CASS, SAMUEL


CASS, SAMUEL (1908–1975), Canadian rabbi and chaplain, Hillel director, and social worker. Cass was among the first Canadian-born rabbis to occupy a Canadian pulpit. He was born in Toronto but studied in New York. He received his B.A. from the City College of New York in 1929, then attended the *Jewish Theological Seminary and was ordained in 1933. He immediately took a position as rabbi at Vancouver's recently formed Congregation Beth Israel (Conservative), where he remained until 1941. During those years, with Nazism abroad and intensified antisemitism in Canada, Cass was frequently called upon to speak to non-Jewish groups on Jewish life and against prejudice.

Cass left Vancouver for the Herzl Congregation in Seattle but soon applied to return to Canada as a chaplain to the Canadian forces. Like his friend from Toronto and classmate at JTS, Gershon *Levi, Cass was appointed a chaplain in 1942. First responsible for Jewish soldiers stationed in Canada, from 1944 to 1946 Cass served overseas, initially as chaplain for the First Canadian Army Overseas and later at the Canadian Military Headquarters in London. He was with the Canadian army when Belgium and Holland were liberated and at the Dutch concentration camp *Westerbork shortly after it was liberated by Canadian forces. He also visited *Bergen-Belsen on a number of occasions. In his letters to his wife and in the record of his experiences which he submitted as a D.H.L. thesis to JTS (with a doctorate awarded in 1948), Cass conveyed shock and anger at the fate of Europe's Jews, and strongly supported the Zionist cause as the answer to the postwar refugee crisis. He took an active interest in the rebuilding of the Dutch Jewish communities. In addition to leading services for Jewish soldiers and survivors, in 1945 he joined Isaac Rose, another Canadian chaplain, in organizing the Jewish Chaplains' Center in Amsterdam, where Canadian Jewish soldiers received a quick introduction to Judaism and Jewish history.

Back in Canada, Cass did not return to the pulpit. Instead, he was appointed director of the B'nai B'rith Hillel Foundation for McGill University as well as Macdonald College and Sir George Williams University until 1967. Cass went on to work as a social worker at Montreal's Miriam Home for the Exceptional, which was a school for challenged children. He died tragically with his wife and son in an automobile accident.

[Richard Menkis (2nd ed.)]


Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.