Bessner remembered for devotion to education and community

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“Members of the Board of Governors of Tel Aviv University bowed their heads in silent tribute to the late Prof. Lawrence Bessner of Montreal," Judge Barbara Seal, National President of Canadian Friends of Tel Aviv University, told an audience gathered to celebrate the life of Bessner, Concordia University’s lone Professor Emeritus.

Bessner, who died last Dec. 14 at the age of 86, was saluted on Sunday, June 1, at Temple Emanu-El-Beth Sholom, with Rabbi Leigh Lerner officiating.

Dame Shirley Porter, former Lord Mayor of Westminister, England, advised the organizers, “I regret I am unable to be with you today to pay tribute to Lawrence Bessner, a great supporter of Israel and Tel Aviv University.”

Dr. Leslie Wolfson, head of the University’s Friends in Scotland, declared “his devotion to the university was legendary.”

Other tributes to Bessner came from onetime colleague Prof. Larry Boyle; author Joe King and, speaking for the Bessner family, Bryna Hersh and Donna Hoppenheim.

King described Bessner’s “long and productive” chairmanship of the Montreal Jewish Publication Society. He led the group from its founding in 1999 until 2007, when illness slowed him down and he turned the gavel over to another Westmounter, Steffi Halton.

Prof. Boyle described his friend’s close relationship with the Jesuits at Loyola, where he was the College’s first Jewish teacher. Loyola’s regard for Bessner was so great that that he was the only non-graduate to be named an honorary alumnus. Prof. Bessner’s other involvements ranged from service as a Hampstead alderman and on the English Language School Board to long association with the Montreal Association for the Blind.

In the Jewish community, he was involved with the Montreal Jewish Community Foundation, Canadian Jewish Congress and Israel Bonds. A veteran of the Royal Canadian Air Force in World War II (as was his wife Terry), he attended McGill University and co-founded a major accounting firm now known as Bessner, Gallay, Kreisman.

Organizations: Tel Aviv University, Board of Governors of Tel Aviv University, Concordia University Montreal Jewish Publication Society Jesuits English Language School Board Montreal Association for the Blind Montreal Jewish Community Foundation Canadian Air Force McGill University

Geographic location: Montreal, Westminister, England Scotland

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