Ältester, The

“The Ältester: Herman D.W. Friesen, A Mennonite Leader in Changing Times” by Bruce L. GuentherPublished by University of Regina PressReview by Keith Foster$34.95 ISBN 978-0-88977-572-5 When change inevitably intersects with strongly held traditional beliefs, there’s bound to be a clash. How one man and his community cope with the challenge of changing times is the theme of Bruce Guenther’s biography, The Ältester: Herman D.W. Friesen, A Mennonite Leader in Changing Times. The Ältester is an intimate portrait of a family man, a community leader, and a religious role model in the Hague-Osler area north of Saskatoon, where Herman Friesen was born in 1908. As one of Herman’s grandsons, Guenther writes from a unique vantage point, showing how the family served as a “microcosm of the transitions taking place within the larger Old Colony Mennonite community in the region.” Conflict arose over the Saskatchewan government’s insistence on English-language public schools for children, rather than private schools where Mennonites could teach their own language and religion. Unable to resolve this issue, many Old Colony Mennonites migrated to Mexico in the 1920s, but Herman’s parents stayed in Saskatchewan. Herman’s story would not be complete without his wife. He didn’t have to go far…