Victor Goldbloom R.I.P.

Written by  //  February 19, 2016  //  Absent Friends, Québec  //  1 Comment

Dr. Goldbloom was ‘unifying force’ for Christians, Jews
By  Alan Hustak, Catholic Register Special
Dr. Victor Goldbloom’s dedication to Christian-Jewish dialogue earned him an audience with Pope John Paul II, a knighthood from Pope Benedict XVI and friendships with several Canadian cardinals.
He was also the first Jewish minister in a Quebec government and became a “unifying force” through life-long advocacy of toleration and respect between the English and French and between the Jewish and non-Jewish communities of Quebec.
Dr. Goldbloom died in Montreal Feb. 14 at the age of 92. His packed funeral on Feb. 18 was attended by Montreal’s political and religious elite, including Montreal Archbishop Christian Lepine.
Lepine called Dr. Goldbloom “a man of dialogue” who had “genuine” encounters with people of all backgrounds.
“With a serene awareness of his own Jewish faith, but with his heart and mind open to all, he dedicated his life to improving the encounter between Christians and Jews,” said Lepine.

16 February
Appreciation: Victor Goldbloom spent his life building bridges
Graham Fraser
Into his 90s, Victor Goldbloom was as passionate and as eloquent as ever about diversity, tolerance, mutual understanding and minority language rights. I learned to insist that, if I shared a platform with him, I should speak before he did and not after. He remained such a powerful and engaging speaker that he was, quite literally, a hard act to follow. As one of his successors, I cherished his commitment, his support and his friendship.
(Montreal Gazette) One of the many extraordinary things about Dr. Victor Goldbloom was that, at 92, he was fully engaged in public life. He was planning to testify before the National Assembly commission studying Bill 86 to express his dismay about the bill that will end universal suffrage for English school boards in Quebec. His commitment and passion remained undiminished to the very end of his life.
I first encountered Dr. Goldbloom, who died Monday, in the fall of 1976 when he was the minister of municipal affairs in Robert Bourassa’s government and I was a reporter recently assigned to Quebec. I was at L’Aquarium in Quebec City, a restaurant where journalists and politicians often gathered. Dr. Goldbloom passed our table, stopped to chat and, after some encouragement, burst into a chorus of ’O Sole Mio! I knew him by reputation, but I had no idea of his musical talent. …
Victor grew up in a very different Jewish Montreal from that immortalized by Mordecai Richler, but he could not avoid some of the barriers that anti-Semitism created, even though he was able to climb over most of them, quietly proving that excellence and charm could defeat prejudice. In life as in music, his interest was in creating harmony and resolving conflict.
I suspect that the skills he demonstrated as a public figure — patience, calm, reflection, respect for those he dealt with and an ability to listen carefully — were first learned as a doctor treating sick children and their worried parents. …
In his memoir, Dr. Goldbloom tells how Bourassa designated him in 1976 to be the minister responsible for ensuring that the Olympic construction was completed on time — a request that, he wrote, “was, as in The Godfather, an offer I could not refuse. But I realized that I was at risk of political suicide.” He insisted that he did not deserve to be called “the man who saved the Olympics,” but his description of what he did shows an intuitive grasp of the critical elements of project management.
… in 1991, he became commissioner of official languages. It was a difficult period; the constitutional debates and the referendums of 1992 and 1995 stirred up language tensions. He responded by travelling across the country, speaking to service clubs and appearing on open-line radio shows, calmly absorbing the abuse and respectfully correcting the misconceptions.

Public servant Victor Goldbloom remembered as a unifying force
Ingrid Peritz
(Globe & Mail) Dr. Goldbloom, a tenor who liked to sing opera in his spare time, became a kind of elder statesman of community engagement, and he never slowed down. In recent years, he spoke out against the proposed Quebec charter of values, was active in public-health administration, and was preparing to address Quebec parliamentary hearings on reorganized Quebec school boards. Last year, he published his memoirs, Building Bridges (translating them himself into a French version). As recently as Friday night at a private gathering, he talked about enlarging interfaith dialogue to include other religious groups.

“My watchword has been une politique de présence – being present wherever and whenever possible,” he wrote in the final lines of the book. “It has been quite an odyssey.”

Obituary: Victor Goldbloom was a cabinet minister, a bridge builder, and a ‘true gentleman’
By Marion Scott

Victor Goldbloom order-of-canadaThere could be no more apt description of Victor Goldbloom’s life than the title of his recent book, Building Bridges.
A pediatrician and politician, a Jew who was honoured by the Catholic Church for his efforts to build interfaith dialogue and an anglophone with deep roots in francophone Quebec, Goldbloom was the quintessential Montrealer, Quebecer and Canadian.
He died of a heart attack Monday night at age 92.
Despite his age, Goldbloom was in good health and still active in public life right up until his death.
Graham Fraser, Canada’s Commissioner of Official Languages – a post Goldbloom held from 1991-99 – noted that Goldbloom had been scheduled to speak before an upcoming National Assembly committee on the reorganization of Quebec school boards.
“It’s rare with somebody at 92 that you have the sense that we are losing someone who is still in total mastery of his powers and still has the capacity to influence anybody who hears him,” Fraser said.
“His commitment, his passion, his eloquence were undiminished,” he added.
Throughout his varied career as cabinet minister, interfaith advocate and language commissioner, respect was Goldbloom’s hallmark, Fraser said.
“He was very respectful of everybody that he dealt with, after growing up in a period when there was anti-Semitism in Montreal,” he said.
Goldbloom demonstrated the “pediatrician’s skills of listening, of observing and of patience and respect,” he added.
Goldbloom was born in Montreal on July 31, 1923, into a distinguished medical family with a passion for music. He studied medicine at McGill University, following in the footsteps of his father, Alton Goldbloom, a pioneer of modern pediatrics who helped develop the Montreal Children’s Hospital.
In 1966, Goldbloom was elected as MNA for D’Arcy McGee. He served in Premier Robert Bourassa’s cabinet from 1970 until 1976, when the Parti Québécois came to power.
Fraser, a former journalist, recalled the first time he met Goldbloom in 1976 in a popular Quebec City restaurant frequented by politicians and journalists.
Goldbloom, then Municipal Affairs and the Environment Minister, stopped by his table and, with little prompting, broke into a creditable operatic rendition of O Sole Mio, Fraser said.
At the time, Goldbloom had earned national fame for saving the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal, plagued by construction delays, cost overruns and labour conflict.
In his memoir, published last year by McGill-Queens University Press, Goldbloom was characteristically modest about his role, saying all he did was to set up daily meetings where organizers gave progress reports.
But without the timely intervention, the games might not have opened on time, Fraser said.
“Until he did that and managed to bring everybody together, the Olympics had been on a fast track to failure.
“It was characteristic of his modesty and his lack of desire to claim credit for something that he felt other people had done that he played this down, but it was critical,” Fraser added.
From 1979 to 1987, Goldbloom was president and CEO of the Canadian Council of Christians and Jews.
“He was a really strong voice for interfaith dialogue and for progressive Judaism,” said Lisa Grushcow, rabbi of Temple Emanu-El-Beth Sholom in Westmount, of which Goldbloom was a past president.
“He stood in the best tradition of really ground-breaking dialogue. In addition to that, he was just what we would call a mensch. He was a wonderful human being. He cared about people, Grushcow said.
Still extremely active in the congregation, Goldbloom had a lunch meeting scheduled Tuesday with the synagogue’s president, she said.
“I don’t think there are many people who at 92, if you hear about their death, that it’s a shock, but it absolutely was with Victor, because I think we all thought he would go on forever, and we were counting on him because he still brought so much in so many ways,” Grushcow said.
“We say in our tradition, you want to leave the world better than you found it and that he really did,” she added.
Goldbloom’s many volunteer activities included chairing the Board of the Health and Social Services Agency of the Island of Montreal from 2002 to 2015, serving as honorary president of the Jules and Paul-Émile Léger Foundation and as president of Jewish Immigrant Aid Services of Montreal.
He was a Companion of the Order of Canada – Canada’s highest distinction – and an Officer of l’Ordre National du Québec.
In 2012, Pope Benedict XVI awarded him the Pontifical Equestrian Order of St. Sylvester Pope and Martyr for his outstanding contribution to promoting Christian-Jewish dialogue.
In the National Assembly, politicians observed a moment of silence after speaker Jacques Chagnon announced Goldbloom’s passing.
Premier Philippe Couillard expressed his sympathy and reminded Quebecers of the work Goldbloom did uniting people of all stripes.
“He was a great Quebecer, a great Canadian of course,” Couillard said.
“He did a lot for Quebec in uniting people across lines of religion, of language of communities. He’ll always be remembered and we’ll always be grateful to him,” he said.
Native Affairs Minister Geoffrey Kelley called Goldbloom’s death “a very great loss.”
“I think many, many people in Quebec learned a great deal from Victor Goldbloom,” Kelley said, noting that Goldbloom “worked hard to make sure relations improved between various communities on the island of Montreal and Quebec society.”
David Birnbaum, the MNA for D’Arcy McGill, also hailed Goldbloom’s moral leadership.
“Victor, beyond being a gift to the Jewish community that I’m proud to be part of, was a gift to Quebec, to Canada and in some ways to the entire world in his work on inter-religious dialogue,” Birnbaum said.
He added that Goldbloom “in so many ways to me represents the love and connection of English-speaking Quebecers to this province. He spoke of unity of moving this province and this country forward with grace, intelligence and real wisdom.”
Mayor Denis Cohere saluted Goldbloom as “above all a unifying force, an extremely talented politician and a great expert on compromise.”
McGill principal and vice-chancellor Suzanne Fortier also hailed Goldbloom for “helping foster greater understanding and tolerance.”
David J. Cape, national chair of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), praised Goldbloom’s accomplishments in politics, language relations and interfaith dialogue.
“The Jewish community of Canada has lost a beacon and one of the most outstanding leaders of our time,” he said.
Eric Maldoff, chair of CIJA Quebec, called Goldbloom “a pillar upon whom we could rely and to whom we could turn for thoughtful advice and wise counsel. He was a true gentleman, moderate in his views, balanced in his judgment and generous with his time for community, building bridges and goodwill.”
Goldbloom’s elder son Michael, the principal and vice-chancellor of Bishop’s University in Lennoxville and former publisher of the Montreal Gazette, said his father was a model of moderation who brought together “people of different faiths, different languages and different political perspectives.”
His brother Jonathan, a public relations consultant who ran for the federal Liberal nomination in Mount Royal in 2014, praised his father’s commitment to dialogue, a trait Victor learned from his own father.
Goldbloom always made time in his busy schedule for family and during his years as a politician always called home at breakfast, supper and bedtime when the National Assembly was in session, Jonathan recalled.
Goldbloom is survived by his wife of 67 years, retired McGill professor of social work Sheila Goldbloom; their children, Susan Restler (Peter Restler), Michael Goldbloom (Fiona Macleod), Jonathan Goldbloom (Alice Switocz); as well as four grandchildren, two great-grandchildren and Victor’s brother, Dr. Richard Goldbloom.

In Memoriam: Dr. Victor Goldbloom

Dr. Victor Goldbloom at the MISC conference, "Canada on the Global Stage", February 11-12, 2016

Dr. Victor Goldbloom at the MISC conference, “Canada on the Global Stage”, February 11-12, 2016

We are deeply saddened by the passing of former MISC Visiting Scholar (2010) Dr. Victor Goldbloom. His many significant contributions to the communities he touched, to his alma mater McGill, and to public and political life will leave a lasting impact. Our deepest condolences and warm thoughts go to his wife, Sheila Goldbloom, and their loved ones. Of note, son Michael Goldbloom, who is Co-Chair of MISC’s Board of Trustees. Dr. Goldbloom was a loyal supporter of MISC, and we are grateful to have been in his presence last week during our annual conference. It was a privilege to be in his company.

To learn more about Dr. Goldbloom’s impressive life and legacy, follow the link to the McGill Reporter’s article:

One Comment on "Victor Goldbloom R.I.P."

  1. QCGN February 16, 2016 at 4:03 pm ·

    The QCGN is greatly saddened by the news of Dr. Victor Goldbloom’s passing. He was a passionate ambassador for our community and a diplomat who spoke wisely and with great authority on our behalf. Dr. Goldbloom was active and committed until the very end and was scheduled to be a part of the QCGN delegation to parliamentary hearings on Bill 86. The QCGN loved him very much and admired him greatly as a tireless advocate for Quebec’s English-speaking community. I know I speak for all in the QCGN as we offer our deepest condolences to Sheila, Jonathan, Michael as well as his family and loved ones. He will always be remembered for his contributions and will be missed.

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