Centenarian Jack Adler chants his bar mitzvah haftarah from the Beth Tzedec bima

Calgarian Jack Adler celebrated his 100th birthday chanting his haftorah from the Beth Tzedec Bima.

by Maxine Fischbein

(AJNews) – When Jack Adler fell seriously ill at the age of five, his Zayde was hastily summoned from his nearby town.  As was the custom, the Zayde blessed his little grandson, renaming him Alte Yenkal, in the hope that Jack might live to a ripe old age.

It seems that the Zayde’s prayers found God’s ear.

On December 31, Mr. Adler began his birthday celebrations by chanting the Haftarah during Shabbat services at Beth Tzedec Synagogue. Standing steady and proud, and leining in a strong voice, the 100-year-young Holocaust survivor accomplished what is believed to have been a first on the Beth Tzedec bimah.

Jack Adler celebrated 100 years young, surrounded by family and friends.

Rabbi Cantor Russell Jayne – who had just celebrated his 50th birthday – saluted Adler as an inspiration and role model at twice his own age.

Those who know Jack Adler are keenly aware that his longevity was by no means guaranteed.

The Nazis certainly had other plans for him.

Born on January 2, 1923 in Berezovo, Czechoslovakia – today part of Ukraine – Adler was one of seven siblings raised in a strictly Orthodox home. At the age of 16, he rushed home from the nearby Yeshiva where he had been studying. His father had been sent into forced labour, and the family now relied on Adler to help support them.

At 21, Adler was also forced into heavy labour.  Transported by the Nazis and their collaborators from one labour camp to another, he also managed to survive the Flossenburg and Buchenwald concentration camps, though barely.  Backbreaking work, meagre rations and brutal conditions – including a death march with no food or water – left Adler so severely depleted that he fell into a two-week coma following his liberation by American troops on April 11, 1945.

Searching for family after his recovery, Adler made the horrifying discovery that his mother, youngest brothers, and most of his extended family had been murdered at Auschwitz. Fortunately, his three sisters and one brother had survived. Taking on work wherever he could find it, Adler helped his sisters and eventually made his way to a Displaced Persons camp to seek emigration assistance.

Gaining entry to Canada in exchange for his promise to work six months at a lumber camp in Northern Ontario, Adler later lived in Winnipeg. Working overtime whenever possible, he saved enough to sponsor the immigration of two of his sisters and their families.

Settling in Calgary in 1950, Adler soon met and married Alice Madorsky, of blessed memory. Together they built their glass business while raising two children, Sherry and Irvin, and eventually welcoming their spouses, Dilan Perera and Sandy (née boxer). Jack and Alice Adler were later blessed with three granddaughters and two grandsons. All were on hand together with friends and neighbours to fete their beloved patriarch at his New Year’s Day birthday party.

Fastidious and nattily dressed, Adler, who still boasts a thick head of hair, is a respected and beloved member of the community. He has always supported Jewish causes, especially those geared to people in need. As a former yeshiva bocher, he is particularly generous when it comes to Jewish education.

Though it never became easier in the telling, Adler regularly spoke to students and teachers at the Holocaust Education Symposium, held annually at Mount Royal University. His portrait and biography is the first you encounter in the recently published Here to Tell: Faces of Holocaust Survivors, companion book to the exhibit launched at the Glenbow at the Edison this past spring.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Adler was a “regular” at Shabbat services, often gracing the bimah. Despite his physically demanding occupation as a glazier, he enjoyed regular workouts at the JCC, maintaining his regimen until he moved into a retirement home.

It is fitting that Adler chanted his birthday Haftarah on a Shabbat when the remarkable journey of his biblical namesake, Jacob, was the focus of the Torah reading.

When asked his secret to longevity, Adler said, “Work hard, walk a lot and exercise every day.”

Of course receiving and counting his blessings did not hurt!

Biz hundert und tzvantzig, Jack . . . may you live to 120.

Maxine Fischbein is a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter.


1 Comment on "Centenarian Jack Adler chants his bar mitzvah haftarah from the Beth Tzedec bima"

  1. Eliezer Goldfischer | May 7, 2023 at 8:56 pm | Reply

    My father,Josef Goldfischer was born in Berezovo in 1899. his uncle was Eliezer Adler who was married to Leah Simonovitz. She died about 1933 and is buried in Berezova. My father’s cousin-son of Eliezer Adler-was a student of the Atzei Chaim of Sighet. I hope you can put me in touch with mr Adler. I eagerly await your reply. Thank you. Eliezer Goldfischer-Monsey NY. My cell phone number is 845-729-2183

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