Becker, Lavy M., 1905-2001

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Becker, Lavy M., 1905-2001

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      • Lavi Becker

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      Lavy Mordecai Becker was a rabbi, businessman, and lifelong community worker. Born on December 22, 1905 in Montreal to Russian immigrant parents (his father, Barnett Becker, was a shoḥet and cantor), Lavy Becker split his young adulthood between Montreal and New York, where he studied Talmud at Yeshiva College. He earned a B.A. at McGill University in 1926, and was ordained by the Jewish Theological Seminary in 1930. During his rabbinical studies, he was mentored by Mordecai Kaplan, founder of Reconstructionist Judaism who observed and taught a more expansive, civilization-like understanding of Judaism.

      Following his graduation, Becker became rabbi at the Sunnyside Jewish Center in New York; over the next ten years he occupied executive positions at the Jewish Community Centers of Detroit and New Haven, and served as Executive Director of the YM-YWHA in Montreal. In 1945, Becker's knowledge of Yiddish became particularly useful when he was appointed country director for displaced persons in the American Zone of Occupation under the Joint Distribution Committee and UNRWA, where he was responsible for the wellbeing of thousands of Holocaust survivors and helped repatriate refugees in Munich.

      Upon returning to Montreal, Becker assumed a part in the family business, the Rubenstein Bros. Company, and then opened Lavy Becker Consultants, though the extent of his paid work was limited. In 1951, he became founding rabbi at the new Conservative synagogue Congregation Beth-El in the Jewish community of Mount Royal. In 1960, he opened a Reconstructionist synagogue in Montreal, Dorshei Emet, where he served as rabbi (unpaid) until 1977.

      Throughout the 1950s through 1970s, Becker served on the executive board of the Canadian Jewish Congress (as National Officer and National Vice-President) and the World Jewish Congress, where, as the Chairman of the WJC Commission on Small Communities, he was tasked with visiting small Jewish communities around the world to foster ties and produce reports. His travels took him mostly to the Caribbean and Latin America (predominantly Cuba, where he was the officially liaison beginning in 1971), and Iceland. In the mid-1960s, he was appointed chairman of the Centennial Interfaith Council, helping organize Canada's 1967 centennial celebrations; he was also Executive Chairman of Federation of Jewish Community Services, served on the board of governors of the Canadian Welfare Council and the Combined Jewish Appeal, served on the board of directors of the America-Israel Cultural Foundation, and was National Vice-President of the Zionist Organization of Canada, President of the Federation of Reconstructionist Synagogues (1969 to 72) and chairman of the Board of Overseers of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College (1969 to 74).

      Becker was married to Augusta Shapiro Becker. He passed away in Montreal in 2001 at the age of 96. He had two children: son Hillel and daughter Ilana.


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