Nathan Hurwich, a benefactor of Associated Hebrew Schools and many other Jewish causes, died Feb. 14. He was 98 years old.
A native of Toronto, Hurwich attended cheder at Toronto Hebrew Free School, a predecessor of Associated. He was Associated’s oldest living alumnus.
Its campus on Finch Avenue just east of Bathurst Street was named the Nathan O. and Roey Hurwich Education Centre after he and his wife – who predeceased him in 2005 after 73 years of marriage – became its benefactors in 1979.
The son of Russian immigrants who ran a grocery store, Hurwich, who was one of nine children, dropped out of Harbord Collegiate Institute at age 14 so that he could help support his family after his father became ill.
He began working at Tip Top Tailors and completed high school at night.
Later, Hurwich opened a small automotive jobbing business, which he sold before founding Mobile Automotive Products, a manufacturers’ distributor that he sold some three decades ago.
Hurwich’s grandfather, a scholar and ritual slaughterer, imbued him with a love of Judaism and Israel, Rabbi Roy Tanenbaum of Beth Tzedec Congregation said in a eulogy.
A fundraiser for many Jewish causes, Hurwich received more than 100 awards and honours. He was tireless in raising funds for Israel and travelled there frequently, the rabbi said.
Hurwich co-chaired Canadian Jewish Congress’ Soviet Jewry committee and travelled to Russia in the 1970s to learn about the situation first-hand and deliver Hebrew books that he had hidden in his luggage. He was also a founding member of Beth Tzedec, where he held almost every major office.
“I don’t know if there was an organization in Toronto that Nat was not involved in,” said his niece, Miriam Cohen Freilich, in a eulogy.
Explaining his involvement with Associated in a 2003 CJN interview, Hurwich, who had no children, said that “without the Jewish schools, we have no future.”
Jane Cooper-Eade, a niece of Roey Hurwich, said in a eulogy that her aunt and uncle acted as surrogate grandparents to her children, buying them treats and taking them to synagogue on some of the Jewish holidays. “Uncle Nat truly loved children,” she recalled.
Hurwich leaves two sisters, Anne Cohen Himel of Toronto, and Ada Altman of Washington, D.C. He was predeceased by his brothers, Reuben, Samuel, Dave and Sydney.