Clanton Park’s rabbi set to retire after 30 years

Clanton Park Synagogue will honour Rabbi Yitzchok Kerzner and his wife Rebbitzen Bash Kerzner at a tribute dinner on May 7 (2002) at Paradise Banquet Hall.

Well known for his knowledge of halachah and for his many contributions to this city’s Jewish community, Rabbi Kerzner is retiring from his pulpit duties at Clanton Park after heading the Orthodox congregation for 30 years.

Wayne Kurtz, co-chair of the tribute committee with Joseph Edell, said the dinner will express the congregation’s gratitude to their rabbi for his three decades of leadership.

“Many people in the community will be joining us at the dinner in recognition of Rabbi Kerzner’s outstanding contributions to our community,” Kurtz said.

Rabbi Kerzner, who was born in Vienna, received smichah (rabbinic ordination) from Torah V’Odaath. He came to the United States in 1939 with his parents and settled in Brooklyn, N.Y. He studied at the Advanced Research Institute (Beth Medrash Elyon) in Monsey, N.Y., and obtained a degree in political science at Brooklyn College.

Rabbi Kerzner’s first pulpit position after graduation was in New London, Conn., where he founded the Hebrew day school of North East Connecticut. From 1957 to 1972, he served in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. He later became dean of the Israel Ben Zion Academy and was a co-founder of the Mesifta Yeshiva High School in Scranton, Pa.

In 1972, the Kerzners moved to Toronto, where the rabbi helped Clanton Park become one of the most active Orthodox congregations in Canada.

Shortly after his arrival here, he became the assistant to Rabbi Gedalia Felder, who chaired the Rabbinical Vaad Hakashruth before its name changed to the Kashruth Council of Canada (COR). Upon Rabbi Felder’s death, Rabbi Kerzner stepped into the top position.

Rabbi Kerzner has also been active with the Vaad Harabonim of Toronto.

Throughout the years, along with his work at Clanton Park, Rabbi Kerzner became involved with various schools and yeshivot.

“There has been a very significant growth, quantitatively and qualitatively in Toronto,” he says. “When I came here, there were 90,000 Jews, today I believe there are close to 200,000.”

There has been tremendous growth in Jewish education and advanced Torah studies, Rabbi Kerzner says.

“Toronto is one of the fastest growing Jewish communities in North America. On the part of the younger generation, there is tremendous growth of Jewish observance and Jewish education.”

Although he is retiring as rabbi of Clanton Park, Rabbi Kerzner plans to continue teaching and working at the Kashruth Council. He is also committed to Israel. His retirement, he says, will give him more time to work on behalf of the Jewish State.

He added he is looking forward to spending more time with his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Rabbi Kerzner received high praise from the city’s community leaders.

“Rabbi Kerzner has managed to build bridges with diverse elements of the community both within and without,” said Bob Silberstein, president of Clanton Park Synagogue. “This legacy of unity is one we will strive to continue and emulate into the future.

“From a personal perspective, as president, dealing with Rabbi Kerzner has been a great pleasure. His humility and co-operative spirit have been inspiring.”

Rabbi Mordechai Levin, executive director of the Kashruth Council said, “Words alone cannot describe the unceasing personal care and dedication Rav Kerzner has demonstrated as chairman of the Rabbinical Vaad Hakashruth. He has sought and worked to attain the highest standards of kashrut for the city of Toronto.

“Rabbi Kerzner strives to maintain unity of the many segments in the community without compromising the principles of kashrut,” Rabbi Levin said. “He has a gift of putting things in proper perspective and has often brought a touch of humour to many tense situations.”

Rebbitzen Kerzner, who was born in Brooklyn, taught pre-school at the Yeshiva of Brighton, where she met her husband. She has been very active in Clanton Park Synagogue’s Sisterhood as well as other communal and educational organizations, and is one of the founders of the present-day chevrah kadishah.

The Kerzners have been married for 50 years. ♦

This article appeared originally in the Canadian Jewish News and appears here courtesy of the author. © 2002 by Cynthia Gasner

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