Rabbi Wilfred Shuchat is one of the most prominent rabbinical figures in the history of Canadian Jewry.
“Had Leonard not passed away I believe this would have been the year he participated in one of our reunions,” Rabbi Shuchat told me. “He had a successful career, travelling around the world, so when we gathered for the 50th and 60th anniversaries and other occasions he’d always apologize for being unavailable.”
Rabbi Shuchat formally retired in 1993. One of his personal career highlights was conceiving and consulting on the Pavilion of Judaism at Montreal’s World’s Fair, Expo ’67. World-class in both design and content, this marked the only time in history that such a pavilion was featured at a World’s Fair. He studied at, receiving his BA in 1941, and was ordained at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in 1945, awarding him an honorary D.D. in 1971. He was rabbi in Albany, NY at the Congregation Sons of Israel and after that in Buffalo at Temple Beth El before returning home to the Shaar.
Fleming is so excited about this reunion that he has been calling me since last winter. “It is remarkable that our bar mitzvah group has remained in such close contact all these years,” he says. “And who else can boast about the fact that their mentor, in our case Rabbi Shuchat, is still there for them 70 years later?”
Fleming and Gelber had successful careers in real estate. Bercuvitz and Goldsmith were accountants, Shapiro an architect, Cohen in the carpeting business and Lands worked at Future Electronics. He retired, but still works in a similar industry. One other bar mitzvah boy is Steve Bernstein, but he can’t make the reunion.
“It will an honour for us all to be reunited again,” said Fleming. “Rabbi Shuchat is remarkable. He married myself and my two brothers. We have a special connection.”
Adds Elliott Shuchat, the rabbi’s nephew: “What can I possibly say that could add more tribute to a man who believes in what he does and never looked at the rabbinate as a career move this event which Ray Fleming is setting up is more an idea that he had. The rabbi’s daughter Bryna and I both know that this is not a project of Rabbi Shuchat or the Shaar and that he does not want to take centre or right stage for it. Rabbi Shuchat is quite humble.”
Mike Cohen is B’nai Brith Canada’s Quebec news bureau chief, a veteran writer and municipal politician. He can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @mikecohencsl