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Frank Medjuck was a pillar of Halifax’s Jewish community

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Frank Medjuck PHOTO COURTESY
Frank Medjuck PHOTO COURTESY

The Halifax and Atlantic Jewish communities lost a dear friend, strong contributor and devoted volunteer when Frank Medjuck passed away March 14 after a two-year battle with cancer.

The 71-year-old graduate of Dalhousie University Law School and holder of a master’s degree in urban planning from University College of London, was a two-time president and 40-year board member of Beth Israel Synagogue, with which he had a deep and personal relationship.

He established the congregation’s endowment fund in the 1980s, meeting with many members of the community to help them direct their tzedakah toward the long-term financial stability of Beth Israel.

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In 1989-90, he devoted hundreds of hours to editing a 100th-anniversary commemorative book that drew histories from 120 families of the Halifax community. He served on virtually every committee of the synagogue, ensuring the Orthodox traditions were retained and followed, and he participated in daily minyanim, weekly Shabbat services and every holiday celebration.

In 1993, he also edited a 50th-anniversary book about Camp Kadimah where he spent a dozen summers of revelry, mischief, learning and developing lifelong friendships.

After his university years and travel time, Frank, the youngest of three sons of Irving and Blanche Medjuck, worked with his oldest brother Ralph, also a lawyer, in a thriving real estate development business. Frank was primarily corporate counsel for the Centennial Group, working with city council on planning and gaining approval for various projects. He helped engineer some of the biggest real estate deals in Atlantic Canada, as well as some in Ontario and Alberta. Frank’s efforts helped build Yonge-Richmond Place and Cambridge Suites in Toronto.

“It’s sad. And he was so young,” said Ralph, 83. “We worked together on probably half of the company’s 56 projects. We got along well. Never had an argument.”

Cousin-in-law Victor Goldberg said Frank and Ralph were a team.

“Ralph was the visible one, but Frank was the details person. Frank was pivotal for all the contracts and zoning issues and negotiating with the city.”

Ralph called Frank “quiet and intelligent,” but many of his friends thought he was far from quiet. He had a wry sense of humour, willing to joke about any situation if it would resolve an issue.

Mark Appleton of Halifax said, “I’ll miss his jokes. With a very straight face, Frank would tell you something that was totally believable, stringing you along with fact after fact until, after several minutes, the zinger would come out of his mouth. And then the smile and the laugh, that warm laugh.”

He loved Israel, inspired from growing up surrounded by Zionist Jewish values at Camp Kadimah and in the Halifax Jewish community. Around the time of the Six Day War in 1967, he became enchanted with a passion to live in Israel, to work the land and help build the country. In 1970, he made aliyah, lived in an absorption centre and studied Hebrew.

He was hired by the municipality of Jerusalem to work in its urban planning unit as a development control officer. He would often talk of those exciting times to be working in city planning for the iriya, the municipality of Jerusalem, with huge economic growth, a population explosion and great prosperity.

Over the years, he visited Israel regularly, staying connected to his beloved homeland, nurturing numerous close friendships there and spending valued time working the land.

He spent decades finding the burial spot of his grandfather, Yehoshua Medjuck, who made aliyah in 1935 from Halifax, and died in Israel during the War of Independence in 1948. He was buried on the Mount of Olives under the cover of darkness. The precise location of the grave was unknown for decades until, after years of research and interviews, Frank found the location, and eventually set a stone on the correct place.

Frank was a good friend, respectful, charitable and funny. Great with words, he loved to write and talk and learn new things. An eclectic man, he loved riding bikes, baking – he was the lead at hamantashen bakes at the shul – flying kites and telling jokes. He was a lifelong athlete and played masters basketball until two years ago, when illness prevented him from continuing. At 60, he completed a 350-km bike marathon from Jerusalem to Eilat when he was first about to become a grandfather. Eight years later, when he was anticipating turning 70, he did it again.

To Frank Medjuck, a good name and good reputation were paramount. Frank was always the person who helped someone privately, or gave generously of his money and his personal time to help raise someone’s spirits or to help pay for a community event.

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While speaking of her father at his chosen resting place at Eretz HaChayim Cemetery near Bet Shemesh in the Jerusalem Hills, Bena Medjuck-Bruckner said, “In his final months, Dad was worried about his unfinished tasks, things he had started or dreamed of starting, household projects, and future family celebrations that he would miss. We assured him that he prepared us well and that he is leaving things in good hands. We promised to take care of each other and keep his memory strong in our hearts and in our lives.”

Frank is survived by wife Hedda, daughter Bena (Gustavo) Medjuck-Bruckner, and son Jacob (Shauna Nep),  four grandchildren, and two older brothers, Ralph (Shirlee), and Harold, plus many nieces, nephews and cousins.