Alex Dworkin Foundation
Keeping the dream - and the memories - alive forever
Archives are not really about the past; rather we must constantly plan for the future. How will we preserve historical materials for another thousand years? Who is going to use this archive fifty years from now? What will they need and why?
The Alex Dworkin Foundation for Jewish Archives at the JCF encourages and sustains dynamic initiatives in Canadian Jewish heritage preservation. Thanks to the generous legacy of Alex Dworkin, the Foundation now supports the operations of the Canadian Jewish Congress Charities Committee National Archives and the Jewish Public Library Archives.
The Foundation is also committed to fostering the growth of cross-Canada partnerships in the Canadian Jewish Heritage Network, an exciting new research and display platform jointly conceived by the CJCCCNA and the JPL-A. The Alex Dworkin Foundation for Jewish Archives will ensure access to the treasures of our history and culture for generations to come.
For more information on Canadian Jewish Heritage Network partnership projects, contact: Janice Rosen, CJCCCNA 514-931-7531 ext 2
A biographical tribute
Alex Dworkin was born in Ottawa in 1909 to Abraham and Rose (Deborah) Dworkin, originally of Lithuania. Alexander, or Al as he was more commonly known, was the first Dworkin to have been born on Canadian soil.
In 1901, his father founded Dworkin Furs, a profitable company still in existence in Ottawa. Alex was thus raised in material comfort, unlike many children of recent immigrants of his time, yet he was blessed with a keen social conscience that manifested itself throughout his adult life, both private and public.
While still in his teens, Alex travelled to New York, where he began his career in women’s fashion. By 1937, he had moved to Montreal, and in 1939, he opened Leo-Danal Dresses. The company was highly successful and is still in existence. Alex sold his company shares in 1974 and turned his financial expertise to investments.
Mr. Dworkin's introduction to philanthropy began in 1956 when he met Max Etra, a New York lawyer, businessman and communal leader, a man whom Mr. Dworkin deemed his “greatest inspiration.” Etra invited Alex to become a co-founder of New York’s Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University. The then-46-year-old Alex became one of eight Canadians who spearheaded the development and growth of this prestigious institution. In Montreal, he was invited by Robert Kleinman, Executive Director of the Jewish Community Foundation of Montreal, to visit various Jewish agencies. It was an eye-opening experience.
"It was seeing the other side of life I had never experienced – the handicapped, the poor and the frail elderly. I hope I can alleviate some of the suffering in my lifetime, to make it a little easier for them.”
Since that time, numerous philanthropic projects bear his name, many along with his wife Ruth. They include the Dworkin Poverty Initiative, the Ruth and Alexander Dworkin Test Centre at the Jewish General Hospital, the Alex and Ruth Dworkin Tolerance Initiative Fund, the Ruth & Alex Dworkin Moot Court of Jewish Law Beit Din, the Ruth and Alex Dworkin Scholarship, the Alex and Ruth Dworkin Foundation, the Jewish Community Foundation’s Alexander Dworkin Charitable Foundation, and, most recently, the Alex Dworkin Foundation for Jewish Archives.
In August 1997, the Jewish Community Foundation named Alex Dworkin its Man of the Year. In May 2006, due to Alex’s sustained generosity to the YM-YWHA of Montreal, the Y Sports Hall of Fame was renovated and renamed the Alex Dworkin Montreal Jewish Sports Hall of Fame.In Israel, he endowed the Jewish National Fund revitalization and reclamation project at Kibbutz Lotem and the Alexander Dworkin Student Loan Fund at the Technion Institute.
Alex Dworkin was a forward-thinking and generous employer, a man who recognized the importance of higher education and supported those less fortunate to attain it, a person of charm and wit yet one who was also described as a “no-nonsense” man, and a man of principled and charitable character.
Alex Dworkin passed away June 18, 2004, but his legacy to Montreal’s Jewish community and to numerous institutions elsewhere endures.