Montrealצילום: איסטוק

Rabbi Howard Joseph, who served as the spiritual leader of Montreal’s Spanish and Portuguese Congregation – the oldest synagogue in Canada – for four decades, has passed away.

Rabbi Joseph was a longtime mainstay of the modern Orthodox movement in Canada, and was also well known for his work on interfaith relations.

He began leading the Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue in 1970, after receiving his rabbinic ordination in 1964.

Coming from New York to Montreal to lead the synagogue, he was given the job of steering through a changing congregation that had been prominently Ashkenazi to one that was mainly Sephardi, and a mix of different communities, Iraqi, Lebanese, and Moroccan, each with differing traditions. Rabbi Joseph, who was Ashkenazi, understood “that there is more to Judaism than one’s nationality, and thus he has encompassed the qualities that the Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue embrace,” said the synagogue’s website. He had been the rabbi emeritus there since 2009 when he retired.

Rabbi Jospeh was well known and highly respected not only in Montreal but also throughout Canada and Israel, it said a memorial statement.

He was also active in education and communal positions, including Chairman of the Religious and Inter-Religious Affairs Committee of Canadian Jewish Congress, President of the Rabbinical Council of Canada and of the Board of Jewish Ministers of Montreal. He was also a member of the Rabbinical Council of Canada – Beth Din for Conversion in Montreal.

As an educator, he had taught at the Department of Religion at Concordia University since 1973. He was also a visiting lecturer at Yeshivat Har-Etzion in Israel, Université de Montréal, Université Laval in Quebec, and SUNY-Albany.

His writings included the book Why Antisemitism? A Translation of The Remnant of Israel, An Essay on Covenant, Torah, and History (1996) along with many articles in scholarly journals and anthologies.

Rabbi Marc Angel, who retired after several decades leading New York’s Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue, described Rabbi Joseph as “distinguished by his wisdom, kindness, elegance, deep commitment to his congregation and society at large,” reported the Canadian Jewish News.