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Cyril Edel Leonoff was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, in 1925. He is the grandson of Edel Brotman, a homesteader and rabbi of the Wapella, Saskatchewan farm colony, 1889-1906.
Cyril holds degrees from the Universities of Manitoba and Washington. A Civil engineer by profession, Leonoff is also a graduate of the Public History Program at Simon Fraser University. He has authored and edited a number of books and papers on engineering and historical topics.
In Winnipeg, Cyril met and married, in 1949, Faye Matlin (December 30, 1927 - October 29, 2011). After marriage, Cyril and Faye lived in New Westminster, Seattle and eventually settled in Vancouver. They have three children - Blair, Anita and Rosanne.
In 1970-74, Leonoff was the founding president of the Jewish Historical Society of British Columbia (now known as the Jewish Museum and Archives of British Columbia). In 1985, for his work "The Jewish Farmers of Western Canada", he was awarded the Margaret McWilliams Medal of the Manitoba Historical Society. In 2007, he received the Distinguished Service Award of the Association for Canadian Jewish Studies. He is currently the Historian Emeritus of the Jewish Museum and Archives of British Columbia.