Enid Backman

My father Jack Teitolman was very closely associated with Rabbi Kramer and worked hard for the Rabbinical College for many years. My father was the President of the Rabbinical College and this entailed a lot of responsibility and dedication. My father felt very connected to Rabbi Kramer and he admired him and what he was creating for Montreal and he believed in it. No one could convince my father of anything and if he believed in something, he believed in it strongly.

I was quite young when their association began but I know that my father had a religious background. His father hired a Rabbi to teach him Torah when he was very young and then unfortunately the dream of having a Jewish education was cut short and he had to become the breadwinner in his family. I imagine that when Rabbi Kramer approached him, he felt that this was like a dream come true, that he in fact could fulfil his dream of a Jewish education by helping others achieve this. My father also became more interested in religion when he married my mother and he definitely felt that Jewish education was an important cause.

Rabbi Kramer was a very young man and he just arrived from war torn Europe via Shanghai when he immediately set about to establish the Yeshiva. There was nothing before Rabbi Kramer came to Montreal but Rabbi Kramer had a wonderful manner and he approached many important people, philanthropists and leaders of the community to support the new Yeshiva.

This was a new idea and many in the community were not so sure about this, and some even thought that Montreal was not the right place for it. But Rabbi Kramer knew how to network, he knew how to be at the right place at the right time, and he knew how to ‘sell’ the dream of a Yeshiva in a place like Montreal where Torah learning would flourish and young men would be educated to become Rabbinical scholars themselves to influence the community and teach Judaism to the world. My father Jack Teitolman was very sure of this idea right from the start, he had very strong beliefs, he was very supportive of the whole project and it became one of his important causes. My father was a pioneer, he brought other supporters on board and together they were a dynamic group of strong committed supporters.

My mother Debby Teitolman, worked very hard for Beth Rivka and this was her pet project. Now Beth Rivka is a wonderful, successful school and it’s nice to know that my mother’s hard work helped it grow to what it is today. It’s always good to remember the women who were there at the beginning and helped put this school on the map.

Rabbi Kramer and my father became friends over the years, they kind of understood each other. Yes, they came from different backgrounds, yet they could share a sense of humour, admire each other for what they could offer and have a close personal friendship. My parents had a wonderful and warm and long standing relationship with Rabbi and Mrs. Kramer, sharing life together especially Simchas. Rabbi Kramer was involved in all the family weddings, Bar Mitzvahs and some of our family in turn continued that very close connection that my parents had with Rabbi and Mrs. Kramer. I personally had the privilege of sending my daughter to Hebrew Day School, which was a nice connection as Rabbi Kramer established the school and it’s run by Rabbi and Mrs. Kramer’s daughter in law Sara Kramer.

Even when my father wasn’t so well in the latter years, Rabbi Kramer knew what my father enjoyed and he always appreciated my father’s contribution. My father was the kind of person who kept the door open because of that connection and the comfort that this friendship provided. Even then Rabbi Kramer always came to have the checks signed, and even though my father wasn’t that well there was a level of respect and Rabbi Kramer didn’t regard him as a person with diminished responsibility and ability. He still regarded him in this same way as before. There were times when he was so ill that he wouldn’t respond to many people, and perhaps even felt a little depressed yet when my mother would announce that Rabbi Kramer was here, my father’s face would light up. Towards the end of his life it was obvious how these visits would lift him up and he felt a special kind of happiness from recognizing and remembering their deep connection. My father would smile, and it was apparent that he felt this spark which was created in those early years and remained ignited for such a long time.

I have a feeling that Rabbi Kramer was a private person who didn’t make his life a public book and he chose his words carefully. Yet with my father he had such a warm and close relationship where they could talk freely and totally trust each other and be comfortable in their conversations with each other.

I remember Rabbi Kramer as being an extremely pious, humble and a caring person who helped a lot of people but kept very quiet about it. He was optimistic, always hopeful and had a strong belief in the value of family and community. He had a religious Jewish pride, a very principled pride and focus in creating a world and he was very proud of who he was. He wore these feelings on his sleeve and he didn’t have to preach it because he was a man of action.