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Memorable Manitobans: Abraham J. Arnold (c1923-2011)

Click to enlarge

Abraham J. Arnold
Click to enlarge

Community activist, historian.

Born at Montreal, Quebec, he was editor of the Jewish Western Bulletin at Vancouver from 1949 to 1960, returning to Montreal as Public Relations Director for the Jewish Federation / Combined Jewish Appeal. He came to Winnipeg in 1965 as the Western Regional Director of the Canadian Jewish Congress.

Considered “a pioneer in promoting civil liberties in the province of Manitoba”, Arnold was pivotal in creating the Manitoba Association for Rights and Liberties (MARL) and served as its first Executive Director. In the late 1960s, he was a columnist for the Western Jewish News, in which he wrote controversial articles “challenging the elitism of the community leadership and its blanket support for Israel”. Later in his life, he was an active member of the Zuken Foundation, named for fellow civil rights champion Joseph Zuken.

An authority on Jewish settlement in Western Canada, Abe was the first Executive Director of the Jewish Historical Society of Western Canada, established in March 1968. He received the Manitoba Historical Society’s Margaret McWilliams award twice for his writings on the history of Manitoba. In 1967, his essay Why Did Donald Creighton Cut Short His ‘Long View’? was written in response to Professor Creighton’s presentation at the Sir John A. Macdonald Dinner that year. In 1974, he received the McWilliams award for his seven articles published in The Jewish Post and The Canadian Jewish News on Jewish immigration to Manitoba in the 1880s.

He was the author of Judaism: Myth, Legend, History and Custom, From the Religious to the Secular (1995) and co-author, with artist William Kurelek, of Jewish Life in Canada (1976). In 2001, he received an honorary degree from the University of Winnipeg and, in 2003, was appointed a Member of the Order of Canada, receiving the following citation from Governor General Adrienne Clarkson:

“Abraham Arnold has contributed immensely to our knowledge of the history of Jewish people in Canada. The author of numerous articles and books, he served as editor and publisher of the Jewish Western Bulletin and as founding director of the Jewish Historical Society of Western Canada. A passionate advocate for human rights, he played a crucial role in establishing the Manitoba Association for Rights and Liberties (MARL), which he guided for a decade. He has also worked to foster intercultural understanding through his participation at conferences and on committees.”

He died at Winnipeg on 28 January 2011.

His articles for the Manitoba Historical Society:

The Jewish Contribution to the Opening and Development of the West
MHS Transactions, Series 3, Number 25, 1968-69 Season

Was Amor de Cosmos the Louis Riel of British Columbia?
MHS Transactions, Series 3, Number 28, 1971-72 Season

Sources:

Coming of Age: A History of the Jewish People of Manitoba by Allan Levine, 2009, Heartland Associates, page 351.

“Human rights pioneer leader in local efforts” by Kevin Rollason, Winnipeg Free Press, 29 January 2011, page A19.

This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.

Page revised: 27 September 2015

Memorable Manitobans

Memorable Manitobans

This is a collection of noteworthy Manitobans from the past, compiled by the Manitoba Historical Society.

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