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Canadian Said to Be Oldest Jew in World, Dies at 113

November 9, 1988
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Joseph Joffre died at Maimonides Hospital here Monday at the age of 113. He was possibly the oldest living Jew and one of the oldest men in the world.

He succumbed to what were described as natural causes. “He was lucid until the very last moment,” said Minny Greenblatt, the youngest of his 15 children.

“I console myself with the fact that he died with dignity and lived a full life,” she said.

Joffre said he was born on March 10, 1875, in Libau, Latvia, then part of the Czarist empire. But his birth date was not verified.

“He was never registered because in Russia in 1875, a Jewish child was never considered worth registering,” his daughter said. But she said his birth was recorded at the local synagogue.

According to Joffre, he arrived in Canada in 1893, having previously earned a doctorate in chemistry in Germany and studied in London where he was ordained a rabbi.

If correct, Joffre, at age 18, already held a Ph.D. and rabbinical ordination.

He worked in Canadian hospitals as a chemist and founded an artificial limb company in Ottawa.

There he met a fellow immigrant from Latvia, Sarah Miller. They wed in 1912, starting a marriage that ended 60 years later with her death at age 86.

Joffre served as a medical officer with the Canadian army in Europe during World War I.

Afterwards, he settled in Montreal where he founded two chemical companies.

According to his family, Joffre was never ill nor was he ever hospitalized until 10 months ago.

He is survived by four of his children, 14 grandchildren and 21 great-grandchildren.

Until a few years ago he participated in an annual 20-mile hike around Montreal known as the “March to Jerusalem.” It is held in May by the Jewish community to mark the anniversary of Israel’s independence.

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