Rabbi Yisroel Janowski, who died April 4 in Toronto at the age of 74, was deeply involved in the ultimately unsuccessful campaign to have public funding extended to Jewish schools in Ontario. He often hosted politicians in his sukkah, to name but one example of his outreach efforts.
Rabbi Janowski is survived by his wife Chani and children Mendel, Chaim Dovid, and Dovi Janowski. He was predeceased by his daughter Hudi Bernstein.
Thornhill MPP Gila Martow contributed her memories of Rabbi Janowski—and asked other members of the community for their thoughts.
A pillar of political engagement in Thornhill’s Jewish community has passed away. Rabbi Yisroel Janowski was a respected activist in Thornhill politics, who I considered a close friend and confidant. We attended many meetings together and I recall Rabbi Janowski challenging Mayor John Tory, when he was Ontario’s Conservative Leader, that he must recognize the antisemitism faced by Orthodox Jews “when they take the subway looking like me.” He was, of course, referring to the black suit, white shirt, black hat and beard.
I thought about the pain I would have shared with Rabbi Janowski this week when social media shared videos and stories of hundreds of Orthodox Jews denied connecting flights by Lufthansa Air, following several Orthodox Jews not following masking protocols on a flight from New York to Frankfurt.
A wise, kind and caring man, Yisroel was generous with political counsel, quick with a smile.
—Peter Kent, former MP for Thornhill and broadcaster
I knew very little about Hasidic Judaism but Rabbi Janowski made me completely comfortable within my first 10 minutes with him. He was a man who appeared to be ‘old world’ but who had a complete command of current affairs and notably, politics, as it affected his community. He fought hard for Jewish families of lesser means to get the education he believed that their kids deserved… and he became my friend.
—Peter Shurman, former MPP for Thornhill and radio host
Rabbi Janowski will always be remembered as a kind, caring and compassionate individual who cared deeply about the well-being of others. He was an active and engaged citizen who was passionately involved in civic affairs, including his dedicated efforts to advance fair funding of faith-based schools. His leadership and guidance in Jewish education have left a lasting legacy that will be remembered for generations. His commitment to improve the quality of life and access to education in Thornhill and beyond is truly commendable.
—Maurizio Bevilacqua, Mayor of Vaughan
Yisroel Janowski was an activist rabbi who invested a great deal of time and effort into school funding, the security of the state of Israel and the health of the Jewish community. He was extremely effective in engaging those who could make positive change, and supported elected representatives who shared values and ensured the Jewish community remained a people of high purpose.
—James Pasternak, Toronto Councillor for York Centre
The sudden loss of Rabbi Yisroel Janowski took my breath away. He was my friend and political ally for 30 years.
He was an advisor, sounding board, and fellow organizer. But more than that, he was a true friend. Almost every erev Shabbat for the 16 years I lived in Ottawa, he called me to wish me a Shabbat Shalom and to find out if I was okay.
He raised an amazing family with his wife Chani, who epitomizes the concept of eshet chayil. The loss of his daughter Hudi was a huge blow to him, one that I understood and a pain that I could share.
The Jewish community may not appreciate the loss they have suffered with his passing. I can tell you personally that I will miss him, and send my deepest and most profound condolences to his family.
—Georganne Burke, senior vice-president of Pathway Group
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