Thursday, 1 May 2014

Max Herscovitch

            Max, the only Jewish Policeman in Montreal

Max ( Moses ) Herscovitch was 23 when he married Etta Goldberg , 5 Nov 1905.

He had left Romania to avoid conscription. A sister and brother remained in Romania.

Samuel Jack, Max and Etta's firstborn, was named after Max's father Shimon.

Max was a carpenter by trade but there was no work available. He became the only Jewish policeman. He had pull through an alderman. As a policeman, he would have received a pension but after 16 years, they railroaded him. Mary, his daughter says that her father got sick because of that.

Aunt Minnie, youngest sister of Etta, described an incident that happened after her father, Jacob had died  (25 Jan 1918 ). Max's police station was near where Minnie lived. He had a certain beat and would warm up at Minnie's house. It was cold and he would stay by the stove and had tea. Her brother Moe, in his 20s, was in the kitchen reading the newspaper near the gas stove. Max took out the bullets from his gun. He thought he had taken out all six. He said, " Hands up", to Moe. After the fifth time, Moe told him  to take it away. Then the bullet went off into the stove and into the pots and pans. The bullet broke the iron door, made holes right through to the pots and pans that her mother kept inside. The kitchen was full of smoke. Moe was perspiring. Max thought he had killed Moe. Her mother thought it went to her ears. She knew it was an accident and Aunt Minnie said her mother wasn't angry. Max had to account for every bullet so he asked Minnie's 2 brothers, Israel and Moe, to get a spare bullet at his home, a half hour away by streetcar.

Mary, youngest daughter of Etta and Max, recounted how her father would take his gun and throw it over his chair at home. All her siblings were well- trained not to touch it. She said in a family tape that it was a miracle that nothing happened. Other neighbours' children also visited.

Mary told the story of when her father risked his life when there was a fire at the synagogue. A timber fell on his arm. He saved the Holy Scrolls. Everybody was proud of him.

Another time he saw some gangsters on St Catherine St at 2 am. They told him that they would pay him. They wanted him on the other side of the street, away from the Birks jewelry store. Her father told them, "If I catch you, I will shoot you." Mary said her father would never take bribes. He was honest.

There were a lot of arguments. Her brothers did not get along with her father. He wanted them to knuckle down. Mary said her father meant well, that he was a sweet man, not a tyrant. Her mother tried to make peace.

It was so moving for me to listen to the tape. Mary described how she polished the buttons on her father's uniform. She was only 14 when he died. Her life fell apart after this.

Max became sick. The doctor drained fluid from his abdomen. He had what Mary called, cirrhosis of the liver. The doctor told the family to bring him to Mayo Clinic. Oldest son Jack came back from Sudbury. He was  about 19 or 20 as Mary said and got a friend of his who had a small plane to fly her father to Rochester, Minnesota. When the pilot returned home, the plane crashed and the pilot was killed. Mary said she could never forget that. The family believed that her father was cured , that he was coming back for Passover. Tragically Max had a hemorrhage and died.

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