Bill Gladstone

The de Solas: A Distinguished Sephardic Lineage

When Abraham de Sola arrived in Montreal in 1846 to serve as spiritual leader of the city’s Spanish and Portuguese Congregation, he carried a letter from his father, David de Sola, rabbi of London’s Bevis Marks synagogue, beseeching the community to look after him because he was only 19 years old. Abraham de Sola was…

Shining a light on Jewish names

A Talmudic source indicates that after Alexander the Great conquered Palestine in 333 BCE, all Jewish boys of priestly families born the following year were named Alexander as a form of tribute. Like his namesake, a contemporary Alexander is proving a skilled and savvy conqueror. Alexander Beider, the Paris-based onomastician, has marched from one province…

Patai’s history of Hungarian Jews

The Jews of Hungary: History, Culture, Psychology (Wayne State University Press) by Raphael Patai is a monumental 720-page treatise that traces the history of the Jews of the Carpathian basin from their origin in Roman times to their near-obliteration in 1944 and beyond, right up to the present moment. Patai, who died recently at 86, was…

Gone but not forgotten: author Margaret Mitchell

Timorous and untested as an author, Margaret Mitchell persuaded herself during her seven-year literary labour that the manuscript she was working on was so terrible it would never be printed. Like a woman enceinte but too modest or superstitious to tell anyone, she kept the project a secret from friends and acquaintances. Only her husband…

The City Man: Fine novel of ’30s Toronto

Howard Akler has made an auspicious literary debut with his first novel, The City Man (Coach House Books), a crisply written tale that conjures up the look and feel of Toronto in the ‘30s. The story focuses on Toronto Star reporter Eli Morenz who, freshly returned from a convalescence in the country, writes a riveting…

Consolation: New Glimpses of Old Toronto

If you’re a Toronto lover like me, you’re bound to enjoy and marvel over Michael Redhill’s novel Consolation (Anchor Canada), which delivers a gripping human story, elegantly and poetically told, and a grittily realistic literary portrait of 1850s Toronto that is so well executed that it shines. In alternating chapters, Consolation artfully knits together two…

Gluckel’s ‘Seven Little Books’

If, as historian Jacob Shatzky once observed, catastrophe of one sort or another has been the usual impetus for the bulk of Jewish autobiographical writing, the celebrated chronicles left to us by Gluckel of Hamelyn (1646-1724) under the title The Memoirs of Gluckel of Hamelyn are no exception. The pious Gluckel took up her quill…