The Butchers’ Shul

June 25, 2020

During the 1930s and 1940s, Winnipeg Jews were embroiled in what historians Arthur Chiel, Allan Levine and, Rabbi Moishe Stern have referred to as the ‘kashrut question’, the kosher wars. Few circumstances and events were as contentious and vitriolic as those that lead to the creation in 1937 of Beth Judah, the butchers’ shul, which functioned until 1971. Jewish butchers, often at odds with rabbinic authority and its dictates on kashrut, were especially angered at having to pay a fee to the Kehillah (community council) for each head of cattle slaughtered. The Kehillah had been created by the synagogues in 1911 to coordinate religious affairs, but dissolved in 1912 amidst turmoil and the inability to assert control. In the early 1930s, Rabbi Israel Kahanovitch sought to reassert authority by creating a council consisting of himself and Rabbis Joshua Horowitz and Asher Zilberstein. The butchers opposed Kahanovitch’s influence, organized themselves as the shtot komitet (city committee), and brought in Chaim Herson as their own rabbi. The Winnipeg Jewish Community Council (the governing body of Winnipeg Jewry) attempted to placate them by inviting Herson to serve on Kahanovitch’s council. Opposed to this, several butchers established the Retail Kosher Butchers’ Association and hired Rabbi Meyer Schwartzman as mashgiach to supervise their shops.

Suggested reading

Chiel, Arthur. The Jews in Manitoba: A Social History. Toronto, University of

    Toronto Press, 1961.

Levine, Allan. Coming of Age: A History of the Jewish People of Manitoba.

    Winnipeg: Heartland Associates Inc., 2009.