Rabbi Ronnie Cahana has been the spiritual leader of Congregation Beth-El, since 2001. The son of 7th generation Hassidic Israeli, Rabbi Moshe Cahana, and Hungarian Holocaust survivor and artist, Alice Lok Cahana, Rabbi Ronnie Cahana was born in Boras, Sweden as his parents ministered to the Holocaust survivors there after the Shoah. He moved to Houston, Texas as a child, where the family was active in the Civil Rights Movement.
Rabbi Cahana did undergraduate work at the University of Texas at Austin, earning an honours degree in Philosophy and English. He then studied in Israel, at the Jewish Theological Seminary and received his ‘smicha’ from the Academy for Jewish Religion in New York, a non-sectarian rabbinical school founded in 1956. He is a member of the Rabbinical Assembly.
A committed Zionist and passionate educator, Rabbi Cahana dedicated his early career to youth leadership development, spending summers in Zionist camps throughout the U.S. He then directed the Young Judaea Year Course, a year-long gap program in Israel.
His vocation has taken Rabbi Cahana and his family to pulpits in the U.S., Latin America, Sweden and Canada. He is a committed civil rights and community activist. He was sent to the former Soviet Union to bolster the spirits of the refuseniks, those Jews who were waiting to make Aliyah. He has also been committed to ecumenical causes, engaging in Christian, Moslem and Jewish dialogue.
While living in Sweden, he was the co-founder of the Nordic Centre for Interfaith Dialogue. He travelled with a priest and an imam to Sarajevo during the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, where they presided over services in churches, mosques and in Sarajevo’s great synagogue. For this and other work, these religious leaders were awarded a Swedish Peace Prize.
Here in Montreal, Rabbi Cahana continues his community engagement, having served as the president of the Montreal Board of Rabbis and hosting a weekly Radio Shalom show. He worked on the important Jewish social justice issue for agunot, Jewish divorced women denied their get. He was active in the landmark Supreme Court Case that created the Canadian precedent in this area.
In 2011, Rabbi Cahana suffered a brain stem stroke, leaving him in a locked-in state. While his mind remained completely intact, his body was devastated. Although remaining a quadriplegic, he has resumed his active participation in the life of the synagogue. His indomitable will and his remarkable courage continue to serve as an inspiration, not only to synagogue members, but to the whole Montreal community. He is our model of inspired faith.
He is married to Karen Knie-Cahana and they have 5 children, Kitra, Tamira, Briah, Dvir and Sapira.
Rabbi Cahana’s writings can be found at his website: http://rabbicahana.com/