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


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

Lapidus, Steven (2011) Orthodoxy in Transition: The Vaad Ha’ir of Montreal in the Twentieth Century. PhD thesis, Concordia University.

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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.
Centering this study on the archives of the Vaad Ha’ir of Montreal in the 1950s and 60s, I have identified the challenges faced by voluntary Jewish communal bodies in North America. Although the archives are mostly limited to the mid-century period, the analysis takes us beyond that point into the twenty-first century to examine how these changes have affected Orthodoxy in the long term. Questions of ethnic identity, Orthodox adaptability, and communal boundaries are reflected within the records of this community, and form the basis of my analysis.
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. By the end of the century, the agenda of the Vaad Ha’ir of Montreal was decidedly narrower than previously. 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.

Divisions:Concordia University > Faculty of Arts and Science > Religion
Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Authors:Lapidus, Steven
Institution:Concordia University
Degree Name:Ph. D.
Date:April 2011
Thesis Supervisor(s):Robinson, Ira
ID Code:7228
Deposited On:13 Jun 2011 15:08
Last Modified:01 Feb 2012 19:49
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