People of the Jewish community of Sherbrooke
Reverend Avrum Mittleman,
Spiritual Leader of Congregation Agudath Achim,
Sherbrooke, Quebec, 1919- 1954:
– by Merle Kastner Oct. 26, 1998
Abraham ‘Avrum’ Samuel Mittleman was born in Sitney, Minsk Gubernia, Russia on January 15th, 1892, “the fourth youngest child of a family of eight boys and two girls, whose father served as a teacher. He was also the one man in town who could write Russian, and therefore, was the link between their shtetl and the outside world. And at an early age, the importance of service to fellow man was stressed in Avrum’s family.”
“As a young boy in his teens, Mr. Mittleman became a Shochet (overseeing the provision of Kosher meat, in accordance with Hebrew laws), accepting a position in a town near his home in Russia. At the age of 21, the young man set out for Toronto, accepting a position in Owen Sound, Ontario, remaining there for several years. His next position was in Hawkesbury, Ontario, to which town he brought his bride, our friend, Bessie Dora Denenberg, of Montreal. Finally, in May of 1919, Mr. & Mrs. Mittleman with their young son Joseph, settled in Sherbrooke.” One month later, their daughter, Gertrude was born in Montreal; and four and a half years after that, Mrs. Mittleman gave birth to another daughter Eta, in Sherbrooke.
Reverend Mittleman was the devoted spiritual leader, the Shochet, the Hebrew teacher and the backbone of the Sherbrooke Jewish Community, until his retirement in March of 1954. Although the salary he received was very modest, he performed his duties, with unequaled love and dedication, for all of his thirty-five years of service, these being the pinnacle of the Jewish Community. This was a small community of approximately 50 Jewish families, but he rarely failed to gather a minyan (quorum of 10 male Jews) for religious services.
“At a farewell testimonial dinner, given by the Congregation Agudath Achim, the Community Hall was filled to capacity, as the local congregation paid tribute to its former spiritual leader and to his tireless and conscientious leadership. Mr. M. Smith, the community president, spoke of the harmony which prevailed during Reverend Mittleman’s career.”
He then went on to recount how he as “a young man, full of enthusiasm, was ready to assume the duties of spiritual leader, teacher and shochet. The impetus he provided had, together with the cooperation of lay leaders, been responsible for the erection of the present (synagogue) structure on Montreal street. So devoted was Rabbi Mittleman to this task, that he almost literally saw every brick go into place”, said another speaker.
“Sherbrooke indeed, has been very fortunate in having had Rabbi Abraham Samuel Mittleman as their guide all these years. There is hardly a community of our size whose record can be matched. For 34 years, Mr. Mittleman has been on the job, literally and figuratively. So close and necessary has he been, that, until recently he hardly enjoyed or took a vacation for himself.”
“Both Mr. & Mrs. Mittleman were involved in general community work as well as the life of the Jewish congregation. Mrs. Mittleman was active in Hadassah, the Ladies’ Auxiliary, the I.O.D.E., the Victorian Order of Nurses, and the Y.W.C.A. Auxiliary.”
A wartime security measure established by the Government in Britain in 1940 directed that many of their non-British residents, who had been born in countries then at war with them, were to be interned. Many were sent to special internment camps in Canada, and among them were three young Jewish men assigned to a camp in Sherbrooke. The Mittleman family offered to assume responsibility for one of them, who had been born in Vienna, Austria. His name was Fred Kaufman, and he was allowed to accept the invitation to live with the Mittlemans in their own home, while their own son, Sergeant Joseph Mittleman, was serving with the R.A.F. in Africa. The young Fred Kaufman rose to prominence, later being appointed Judge of the Court of Appeal of the Province of Quebec.
“The congregation Agudath Achim was first established in 1906. Religious services at that time were held in a building at the corner of Frontenac and Dufferin Streets. The synagogue was the focal point of all Jewish activity in the Townships.”
After Reverend Mittleman’s retirement, a disappointing trail of successors came and went, until the demise of the community, ending with the sale of the synagogue building. “About 70 former and current members of the dispersed Sherbrooke Jewish community gathered at the Agudath Achim synagogue Sunday, to participate in special farewell service, asking for God’s forgiveness, marked the end of an era of Jewish community life in the Eastern Townships. Present at Sunday’s closing service was Mrs. Gertrude Mittleman Schachter and her sister, Mrs. Eta Mittleman Golt, daughters of the Reverend Rabbi Abraham S. Mittleman, who was for thirty-five years, the spiritual leader of the community.”
Following his retirement, Reverend Mittleman moved to an apartment in the Cote des Neiges section of Montreal, where he joined the nearby Spanish & Portuguese Synagogue, becoming the ‘right hand man’ of Rabbi Solomon Frank. There, he led a
weekly Talmud-interpretation discussion group on Shabbat, before Mincha-Maariv services. In 1964, the Mittlemans began to spend the winter months in Miami Beach, Florida. There Reverend Mittleman conducted his weekly Shabbat groups, at Temple Emanu-El, 1701 Washington, corner of Lincoln Drive, “Miami Beach’s largest and most imposing synagogue: a shulknown for its excellent lecture series.”
His wife Dora predeceased him in August 9, 1959 in Montreal, at the age of 64. When he died in Florida on December 10th, 1970, his family was able to look back, with pride and admiration, at his exemplary life and distinguished career.
1.Congregation Agudath Achim Bulletin, (531 Montreal St., Sherbrooke, Quebec)
2. Congregation Agudath Achim Bulletin.
3. “The Sherbrooke Daily Record”, March 8, 1954.
4. “The Sherbrooke Daily Record”, March 8, 1954.
5. Congregation Agudath Achim Bulletin.
6. Congregation Agudath Achim Bulletin.
7. “The Sherbrooke Daily Record”, August 3, 1983.
8. “The Sherbrooke Daily Record”, August 3, 1983.
9. “Miami’s Jewish History Dates Back to 1895”, by Lewis Eric Lachter, special to
“The Canadian Jewish News”, October 22, 1998.
Other sources of information: Mrs. Gertrude Mittleman Schachter, Mrs. Eta Mittleman
Powell Golt, Mr. Raphael Schachter, Q.C.
“Miami‘s Jewish History Dates Back to 1895″, by Lewis Eric Lachter, special to “The Canadian Jewish News”, October 22, 1998.
Other sources of information: Mrs. Gertrude Mittleman Schachter, Mrs. Eta Mittleman Powell Golt,
Mr. Raphael Schachter, Q.C.