At the turn of the 20th century, Maxwell Goldstein (1863-1939) was a prominent lawyer and a leader in Montreal's Jewish community. He won renown in particular for his efforts to ensure equality for Jews in the school system and for founding the Federation of Jewish Philanthropies.
Goldstein belonged to a group of affluent uptown Jews who were both integrated into Protestant English-speaking society and highly influential within the Montreal Jewish community. In the 1880s, he was among the founders of the Reform synagogue Temple Emanu-El. Very active in various Jewish philanthropic organizations, he became the founding President of the Federation of Jewish Philanthropies (now known as the Combined Jewish Appeal, or CJA) in 1917. At a time of massive Jewish immigration to Montreal from Eastern Europe, the Jewish community sought to respond to the needs of newcomers through the creation of various philanthropic organizations, including the Baron de Hirsch Institute, the Herzl Dispensary and the Young Men's Hebrew Association . To promote efficiency and prevent an overlap of services, Goldstein and several associates decided to establish the Federation of Jewish Philanthropies, a multipartite initiative representing all Jewish organizations in Montreal. After several decades of organizational difficulties, the Federation enabled the Jewish community to provide greater assistance to its members. Goldstein presided over the Federation until 1920.
Maxwell Goldstein also played a significant role in Jewish education in Quebec. When the Pinsler case went to court (1901 to 1903), drawing public attention to the unequal treatment of Jews in the school system, he headed a committee that held discussions with the Protestant school board. He suggested that Jews be appointed to sit on the board as advisors on issues related to Jewish students, but his proposal was rejected. Goldstein believed that Jews should integrate into the Protestant system, and he fought throughout his career to ensure equality for Jewish students and respect for their civil liberties in the process of integration.
Compiled by Valérie Beauchemin, translated by Helge Dascher.
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Goldstein, Maxwell. “The status of the Jew in the schools of Canada.”The Jew in Canada. Ed. Arthur D. Hart. Montreal: Canadian Jewish Publications Limited, 1926.
Bradbury, Bettina and Tamara Myers. Negotiating Identities in 19th and 20th Century Montreal. Vancouver: UBC Press, 2005.
Tulchinsky, Gerald. Canada’s Jews: A People’s Journey. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2008.