Book cover image for: Rabbis and their Community: Studies in the Eastern European Orthodox Rabbinate in Montreal, 1896-1930

Rabbis and their Community: Studies in the Eastern European Orthodox Rabbinate in Montreal, 1896-1930

Ira Robinson

$34.95 CAD / $39.95 USD

178 pages, 3 illustrations

6 x 9 inches

978-1-55238-186-1 (Paperback)

978-1-55238-436-7 (Institutional PDF)

September 2007

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About the Book

In one of the few studies of the early immigrant Orthodox rabbinate in North America, Ira Robinson has delved into the Jewish community in Montreal in the first three decades of the twentieth century.

Rabbis and their Community introduces several rabbis who, in various ways, impacted their immediate congregations as well as the wider Montreal Jewish community. Most studies of the early North American rabbinate focus on only one rabbi. Here, though, Robinson carefully examines the interrelationship among a number of rabbis sharing the same communal “turf.” He has diligently researched the unpublished source material these men, generally forgotten to history, left behind.

Their writing offers a valuable glimpse at some of the struggles and challenges they faced in their own community, as well as those faced by Canadian Jewish society as a whole in the early twentieth century. Robinson introduces the reader to such leaders as Rabbi Hirsh Cohen, a fixture in the Jewish community of Montreal from 1901 through the late 1940s, Rabbi Simon Glazer, Cohen’s main rival for the chief rabbinate, and revolutionary thinker Rabbi Yudel Rosenberg.

The issues they faced, such as the Kosher meat wars of the 1920s, and the institutions they created, most notably the Jewish Community Council of Montreal, were factors of fundamental importance for the development of the second-largest Jewish community in Canada.

About the Author

Ira Robinson is a professor of Judaic studies in the Department of Religion at Concordia University in Montreal. He has taught at Concordia since 1979 and has published extensively in the area of Jewish studies.

Praise for Rabbis and Their Community

Rabbis and Their Community makes a serious scholarly contribution to the history of American- and Canadian-Jewish life and leaves the reader eager for more information and research into the undeservedly neglected world of North-American Orthodoxy.

—Simcha Fishbane, Canadian Jewish Studies

Robinson’s book is pioneering within the Canadian Jewish context and a noteworthy contribution for those interested in immigrant rabbis, the history of Montreal’s Jewish community, and Canadian ethnic studies . . . this book is an eye-opener to a new and to date neglected aspect of Montreal’s Jewish communal history.

—Kimmy Caplan, American Jewish History

Table of Contents


Introduction: The Yiddish-speaking Orthodox Rabbinate in North America and its Importance

"Pa Is a Mussolini": A Portrait of Rabbi Hirsh Cohen

Rabbi Simon Glazier: A Rival for the Chief Rabbinate

Rabbi Yudel Rosenberg: Kabbalist and Communal Leader

Rabbis and Shohstim: The Cases of Getsel Laxer and Hyman Crestohl

The Founding of the Jewish Community Council of Montreal (Va’ad ha-‘Ir)

New Thoughts from an Ancient Source: Hirsh Wolofsky’s Commentary on the Torah



WINNER, J.I. Segal Award for Canadian Jewish Studies | 2008