It had been a long road, fraught with sorrow and hardship, for many of the Eastern European Jewish people who began arriving in Perth and Ottawa area during the second decade of the twentieth century. They had suffered persecution in Russia, Ukraine, and other countries, only to find they would be met with the same sort of anti-Semitic treatment in the Montreal area where they first landed.
And so the small group who came to Perth at first found support within their own circle, but quickly started providing goods and services needed by the community. They embraced the people of Perth, and in turn were embraced. The families were soon operating retail businesses, giving back unconditionally to the community who had welcomed them.
Two of the most prominent families, the Hoffmans and the Karakowskys, were intertwined in their family trees, and both branches went on the become part of the downtown Perth business area as successful merchants.
The first mention of these families can be found in a Dec. 11, 1914 Perth Courier edition, when L. Karakowsky, Beckwith St., had an advertisement for “Boots, Shoes & Rubbers: See me for your new Boots, Shoes and Rubbers. I carry a full line of new goods, all sizes and styles, for Men, Women, Boys and Girls, and can save you money in your Footwear if you buy them from me.”
L. Karakowsky was known as L.K., and his given name was found to be Louis in a subsequent announcement. Although little is known about L.K., it seems he must have been a brother of Meyer Karakowsky, who was a close relative of the families we are discussing. A notice in the Oct. 22, 1915, newspaper further traces the path of L.K. mentioning that: “Mrs. William (Dr.) Cain has sold her property on ‘Park Avenue’ (Wilson street) to Mr. L.K. Karakowsky, dealer in second hand hardware, etc.” More advertising can be found through the 1920s for both Louis and Meyer Karakowsky, with the M.K. business located on Gore St.
The diversity of goods offered can be seen in a Feb. 6, 1920 advertisement which now puts the location of L. K.’s second hand store on North Street. “Wanted at once: All lines of second-hand furniture for which I will pay the highest cash price.” In addition to furniture, L.K. was also buying hides, furs, and poultry.
The Perth families kept in touch with friends and relatives who had stayed behind in Montreal, and those who had moved further on to Ottawa. The Aug. 22, 1919 edition of The Courier published a wedding announcement for Aaron-Steinman: “The Murray Street Synagogue, at Ottawa, was the scene of a very pretty wedding when Miss Sarah Steinman, daughter to Mr. and Mrs. C. Steinman was united in marriage to Mr. David Aaron, of Montreal … Among the out-of-town guests who attended were: Mr. and Mrs. M. Greenberg, Toronto; Mr. and Mrs. B. Gold, Perth; Mrs. S. Marcovitz, Montreal; Mr. and Mrs. A. Donin, Perth; Mr. and Mrs. J. Kushner, Sherbrooke, Que.; Miss A. Bernstein, Montreal; Mr. S. Erchenberg, Sherbrooke, Que.; Mr. S. Hoffman, Montreal; Miss L. Smolkin, Montreal; Mrs. P.J. Hoffman, Montreal; Mr. C. Smolkin, Montreal; Mr. B Kusher, Sherbrooke, Que., and Mr. Ralph Grossman of Montreal.” Many of the guests at that wedding are relevant to the families we are discussing, and were living in Perth at the time. Also, the Karakowsky family tree reveals that Meyer Karakowsky was married to Zelda Aaron from Dagda, Latvia, a relative of the groom. Meyer and Zelda emigrated, and landed in Canada in 1912.
Another Ottawa wedding which had taken place in 1917, was between David Hoffman, originally from Yashin, Ukraine, and Rebecca Karakowsky, daughter of Meyer Karakowsky. Meyer, mentioned earlier, was the patriarch of the Karakowsky side of the Perth family. This wedding was significant, in part because it forged the link between the Hoffman and Karakowsky families.
The early story of the Hoffman family in Perth begins when David and Rebecca arrived in Perth on May 28, 1928, and started the D. Hoffman & Son business on Gore Street, in the building later housing the well-known Benny K’s (Karakowsky) store. We will have more to say about Benny K. in the second part of this story. David and Rebecca Hoffman (Karakowsky) had three sons between the years 1919 and 1931: Israel, Joseph, and Eli.
The Hoffman and Karakowsky families continued as merchants, and were able to interact with the Perth community and practice their faith with little problem. Then when World War Two came along, many of their men served Canada with distinction. As they joined the fight with the Allies, the roundup of Jews had begun in Nazi occupied countries across Eastern Europe, with the fate of many of their relatives in the balance.
The story continues in November’s column.If you have any comments or suggestions, please email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org