Rabbi co-owned Miriam’s Fine Judaica for 41 years
This article appeared originally in the Canadian Jewish News and appears here courtesy of the author. © 2008 by Cynthia Gasner.
Rabbi William Rosenthal, a beloved teacher and dedicated volunteer who co-owned Miriam’s Fine Judaica for 41 years, died on April 11 (2008). He was 97.
Born in Miskolc, Hungary in 1911, he and his brother operated a lumber business. He had attended yeshiva and at age 34, he became engaged to Miriam Schwarcz who lived in Komarno, Czechoslovakia.
The wedding was planned to take place in Miskolc, but in 1944, things were very difficult for the Jews.
With the help of a gentile friend and employee who provided Miriam with false identity papers from his own daughter, Miriam was taken to Miskolc by her father’s friend, Miriam said.
Miriam and William were married on April 5, 1944, several hours after she arrived in Hungary.
Three months later, William was taken to work in a slave labour camp in the Carpathian Mountains. Miriam was taken from the ghetto to Auschwitz and there she discovered that she was four months pregnant.
Their stories of survival are filled with suffering and miracles. After liberation, they were reunited, and to William’s surprise, they had a four-month-old baby boy.
They came to Toronto after travelling to Bratislava, Prague, Paris and Cuba. After working in a mattress company for a short time, William obtained a position in Timmins, Ont., as a rabbi and Hebrew teacher. After one year, the family moved to Sudbury, where he served for 16 years as rabbi, cantor and teacher.
In 1965, the family moved to Toronto and opened Miriam’s Fine Judaica on Bathurst Street at Caribou Road which the Rosenthals operated for 41 years.
Knowledgeable about Jewish rituals, he was often asked for advice. When a man came to the store who said he had to say Kaddish and needed tfillin but couldn’t afford them, Rabbi Rosenthal gave him the tfillin and taught him how to put them on and how to recite the prayer, his daughter, Lilian, said.
Through the years, he served as rabbi and cantor for High Holy Day services in communities such as Halifax, Glace Bay, Nova Scotia, Guelph, Ontario, and Welland, Ontario.
His passion for Jewish learning led him to perform many services for the elderly as a volunteer telling Yiddish stories and performing Hebrew and liturgical songs. He was recently honoured for more than 2,000 hours of service at Baycrest.
He is survived by his wife Miriam, sons Leslie and his wife Annette; Murray and his wife Margo; daughter Lilian; seven grandchildren, and seven great-grandchildren.