Young Chava Nemetz was a beautiful woman. Stories are told that when she had to leave the house during the pogroms, her mother put soot on her face so the soldiers wouldn’t bother her.
Such was her beauty. Arriving in Watrous, Saskatchewan, in 1922 with her husband Abrasha Wosk and their baby daughter Esther, life was fraught with problems.
Esther had become ill in Poland en route to Canada and, without any medication, lost her ability to hear. Later, a trip to the Mayo Clinic, financed by Chava’s brother Dave, confirmed that Esther would remain deaf.
Chava was a woman of astute business skills. In a manner only Chava could use, she told Abrasha, “Go, let me run the business, you go build the community!” And he did! Abrasha, together with Chava, became involved in most of the organizations serving the growing needs of the Vancouver Jewish community.
After two difficult years in Watrous, Chava and Abrasha moved to Vancouver to join her brothers, Sam, Dave and Bill. Her brothers purchased a broom factory for the young couple, which Abrasha ran. Later, they bought a butcher shop on Main and Hastings.
Chava had two more children, Saul (Sonny) and Rosalie. Living in a rented home on Parker Street, everyone, including the children, worked long hours. Later, grandmother Toba Nemetz lived with them, as did Abrasha’s step-mother, Hinda Wosk.
Active in the Schara Tzedeck on Heatley Street, they remained community leaders for more than 50 years.
They were among the founders of the Jewish Home for the Aged on 13th Avenue, spearheading two subsequent moves, which culminated in the present Louis Brier Home and Hospital.
Chava worked to establish the Ladies Auxiliary to Louis Brier and served many terms as its president. Many other institutions had their origins in the Wosk home. The Achduth Co-operative Lending Society, B’nai B’rith Women, the Muter Farein of Peretz School, the Chevra Kadisha, the funeral chapel on Broadway, Talmud Torah and Jewish Family Service Agency were the focus of dinner conversations for years in the Wosk home.
In 1948, Chava and Abrasha gave up the butcher shop. Sonny went to fight in the War of Independence in Israel, returning to marry Joyce Horwich. Esther went to California to meet and marry a young deaf boy named Hyman Aheroni. Rosalie, at the age of 17, married Joseph Segal, who had just come out of the army and who, at first, the Wosks thought was not good enough for their daughter.
Later he became one of Canada’s major entrepreneurs and philanthropists.
Abrasha quickly and wisely got Joe and Rosalie involved in the Jewish community. In fact, to get along with Abrasha, one needed to be involved.
Chava Wosk was a perceptive and intuitive woman. She became the “glue” that held the entire family together. She was wise and knew the strengths and weaknesses of everyone. She was the negotiator, the arbitrator, the judge and the jury. If one was smart, one knew never to cross her. After a bit of yelling and sarcasm, food was often the answer to family disputes. Her baking settled many tempers.
In the 1950s, Chava bought property and, with the assistance of her brothers, built an apartment block on the corner of 16th Avenue and Cypress Street. Abrasha’s step-mother, Hinda, continued to live with them, creating exquisite cut-work table cloths for each member of the family.
Abrasha was an outspoken advocate of community needs until he died in 1980 at the age of 80. Chava remained the family matriarch for her entire life. She lived for some time after Abrasha, saying, “Yes, it was difficult with him but it would have been worse without him.”
They are buried in the Wosk family plot at the Schara Tzedeck cemetery, New Westminster, B.C. There would be no one else in the community like Chava and Abrasha Wosk.
Chava and Abrasha had 10 grandchildren: Nancy (Golowen), Elliott, Simon, Karen, Colin, Randy, Sandra (Miller), Tracey (Schonfeld), Gary and Lorne. Many have continued the family tradition of service to the community.
There are 21 great-grandchildren and 18 great-great-grandchildren living in Vancouver, California and Las Vegas.