Who was Alex Dworkin?

AlexDworkin-MSHospitalAlex Dworkin was born in Ottawa in 1909  to Abraham and Rose (Deborah) Dworkin, originally of Lithuania. In 1901, his father had founded Dworkin Furs, a profitable company that is still in existence. Alex was thus raised in material comfort, unlike many children of recent immigrants of his time. However, he was blessed with a keen social conscience that manifested itself throughout his adult life, both private and public. Alex Dworkin was a forward-thinking and generous employer, a man who recognized the importance of higher education and supported those less fortunate to attain it, a person of charm and wit yet one who was also described as a "no-nonsense" man, and a man of principled and charitable character.

While still in his teens, Mr. Dworkin travelled to New York, where he began his career in women's fashion. By 1937, he had moved to Montreal, and in 1939, he opened Leo-Danal Dresses. The company was highly successful and is still in existence. Dworkin sold his company shares in 1974 and turned his financial expertise to investments.

Alex Dworkin's introduction to philanthropy began in 1956 when he met Max Etra, a New York lawyer, businessman and communal leader, a man whom he deemed his "greatest inspiration." Etra invited Alex to become a co-founder of New York's Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University. Dworkin thus became one of eight Canadians who spearheaded the development and growth of this prestigious institution. In Montreal, he was invited by Robert Kleinman, Executive Director of the Jewish Community Foundation of Montreal,  to visit various Jewish agencies. It was an eye-opening experience.

"It was seeing the other side of life I had never experienced - the handicapped, the poor and the frail elderly. I hope I can alleviate some of the suffering in my lifetime, to make it a little easier for them."

Since that time, numerous philanthropic projects bear his name, many along with his wife Ruth. They include the Dworkin Poverty Initiative, the Ruth and Alexander Dworkin Test Centre at the Jewish General Hospital, the Alex and Ruth Dworkin Tolerance Initiative Fund, the Ruth & Alex Dworkin Moot Court of Jewish Law Beit Din, the Ruth and Alex Dworkin Scholarship, the Alex and Ruth Dworkin Foundation, the Jewish Community Foundation's Alexander Dworkin Charitable Foundation, and, most recently, the Alex Dworkin Foundation for Jewish Archives. 

Alex Dworkin passed away June 18, 2004, but his legacy to Montreal's Jewish community and to numerous institutions elsewhere endures.


The Alex Dworkin Foundation for Jewish Archives at the Jewish Community Foundation of Montreal encourages and sustains dynamic initiatives in Canadian Jewish heritage preservation. Thanks to the generous legacy of Alex Dworkin, the Foundation now supports the operations of both the Alex Dworkin Canadian Jewish Archives and the Jewish Public Library Archives.

The Foundation is also committed to fostering the growth of cross-Canada partnerships in the Canadian Jewish Heritage Network, an exciting research and display platform jointly conceived by the Alex Dworkin Canadian Jewish Archives (then called the CJCCC National Archives) and the JPL-A. The Alex Dworkin Foundation for Jewish Archives will ensure access to the treasures of our history and culture for generations to come.