Between the Wars: Canadian Jews in Transition


180 pages
Contains Photos, Illustrations, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 1-55065-174-9
DDC 971.4'28004924





Translated by Vivian Felsen
Reviewed by Jay Newman

Jay Newman is a professor of philosophy at the University of Guelph. His
most recently published work is Biblical Religion and Family Values: A
Problem in the Philosophy of Culture (2001).


Israel Medres (1894–1964) emigrated from Eastern Europe to Montreal
while in his teens and established himself as a major contributor to the
city’s Yiddish-language newspapers and to the English-language Jewish
Chronicle. This well-crafted volume provides a long-overdue English
translation of a work published in Yiddish in 1964. Translator Vivian
Felsen, who also translated the author’s Montreal of Yesterday: Jewish
Life in Montreal 1900–1920, has provided a brief but useful
introduction to Medres’s life and work as well as 15 pages of very
helpful notes. Based on Medres’s journalism, the book focuses on
significant events in Montreal Jewish history from World War I to the
early 1960s—events that were almost invariably interrelated with the
momentous events involving Jews throughout the world. A keen observer,
Medres has provided us with vivid insights into many aspects of Jewish
life in Montreal, Quebec, and Canada; but he is especially illuminating
in his discussions of Zionist movements, responses to local and regional
anti-Semitism, and Jewish contributions to the Canadian war effort and
postwar reconstruction.

Medres was not an academic historian but a journalist, and he was
constantly mindful of his obligations as a witness to the events that he
describes for his readers. Reflective, compassionate, and fair-minded,
he reports on these events with precision, conciseness, and dignity.
Although he effectively conveys a sense of the vitality of the Jewish
community of Montreal, his testimony is particularly powerful in his
description of various dimensions of French-Canadian anti-Semitism,
including Adrien Arcand’s gangs, the anti-Semitic press, and the Notre
Dame Hospital strike. The reader is heartened by Medres’s descriptions
of the tolerance of men such as Henri Bourassa and Mr. Justice
Desaulniers, but Medres’s excellence as a journalist is perhaps most
evident in his simple but chilling account of his interview with Maurice
Duplessis. This important work merits inclusion in every public and
private collection of 20th-century Canadian history.


Medres, Israel., “Between the Wars: Canadian Jews in Transition,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed April 24, 2024,