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Abramowitz, Herman


ABRAMOWITZ, HERMAN (1880–1947), Canadian rabbi. Born in Lithuania, Abramowitz moved to New York City with his family in 1890. He received a B.A. from the City College of New York (ccny) in 1900 and was ordained at the *Jewish Theological Seminary (jts) two years later. He was appointed rabbi at Montreal's Shaar Hashomayim synagogue in 1902, where he served until his death 44 years later. In 1907 he was also the first student to earn a D.H.L. at jts.

Although Abramowitz initially felt some discomfort about being outside the United States (and later reminisced that his departure from New York for Montreal "was like pioneering on distant foreign fields") he grew to embrace his congregation and Canadian Jewry. He was regarded an effective, dignified, and caring spiritual leader. Many of his sermons were reprinted in the English-language Canadian Jewish press. He encouraged the congregational Sunday school and lay involvement in the synagogue. Abramowitz was also involved in Jewish communal life outside the synagogue. In his first decade in Montreal, he visited western farm colonies in Quebec and western Canada as a representative of the *Jewish Colonization Association. He was instrumental in raising funds for tb patients at Montreal's Mount Sinai Hospital, and in 1913 he was an expert witness on the Talmud in a law suit against the Quebec notary and journalist Plamondon, who delivered a speech (subsequently printed) accusing Jews of the *blood libel.

With the outbreak of wwi, Abramowitz served as chaplain to the Jewish soldiers in Canada. He held the rank of captain. In the interwar period, he was on the board of the Federation of Jewish Philanthropies of Montreal, the Montreal Talmud Torah, and the Montreal General Hospital. During wwii, although suffering from failing health, he chaired the Religious Welfare Committee of Canadian Jewish Congress. Abramowitz also left his mark on Conservative Judaism. In 1926 he was elected president of the *United Synagogue of America, the first person from outside the United States.

During Abramowitz's tenure, Shaar Hashomayim became the congregation of Montreal's "uptown" elite. His congregants included the wealthiest members of the community, including factory owners at odds with their Jewish workers. This may have led to suspicion of Abramowitz by the Jewish masses. Over time, however, he seems to have earned the respect of many of the "downtown" Jews and the Yiddish journalist B.G. *Sack wrote a heartfelt obituary in the Yiddish daily, the Kanader Adler.

[Richard Menkis (2nd ed.)]

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