CRESTOHL, HYMAN MEYER, rabbi; b. 15 Sept. 1864 in Poland; m. Rose Weitzman, and they had three sons; d. 5 May 1928 in Montreal.
Hyman Meyer Crestohl received an extensive education in the literary sources of Orthodox Judaism in his native Poland and obtained his rabbinical ordination from eminent authorities there. He also was exposed in his youth to an informal education in contemporary European literature and thought, in a manner which was not uncommon among rabbinical students at the time. After his ordination he served as rabbi in Siedlce. He was a Zionist by conviction and became an early member of Mizrachi, the religious faction of the Zionist movement. An activist and a propagandist for Zionism, he was in contact with many of the movement’s political leaders in Europe, such as Chaim Weizmann, Nahum Sokolow, and rabbis Samuel Mohilewer and Isaac Jacob Reines.
In 1904 Crestohl went to New York as an emissary of Mizrachi and he stayed there until 1911. During this period he probably visited Canada in connection with his promotion of the Mizrachi movement. It is likely that the contacts he made led to his immigration to Canada in 1911 and to his nomination as rabbi of Ohev Sholom synagogue in Quebec City that year. He found in Quebec City a small Jewish community of approximately 400 persons. Most had come from eastern Europe in the 1890s and were engaged in commerce. The congregation was the city’s second and it had been founded only a year before his arrival. Crestohl’s activities were hardly limited to his congregation. During his eight years as rabbi, he maintained ties with the Zionist movement in Canada, founding and acting as first president of the Dorshei Zion Society of Quebec City and serving on the council of the Federation of Zionist Societies of Canada [see Clarence Isaac de Sola*]. During World War I he was also active in ministering to the religious needs of Jewish soldiers training at Valcartier.
In 1919 Crestohl moved to Montreal, where he served from 1920 to 1928 as rabbi of the Hadrath Kodesh congregation, founded by immigrants from Russian Poland. His own Polish origins had no doubt helped him obtain the post. Almost all synagogues founded by eastern European immigrants were unable to furnish rabbis with an adequate income, so Crestohl also functioned as a shohet (ritual slaughterer) in Montreal’s kosher meat industry. In 1920 he became first president of the Mizrachi Organization of Canada.
Crestohl was well known as a scholar of rabbinic literature and he wrote many works on this subject. The fact that his works remained in manuscript, however, most likely because he was unable or unwilling to raise money for their publication, served to limit his influence to the Jewish community in Montreal. Only one of his treatises was published, posthumously by his children.
Hyman Meyer Crestohl is the author of Sefer heker davar [Investigation of the subject] (Montreal, 1960).
Canadian Jewish Congress National Arch. (Montreal), H. M. Crestohl file. LAC, MG 30 D216. “Ha-rov Hayyim Meyer Crestohl shtarbt plutzling” [Rabbi Hayyim Meyer Crestohl dies suddenly], Keneder Odler [Eagle] (New York), 6 May 1928. “Revered scholar passes,” Canadian Jewish Chronicle (Montreal), 11 May 1928. Archival sources for the study of Canadian Jewry, comp. L. F. Tapper (2nd ed., Ottawa, 1978).