Goldstein, Maxwell, lawyer and community leader; b. 13 May 1863 in Quebec City, fifth of the ten children of Adolphe Goldstein, a merchant, and Rebecca Stein; m. first 15 June 1892 Rosalie Stern (d. 1924) in Toronto, and they had a son and a daughter; m. secondly 5 Aug. 1925 Adeline Stern (d. 1969) in Montreal; d. there 28 June 1939.
Maxwell Goldstein received his early education in Quebec City at the National School and the High School of Quebec, and he entered McGill College, Montreal, in 1879 at age 16. In the spring of 1882 he obtained a bcl and won the Elizabeth Torrance Gold Medal, awarded to the best law student in his final year; at the time he was also the college’s youngest law graduate. Called to the provincial bar in 1884, he was one of its first Jewish members; in 1922–23 he would serve on its council. He teamed up with Christopher Benfield Carter in Montreal to form Carter and Goldstein, which by 1903, the year in which he was appointed a kc, had become Carter, Goldstein, and Beullac. In 1907 he headed the firm Goldstein and Beullac. About 10 years after Goldstein’s death Pierre Beullac would recall that his former partner was a “relentless worker” who was attentive to detail. According to Beullac, Goldstein seldom appeared in court, but he acquired a reputation as an expert in real-estate transactions.
Goldstein belonged to many organizations, both Jewish and non-Jewish, and headed a number of them. He was the first president of the Hebrew Naturalization Association, which instructed Jews on the rights and duties of citizenship. He was a founder (1917) and later president of the Federation of Jewish Philanthropies of Montreal, established to coordinate the activities of, and raise funds for, 12 social agencies. He served as president of the Jewish Court of Arbitration and as honorary counsel to the Baron de Hirsch Institute and Hebrew Benevolent Society of Montreal, as well as to the Hebrew Free Loan Association. A member of the managing committee of the Victorian Order of Nurses, a governor of the Montreal General Hospital, and a director of the Montreal Citizens’ Association, he was chairman of the committee on laws of the grand council of the Royal Arcanum of Quebec, a fraternal society. Consulted on faculty nominations for his alma mater, he also took part in fund-raising for McGill. In addition, he belonged to clubs serving both Jews and Gentiles, such as the Montefiore, Montreal, and Canadian clubs.
An activist for equality, in 1909 Goldstein founded and chaired the Jewish legislative committee, which was involved in many of the prominent legal issues that affected the Jewish population. The organization had developed from an informal group of prominent Jews who had lobbied for exemption from the federal Lord’s Day Act of 1906 for those whose Sabbath was not celebrated on Sunday. They also supported the efforts of several lawyers, including Samuel William Jacobs, in the well-known libel case in Quebec City against notary Jacques-Édouard Plamondon*, who had publicly slandered Jews in a lecture to a Roman Catholic youth group in 1910. Paradoxically, Goldstein was also concerned about the acculturation of “foreign” Jews into Canadian society, which led him to advocate and support controlled Jewish immigration to Canada.
Of all Goldstein’s achievements and activities, two stand out: his lengthy contribution to the cause of Reform Judaism in Montreal and his role in the Jewish school question. One of the 36 persons who, in 1882, established the first Reform congregation in Canada, later known as Temple Emanu-El [see Elias Friedlander*], he served as the congregation’s secretary for eight years and from 1907 to 1923 as its president. When he stepped down, Rabbi Max John Merritt observed that “Temple Emanu-El owed Mr. Goldstein a deeper debt of obligation than to any other man whose name was interwoven with the congregation’s history.” Goldstein was then named honorary president, a title he would hold until his death.
The Jewish school question, which spanned several decades, was a protracted battle for the rights of Jewish students, parents, and teachers within the dual public-school system of the province. Jewish children in Montreal had been granted permission to attend Protestant schools in 1894; in return, the school taxes their parents paid on property went to the Protestant Board of School Commissioners for the City of Montreal [see Edward Westhead Arthy*]. At the beginning of the 20th century the number of Jewish children was increasing, and many Jews, as new immigrants, were tenants rather than property owners. The Protestant board, faced with serious financial difficulties, sought to limit Jewish children’s attendance. Goldstein and Jacobs represented a Jewish couple in an important suit concerning their child’s rights [see Jacobs]. Later Goldstein chaired the delegation that negotiated with the Protestant board and the provincial government to resolve the tensions created by the presence of Jews in the city’s Protestant schools. The result was an act, passed in 1903, which stipulated that Jewish and Protestant children had the same educational rights. Under its provisions all Jewish property owners were to pay taxes to the Protestant school board and Jewish pupils would be counted with Protestants for the purpose of government grants. Despite these milestones, equality for Jewish students, parents, and teachers in the Protestant system would not come for decades, and Goldstein would take part in this struggle throughout the 1920s. For example, he provided legal advice to former cigar manufacturer Michael Hirsch, probably in 1924 when Hirsch sat as a member of the provincial commission of inquiry into the subject of Jewish children in Protestant schools set up by the government of Louis-Alexandre Taschereau*.
Goldstein was an important leader of the Montreal Jewish community whose name will always be associated with the advancement of Jewish rights. His lifelong friend Hirsch noted at the time of his death that Goldstein “did not stop at the boundary of his faith but was keenly active as well in many secular organizations.… His passing will be a great shock to our people and a distinct loss to the larger community of which he was an integral part.” Renowned philanthropist Samuel Bronfman* said of Goldstein that “it was a source of great satisfaction to him to watch the seeds which he had so ably and patiently sown in the field of humanitarian service, develop, ripen and bear fruit. His memory shall long be cherished by our community, which he served so well.”
Maxwell Goldstein is the author of “The status of the Jew in the schools of Canada,” in The Jew in Canada: a complete record of Canadian Jewry from the days of the French régime to the present time, comp. A. D. Hart, (Toronto and Montreal, 1926), 497–98.
Alex Dworkin Canadian Jewish Arch. (Montreal), CJC0001, ZB (Maxwell K. C. Goldstein, 1863–1903). AO, RG 80-5-0-201, no.14879. BANQ-CAM, CE601-S96, 12 Nov. 1878; CE601-S198, 5 Aug. 1925. Canadian Jewish Chronicle (Montreal), 30 June 1939. Gazette (Montreal), 29 June 1939. Jewish Chronicle (London), 16 July 1909. Pierre Beullac et Édouard Fabre Surveyer, Le centenaire du barreau de Montréal, 1849–1949 (Montréal, 1949). Canadian men and women of the time (Morgan; 1912). Arlette Corcos, Montréal, les Juifs et l’école (Sillery [Québec], 1997). “Inventory of documents on the Jewish school question, 1903–1932,” comp. David Rome, Canadian Jewish Arch. (Montreal), new ser., no.2 (1975). Prominent people of the province of Quebec, 1923–24 (Montreal, n.d.). S. E. Rosenberg, The Jewish community in Canada (2v., Toronto and Montreal, 1970–71). Sylvie Taschereau, “Échapper à Shylock: la Hebrew Free Loan Association of Montreal entre antisémitisme et intégration, 1911–1913,” RHAF, 59 (2005–6): 451–80. G. [J. J.] Tulchinsky, Taking root: the origins of the Canadian Jewish community (Toronto, 1992).
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Cite This Article
Steven Lapidus, “GOLDSTEIN, MAXWELL,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 16, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed March 21, 2023, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/goldstein_maxwell_16E.html.
The citation above shows the format for footnotes and endnotes according to the Chicago manual of style (16th edition). Information to be used in other citation formats:
|Author of Article:||Steven Lapidus|
|Title of Article:||GOLDSTEIN, MAXWELL|
|Publication Name:||Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 16|
|Publisher:||University of Toronto/Université Laval|
|Year of publication:||2020|
|Year of revision:||2020|
|Access Date:||March 21, 2023|