.B. (16 February 1945, p. 1) mentions plays being put on in English and in Jewish (Yiddish) at the Talmud Torah.38. Joseph Youngson interview.39. “Talmud Torah Meet Interesting,” J.W.B., 20 September 1934, p. 1. See discussions of language debate in Canada in Chapter Two.40From time to time, the students would be examined by community and visiting educators as well aslay people. The examiners would also comment on the general state of the school. In 1933 the examinerswere basically pleased with the school’s success. There was a general consensus among them “that every classis in excellent shape and doing good work”,4°and that a new more suitable building should be found whichwill be more “congenial to good teaching”41.It was also suggested that the branches of the school should becombined into one Central Talmud Torah so as to increase the number of students by centralizing them.42Rabbi M. A. Jaffe (the father of Mordecai Jaffe) reported that “in all classes questions were answeredpromptly and the pupils had a thorough acquaintance with the work. A greater enrollment is needed.”Rabbi43N.M. Pastinsky “examined all the classes of the main branch of the school and found a high standardof teaching. . . . The teachers possess the highest qualifications and compare very favorably with the teachingof our other Talmud Torahs in Western Canada.”44Bernard Reed remembers the visits of the examiners. “We had visitors come. I remember, I stillvisualize we had two, three people— one was a rabbi — sitting while we were reading and translating andthey were listening to us. . . on Heatley Avenue. I can still remember it. And they’d ask questions. . .“ Atthat time he recalls that “it was a verbal matter. Look, if you could speak and they knew and you answeredthem in Hebrew and they asked a question and you get a right answer, they could judge you. You didn’t haveto write it.” Gertrude Zack explains that they “used to have oral exams. Most of them were not written. Anda rabbi would come from New York to exam all the students,. . . “v40. Vancouver Community Talmud Torah -- Reports Of the Examiners, J.W.B., 4 May 1933, p. 1.41. ‘Vancouver Community Talmud Torah -- Reports Of the Examiners,” J.W.B., 4 May 1933, p. 1.42. “Vancouver Community Talmud Torah -- Reports Of the Examiners,” J.W.B., 4 May 1933, p. 1.43. Although Rabbi Pastinsky was not an ordained rabbi, he was known by this title by many Vancouver Jews because of his learning,piety, spiritual leadership and service to the community. His correct title was Reverend Pastinsky.44. “Vancouver Community Talmud Torah-- Reports Of the Examiners,” J.W.B., 4 May 1933, p. 1.45. Bernard Reed interview.46. Ibid.47. Gertrude Zack interview.41Bernard remembers learning history, Tanach (Bible, Prophets, Writings), and Chumash, and in lateryears studying the Talmud. History, he recalls,really emanated from the Bible, Breishis [Genesis], and then it ran up into Tanach, and thenafter that, the fall of the Roman Empire. . . . And we learned it all in Hebrew. . . . We hadHebrew history books.. . . We went right through and studied the Middle Ages, whichwas the persecution of the Jews, the Inquisition and the Crusades. . . . I think we ended,maybe just before the First World War.48David Youngson recalls learning how to read and write in Hebrew, learning Chumash and Rashi49and learning how to daven (pray). He recallsthat there was a pro-Zionist5°philosophy that carried all the way through, as far as I can see,plus a traditional approach to things. My kids learned the tefihlot [prayers], learned how todaven, when they went to Talmud Torah [in the 1960’s and 1970’s]. As far as I can see,things were done in a traditional way. . . observed the laws of kashrut [dietary laws] andthings of that nature. So I think that’s just the same continuation, right? From Heatley rightthrough to the Talmud Torah where my kids went.51Charles Davis, a student in the 1920’s, remembers a very basic type of education which consistedof learning the aleph-bet (aleph-beis), how to read, a few of the prayer books and the contents. Although thestudents (mostly boys as girls did not usually attend the school in those days) also studied their Bar Mitzvahat the Talmud Torah, Charles’ father pulled him out to study with a private tutor who lived next door.52Gertrude Zack remembers learning Tanach and dikduk (grammar). Although Hebrew was used in class itwas not the language of instruction nor was it used in conversation.53Unlike, Gertrude, Bernard Reed remembers Hebrew as the language of instruction and conversation.In those days the Talmud Torah was Ivris b ‘Ivris54. The teacher spoke Hebrew and wespoke Hebrew to the teacher. I mean, ifwe struggled, we struggled, but it wasn’t acceptableto have a conversation in English except to rescue the conversation so to speak. In that way48. Bernard Reed interview.49. Rashi is the acronym for Rabbi Shlomo ben Yitzhak (Ra-sh-y), a leading commentator on the Bible and Talmud in eleventh centuryFrance.50. Pro-Zionist means believing that the Jewish people are destined to return to live in their homeland of Israel.51. David Youngson interview.52. Charles Davis interview.53. Gertrude Zack interview.54. Ivris b’ivns (lvdt b’ivnt in the sephardic pronunciation) literally translates as Hebrew in HebreW. It refers to the teaching of Hebrewusing Hebrew as the language of instruction.42we became somewhat fluent. . . . Mmd you, our Hebrew, you understand, was not theHebrew of Israel. . . . Israel was Sephardic and we took Ashkenazic.55This discrepancy arose because there were two branches of the Talmud Torah for a while, one atHeatley Street and the other at the Community Centre. Bernard attended classes at the Community Centrebranch with Joseph Youngson, who was the only teacher at the time who could teach in Hebrew, whileGertrude was taught by Mr. Walcov at the Heatley branch, who did not emphasize Hebrew-speaking in theclass, because he himself may not have been fluent in Hebrew.David Youngson compares the Jewish studies teachers when he attended the Talmud Torah in thelate 1930’s and early 1940’s with those who were there in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s when his childrenattended.The teachers were more educated at Heatley Street and at the Centre and at 14th Avenuethan they [were] when my kids went there. . .. I think the teachers that graduated fromseminaries in Europe probably had a more thorough and demanding education than thepeople that became teachers and were educated in North America.56When David left the Talmud Torah in the early 1940’s he had a fairly good knowledge of Hebrew.“I could read and write. I wouldn’t say fluently, but I could read and I could write and I could understandbasics, because they taught us modern Hebrew too. Somewhere along the line we switched over from the...from the Ashkenazi pronunciation to the Sephardi pronunciation.”57This was probably a result of the renewalof the Hebrew language, using the sephardi pronunciation, in Israel in the 1940’s.In general, those students who attended Talmud Torah received a fairly good Jewish education. Theylearned to read and write Hebrew and speak a little bit, to recite the prayers, to become familiar with thehistory of their people, to observe the laws and customs and to become somewhat conversant in Yiddish.They came from families to whom Jewish education was very important and from a community which wasstill united by common religious and cultural beliefs, financial situations and ethnic origins. These factorsall contributed to the students’ successes at the Talmud Torah as their individual desires to learn were55. Bernard Reed interview.56. David Youngson interview.57. Ibid.43enhanced by the home and community atmosphere in which they lived. However, as the Vancouver Jewsbecame more assimilated into Canadian society by the 1940’s and as their fmancial situations improved manydrifted away from the traditional ways of their parents. This was the beginning of the break-up of a onceunified community.During 1944-48 the curriculum remained much the same as it had in previous years. Three classesran daily from 4:00 p.m.- 5:30 p.m. and three from 5:30 p.m. - 7:00 p.m. with a kindergarten being heldbetween 10:00 a.m. and noon. There was also a class, largely for high school students, which met twoevenings a week. Separate branches were in operation, one in the Dunbar area and the other in NewWestminster. Weekly Tanach and Gemorrah classes were also being offered.58 In 1946 a Bar Mitzvah classfor children over the age of 11 was added. This was an intensive course in Jewish history, customs, laws,prayers, Bible study, Yiddish, Elementary Hebrew and Mafter. A class for 16 to 20 year olds was beingorganized to meet tce a week. They would study the Hebrew language, Jewish history, Zionism and modemIsrael. This was taught by Mr. Isaac Horowitz. Both of these were relatively small classes.59On Sundays, morning assemblies took place. The program included the singing of Hatikvah (aJewish song whose title means ‘hope’, later adopted as the national anthem of Israel), the reading of minutes,guest talks on Palestine or Jewish education, a question box available for children’s questions, the singingof “G-d Save the King”.6°Parents were welcome to attend these assemblies.As kindergarten classes were becoming more and more popular in Canada, the Talmud Torahkindergarten class matured and developed. In 1947 it was open to children between the ages of four and sixand ran from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.. The children learned Hebrew and some customs and short prayers inan atmosphere ofplay. The elementary school classes studied Hebrew (reading of prayers, study of Bible andcommentaries, modem literature, speaking), Yiddish (modem prose and poetry), Jewish history and currentevents, Jewish holidays (importance, customs and traditions), singing (liturgical, folk songs in Hebrew and58. ‘Talmud Torah Book of Minutes [unpublished book of mlnutesi, 1944-1947, Vancouver, B.C., 20 November 1944.59. Talmud Torah,’ J.W.B., 4 October 1946, p. 3.60. Ethel Slobin, ‘Vancouver Talmud Torah, J.W.B., 13Apr11 1945, P. 3.44Yiddish), Talmud and cognate subjects in the advanced classes.61 Thus the curriculum had changed veiy littlesince the school moved to its new quarters. Yiddish was still being taught and actually seemed to be moreemphasized than it was in previous years (possibly due to the rapid dissolution of Yiddish in Canada and thefear among the older generation that Yiddish would one day disappear altogether). The basic subjects(Hebrew, prayers, Bible) continued to shape the nature of the school and provide the framework for otheractivities. The only significant change was in teaching methodology, as Talmud Torah always tried to keepup with the materials and practices of the times, although not always successfully.The World of the TeachersMany teachers walked through the doors of the Talmud Torah during the first half of the 20thcentury. Some only stayed for a short time while others spent many years teaching, often under difficultconditions. Money was scarce as were materials and sometimes students. Because of the great distancebetween Hebrew schools in Western Canada, teachers, students and administrators felt all alone with nowhereto turn to for guidance and help. Tn 1939 Rabbi Aron Horowitz of Calgary instituted the Western EducationalConference where Jewish educators in the Western Provinces could convene to discuss problems, suggestsolutions and try to standardize Jewish education in Western Canada. Shortly after the 1939 conferenceRabbi Horowitz formed the Hebrew Educators’ Council (of which Vancouver was a member) whose mandateit was “To insure the effectiveness and continuity of a coordinated educational program for the West”.Yehoshua Giladi Gelfarb (who later became principal of the Vancouver Talmud Torah) was the firstpresident. Some important decisions made by the council were that guidelines for standardizing thecurriculum should be presented for discussion at the next conference, the study of Zionism and Eretz (theland of) Israel should be an integral part of the program, and a conference should be held annually.62These61. “Vancouver Talmud Torah (Advertisement),” J.W.B., 5 September 1947, P. 3.62. Horowitz, 63-64.45endeavours helped to lighten the load of the Hebrew teachers, but they were still very much on their own withlimited resources, materials and low wages.Bernard Reed remembers that a lot of Hebrew teachers in the early days were not properly trained.Because they knew a little bit of Hebrew they were hired to teach. There were, however, some teachers whowere efficient and properly trained. They left an indelible mark on the students and the institution becauseof their quality of teaching and their dedication and hard work. What were the factors that contributed to apositive student/teacher relationship? Was it because of their teaching style or their manner of interactingwith people? Was it due to their level of knowledge of the subject area? Did it make a difference if they wereimmigrants or born in North America? In short, what were the qualities of a good Hebrew school teacher inthe years between the 1920’s and 1940’s, and how did these attributes assist the school in fulfilling itsmandate of instilling in its students Jewish values and learning? The following section discusses some ofthose teachers who bear mentioning, the reasons for which they were remembered by their students and byothers and how they contributed to the success of the school.Kiva Katznelson, one of the first teachers at the Heatley and Pender branch, taught only for a shortwhile before going into business. However, he remained involved with the Talmud Torah for many years asan active community member serving on the Board of Education and the Executive. Like many of the earlyteachers in the immigrant Jewish communities of Canada, Katznelson had no formal teacher training. He washired simply because of his knowledge of Judaism and his willingness to share that knowledge with thechildren ofhis community.63David Rome, who lived in the East End in the 1930’s, remembers Katznelsonas a “very devoted man and [a] very active Zionist.”65Gertrude Zack, a schoolmate of Bernard Reed, speaks fondly of Mr. Herschel Walcov (pronouncedVolkov). “Mr. Walcov was a young teacher and he was great. He was very communicative with the students.63. Bernard Reed interview.64. After leaving Vancouver in the 1 930s, David Rome settled in Montreal with his family where he later became a well-known andaccomplished Jewish scholar and writer. He has published several books on the history of Canadian Jews.65. David Rome interview.46We enjoyed him.” Walcov, a native of Lithuania, received his training there and at pedagogical institutionselsewhere in Europe. He also attended the University of British Columbia. An ardent Zionist, he taught atthe Talmud Torah for six years from 1928-1934 before leaving to take up a similar post in Seattle.67Israel Bamch, “an expert and experienced pedagogue.. characterized by experts as the best Hebrewpedagogue in Canada”68,was brought to Vancouver from Eastern Canada in November 1934 to reopen theTalmud Torah after a closure of several months due to fmancial and administrative difficulties. Aged 45 atthe time, Baruch had an impressive resume, both academically and pedagogically. He was also very learnedin Judaic studies.69As David Rome remembers “[He] was really a great pedagogue. [He] had been a teacherin Poland and before coming to Vancouver he taught in Timmins, Ontario, then he came to Vancouver.Later after 1947,... [he] left Vancouver and went to Israel and settled there. Also an accomplishedwriter, he used his talents to write and direct a Purim play (holiday celebrating the saving of the Jews ofPersia from complete destruction) for the Talmud Torah students just five months after his arrival inVancouver.71 The play, which was written in Hebrew, was a great success. The Jewish Western Bulletinreported: “Those familiar with the progress of the Talmud Torah during the last fifteen years voted it easilythe most successful production in its history. It reflected great credit on the principal.”72 Baruch wrote twomore Purim plays in 1939, one in Hebrew and the other in Yiddish.73Of all the early teachers of the Talmud Torah, none is remembered more by his students or thecommunity because of his teaching abilities or lengthy service than Joseph Youngson. Youngson was bornin Lithuania in 1904, studied at the Yeshiva in Vilna (now Vilnius), then entered the Teachers’ College in66. Gertrude Zack interview.67. Vancouver Teacher Leaves For Seattle, J.W.B., 1 November 1934, p. 1.68. Talmud Torah Principal Engaged, J.W.B., 15 November 1934, P. 1.69. Ibid.70. David Rome interview.71. “Talmud Torah To Present Concert,’ J.W.B., 28 March 1935, p. 1.72. “Talmud Torah Presents Concert,” J.W.B., 4 April 1935, p. 1.73. “Talmud Torah Concert Is Huge Success,” J.W.B., 17 March 1939, p.2.47Kovno, graduating from there as a qualified Hebrew teacher. He left Kovno in 1922, at the age of 18, andmade his way to Montreal where he had cousins. There he gave private lessons before moving on to teachin small schools in Manitoba and Saskatchewan. Youngson wanted to better himself so he entered the RabbiYitchak Elkanan Yeshiva in New York (today known as Yeshiva University).74“My intentions were to gofor the rabbinate,” he reported.75His plans changed while visiting relatives in Montreal when he happenedto meet on the street Rabbi Zlotnik76,who offered him a teaching position in Calgary. He took the positionbecause he was struggling in New York going to school during the day and working afterwards in order tosupport himself.In 1927, a position for a head teacher opened at the Vancouver Talmud Torah so he moved onceagain. He taught at the school for 7 1/2 years, teaching at both the Heatley Street Branch and the CommunityCentre Branch. He left the Talmud Torah during the middle of the Depression when the school closed dueto insufficient funds.77 Teachers’ salaries had afready been cut substantially and now they were owed fivemonths back wages.78 The Talmud Torah, like the rest of North America, was feeling the impact of the GreatDepression. Joseph Youngson’s son, David Youngson, reflects on his father’s forced departure from theTalmud Torah. “That’s what I recall from my dad telling me, that they owed him something like $200 andthey couldn’t pay him, so he had to go out and eke out a living by some other means.”79 Other Jewish schoolswere experiencing the same financial difficulties. For example, Brunswick Talmud Torah, the largest TalmudTorah in Toronto, was forced to close its doors in 1935. It had not paid its teachers their wages for 10months.8°74. Joseph Youngson interview.75. Ibid.76. See references to Rabbi Ziotnik on pp. 55-56.77. See the following articles in the J.W.B. Editorial - Talmud Torah Again,’ 11 October 1934, p. 2; “Talmud Torah To Reopen Sunday,’29 November 1934, p. 1; “Talmud Torah To Carry Out Intensive Drive,” 10 January 1935, p. 1; and “T.T. Reorganized, 100 Pupils Now,”28 February 1935, p. 1.78. Joseph Youngson interview.79. David Youngson interview.80.”Review of the Week,” J.W.B., 28 March 1935, p.1.48Bernard Reed, a student of Joseph Youngson’s for many years, also received his Bar Mitzvahtraining from him.I think Youngson went to a yeshiva, yeah, because he was quite advanced. That’s why theylet him teach us Talmud [Oral Law], because he had that advanced tramin I went with• . . [Youngson] all the way up to the final year and in the final year we were takingTalmud.81 We were very advanced. Strictly fluent. [I was] 15. . .. My classmates were two— three years older than I was. . . . He was good and the class was good.82Joseph Youngson was able to teach Ivrit b ‘ivrit (Hebrew immersion) because he himself was fluentin Hebrew. Bernard describes the effect this had on his ability and desire to speak Hebrew.For many years, when we were at the Talmud Torah, I spoke only Hebrew to him. If I methim on the street I spoke Hebrew to him. And after I quit school whenever I met himsocially we spoke in Hebrew. He didn’t say it, but I couldn’t break myself of the habit ofspeaking Hebrew to him. We carried on through the years. . . . I felt that if I talked inEnglish I was demeaning both of us. It was unique, very rare.83By the same token, Joseph Youngson also remembers his students fondly.Now there were many many students in Vancouver that I had the privilege to teach them.There were some very outstanding people. I can mention a few, Arthur Fouks, his sisterGertie Zack, Bernard Reed, Mitchell Snider. This group of children left because the TalmudTorah closed down. They were already at the university age and they were still coming tostudy, to carry on with their Hebrew education.84On a lighter side, Bernard recallsthe great romance of Mr. Youngson.. . . Mrs. Youngson was called Rose Goldberg. Shewas a very pretty girl. And she was teaching in the same room where we had [JuniorCongregation]. . .. Upstairs was the two classrooms. Down below was the room I’m talkingabout, where they had Junior Congregation. . . . She was a trained teacher. . . . In theevenings she would come and teach a class of immigrants English, because there was a lotof immigrants in those days. So, she would come upstairs to borrow chalk, whatever, andthat’s how the romance started. He had the discipline, the old—fashioned discipline. And ifhe didn’t like it, you got walloped with a ruler [very common in those days]. There was nomessing around. So, I remember once, I was reading or whatever, and I was full of mischief.I was always leading in the class. What happened was, you got bored because, the otherkids, you’ve got to wait for them to learn, so you start to get mischievous. So he wallopedme and he’s hollering and then there’s a knock at the door and he goes to the door and opens81. This was also mentioned in an article in the J.W.B. (Bar Mivah, 3 November 1932, pp. 1 2.). The class is referred to as the SeniorClass at the Community Centre Branch.82. Bernard Reed interview.83. Ibid.84. Joseph Youngson interview.49it, and there she is! “Oh, come in, come in!”, all sweetness and light. The romance got underway.Bernard and the other students watched as Joseph Youngson went from disciplining his students tocourting his wife-to-be.He was a teacher. She was a teacher and it was a logical romance. [S]he came up frequentlyto boffow a piece of chalk or whatever, I guess on purpose, and it was a nice — but I mean,no matter what, there’s “Oh, come in, come in!85The few teachers mentioned in this section were remembered because of their contribution to Jewisheducation in Vancouver. They possessed a desire and a commitment to Judaism that extended far beyond thewalls of the classroom. They not only taught the children the required Judaic subjects but also enriched theirteaching by becoming actively involved in the community. In these ways they contributed to keeping theJewish culture and religion alive in Vancouver. In what other ways were these teachers similar? For the mostpart, they used a strict but sensitive approach to teaching. They were knowledgeable in their subject area andpossessed a love for Judaism that they endeavoured to pass on to their students. They, like the children theytaught, were either immigrants or came from immigrant families so they shared many of the same experiencesand were able to understand more readily the experiences of their students. Yiddish was the language spokenin the streets and in most of the children’s homes (although many of the Canadian-born children did not speakYiddish fluently). Thus, these Yiddish-speaking immigrant teachers who spoke English with a thickEuropean accent were very familiar to the children. The children liked these teachers because they were ableto relate to them and respect them because of their knowledge ofyiddishkeit (Judaism) and their dedicationand love for the teachings of their ancestors.It was very difficult to get qualified Hebrew teachers to come to Vancouver. First of all, there wasa general shortage of Hebrew teachers in North America. The demand was great as Jewish education wasexpanding everywhere. However, there simply were not enough teachers to fill the need. Moreover,Vancouver was seen as an outpost and was therefore unattractive to most Hebrew teachers who desired tolive in a thriving Jewish community. Being in the West it was also very far away from Israel (where some85. Bernard Reed interview.50teachers came from) and the Eastern United States and Canada (where many Jews lived). Many of theteachers who did come were young and fairly inexperienced and only stayed for a short while.The need for more qualified Hebrew teachers was briefly answered when the Jewish Teachers’Seminaiy of Canada opened in Montreal in September 1946. Its mandate was “to reduce the menace to thevery existence of the entire Jewish educational system in Canada by offering opportunities to teachercandidates to train.”86 The Seminary closed after approximately 10 years for reasons that are not clear. Veryfew of the graduates made their way to Vancouver for the reasons mentioned above. Nevertheless, theTalmud Torah was able to attract some qualified teachers. Who were these people and what qualified themto teach at the Talmud Torah? How did they compare with the teachers of the 1920’s and 1930’s and how didthey assist the community in maintaining a separate Jewish identity?Yehoshua (Joshua) Giladi Gelfarb was hired as principal in 1944. He had already been involved withJewish education in Western Canada, serving as the first president of the Hebrew Educators’ Council aspreviously mentioned. David Youngson remembers him fondly.He came here from Cuba, which he had escaped to with his family from Poland, and he wasnot here for a long time. He left here and went to Montreal and shortly after that he passedaway. But he was a real erudite person— scholarly, knowledgeable — and he knew how toteach and he had a passion for teaching. And he certainly impressed me!87While in Vancouver, Gelfarb wrote a children’s Hebrew self-reader entitled “Sippurel Hadod” (TheUncle’s Stories), published in 1947. This was the first Hebrew book ever to be published in Vancouver.88Gelfarb left Vancouver in 1947 to become principal of Hertzlia Hebrew High School in Montreal.89Mrs. Hannah Milner Cohen was hired to teach kindergarten in 1946. She possessed a teachingdiploma from the Edmonton Nonnal School and had several years of teaching experience in Canada and theUnited States. She had also taken extra courses in nursery school work, child psychology, welfare work and86. “Jewish Teachers To Be Trained, J.W.B., 25 July 1947, p. 4.87. David Youngson interview.88. “Party Honors Author Of New Children’s Book,” J.W.B. , 30 May 1947, p. 1.89.J.W.B., 11 July 1947, p. 3,51specialized education (probably another term for “special education”).9°Chana and Isaac Horowitz were alsohired in 1946. They were both graduates of the University of Manitoba and had been active in YehudaHatzair (Young Judea) for several years. Isaac, the son of a rabbi, introduced a new class in the history, aimsand principles of Zionism at the Talmud Torah.91 David Youngson remembers him well. He “was a staunch,ardent, fiery Zionist, at a very important time in the history of Palestine and the Jewish people there. . . . Hereally impressed me as well.”92In 1947, the Liftman family were all hired to teach at the Talmud Torah. Mr. I. Liftman, hired asprincipal, was a graduate of an Odessa gymnasium and had attended universities in Belgium and the USAwhere he trained as a Hebrew teacher. He had over ten years’ experience as a principal in the USA andCanada. His wife, Rose, had also studied in a Russian gymnasium and later at Brown University, specializingin psychological and educational subjects. She had also taught in the USA and Canada. Their daughter,Avivah, had studied Hebrew and Yiddish in elementaiy and high school. She had degrees in music both fromthe University of Saskatchewan and the Toronto Conservatory of Music.93This period (1944-1948) in the history of the Talmud Torah was marked by the infusion of a newbreed ofNorth American-born and educated teachers as well as Eastern Europeans who differed from theirpredecessors in that they carried with them the huge emotional burden of the Holocaust. The NorthAmerican-born teachers had more in common with their students, who were almost all Canadian-born;however, the Jewish education they had received was not up to the standard of that of their Europeancontemporaries, many of whom had also fled the Holocaust or survived the concentration camps and crueltreatment of the Nazis. These teachers brought with them not only the pain and suffering they hadexperienced under the reign of Nazi terror but also a strong desire and determination to keep Judaism aliveand to pass it on to their students. This they conveyed to their students, sometimes in a gentle manner and90. “Talmud Torah’ J.W.B., 23 August 1946, p. 3.91. “Talmud Torah News,” J.W.B., 13 September 1946, p. 3.92. David Youngson interview.93. “Talmud Torah Principal and Staff Undertake Ambitious Programme,” J,W.B., 5 September 1947, p. 1.52at other times in a harsh, pedantic fashion which was difficult for the children to tolerate or understand, asthe youngsters were unaware of the atrocities their teachers had witnessed in Europe during World War II.Thus this period was a time of maintenance for the school, after most of the early European-trained educatorshad retired or moved on and before the North American Jewish institutions of learning were well established.The School and the CommunityHow was the school viewed by the community? Who were the people who supported the TalmudTorah and what were some of the ways in which they did this? The Talmud Torah was viewed by the Jewishcommunity with some ambivalence as the differing views of Bernard Reed, whose family sent him to theTalmud Torah, and David Rome, whose family did not, demonstrate. The Jews who arrived in Vancouverin the early part of the twentieth centuiy no doubt felt enormous pressure to assimilate into Canadian society.Some, like Bernard Reed’s family, probably believed it was very important to keep their culture and religionalive even if it meant standing out from the rest of Canadian society. Others, like David Rome’s family,probably felt that becoming part of Canadian society was more important than guarding their religious andcultural roots. In the same way, some Jews responded to anti-semitism by strengthening their religious andcultural beliefs while others decided it was best to yield to the outside forces and not parade their Jewishness.Thus the Jews ofVancouver responded to the pressures of assimilation and anti-semitism in different ways.Bernard remembers the Talmud Torah was viewed with respect. Attendance at the school was notdependent upon the ability to pay the tuition fees, rather those who wanted to send their children did. “It wasa struggle in those days. I remember my dad was the Chairman. . . . He would go around on a Sunday andpick up. . . $2, $3 from this father and that father towards the tuition fees.” However, Bernard states thatmost people did not send their children to the Talmud Torah. It was a matter of “convenience, inconvenience.Some were interested, some were not. You had different attitudes. . . . Most of the children that I knew, thatour parents mixed socially with, did [attend the Talmud Torah].”9494. Bernard Reed interview.53Over half the families, like that of David Rome, chose not to send their children to the TalmudTorah. Some viewed it as a second-rate institution not worthy of educating their children while others did notwant their children to go to a non-universal school which would make them different from the rest of theirpublic schoolmates. Others viewed the school as too religious and therefore unresponsive to the needs ofsecular Jews. David Rome came from a well-established European Jewish family. He talks about his family’sattitude to the Talmud Torah.For whatever reason, I never did find out, my father decided not to send me to the Talmud Torah• . . . I’m not saying that nobody went to Talmud Torah but we didn’t. . . . It was considered, shall wesay, beneath the dignity of some newcomers and more certainly all the more or less established onesthat you don’t go to Talmud Torah. I never did fmd out why. I never heard of anything bad aboutit... . It [Talmud Torahj wasn’t a very highly-regarded institution and therefore I remember nevertalking at home about the school or about the teachers. . . . Whenever we talked about anythingJewish it was not Talmud Torah.. .. Nobody seemed to care very much in the community about it.I’m surprised that it continued.95The Talmud Torah struggled continuously to convince parents to give their children a Jewisheducation. Once again, the Jewish Western Bulletin was used as the vehicle for transmitting these pleas forsupport to the public.96 The following statements outline the editor’s perception of the rocky history of theschool. He, like Rome, was surprised that the school endured.What is wrong with our community, that they can’t support the Talmud Torah? For yearsthe Talmud Torah has been kicked around like a football, buffeted from pillar to post.Several times it has closed its doors. Time and again it has been reorganized! It is a miraclethat it has been able to carry on at all.97These impassioned comments paint the picture of a community that was either unable or unwillingto support one of its only educational institutions. It would seem that not enough parents considered theTalmud Torah an important place to send their children while those that did were too few or too poor toprovide the school with the fmancial support it needed.95. David Rome interview.96. See the following articles in the J.W.B.: “Talmud Torah Classes Re-Open August 5,’ 4 August 1932, p. 1; “Parents, Awake!” 13December 1934, p. 1; “From Week to Week - The Talmud Torah,” 13 December 1934, p. 1; “A Challenge To Parents,” 20 December1934, p. 1; and “Talmud Torah Ladies’ Bazaar,” 10 May 1940, p. 2.97. “Editorial - Do We Need A Talmud Torah?’ J.W,B., 6 January 1939, p. 1.54Some parents, however, not only sent their children to the school but were also very involved byeither sitting on the Talmud Torah Board or joining the Talmud Torah Ladies’ Auxiliary. One of the earlyactivists of the Talmud Torah was John Reed, Bernard’s father, who arrived in Vancouver in 1914 fromRussia. John Reed was involved with the Talmud Torah for much of the 1920’s and part of the 1930’s, duringten years ofwhich he served as Chairman of the Board of Education. A 1932 article stated, “It is due to his[John Reed’s] untiring efforts that the Talmud Torah has attained its present position, and has accomplishedthe excellent work in the past years.”98 Bernard remembers his father working together with the Board ofthe Schara Tzedeck Congregation as they struggled “hiring teachers, and hiring better teachers and trying toimprove the school from— it started on a poverty level. And again, I repeat that we achieved a reputationin Canada as the top quality [school].”Rose Youngson (née Goldberg), Joseph Youngson’s wife and David Youngson’s mother, remembersthe contributions of the women. “If there was a Yontzf [Jewish festival]. . . we would bake, we would dothings that we thought would be helpful. If we were asked to do anything we always did it.”10° Even as earlyas 1928 the Talmud Torah had an active and well-organized Ladies’ Auxiliary.101 They would raise ftinds forthe school, the synagogue and the cemetery and provide refreshments, prizes and presents for the childrenat various celebrations as well as providing a kiddush (refreshments for the Sabbath) at the weekly JuniorCongregation services.’02Another way that money was raised for the Talmud Torah was through a well-organized Art Auctionwhich took place for several years during the 1940’s. The idea was conceived and organized by Jack Aceman,a generous and fair, hard-working community-minded person, who, along with a group of people, set up the98. “Bar Mitzvah,” J.W.B., 20 October1932, p.1.99. Bernard Reed interview.100. Rose Youngson interview.101. “Talmud Torah Auxiliary,” The Centre Bulletin, 27 October 1928, p. 1.102. “A Resume of What the Talmud Torah Ladies Auxiliary is Doing,” J.W.B., 30 October 1931, p. 3.55auction at the Hotel Vancouver. The auction, where paintings and pictures imported from New York (on bothsecular and Jewish themes) were shown, raised a lot of money for the school.103The rabbis of the community, whether Orthodox or Conservative, were always involved to someextent with the Talmud Torah. Although they never actually taught in the school, they gave talks at theSaturday morning services (Junior Congregation) or at special events. The rabbis were also of greatassistance to the school by encouraging the public to get involved, to send their children, or to support theschool financially by buying matzot (specially baked unleavened bread used for the holiday ofPesach, whenG-d freed the Jewish people from slavery in Egypt)’°4.They also served as examiners for the children andoften were members of the Board of Education or the Executive Board. Bernard Reed describes theinvolvement of the rabbis as he saw it.They [rabbis] all were encouraging... At examination time, they’d come and poke theirnose in and sit and listen to you when you read the Chumish, because it was verbal exams,you see. . . Yeah, they encouraged it. . . . They were not part of the teaching staff oranything like that.’°5Rabbi Judah Leib Zlotnik, an educator and world-renowned Jewish scholar and writer, was a“powerful educative and intellectual force” in Vancouver from 1934 to 1938. A leading figure in Judaismin Europe, he was also one of the founders of the Mizrachi group (religious wing of the Zionist organization)in Poland before emigrating to Canada in 1920.106 David Rome remembers the impact of Rabbi Zlotnik’sarrival in Eastern Canada and subsequently in Vancouver.[Fije managed to get into Canada from Poland where he was a world figure. And he was aveiy adventurous kind of a person... . And this was one of the great great great figures inCanadian Jewish affairs, in Canadian Jewish history. So that was a big thing when he came[to Vancouver] 107103. Saul Shaffer telephone and in-person conversations.104. “Talmud Torah Matzoh Committee Seeks Support,” J.W.B., 21 March 1935, p. 2.105. Bernard Reed interview.106. Leonoff, Pioneers, 151 -1 52.107. David Rome interview.56Rabbi Zlotnik left Vancouver in August of 1938 to become the Education Director of the entire Jewishcommunity of South Africa)05To Vancouver Jewiy, the departure of Rabbi Ziotnik and other dedicated Jewish educators must havebeen perceived as a major loss to the community. However, there was within the community itself an impetusto build upon the foundation which had been laid. Until 1944, the Talmud Torah had been obliged to shareits quarters with other institutions. Many people had worked hard over many years in order to secure abuilding for the school. During a meeting in 1933 people were already pushing for a separate building forthe Talmud Torah because they believed that “the failure of the present Talmud Torah and the small numberof children attending was due to the fact that the present building was not suitable for educationalpurpose[sJ.”°9Abe Rothstein, a long-time community worker for the Talmud Torah,’1°was reported in theJewish Western Bulletin as agreeing that “a total separate building was required with playgrounds, assemblyrooms, etc.” However, it was not until May 1944 that an 11-room house was purchased at 814 West 14thAvenue to provide the long needed schoolroom accommodation.”2Two students from the late 1940’s shared their very different impressions of going to kindergartenin the new school. Michael Levy recalls, “I have fond memories of it. I remember having a nap every day.And it was in an old brown house.”3Gary Averbach’s experience was not so positive. “It just seemed to mea dark old house and I hated it and I take it I wasn’t a very good boy or something because I have this imageof being expelled from Talmud Torah kindergarten. That’s why I went to another kindergarten the nextyear.”114 Nevertheless, the new building served to house classes and to continue the Jewish teaching that hadbegun over 30 years earlier.108. “Rabbi Zlotnik Leaving For South Africa, J.W.B., 5 August 1938, p. 1.109. “Vancouver Community Talmud Torah,” J.W.B., 14 December 1933, p. 1.110. Abe Rothstein was pi’esident of the Talmud Tomh first in 1921 then from 1934 to 1937 and finally in 1947. “President Vancouver TalmudTorah,” J.W.B., 2 September 1948, p. 3.111. “Vancouver Community Talmud Torah,” J.W. B., 14 December 1933, p. 1.112. “Talmud Torah To Purchase New Building,” J.W.B., May 26, 1944, p. 1113. Michael Levy interview.114. Gary Averbach interview.57How was the new building supported financially? In 1944 it cost approximately $6.50 per monthto educate each child.”5The Board intended to charge $1 per week per child ($4 per month) for tuition whichwas to be collected in advance. The remaining $2.50 per child was to be made up by community allocationsand flindraising. In keeping with the policy of the school, past and present, this applied only to those whowere able to pay. No child was turned away because of inability to pay.Although the school had experienced a very important breakthrough with the move to the newbuilding, the same difficulties prevailed as in the 1920’s and 1930’s: lack of fmances, community support andstudents. Once again, the school was being supported both fmancially and physically by a small number ofpeople. Tn 1945 an appeal went out to the community for help with running the school. It was suggested thateach congregation (Schara Tzedeck, Beth Israel, Beth Hamidrash) send 2 or 3 members to sit on theexecutive.”6However, it was not easy to convince people to send their children to the school, even beforeit became a day school. Saul Shaffer, a long-time Vancouver resident and ardent worker for the TalmudTorah, explains.We went from door to door. ... to get the children, not the money. . . . It was difficult to getthe children because they weren’t used to it, to send the children.. . . I’m talking about theday school, too, and after—school. But we got them. And we didn’t ask for money. Moneycame a different way... . There was a need for children in a big way.117The lack of community support also showed in the fact that there were only 26 children in thekindergarten program (established in 1938) whereas the school could handle 50. “It was too bad” the minutebook reported, “that so many parents could not see fit to send their children to T.T. instead of kindergartensrun privately and not in the interest of Jewish children.”118 Mr. Yehoshua Giladi Gelfarb, the principal at thetime, appealed to those parents with students in the school to avoid the “embarrassing situations that arisebetween parents, children and teachers due to improper environment at homes and lack of understanding of115. “Talmud Torah Book of Minutes” [unpublished book of minutes], 1944-1947, Vancouver, B.C. 31 October 1944.116. Ibid, 7 June 1945.117. Saul Shaffer interview.118. “Talmud Torah Book of Minutes” [unpublished book of minutes), 1944-1947, Vancouver, B.C., 27 September 1945.58T.T. and Jewish life and school in general”119 by learning more Judaism and getting more involved with theschool. It was difficult to enlist the aid of community members because they chose to devote their extra timeto other endeavours. Those present at general meetings were “mostly those who have children attending andalso those few dependable people who have T.T. at heart.”2°The majority of Vancouver Jews in the 1940’s had a casual attitude to Jewish education. Mr.Liftman, the principal of the Talmud Torah in 1947, wrote an impassioned article on this subject.Most of the children who receive some kind of a Jewish education see that their parentsconsider the instruction in Judaism not as something of vital niportance in their life whenthey grow up. Whenever the instruction in Jewish subjects interferes with other activitiesas homework for public school, practising of a musical instrument, dancing and skatinglessons, fishing and even watching or playing baseball, the Hebrew instruction issacrificed.’2’Ofthe parents who were most dedicated to Jewish education and showed their support by sendingtheir children to the Talmud Torah, there still existed many who were more concerned about assimilating intoCanadian society than on providing a Jewish atmosphere for their children. This is typical of immigrantpatterns whereby the first and second generations dedicate most of their energies into assimilating into thehost society.’22Jewish education has always been important in order to assure the survival of the Jewish people.Once Jews begin to neglect the teachings of their religion and culture and assimilate into the mainstream, theybecome indistinguishable from the rest of society, thus ceasing to be a distinct people. In order to remainJewish, one must not only study the Jewish religion and culture but also put into practice what one haslearned. It used to be that many Jews were learned in Torah. In the 1940’s, as is very often the case today,many parents believed thattheir child does not have to devote much of his valuable time to the study of the Torah, asthey do not expect their offspring to become a Rabbi or G-d forbid, a Hebrew teacher.119. Ibid.120. Ibid.121. I. Liftman, “The Contemporary Jewish Home Stripped Of All Jewish Characteristics, J.W.B., 8 July 1948, p. 3.122. See William Toll, The Making of an Ethnic Middle Class - Portland Jewry over Four Generations. (Albany: State University of New YorkPress, 1982).59In the Jewish home there is veiy little left of the positive traditional cultural values fosteredby our people in the course of thousands of years. Our Jewishness is principally a negativeone. We are Jews only because we are not gentiles.’23Therefore, there was little to deter the child from assimilation, intermarriage or apostasy.The inconvenience and hardship of attending an afternoon school also had a major impact onattendance at the Talmud Torah. Even though the Talmud Torah at 14th near Oak was more centrally located,the students nevertheless continued to endure hardships to travel from public school to the afternoon Hebrewschool. Rose Youngson, a parent in the 1940’s, recalls the difficulties.You’d send [them] out by the streetcar.. and it was very difficult for the children to go.And then when the days were short and the nights were long, they had to come home atnight... . But they didn’t come home until about 6:30, sometimes 7:00 o’clock. . . . Theywould go straight from [public] school [to the Talmud Torah]. They didn’t come home andhave anything to eat or anything.’24Her son, David, remembers the experience,I didn’t like going to the Talmud Torah because I’d just finished a whole day of regularschool, [and] I wanted to stay after school and play baseball.. or what the other kids weredoing. But I couldn’t — I had to get on the streetcar and transfer twice and go and sit from4:00 to 6:00 and I wasn’t happy about doing that.’25In order to alleviate the transportation problem a large car was purchased in December 1944 to serveas a “bus” for 10-15 children.126After the Depression and World War II had both come to an end, a fresh start began for the TalmudTorah when a new group of officers, all men, was elected, all of whom were 35 years of age or younger.’27Saul Shaffer remembers some of those men.Sam [Rothstein] was a hard worker Sam was dedicated so much. . . and I appreciatedwhat he did to the Talmud Torah and I wanted him to be recognized as such. . . . JackAceman was President when I was Vice President. Jack Aceman was a very dedicatedperson.. . . He too did a lot of work... 128123. I. Liftman, The Contemporary Jewish Home Stripped Of All Jewish Characteristics, J.W.B., 8 July 1948, p. 3.124. Rose Youngson interview.125. David Youngson interview.126. “Talmud Torah Book of Minutes” [unpublished book of minutes], 1944-1947, Vancouver, B.C., 25 December 1944.127. “Marching Forward - Editorial,” J.W.B., 15 June 1945, p. 2.128. Saul Shaffer interview.60These were the young men who would play a key role in assisting with the establishment of the dayschool three years later.The Talmud Torah continued to struggle throughout the early 1940’s to attract more students andto raise more funds. By the end of the 1940’s their numbers had grown so much, partly due to the increasein the Vancouver Jewish population, that it was necessary to move into larger quarters. The task ahead wasa large one. The community would have to pull together to raise an enormous amount of money in order toaccommodate the growing enrolment. Experience had proven that this was not a group of people who gaveup easily.Extra-curricular ActivitiesApart from the regular curriculum, other activities took place. Some were initiated by the studentswhile most of the others were under the direction of the school. Nevertheless, all were part and parcel of theeducation that the students received at Talmud Torah. These activities were very important as they servedas an arena for the practical application of what was learned in the classroom. The children were also givenmore freedom ofexpression and creativity in these endeavours. It is no wonder that these are the events thatthe students remember most fondly from their experiences at the Talmud Torah.In 1928 the Talmud Torah students, with help from their teachers, produced the first of a series ofHebrew and Yiddish newsletters that they then distributed to parents and patrons of the school. Thenewsletter129,called Nitzonim (Buds), showed ‘that both languages [Yiddish and Hebrew] are efficientlytaught, and that the students are able to convey clearly their thoughts in both tongues.”3°It was producedyearly with contributions from present and former Talmud Torah pupils.’31 Through the newsletter thestudents were able to practise their written Hebrew and Yiddish and show their parents and community thatthe Talmud Torah was teaching them both languages.129. See Appendix D 1 for samples of the newsletter.130. Talmud Torah News,” J.W.B., 3 April 1931 p. 2.131. The Centre Bulletin, 23 February 1929, p.5.61Joseph Youngson was the driving force behind the newsletter. Bernard Reed remembers the talentsof his teacher upon recently seeing copies of the newsletter , “Yeah. . . . He was veiy artisticallyinclined’32.. . . See the drawings and all that, the little boy with the Torah? That would be him. . . . He waspretty good. His [pictures] would be semi-professional.”33In July 1930 a group of Talmud Torah students formed a Hebrew-speaking club where all activitieswere conducted in Hebrew called the Ivriah Club, open to past and present students of the Talmud Torah.’34The club met once a month during which time evetyone was obliged to speak Hebrew. The penalty forspeaking English was a fme of one cent per word. Gertrude Zack, a one-time president of the Ivriah Clubremembers, “After Grade 8 or 9... we formed what we called an Ivriah club. . . . We didn’t have television.We didn’t sit. We did.”35 This group of enterprising young people took the initiative to form a club of theirown and therefore entertain themselves.Although the club was basically run by the students there was some assistance by Talmud Torahteachers for special events such as hikes to Stanley Park.’36 Joseph Youngson, nevertheless, was veryinvolved with the club on a regular basis. Bernard Reed refers to him as “our coach... He would...oversee us and assist us, or do whatever it was.” The club, complete with president and secretary, ran theirown meetings, fmed the kids who spoke English and kept the money in the treasury. Bernard recalls, “In thosedays you wanted to have a club— and this was Hebrew—speaking.” Later on, this industrious group of youngpeople started to publish their own little Hebrew magazine. Since they wanted to do it on their own they wentto see Reverend Pastinsky, who had the only Jewish typewriter with Hebrew letters in Western Canada.Bernard describes going to ask to borrow the typewriter. “We went out there and I remember asking him still,132. See the cover of the Nitzonim student newsletter for an example of Mr. Youngsons artwork, found in Appendix D 1.133. Bernard Reed interview.134. Talmud Torah Children Form Hebrew Speaking Club, Jewish Centre News, 24 July 1930, p. 1.135. Gertrude Zack interview.136. “The lvriah’ Club To Hold “Tiyul” on Lag BOmer Day,” J.W.B., 19 May 1932, p.3.62‘Could we borrow your typewriter?’ Well, he was thrilled! And we would go and punch on the typewriter andput out our little magazine, so we didn’t have any more of this hand—written stuff by the teachers.”137The club and the newsletter provided an impetus for other Hebrew activities such as writing lettersto friends or family or speaking Hebrew to others. Gertrude used to write to her grandfather in Hebrew whenhe moved to Toronto from Europe and he would write back correcting all her mistakes for her.Bernard speaks proudly of the club and the accomplishments with the Hebrew language.We were the only Hebrew—speaking Young Judea club in Canada’38.. . . That was, in thosedays, the big association of Jewish students. They [Young Judea] used to have conventions,and this and that. . . . We wrote letters to children in Israel [Palestine], and they wrote back,all in Hebrew. My grandfather in Russia, I wrote to him regularly. And the only way wecould correspond was in Hebrew, because I didn’t know Russian and he didn’t knowEnglish. . . . We were the only [class]. . . that had the capability to speak Hebrew in thatdegree. There was about a half—dozen ofus.’39Throughout the year many special events took place that reinforced as well as provided a changefrom the daily schoolwork. One of the most loved by all was the annual Lag B’Omer (Jewish holiday) picnic.Bernard Reed recalls,I remember we were all in the Eastern part of the city and we would all meet at the TalmudTorah on Sunday morning, 20—30—40 cars. . .. and go out to Maple Grove Park . . .. Sothat was an adventure. . .. It was a parade of cars. . . and we’d have races and games andthey’d give prizes. . . and they played baseball and all that, and they gave out refreshments.It was the big event of the year.14°In 1930 over 200 children from the Jewish community (as well as numerous parents and friends)attended the Lag B’Omer picnic at Maple Grove Park. For many years the picnic was sponsored by B’naiBrith. This was also the time when prizes were given out to those students who had excelled on the end ofthe year exams.141137. Bernard Reed interview.138. See article in the J.W.B. (Youth Use Mother Tongue In Hebrew Session, 19 July 1937, p. 1).139. Bernard Reed interview.140. Ibid.141. B.B. Picnic’ Jewish Centre News, 12 June 1930, p. 7.63Another well-liked event was the annual Chanukah concert. In the early years of the school and aslate as 1938 the songs, recitations, speeches and plays were performed either in Hebrew, Yiddish or Englishalthough Hebrew was the language most often used as that was what the children were studying at theTalmud Torah.’42 The Chanukah concert was also a time for parents and friends to come and see the childrenperform on stage. It was a fun-filled and enjoyable time for all.However, without a doubt the most influential, most talked about and most educational activity wasthe Saturday morning Junior Congregation service for children between the ages of eight and fifteen. It washere that the children learned the Hebrew prayers, the order of the service and the traditional tunes. They werenot only given a chance to participate but also to lead. Bernard Reed remembers the early days of the JuniorCongregation in the 1920’s.We had a Junior Congregation for a number of years at the old annex in Heatley Avenueand the students carried on the entire congregation themselves, without the assistance of theteachers. In other words, we davened, there was a chazan, we read [the Torah], we saidmaftir [mafter]. I said maftir at the age often, because we knew everything.’43Although girls did not participate in the early days due to the strict rules of Orthodoxy, they did notappear to feel left out. Bernard explains,They would come, Gertie Zack, Gertie Fouks she was in those days. They would comebecause they were classmates. But no, it was all Orthodox. . . . Now remember, that was notnegative and that was not considered a put—down. You’re looking at it from today’s system,where everything is considered a hostile move. It was accepted. The woman wanted to bea wife and a mother and that was the highest thing she could hope to. She wanted to be amother and get married, and that was it. It was after the War [World War II], when thiswomen’s liberation started. I’m only trying to give you the viewpoint. . . . It was not aput—down at all. The mother was given great respect in the house. She ran the house. Sheran the husband. Oh, yeah!’44In 1930 the Junior Congregation ran every Friday evening and Saturday morning at the ScharaTzedeck synagogue at Heatley and Pender. Services were compulsory for Talmud Torah students and parents142. See the following articles in the J.W.B.: “Chanukah Celebration to Be Given by Talmud Torah,’ 4 December 1931, p. 1.; J. Youngson,“Talmud Torah Chanukah Concert Was Great Success,” 11 December 1931 p. 1.; “Talmud Torah Celebrates Chanukah In Festive Mood,”17 December 1937, p. 2.; and “Talmud Torah Ladies Give Chanukah Party,” 30 December 1938, p. 1.143. Bernard Reed interview.144. Ibid.64were urged to send their children, even those who had already graduated from Talmud Torah.145 Later on thatyear services began to be held at the Community Centre every Saturday morning at 10 a.m. for theconvenience of those who lived in the Fairview district. Regular services continued at the Heatley Branch forthose who lived in the East End’ at least until 1939.147 They were always supervised by either the principalor one of the teachers of the Talmud Torah. In 1940 it was reported that usually 30 children under the ageof 15 regularly attended Junior Congregation.’48In May of 1940 a Junior Congregation club was formedcomplete with president, vice-president, treasurer, secretary and gabbaim (those who help with the runningof the services). At that time there were 65 members. The Junior Congregation decided to present a gift toany member who became a Bar Mitzvah (a Jewish boy who reaches the age of 13) or any girl who reachedthe age of 13 while still a member. The Junior Congregation club planned to buy prayer shawls and prayerbooks for the services.’49 Meetings were held every second Sunday with services continuing at theCommunity Centre on Saturdays.’5°The Talmud Torah worked hard to encourage parents to get involved and get their children involvedin the activities of the school. The following plea appeared in a 1946 article urging parents to send theirchildren to Junior Congregation. “Ifyou want your children to know how to “Dawven”, read fluently, and toknow the Jewish customs and laws; and in general spend a few hours in a Jewish atmosphere, especially ona “Shabbos”, it is your Holy duty to see that your child attends the Congregation normally every tur5’A few months later 40 to 50 children were regularly attending Junior Congregation.’52David Youngson145. Report of the Talmud Torah Board of Examiners, Jewish Centre News, 1 May 1930, p. 8.146. ‘Talmud Torah to Hold Sabbath Services,” J.W.B., 30 October 1930, P. 2.147. “Talmud Torah,” J.W,B., 13 October 1939, p. 1.148. “Junior Congregation,” J.W.B., 12 April 1940, p. 2.149. “Junior Congregation,” J.W.B., 24 May 1940, p. 2.150. “Talmud Torah Junior Congregation,” J.W.B., 17 January 1941, p. 3.151. “Talmud Torah Sabbath Services,” J.W.B., 8 November1946, p.3.152. “Talmud Torah Book of Minutes” [unpublished book of minutesl, 1944-1947, Vancouver, B.C., 10 February 1947.65remembers visits to the Junior Congregation by one of the local rabbis whose congregation was nearby theTalmud Torah when it was at 14th and Oak.[W]hen on 14th Aye, we used to have Saturday morning services. . . And after servicesRabbi Ginsberg [the rabbi of Belt HaMidrash at 16th and Heather, then an EasternOrthodox synagogue]... . would come in because he wasn’t far away. . . . He would comeafter services . . . do the Kiddush [blessing over the wine]. [He would speak] Yiddish[although most of the children did not understand Yiddish]In the late 1940’s, Isaac and Chana Horowitz formed a Hebrew-speaking club (similar to the IvriahClub mentioned earlier). The club met once a week in the evening for an hour. The purpose was “to spreadthe Hebrew language among the youth.”54Activities included discussions, games, debates and occasionalsocials and outings. It was reported that the members of the club are very enthusiastic and “feel that this willbring them closer to the Jewish culture and spirit and especially to Eretz [Land] Israel.”55Junior Congregation, celebrating the various holidays, picnics, parties, newsletters, Hebrew-speakingclubs: these are what stand out in the minds of the students who attended Talmud Torah in the 1920’s and1930’s for it was here that they were given a chance to put into action what they had learned in the classroom.Moreover, they were given a fair amount of responsibility and autonomy and as a result felt pride in theiraccomplishments; something which is too often missing in the regular classroom. What better way to practisespeaking Hebrew than to form a club? What better way to learn the prayers than to take part in your ownservice? What better way to learn the history of the Jews from the Bible to the present day than to performplays, songs and stories? And what better way to fully understand the laws and customs of Judaism than toactually live them? Thus the Talmud Torah students were able to learn what had been outlined in thecurriculum through playful and pleasant activities. Informal learning complemented the formal curriculumof the classroom.153. David Youngson interview.154. “Hebrew Speaking Club Formed At Talmud Torah, J.W.B., 21 February 1947, p. 3.155. Ibid.66The World of the StudentsThe students interviewed did not volunteer much information about assimilation, anti-semitism orthe effect ofgoing to the Talmud Torah on their identities as Jews. Instead they focussed more on what wasimportant to them as children. They spoke a lot about how they felt about attending the Talmud Torah, orin cases like that of Rose Youngson, about not being able to attend the school due to distance. RoseYoungson did not live in the downtown area and as a result did not attend the school because of the distance.However, around 1918, as a young girl of 8 or 9, she wanted to see what the school was like.At one time I went to shul [synagogue] and I saw the children gathered together at thesynagogue and they were singing songs and things; and I felt left out, so I said, ‘I want togo to the Talmud Torah,’ so my parents said ‘Yes’. So to go to the Talmud Torah.. .I hadto go downtown and I had to transfer at Main and Hastings, which wasn’t the best place fora child to be alone to transfer. So I went a little bit; and then the nights got longer and it wasdark coming home, and rain, and I had to wait for the buses. And I saw that I couldn’t doitso I didn’t go, . . . I remember when I came there, he [Katznelsonj went out in the hall andspoke to another teacher, and they were speaking in Hebrew. I didn’t understand a word ofwhat they said, but I know he said something about alef—beis [the Hebrew alphabet],meaning ‘She doesn’t even know the alef—beis,’ so they didn’t know where to put me.... SoI didn’t last there veiy long. . . . I had to stop because I couldn’t go down there at night. I gotscared to come home at night, and all the strange men passing that corner, and having towait for the bus. .. . It wasn’t months — it might have been a few weeks.’56Of those who attended Talmud Torah on a regular basis, some liked going to the school while othersdid not. The hours were long after all day in public school and the Talmud Torah students had to attendclasses while other children were playing with friends or participating on sports teams. Gertrude Zack wouldhave to take two or three street cars to get from Cecil Rhodes Elementary School at 14th and Spruce to theTalmud Torah at Heatley and Pender.I enjoyed Hebrew or I wouldn’t have continued. I would have fought against it because it didlimit what I was able to do in the [public] school to participate although I did participate inthe drama but that was during school hours... We used to have a lot of fun [at the TalmudTorah]. ... [W]e did just what all kids do in Talmud Torah.. . play. . . . We played baseballduring our intermission, during our recess. .156. Rose Youngson interview.157. Gertrude Zack interview.67Bernard Reed was around 13 years old when his class of older students moved to the new locationat the Community Centre at 11th and Oak in the early 1930’s. Joseph Youngson was the teacher.We improvised. We were the first ones to become Grade Six. . . Grade Seven. . . GradeEight. We pioneered the Talmud Torah, ifyou know what I mean. So we kept going up andwe created the new classes and the others followed behind us. . . . When we went touniversity, well, we had to quit because there was no way we could work in the time and wewere busy at university.’58Classes continued to be held at the Heatley Street branch as well for the younger students. Bernardremembers doing “a lot of things that other Talmud Torahs didn’t do. We put out a paper [the newslettermentioned earlier], the Hebrew paper. We had debates and speeches, and things like that, in Hebrew. It wasgood.”59David Youngson attended the school in the late 1930’s and 1940’s. Although his father, JosephYoungson, was the main teacher at the school, David’s memory of attending Talmud Torah is not so positive,mostly because he would rather have been playing with his friends after public school. “I remember goingto the school. . . before the Second World War. . . . I went, unwillingly, from the age of 6.160 He firstattended the school on Heatley Street and switched over somewhere around 1939 to the Community CentreBranch. He remembers thatall the Jewish institutions were based out of there, including the Jewish Western Bulletin.The B’nai B’rith was there, Beth Israel synagogue was there, of course the Talmud Torahwas there, and I think some organization of Jewish soldiers... . That was the whole of theJewish community. . . . And I attended classes at the Talmud Torah during that period oftime, from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Monday to Thursday and, I think, a couple of hours onSunday. And I hated every minute of it.’6’Bernard Reed discusses the various attitudes children had with respect to going to the Talmud Torahin the 1920’s and 1930’s. “It was part of your training. It was part of being a Jew. I mean, it was accepted.There was no resentment. Oh, there were some children who rebelled, yeah.” He recalls a boy who would getkicked out of the class regularly so he could go and play tennis at King Edward High School with his non158. Bernard Reed interview.159. Ibid.160. David Youngson interview.161. Ibid.68Jewish friend. “He didn’t have the right attitude.. . . [There were] quite a few like that. Not everybody wasa sincere student. They went because their father said they had to go.” They also went because they knew theyhad to study for their Bar Mitzvah. “After Bar Mitzvah they got into other pursuits. See, don’t forget, ateenager, at that time, you wanna play ball,. . . whatever it is, maybe in the extra-curricular, the drama in theschool or whatever it is— so that things started to interfere.”162A child’s attitude to going to school, especially to a noncompulsory one such as Talmud Torah, isaffected greatly by the parents’ reasons for sending the child. If the parents believe strongly in the educationtheir child is receiving then the child’s experience will stand a better chance of being a positive one. If theparents are only sending the child out of compulsion or feelings of guilt or pressure from outside forces thenthe child will have less of a chance to flourish in the school. This supports Hirschberg’s fmdings that thefamily and the community play a major role in the education of the children. Some children enjoyed theirTalmud Torah experience, largely because they realized that their parents believed it to be a worthwhile andimportant part of their education’63 Others went only because they had to and never really understood whythey were there. Still others, like Rose Youngson, wanted to go to the school but were unable to attend forpractical reasons.The 1940’s saw the culmination of an era in the history of the Talmud Torah. The Vancouver Jewishconimurity had struggled not only to integrate into Canadian society but also to preserve their Jewish roots.They had made sure that their children were well-educated in the public school and in the afternoon Hebrewschool. The community had worked hard to keep the Talmud Torah alive both financially and educationallyand had succeeded. Now began a period of new challenges as the Vancouver Jewish community took on theresponsibility of supporting and nourishing a day school, similar in format to the public school with theexception of the addition of a half-day program of Judaic studies. The years ahead would prove whether or162. Bernard Reed interview.I 63. Some children, whose parents either taught at the school or were involved in its operation, may not have enjoyed going to the schoolbecause their parents were too involved in the politics or because the children were treated differently by their schoolmates because they werethe child of one of the teachers.69not this community was capable of maintaining the equilibrium between guarding their heritage and fittinginto the mainstream society.Over the course of three decades, Vancouver Jews had succeeded in building and maintaining aJewish afternoon school for their children. As the Jewish population grew in the city and as the Talmud Torahbecame more accepted in the Jewish community, more people began to send their children to the school’.However, the growth was slow and sometimes disappointing to the organizers of the Talmud Torah. Theyhad hoped that more people would have realized the benefit to their children of having a Jewish educationas well as a secular one. The curriculum changed very little except for the constant struggle between thosewho wanted Yiddish included in the curriculum and those who thought that more time should be spent onHebrew instruction. The dwindling Yiddish-speaking population in addition to the renewal of the Hebrewlanguage in Israel strengthened the cause of the Hebraists. By the end of this period, there were also fewerEuropean-born, Yiddish-speaking teachers at the school. They had been replaced by North American-bornand educated Jews. The Talmud Torah had met and overcome many obstacles during this period. Financialproblems and lack of community support often made it difficult for the school to continue. Nevertheless,there was a core of dedicated Vancouver Jews, who saw and understood the need for formal Jewish educationfor their children, and therefore worked hard to keep the institution alive despite the strain of the Depression,World War II and the Holocaust.164. See Table 4 on Talmud Torah Enrolment, p. 88.70Schara Tzedeck synagogue, circa 1928, Heatley Street, East End of Vancouver.“In the same building [as the Schara Tzedeck synagogue], [in] an annex building bordering the lane andfacing on Heatley was the Talmud Torah at that time. [It was] upstairs. Downstairs was a community hallwhere they hadJunior Congregation meetings, etc.”IJr-i eØLJtTfiT:zaj9IJdJR_Jewish Community Centre, circa 1930.“[A]ll the Jewish institutions were based out ofthere, including the Jewish Western Bulletin. The B’naiBrith was there, Beth Israel synagogue was there, ofcourse the Talmud Torah was there, and I think someorganization ofJewish soldiers. That was the whole of the Jewish community.”71Kindergarten children at school in the above house, circa 1947.The teacher standing at left is Miss Lii Moscovitch (now Shafran); at right is Mrs. Hannah Mimer Cohen(now Smith).The first separate building which housed the Talmud Torah, 814 W. 14th Ave (1944-1948). Photographtaken in 1993.“The reason they built this one was because they were told it was too dangerous for the children in ahouse with an upstairs. . . in case there was [a]flre.”72The boy standing is practicing the recital of the Shabbat kiddush on Friday afternoon at the Talmud Torahschool, circa 1947.Talmud Torah school, circa 1950.At the time, “one ofthe most modern schools in B.C.”a__i k;ritwt; S473Two ofthe paintings auctioned off during a 1940’s fhndraising art auction. The auction, showing paintingsand pictures imported from New York on both secular and Jewish themes, raised a lot of money for theschool. These paintings belong to Saul Shaffer who bought them at that time.74Early teaching staff, 1949, left to right: Mr. Al Gelmon, Mrs. Reva Goldberg, Dr. 3. Kowarsky, Mrs. AnneKeel, Mr. Felixe RosenscheinSecular studies students, taught by Mrs. Esther Gervin, using standard teaching methods. March 1954.“I think we have certain skills that will always stay with us. The basics were drilled into us.Kindergarten student lighting Shabbat candles, June 1951.Teachers: Left— Mrs. Mildred Nesbitt. Right — Mrs. Anne Keel75Kindergarten class October 1950, beading, Mrs. Anne Keel, front table (1. to r.) Ruth Weinstein, unknown,Tammy Kagna, Marsha White, Les Blond.“They were much more creative. They didn’t have the materials.”w76First graduating class, 1954: seated (1. to r.) Reesa Gelmon, Michael Levy, Sharon Flax, Gerald Lipsky,Elaine Wall, Gaiy Averbach, standing: Mr. Reznik, Sydney Erlichman, Leon Bogner, Mrs. Trunkfield,Malcolm Weinstein, Kenny Glasner, Mr. Sherman, acting principal.“They [the children]felt this [Talmud Torah] is part oftheir home, part oftheir atmosphere, part oftheirculture.”Grade 6 graduation, 1956.(1. to r.): Jennie Puterman, Judith Moscovitch, Terry Kagna, Rosalind Zack (Karby), Nadine Sinclair, SherriePoplack, Mr. Harry Sherman, Herschel (Aaron) Rosenthal, Mrs. Joy Trunkfield, Melvin Belogus, SusanLauer, Mark Waldman, Barrie Turner.Missing from the picture: graduates Joel Altman and Yehuda Assaf.77Grade 3or4class, circa 1957.Teachers: Mrs. Lydia Holingren, Mr. Abraham Assaf, Mrs. Eva Gelmon, Miss Ruth ChessBack row: Mark Sherman, Alexene Dozar, Valerie Hurov, Sharyn Herman, Carole Wine, Trudy Kolberg,Miriam Wolochow, Elliot Roadburg, Jack GechmanFront row: Rowena Shaffer (Kleinman), Sandy Waterman, Judy Panar, Carol Naimark (Oreck), ShariAltman, Norman Gold, Joe Gold, Jerry Adler, Stephen Rome, Richard Zack“We wanted our kids to feel comfortable with their Jewishness andfrom looking around, we felt thatTalmud Torah offered the best ofwhat was available.”Grade 5 class, circa 1957.Teachers: Mr. Abraham Assaf, unknown, Mrs. Lydia Holmgren, Mr. Harry Sherman.Back row: Richard Ames, Les Blond.Middle row: Fred Curtis, George Weiss, Jerry Apfelbaum, David Goldenberg (Rabbi Goldenberg’s son), LeoKron (Mrs. Kron’s son), Milton Yacht, Harold Yacowar, Danny Goodman.Front row: Valerie Blumes, Pearl Grunfeld, Beth Sharon Kagna, Diane Mann (Averbach), Corrine Sohnan,,Sidney Nesbitt, Eileen Buchwald, Marjorie Goodman, Audrey Rosenthal1:7-—-1t &NN\ERSARY IorISRAELij‘tPiIA:____——________________________________________-‘r’- 4787th Anniversary of State of Israel, 1955.“...because it was so early in its [Israel’s] establishment and every year [Tom Ha’Atzma’ut] was a bigmajor celebration.”Presentation at 8th anniversary of State of Israel, 1956.“We were always taught about Israel,. . . and I mean, every room had a map ofIsraeL”Mrs. Gita Kron, in the 1960’s.Students: Barbara Barak, RuthSteinberg, Sheny Baker, HowardLevy, Anita Perel (girl holdingbook).“To Gita, teaching was morethan a profession - it was apassion, and to it gave heart andsoul. . . . [S]he made each childfeel unique.”Lighting the Chanukah candles, dressed inJunior Congregation choir gowns. Boylighting Chanukah candle is Andrew Gold,on his left is Malcolm Weinstein; right isHoward Shachter. December 1954.“We had a choir and so. . . we all sangat each other’s Bar Mitzvahs. . . . I thinkit was great.”IL 7980CHAPTER FOURThe First Decade of the Day School1948-1959Founders and their VisionThe majority of Canadian Jews, like other immigrant populations, possessed a strong desire to fitinto Canadian society. They were afraid of being ghettoized and they wanted their children to learn the waysof their new country. As a result, many were against any institution they felt would separate them fromsocietys mainstream. Consequently, there were those who did not want their children to be associated withschools such as the Talmud Torah at all (even the afternoon school) as they felt it would segregate them andassociate them too closely with the other Jewish immigrants. But they still wanted their children to have someform of Jewish education, and so some sent them to private tutors. However, many soon realized it was muchbetter for children to be learning in a group setting rather than individually.In spite of the strong pressure to assimilate, a number of Jews throughout Canada, as we have seen,were committed to establishing afternoon schools. But some wanted to provide a more intensive program ofJewish studies than the afternoon and Sunday schools or through private tutors. Why did they feel this needso strongly when many others were opposed to the idea? One argument, which was presented later at ameeting of American rabbis, educators and community members, explained the need for an intensive programof Jewish studies.Jewish education is indispensable to Jewish survival, but survival as such should not bemade a goal of Jewish education. Jewishness is not inherited in the genes. A Jew becomesas [sic] Jew as a result of a long process of living and learning. If Jewish life is to havecontinuity and meaning, the transmission of the Jewish heritage cannot be left to chancecontacts and learnings in the home, in the street and in the community. We have to rely onthe Jewish school for the more formal transmission of the Jewish heritage.11. Samuel Dinin, ‘The Goals Of Jewish Education,’ J.W.B., 19 December1957, pp.9, 10, 15, 16.81There was also substantial agreement that a varied curriculum was needed. It would include Jewishtradition, literature, culture, language, history, religion and Torah. Disagreements were mainly with regardto how the Torah was to be interpreted and what would be taught. Learning Hebrew and identi1ring withIsrael were seen by most as vital to Jewish education. There was also a general recognition of the need tointegrate the Jewish child into the society at large while guarding the integrity of the Jews as a distinctminority group.2 Although afternoon schools could provide all of the above, they could not do so in asintensive a manner as the day school. Furthermore, many parents wanted their children to be able to play afterschool with friends or attend music lessons or sports programs, none of which was possible if they wereattending Hebrew school after public school. Thus the day school was seen as the answer to both of theseproblems. It would not only provide an intensive program of Jewish studies but it would also enable thechildren to pursue other activities after school as they would finish their Jewish and secular studies duringthe regular school day. A day school would therefore provide the milieu in which to acquire knowledge andskills of the Jewish culture and religion, while after—school activity time would permit integration with thesurrounding secular Canadian community.Why was there not a day school in Vancouver before 1948? Apart from the heavy pressure toassimilate, Bernard Reed offers the following explanation. “Well, first of all, nobody could afford [the fees]to go to a day school. We all went to a regular [public] school and then we went for an hour and a half [toHebrew school]— that was all through North America.”3Dr. Moses Steinberg, a professor of English andactive member of the Vancouver Jewish community since the 1950’s, believes that the day school movementbegan to establish itselfbecause those Jews who favoured strengthening the Jewish people through education,religion and culture over assimilating into the status quo wanted a better level of Jewish education for theirchildren than was being offered in the afternoon school. There were already day schools in Montreal and a2. ibid.3. Bernard Reed interview.82day school in Winnipeg and according to Dr. Steinberg, the results were much better than those of theafternoon schools.4A study on Jewish education in Quebec by Stanley Yetnikoff made a strong case in support of dayschools by outlining the disadvantages of afternoon schools. Yetnikoff found that in afternoon schools, timeis taken away from leisure activities such as sports and music lessons, the child is often tired after a full dayat public school and less capable of learning new material, there is a shortage of qualified teachers in theafternoon school as most prefer to work during the day, less than half of the Jewish instruction available inthe day school is possible after school, travel from the public to the afternoon school is often difficult inwinter or for those of frail health, and the attendance rate is low and the drop-out rate high as these schoolsare not compulsory.5The day school eliminated all of these problems.Dr. Sidney Zbarsky, a parent and Board6member in the 1950’s, decided to send his children to theday school because he “just figured that it was a better Jewish education, Hebrew education,. . . and it alsohad a big advantage that the student would learn secular studies and Hebrew all day, not at night and he’dhave the evenings free. He’d be able to play after school like other kids and still get a good education,”7Hiswife Lamie, active on the Talmud Torah Parent Teachers Association (PTA) for many years, added that “Wewanted our kids to feel comfortable with their Jewishness and from looking around, we felt that TalmudTorah offered the best of what was available.”8Other factors influenced the growth of the day school movement in Canada. The recent establishmentof Israel incited a need amongst Jews to build up strong Jewish communities elsewhere and to maintain andstrengthen the ties between Israel and the Diaspora. Dr. Steinberg is certain that “the Holocaust must have4. Dr. Moses Steinberg interview. Contrast this view with the discussions of Hirschberg’s study on pp. 3-4. The results of this empiricalstudy imply that Jewish students from day schools do not identify any more strongly with the Jewish people than those from afternoonschools. The main factors influencing affiliation with the Jewish people are family and community.5. Stanley Yetnikoff, Jewish Education in Quebec - A Recommended Solution, (Montreal, Quebec: The Northern Printing andLithographing Co., 1963), 15.6. In the 1940’s and 1950’s there were two separate Boards comprised mostly of Talmud Torah parents to oversee the school; the Boardof Directors (the Executive) and the Board of Education. The Board of Directors was in charge of daily operations and finances whilethe Board of Education looked after issues of curriculum, teachers and students that were educational in nature.7. Dr. Sidney Zbarsky interview.8. Lamie Zbarsky interview.83made a great impact, that we have to strengthen ourselves because we’re in danger of being annthilatedphysically and culturally.”9The events of the Holocaust may have also made Jews more aware of the dangerthat through assimilation the Jews would cease to be a distinct people. Another factor contributing to theresurgence of Jewish education was the arrival of European Jews (among them rabbis and teachers) who hadeither survived or escaped from the Holocaust. They were accustomed to Jewish day schools in Europe sothey naturally supported them in North America.10Many articles advocating a day school education appeared in the Jewish Western Bulletin in the lateforties. Felix Rosenchein, a Hebrew teacher during the first few years of the Talmud Torah day school, in anarticle entitled “The Role of Vancouver Talmud Torah: an Interpretation”, discussed his views on theimportance of intensive Jewish education.Deny a Jewish education to one generation and the Jewish people is liable to deteriorateculturally and spiritually. The deep concern for our fellow Jews in Soviet Russia emanatesfrom the vely fact that Marxian dialectics deny the Jewish minority an education whichidentifies itselfwith the Jewish people, its religious traditions, and its national aspirations.An education.. . that would teach the Jewish youngster his national tongue and thusgive him the key to his Hebrew-Jewish culture -- is the set purpose of the VancouverTalmud Torah.’2Even after the Talmud Torah day school was up and running the controversy over the need forintensive Jewish education continued. A Vancouver Jewish organization sponsored a debate, held in 1949,to discuss the issue of parochial schools. One side argued that intensified Jewish education was needed andthat the parochial school was the best way of giving this education, while the other side insisted that not onlywas it bad to segregate Jewish children but that “the key to the problem of training children was in the home,and that the parents needed education.”39. Dr. Moses Steinberg interview.10. Ibid.11. Felix Rosenschein, “The Role Of Vancouver Talmud Torah: An interpretation” J.W.B., 31 August 1950, p. 2.12. Ibid, p.2.13. “Parochial School Issue Discussed, J.W.B., 21 April 1949, p. 2.84The opponents of the day school questioned whether both a Jewish and a general education couldbe given during the school day. In 1954, after the Talmud Torah day school had already been in operationfor several years, a similar discussion took place at a luncheon meeting of the Schara Tzedeck LadiesAuxiliary. Speaking in favour of the day school were Mrs. V. Joy Trunklield, a secular studies teacher at theTalmud Torah, and Irving Lipsky, president of the school. They argued that in the day school the childrenwere not deprived of normal after school play time, a high standard of secular education was received, therewere small classes, and lots of individual attention. However, Mr. Abraham J. Arnold, the editor of theJewish Western Bulletin, felt that the day school movement was harming the public school’s struggle forseparation of church and state (possibly by demonstrating that religion was important in a school) and waspromoting segregation.’4This view was held by the less religious assimilationist sector of the VancouverJews.Dr. Steinberg became the Chairman of the Talmud Torah Board of Education in 1950 and continuedin that capacity for the next 8 or 9 years. Dr. Sidney Zbarsky, who served with Dr. Steinberg for severalyears, describes him as “an expert on Jewish education. The rest of us were more concerned with maintainingthe standards of secular studies education.”5Dr. Steinberg recalls that there was considerable resistance tothe day school movement from a section of the Zionist organization. He explains that although most Zionistsfavoured the school “there was an element there that did not particularly care about [favour] diverting funds[from Israel].”6The secular Zionists were also opposed to the Talmud Torah because of its religiousorientation.The other resistance, according to Dr. Steinberg, came from left-wing assimilationists who felt thatthey had fought so long to be integrated and to be accepted into the non-Jewish society that they did not wantto hamper what they believed was progress, by segregating their children into a Jewish school. Becauseantisemitism had decreased substantially since the Second World War, this group of Jews felt that now was14. ‘Pro and con Forum On Day Schools,” J.W.B., 7 May 1954, p. 2.15. Dr. Sidney Zbarsky interview.16. Dr. Moses Steinberg interview.85their opportunity to integrate into the general community. The Peretz School was not actively opposed to theday school. However, the concepts espoused by the Talmud Torah (religious, Hebrew, traditional) were inopposition to the left-wing politics of this group of secular Yiddishists’7.Nevertheless, the supporters of thePeretz School were not really a significant force in the Vancouver Jewish community because of their smallnumbers, their lack of involvement in leadership roles18 in the major community organizations (CanadianJewish Congress, Zionist Organization, Hadassah, synagogues), and their lack of material resources.’9Another group, opposed to any form of private education, believed that there should be one public systemof education for all.Those who were actively opposed to the day school were fairly small in number, as were those whowere solidly in support of it. The majority of the Vancouver Jewish community were indifferent.20.Mostmembers of the group in favour of the day school were either veiy Orthodox or European survivors of theHolocaust. Their attitude toward the non-Jewish community was not all that friendly because of theirexperiences, and so they did not oppose segregation. Nevertheless, there were disagreements, even amongthose who were in favour of setting up a day school, with regard to curriculum and hiring practices. Dr.Steinberg explains.The less religious element or the secularist element. .., because some of them were veiyfairly secularist, were for the most part pro-Zionist [as were many of the religious]. [They]wanted Jvrit b ‘ivrit [Hebrew immersion], which was important to all of us but they putmuch more stress on that.. . . [T]hey wanted to reduce the amount of Judaic studies, andmore on language and it didn’t matter to them whether the teachers were religious or weren’treligious as long as they were good competent teachers of language and history and so on.There were certain stresses at times, especially when it came to appointing teachers butit never erupted in any serious confrontation.2’17. A Yiddishist is an advocate of the Yiddish language.18. The Peretz School had very good leadership within their organization.19. Dr. Moses Steinberg telephone interview.20. See charts on next page for the number of Jewish children attending day schools in Canada as compared to the number attendingafternoon schools and also for a comparison of the situation in 1933 with that of 1958.21. Dr. Moses Steinberg interview.


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