Israel Isaac KAHANOVITCH (1872-1945)

Israel was born at Wolpa Grodna Governorate, Russian Empire (Poland) on 08 October 1872. He was the son of Rabbi Yehoshua Falk Kahanovitch and Chana Minces Goldin. He was of the priestly family of ‘Cohanim’, descendants of the high priests of the ancient temple of Jerusalem.

On 05 July 1896, he married Chiah Rachel Kleiman and they had eight children:  Fanny (1899-1974, wife of S Wohlgelernter), Sophia (1902-1974, wife of N Helman), Fred (1904-1978), Nellie (1906-1997), Goldie Liebe (1910-?), Esther (1912-2000, wife Nathan Harris), Moses Elijah (1915-1983) and Harry Philmore (1918-1997). The family struggled to make ends meet and supplemented his salary by maintaining a vegetable garden, chicken coop and five goats behind their house.


Rabbi Kahanovitch began his rabbinical studies at the age of 10 and studied at Grodno yeshiva and at the Slabodka yeshiva in Kovno Governorate. He was ordained a rabbi when he was 20 years old. He continued his studies in Russia and served as the rabbi of Suwałki, Poland from 1900 to 1905 when he and his family left for the United States to escape anti-Semitic pogroms. He served as a rabbi at Scranton, PA until 1906.

Rabbi Kahanovitch was the chief rabbi of Winnipeg and western Canada. He was called to Winnipeg in 1906 and found the settlement without a leader or any adequate institutions for religious education, the care of the sick and the housing of the aged and orphaned. He succeeded in establishing the city’s first Talmud Torah, the Hebrew Free School, at the corner of Dufferin Avenue and Charles Street and the second Talmud Torah at Flora Avenue and Charles Street. He served the Jewish community for over 40 years as its devoted religious leader. He helped to build the Jewish Old ‘Folks’ Home and the Jewish Orphanage and established the United Hebrew Charities in Winnipeg. He travelled in western Canada to support them.

Rabbi Kahanovitch attended Canadian Zionist conferences and was a member of the dominion executive while staying within orthodox rabbinic practice. He made efforts to bridge the divide between religious and secular Jews.

Rabbi Kahanovitch died at his Winnipeg home, 281 Flora Avenue, on 22 June 1945 and is buried in the Shaarey Zedek Cemetery. On 12 January 2010, Rabbi Kahanovitch was named a Person of National History Significance by the Government of Canada. A commemorative plaque was unveiled at the Jewish Heritage Center in Winnipeg on 22 March 2016. A Manitoba Heritage Council Plaque, also, honours him at the YMHA. – Jewish Community Centre in Winnipeg.


  • Birth Registration, Manitoba Vital Statistics.
  • JewishGen Online Worldwide Burial Registry (JOWBR)
  • “Chief Rabbi in Winnipeg Dies”, Winnipeg Free Press, 23 June 1945, pages 1 & 7.
  • “Israel Isaac Kahanovitch”,
  • Obituary [Nellie Kahanovitch], Winnipeg Free Press, 11 April 1997, page C11.
  • Obituary [Dr Harry Kahanovitch], Winnipeg Free Press, 28 October 1997, page C8.


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