Review: Les Juifs de Québec 9782760543430

Review: Les Juifs de Québec 9782760543430

LIQ_Mag_Mar2016_Cover_finalThis book review first appeared in the March 2016 issue of Life in Québec Magazine and on Quebec news and information portal LifeinQuebec.com.

It is reproduced here with their kind permission.

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Title: Les Juifs de Québec : Quatre cents ans d’histoire
Authors: Pierre Anctil & Simon Jacobs
ISBN: 9782760543430
Price: $35.00
Publisher: Les Presses de l’Université de Québec

Review by Bobbi Zahra

The imprint of Patrimoine urbain, a branch of les Presses de l’Université du Québec, has produced 15 books dealing with Quebec’s heritage, which necessarily means investigating the place of religion, and historically, the place of Christianity and Judaism.

With Les Juifs de Québec, Pierre Anctil and Simon Jacobs have presented much that is not generally known about the 400-year history of Jews in Québec. That Jews have lived and thrived in Québec for centuries is not a great surprise, but what may surprise readers of this beautifully produced book is the circumstances under which they sometimes managed this.

Relations between Jews and Francophones, who were separated not only by language, but also by religion, have not always been laudable. Anti-semitism has long been a part of the Jewish experience anywhere, no less so in Québec, where it may surprise the reader to learn of the 1944 synagogue arson.

While archival information is shockingly scant, Anctil and Jacobs have made the effort to research and to speak with members of the Jewish community who have lived in Québec for decades. They have taken pains to draw a chronological record of Jewish participation in the community, both negative (Esther Brandeau’s 1738 deportation to France because she is Jewish) and positive (the work of Sigismund Mohr, the engineer who facilitated the creation of the first commercial hydroelectric development in Canada, at Montmorency Falls).

The book is presented in both French and English, with contributions from a number of researchers and authors. It is rich not only in language and in explanations of Jewish life and ritual which may seem arcane to some readers, but also in its liberal use of photographs and helpful statistical information.

Anctil, a professor of history at the University of Ottawa, and Jacobs, who emigrated to Québec from the United Kingdom in 1989, have created a thorough, compelling book. The meticulous research and beautiful presentation assure that it is unquestionably worth the time to familiarise yourself with a little-known history of Québec that will inform you and will almost certainly surprise you.

Review by Bobbi Zahra

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