Bercovitch, Peter

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BERCOVITCH, PETER (1879–1942), Canadian labor lawyer, politician, and Jewish community leader. Bercovich was born in Montreal. The son of Romanian immigrants, he attended Université Laval à Montreal and McGill University before entering legal practice. He was an activist on behalf of Montreal's underprivileged Jewish workers and was soon a favorite speaker at many community political meetings and rallies of fraternal, charitable, and social organizations in the city's Jewish quarters. He represented the workers during the protracted and bitter strikes in the Montreal men's clothing industry in 1916 and 1917, forcing improvement in labor conditions from the mostly Jewish manufacturers.

Bercovich became the first president of the Jewish Immigrant Aid Society and in the 1920s joined the Jewish community's court battle for equal rights for Jews in Quebec's schools, insisting on an accommodation within existing structures rather than a separate Jewish school system. A prominent Liberal Party member, Bercovich was elected to the Quebec Legislative Assembly for Montreal's Saint-Louis constituency in 1916 and was re-elected six times. He fought for a solution to the school question and supported measures to help the disadvantaged. He also shepherded a bill through the Quebec Assembly which validated Jewish marriages and authorized rabbis to keep registers of civil status. In 1938 Bercovich was elected to the federal House of Commons, where he served until his death.

[Gerald Tulchinsky (2nd ed.)]