By Geoffrey Paul
August 31, 2011
I am ever fascinated by the world of the chassidim, especially when introduced to a dynasty of which I had no previous knowledge and which, in general, has managed to remain aloof from the outside world and struggles to keep it that way. So meet the Tosh (no joke, honest) and their venerable though ailing Rebbe, Meshullam Feish Segal-Lowy, great-grandson of the first Tosher Rebbe who sprang from a long rabbinic line and lived in the Hungarian town of Nyirtas, the last syllable of which provided the dynasty's title, Tas, sometimes Tash and most often Tosh.
Now in his 90th year, the current rebbe lives in a town built around him and populated by several thousand of his followers. Named, not surprisingly, Kiryas Tosh, it was established in 1963 not in some Brooklyn suburb nor even in Israel, but, wait for it, in French-speaking Quebec, Canada, about a 30-minute drive from Montreal where its members previously lived. It is no surprise then that the main street of Kiryas Tosh is Avenue Beth Halevy.
Rabbi Lowy took his followers to Tosh from Montreal so that he could preserve their life style and keep distractions at bay. He seems to have succeeded. Even in Catholic Canada, Tosh has one of the highest birthrates in the country. But is has not been without its heartbreaks. A fire last month destroyed a block of 18 apartments but caused no casualties. The local shomrim said all 200 flat-dwellers were rescued, 150 of them children.