Harry J. Stern

1897-1984

Harry J. Stern 1897-1984

1978 Social Social

Harry J. Stern was born on April 24, 1897 in Lithuania. He received his early education in Mir, the site of one of the most important orthodox synagogues in the world ‒ providential preparation for the role he would play in the Jewish community in Canada.

Rabbi Stern studied at the University of Cincinnati and obtained his rabbinical degree from the Hebrew Union College and the University of Chicago. He was the author of many essays and sermon pamphlets and wrote nine books on religious and Zionist subjects. He attended the First Jewish Congress in Geneva, Switzerland, in 1936, and was elected its secretary; he was also elected to the Executive Board of the Central Conference of American Rabbis.

His biblical and original Talmudic education offered him a background that would make him an acceptable interlocutor for a variety of groups that made up the Jewish community in our country, the majority of which were orthodox. Hired in 1927 by the Temple Emanuel, a synagogue located at the corner of Sherbrooke and Elm in Westmount, he would be its rabbi for 45 years. In exercising this function, he would play a vital role in building a united Jewish community in Montréal. He initiated or seconded many community projects, such as Montréal’s Jewish General Hospital, and made an active contribution, along with H. M. Caiserman, to the creation of the Canadian Jewish Congress, an organization that represents all Jewish organizations in Canada, most likely making it the only country in the world where the Jewish community can speak as one.

Very early on he convinced members of his congregation to make Temple Emanuel a place for meeting and mutual understanding between followers of different religions. In 1928, he inaugurated his annual Fellowship Dinner, where clerics and laypeople of different faiths socialized and where the Brotherhood Awards of Merit were handed out to those who distinguished themselves for their spirit of fraternity. Recipients included provincial premiers and Canadian prime ministers, judges and Cardinal Paul-Émile Léger.

Harry J. Stern was named to the academy of Great Montrealers in 1978.

Photo Credit : Archives nationales du Congrès juif canadien, comité des charités (Canadian Jewish Congress Charities Committee National Archives)