LEONOFF, Cyril E.




Author Tags: Jewish, Photography

Cyril E. Leonoff, a professional engineer, contributed the text for a lavish collection of photos by B.C.'s pre-eminent photographer for the first half of the century, Leonard Frank, an industrial photographer who documented the rise of British Columbia.

Born in Germany in 1870, Leonard Frank was the son of a photographer. At age 22, he went to the California gold fields and gravitated north to Port Alberni where he managed a general store. Following his move to Vancouver in 1917, he became the most successful commercial photographer in the city, documenting the growth of vibrant industries. From 1920 until his death in 1944, Frank was the official Dominion of Canada photographer on the West Coast. He also documented the internment of Japanese-Canadians during World War II for the B.C. Security Commission, generating the impression that the confiscation of property and the evacuation and forced incarceration of thousands was orderly and humane. Including a biography of Frank, Leonoff's coffee table book won numerous awards including the City of Vancouver Heritage Award and a B.C. Historical Association Award. He released a follow-up volume of 20th century B.C. photography in 1997.

Leonoff's first book was a pictorial history of Jews in B.C. and the Yukon. He also wrote a 1994 corporate history of the engineering firm Klohn Leonoff Ltd. of which he has long been a partner. The book outlines Klohn Leonoff's participation in megaprojects such as the Kemano-Kitimat power and smelter development, pulp mill complexes, development of the Peace River hydroelectric complex, commencement of open-pit minings and tailings disposal sites. The company was founded by Charles F. Ripley in 1951. Leonoff, an engineer by profession, has been active with the Jewish Historical Society, Vancouver Historical Society and Vancouver Heritage Advisory Committee. He was born in Winnipeg in February of 1925 and arrived in New Westminster in 1949. He has received two Vancouver Heritage Awards, a Vancouver Historical Society award, a B.C. Historical Society certificate of merit, an Canadian Historical Association award of merit, a Bumbershoot Limited Edition design award, a B.C. Professional Engineers Community Service Award and a National Council of Jewish Women of Canada Award in the Arts and Humanities.

Review of the author's work by BC Studies:
Bridges of Light: Otto Landauer of Leonard Frank Photos, 1945-1980 b
A Dedicated Team: Klohn Leonoff Consulting Engineers, 1951-1991
Pioneer Jews of British Columbia
Pioneers, Pedlars, and Prayer Shawls. The Jewish Communities in British Columbia and the Yukon
The Rise of Jewish Life and Religion in British Columbia, 1858-1948

BOOKS:

Pioneers, Peddlars and Prayer Shawls: The Jewish Communities in B.C. and the Yukon (Sono Nis, 1978)
The Jewish Farmers of Western Canada (Western States Jewish History, 1984)
An Enterprising Life: Leonard Frank Photographs 1895-1944 (Talonbooks, 1990)
A Dedicated Team: Klohn Leonoff Consulting Engineers 1951-1991 (BiTech Publishers, 1994)
Bridges of Light: Otto Landauer of Leonard Frank Photos 1945-1980 (Talonbooks, 1997)
Pioneer Jews of British Columbia (Western States Jewish History & The Scribe, 2005). Co-author.
The Rise of Jewish Life and Religion in British Columbia, 1858-1948 (The Scribe, The Journal of the Jewish Historical Society of British Columbia, 2008).

[Alan Twigg / BCBW 2008] "Photography" "Classic" "Jewish"

Pioneer Jews of British Columbia
Article (2005)



According to Cyril Leonoff in Pioneer Jews of British Columbia (Western States Jewish History & The Scribe / Jewish Historical Society of B.C. $20, 2005), the first Jews known to have reached Vancouver Island were adventurers of Polish, Prussian and Germanic origin, stirred by gold fever in 1858.

By the time Moldavian-born Israel Joseph Benjamin passed through Victoria in February of 1861, Victoria boasted 2,500 white inhabitants, 5,000 Indians and one synagogue. The earliest Jewish organization in Western Canada, the First Hebrew Victoria Benevolent Society, had been formed in 1859; and the first Jewish burial ground (still in use today) had been consecrated in 1860. Benjamin observed, “The beginnings of the city of Victoria are really due to the Jews. For, no matter how many persons streamed to the island at the outbreak of the gold-fever, they scattered again, for the most part, to all corners of the world when their disillusion followed only too quickly. The Jews, however, held their ground, set up tents for residence and booths for shops; for they soon realized that this place had a great commercial future. This was to be deduced, easily enough, from the situation of the island, which lies between the Sandwich (Hawaiian) Islands, California and China.”

Having studied Jews around the globe, including Africa, the worldy-wise Benjamin judged gold fever to be pernicious, and warned against rampant materialism. Two years later there were 119 Jewish families in Victoria, totalling 242 people.

-- The first meeting of the nascent Jewish community occurred in the drygoods store of Kady Gambitz in August of 1858 in order to plan observances of the Jewish New Year and Day of Atonement.

-- Wholesale liquor merchant Simon Reinhart paid a record price of $3925 for a choice lot in June of 1859.

-- The first Jew to serve in a Canadian legislature was also British Columbia’s first government auctioneer, Selim Franklin, elected to the Legislative Assembly of Vancouver Island in 1860.

-- As Victoria’s second mayor, Selim’s brother Lumley Franklin was the first Jewish mayor elected within British North America, in 1866.

-- London-born Henry Nathan Jr. became the first Jew elected to the House of Commons when British Columbia joined Confederation in 1871.

-- Miss Ray Frank became the first woman to mount the pulpit of Temple Emanu-El of Victoria as a lay cantor, hired from Oakland, California, in 1895.

Co-written by Cyril Leonoff, retired archivist Geoffrey Castle, researcher Christopher J.P. Hanna, the late Leopold Levy of Trail and researcher Sarah H. Tobe, the unpriced Pioneer Jews was printed in California as a joint publication of two Jewish periodicals. With footnotes and illustrations, but lacking an index, it appears as plans for a 1,500 square-foot permanent exhibition of B.C. Jewish history are reaching fruition.

As a project of the Jewish Historical Society of British Columbia, a new museum facility is slated to open in the Spring of 2006 on the third floor of the Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver. It will contain more than 100,000 photographic images from the archives of the Jewish Western Bulletin newspaper, the Jewish Federation of B.C. and photographers Leonard Frank, Otto Landauer and Fred Schiffer.

[BCBW Winter, 2005]