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Ghitta Caiserman-Roth

1923 – 2005

by Michael Brown

A well-known Canadian artist whose landscapes and images of people reflect her personal experiences and feelings as well as her social concerns, Caiserman-Roth was born in Montreal, which has been her life-long home. Her parents were Sarah (Wittal) Caiserman (1893–1967), a homemaker active in community affairs who immigrated to Canada in 1918 from Romania, and Hananiah Meir Caiserman (1881–1950), one of the early Canadian Jewish community professionals who had immigrated to Montreal from Romania seven years earlier. Caiserman began his public career in Canada as a union organizer and Po’alei Zion (Labor Zionism) activist. Just after World War I, he was instrumental in the founding of the Jewish Immigrant Aid Society (JIAS), which he served for many years as honorary president, and the Canadian Jewish Congress (CJC), which he led as general secretary for almost two decades before his death. Caiserman represented Canada at Zionist congresses; as CJC general secretary, he led the campaign for a boycott against German products in the 1930s, and as JIAS president, the campaign for a more open Canadian immigration policy in the 1920s. Although Caiserman’s career was Jewish communal service, he had broad cultural interests and authored a book (in Yiddish) on Yiddish poets.

Following in the cultural footsteps of her father, Caiserman-Roth started painting as a child. Educated at the Parsons School of Design in New York (BA, 1961) and the École des Beaux Arts in Montreal, she also studied under realist artist Moses Soyer (1899–1974) at the American Artists’ School of the Art Student League of New York. She has taught at Concordia University, John Abbott College, the University of Quebec, and the Saidye Bronfman Centre of the YMHA in Montreal, the Nova Scotia College of Art, and Mount Allison and Mount Saint Vincent universities in Nova Scotia, the Ontario College of Art in Toronto, and the Ottawa School of Art.

Over the years, the artist has had shows of her paintings and drawings in Montreal, Ottawa, Quebec City, and New York, and her works have been purchased by galleries and museums across Canada. In 1967, Caiserman-Roth received the Centennial Medal in recognition of her achievements; in 1975, the Purchase Prize and Best Graphic Images Award of the Ontario Society of Artists; and in 2000, the Governor General’s Award for Visual Arts. In 2002, she served as vice-chair of the (federal) Commission on the Status of the Artist, and she is a council member of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts. Together with Friedhelm Lachs, Caiserman-Roth published Creativism (1980) and with Rhoda Cohen, Surprises, Insights, Discoveries: Drawing from the Model (1993). Her own work is presented in Ghitta Caiserman-Roth: Drawings and Paintings by Friedhelm Lachs (1988).

In 1945, Caiserman married Alfred Pinsky.  The couple had one daugther Kathe in 1954, but divorced in 1959.  In 1962, Caiserman-Roth married the well-known Montreal architect, Max Roth (1914–2001). The artist’s siblings are Nina Kellin and Nella Laks.

See the comment below from Kathe Roth about her grandmother Sarah Caiserman.

6 Comments

Dear Ms. Roth, My mother inherited a beautiful painting in 2011 with the passing of my great aunt who was 86. This painting is of a woman holding a large Hen or Rooster. The painting is on wood and it is painted in a style similar to that of "Woman with Mirror." It could also be said, in my opinion, that this beautiful woman resembles, in looks and clothing, the one I am referring to also. Is there someway for me to send you pictures, possibly by regular post or e-mail, of our painting. I would love to hear from you and can be reached by calling 514-243-9391 cell, or my e-mail: thomasranco@gmail.com. I suspect that my late uncle John may have brought this picture into our family several years ago. He passed about in 1986. He was 71 years old at the time of his passing. I believe he may have taken an art class at some point and possibly had come into contact with your mother. I have no way of knowing this. I have a few of his very tiny paintings at home and they are mostly of flowers that remind me of folk art. Any assistance with this would be very helpful. One last thing, my great grand mother came from Romania to Canada during the first world war. A part that is now in the Ukraine. I think the painting reminded my great aunt and uncle of their mother who passed away here in Montreal in 1968. I remember her clearly even though I was only 8 when she died. She had that old world care and loving about here that I can still feel in my heart. Thank you. Tom Ranco Montreal, Quebec

JWA has forwarded your message to Kathe Roth. We hope that she will be in touch with you directly.

I am Ghitta Caiserman's daughter, and I would like to correct several factual errors. First, Sarah Caiserman died in 1967, not 1959. Sarah Caiserman was much more than a "homemaker." She was one of the founders of the Voice of Women and active in the Hadassah. She was also a personal friend of Golda Meir's. She founded, owned, and ran a children's wear company called Goosey Gander for many years.

Ghitta Caiserman was married to Alfred Pinsky (in 1945; divorced 1959) before she was married to Max Roth. I am the child of Ghitta Caiserman and Alfred Pinsky NOT Max Roth and I was born in 1954. (My name was legally changed when I was eighteen.)

Ghitta Caiserman received the Governor General Award for Visual Arts in 2000.

Ghitta Caiserman (who hyphenated Max Roth's name to hers when they were married and until his death, after which she removed "Roth") died in 2005.

I hope that you will make these corrections to the above biography in the very near future.

Just thought you would want to know. I have 3 paintings of your mothers with me today. They were given to me by my Father many years ago and still hang them proudly :)

JWA forwarded your message to KÌÄå_the Roth. She replied: "I'm very glad you enjoy them. Ghitta would have been happy to know!"

Thank you for your comments.

How to cite this page

Brown, Michael. "Ghitta Caiserman-Roth." Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia. 1 March 2009. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on April 25, 2017) <https://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/caiserman-roth-ghitta>.

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