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Harriet Hoffman and Rhonda Prepes



by Rhonda J. Prepes, Sept 14, 2013

Harriet Goodman Hoffman follows her Winnipeg grandfather’s travels from his Yiddish book, Collected Writing

I met with Harriet (Hart-nickname) Hoffman, author, lecturer and professional genealogical researcher, at Schmoozer’s on August 15, 2013 to talk about why she was in Winnipeg. 

“My grandfather, Joseph Goodman (born Chaim Chernoff) was originally from the Ukraine born about 1863. He was in Winnipeg from 1902 to1923. He worked for the CPR, was an immigration inspector, and then appointed naturalization commissioner for Western Canada, so he traveled widely. He fathomed himself as a “Sholem Aleichem” [a Yiddish author and playwright (1859 – 1960)],” said Hoffman who lives in Honolulu, Hawaii.

“He was a writer and a freelance writer for the Free Press where he wrote articles under the pseudonym of Professor Incognito. He is well documented in Arthur Chiel’s book The Jews in Manitoba. He wrote poems, stories, and he wrote about his travels.”

In 2011, Hoffman found a book her grandfather had published in Yiddish in 1919, Gezamelte Shriften or Collected Writings, at the Yiddish Book Center in Amherst, Massachusetts. Collected Writings turned out to be a remarkable collection, not only about the author, Joseph J. Goodman, but also about the Canadian Jewish immigrant experience. 

Realizing a treasure had been discovered Hoffman researched and wrote an extensive chronology about her grandfather’s life, a biography of his Russian years, information about people and places mentioned in the text, a map of where he travelled, the growth of the Canadian Jewish community, and the Yiddish language. Then she republished it a bilingual side-by-side presentation in 2010.

“Collected Writings” is a treasure found and saved to preserve a perspective on life, and a history of Winnipeg and Canada,” explained Hoffman with definite passion for this work.

“I came to Winnipeg for three reasons. First, to do research that I couldn’t get online, to be here and walk where my grandfather walked and visit the places that he lived, and to promote his book. I think he wanted to be heard and I want people to hear what he had to say which is as profoundly true today as it was then,” said Hoffman.

“Hart”, as she likes to be called, explained to me about how the original book was found by The Yiddish Book Center. Her gratitude and praise for the work being done by this organization is powerful. As I researched this amazing venture, apparently little known to us Winnipeggers, I too am impressed and want to share this information with our readers.

The Yiddish Book Center was founded in 1980 by its current president, Aaron Lansky, then a 24-year-old graduate student of Yiddish literature. Lansky realized that untold numbers of irreplaceable Yiddish books—the primary, tangible legacy of 1,000 years of Jewish life in Eastern Europe—were being discarded by American-born Jews unable to read the language of their own Yiddish-speaking parents and grandparents.  He organized a nationwide network of zamlers (volunteer book collectors) and launched a concerted campaign to save the world’s remaining Yiddish books before it was too late. The Yiddish Book Center is a non-profit organization working to tell the whole Jewish story by rescuing more than a million Yiddish books, translating and disseminating Yiddish books and presenting innovative educational programs that broaden understanding of modern Jewish identity. Books were found in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Cuba, Venezuela, Chile, Uruguay, Argentina, England, France, South Africa, Australia, and other countries around the world. 

In 1997, the Steven Spielberg Digital Yiddish Library was established with 11,000 digitized titles online, free of charge.


To read more about the Yiddish Book Center, click here:


Collected Writings, in its newly published version, has a beautifully illustrated cover depicting our railroad which was so vital to the development of Winnipeg and the Western Canadian prairie towns. It is being ordered by the University of Manitoba to be used in the Judaic Studies curriculum. The book will also be available for purchase within the next few weeks at McNally Robinson at the Grant Park Shopping Centre or though

Hoffman was excited to experience the next leg of her journey following in her grandfather’s footsteps which would take her to Lethbridge, Medicine Hat, and Calgary where she would be speaking at the Jewish Center of Southern Alberta. However, she expressed how wonderful her trip to Winnipeg had been, how comfortable and connected she felt and knew she would be leaving a part of her behind and taking a part of Winnipeg with her home in her ‘heart.’ I felt the same about her and wish her well in her journey.

Harriet  “Hart” Hoffman can be reached at [email protected]   and her website is

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