This Week in JPL History: Our Founders

While many people and organizations played a pivotal role in the creation and success of Montreal’s Jewish Public Library, two people in particular are considered the founders, Reuben Brainin and Yehuda Kaufman. During this week in 1914 a conference of organizations and individuals was convened for the purposes of creating the JPL. One of these organizations was the Poale Zion, which Yehuda Kaufman was heavily involved in. Two years earlier it and a number of other Jewish labour associations had established a library “for the advancement of learning and of Yiddish literature in particular.”

This initial library was soon forced to close, though when it was determined that a second attempt should be made, Reuben Brainin was asked to be the president. Brainin was the editor of Montreal’s Yiddish newspaper and had a reputation as a strong orator who had already shown his support for such as library. Kaufman, a renowned teacher, researcher, and writer had also been a driving force behind the establishment of the Library. Both men were dedicated to furthering a spirit of community within Jewish Montreal, an idea which underpinned the foundation of this library “for the people, by the people”.

Reuben Brainin was the first president of the JPL.


Reuben Brainin was born March 16, 1862 in. He was an author, Hebraist, and the editor of a number of newspapers. He moved to Montreal to become the editor of the Keneder Adler. It was Brianin that emphasized the need for the Library to also be a place of education. He passed away on November 30, 1939 in New York, but was buried in Montreal.

Yehuda Kaufman was born in the Ukraine. He arrived with his parents in Montreal at the age of 26 and quickly became involved in the Montreal Jewish community. He left the city in 1926, first for Philadelphia then for Jerusalem. He gained fame under the name Evan Shmuel as a Jewish scholar, writer, educator and Hebrew lexicographer.

While both men only spent a short time in Montreal, they left an indelible mark upon both Montreal’s Jewish community and the city itself through the institutions they began. It was through their commitment and early efforts that the Library was first founded, and through their vision that the JPL has continued to flourish for the past 100 years.

The This Week in Jewish Public Library History blog series was made possible through the generous support of the Peter and Ellen Jacobs Virtual Archives Fund.

Leave a Comment