Orthodoxy in Transition: The Vaad Ha'ir of Montreal in the Twentieth Century

Type of resource
Orthodoxy in Transition: The Vaad Ha'ir of Montreal in the Twentieth Century
In 1922, a group of eastern European Jewish immigrants joined together to form the Jewish Community Council of Montreal (Vaad Ha’ir) to coordinate and organize the growing Jewish population's communal needs. Merging Orthodox and secular elements, the Vaad Ha’ir of Montreal was founded to manage the basics of Jewish life in Canada: reliable kosher food, Jewish education, communal cooperation, and mutual aid. Beset by struggle, competition, recalcitrant butchers, wayward kosher slaughterers, and conniving wholesalers, the Vaad's history has been an active one. The author centers his study on the archives of the Vaad Ha'ir of Montreal in the 1950s and 60s, identifying the challenges faced by voluntary Jewish communal bodies in North America. He argues that although the Vaad Ha'ir aspired to recreate a European-style communal council that would dictate virtually every aspect of Jewish life, as was the case in Europe, the new North American reality would not permit such authority. Faced with new social and legal circumstances, the history of the Vaad Ha'ir illuminates the struggle of traditional Jewish communities in North America to address the challenges of voluntary societies and personal freedom. The author points out that by the end of the twentieth century, the agenda of the Vaad Ha'ir of Montreal was decidedly narrower than previously. He notes that this winnowing of communal power and influence provides evidence that that European-style communal councils were not easily amenable to the new reality of individual liberties in the new world.
PhD dissertation
Concordia University
Lapidus, Steven. “Orthodoxy in Transition: The Vaad Ha’ir of Montreal in the Twentieth Century.” PhD dissertation, Concordia University, 2011. http://spectrum.library.concordia.ca/7228/1/Lapidus_PhD_S2011.pdf.
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