MONTREAL — In addition to presenting a glitzy production of Hello Dolly! at the school’s athletic and performing arts complex, the JPPS-Bialik Concert Society will pay tribute to the Roskies family at the society’s 53rd fundraising gala on March 24.
The Roskies siblings are all folkschule alumni whose family’s devotion to the school’s founding Yiddishkeit principles was borne out by their choice of careers.
Honoured that evening will be Eva Roskies Raby, the executive director of the Jewish Public Library (class of ’57); David Roskies, professor of Yiddish literature at the Jewish Theological Seminary (class of ’61); and Ruth Roskies Wisse (class of ’49), Martin Peretz professor of Yiddish and comparative literature at Harvard University.
Also honoured will be another sibling, the late Benjamin Roskies (class of ’44), whose daughter and grandchildren are at JPPS-Bialik.
Although Wisse and her brother David won’t be able to attend the event, “Eva will be there representing the family in body, and we will certainly be there in spirit,” Wisse said in a telephone interview last week. “It is very flattering.”
David is teaching Yiddish at Ben-Gurion University in Israel, and she is in the midst of midterm work at Harvard, Wisse explained.
Wisse said some of her fondest childhood memories are from her years at the folkschule – then the Jewish People’s School (JPS) – located on Fairmount Avenue.
The Roskies’ parents, Leo and Masha, were immigrants to Montreal in 1940. They enrolled their children at JPS, and became active supporters of the institution and of Jewish education until their deaths, with Leo serving on the board and as president.
The esteem in which they were held was such that when her father died many years ago, the funeral procession passed by the school at the corner of Van Horne and Westbury avenues, Wisse remembered. Bialik’s library is also named after Leo Roskie.
Wisse said the influence of the folkschule was key in shaping her and her siblings’ sensibility in regard to Yiddish and Yiddishkeit.
“It’s a very important question,” she said. “Had you asked me when I graduated, I wouldn’t have known what to answer. But looking back, I realize that one of the most important things the folkschule conveyed, which is rare in so many parts of the Jewish world, is a sense of the Jewish People as a whole.
“It was never a Judaism that was against anything. It included everything, Yiddish and Hebrew. Both were sacred and important.
“We were imbued with the feeling of love for the Land of Israel and very excited about Israel independence [in 1948] and so forth, but… we were encouraged to realize that we were completely legitimate Jews living as we lived. At the same time, we were imbued with a tremendous love and respect for the Jewish religious traditions.
“The name of the school is a perfect representation of its ideology. It was called the Jewish People’s School. It was a school of Jewish peoplehood, ahead of its time.”
The gala evening, being co-chaired by Lianne Routtenberg and Andrea Sochaczevski, will also include a cocktail reception, silent and live auctions, and a raffle draw.
For more details call 514-731-2944, or visit www.jppsbialik.ca/en/gala2010.