Living Legacies: A Collection of Writing by Contemporary Canadian Jewish Women ed. by Liz Pearl (review)
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Reviewed by
Liz Pearl, ed. Living Legacies: A Collection of Writing by Contemporary Canadian Jewish Women. Vol. III. Toronto: PK Press, 2011. 218 pp. Foreword. Prologue. Introductions Volume I, II, and III. $22.00 sc.

Living Legacies is a collection of approximately 1000-word accounts by thirty-seven Canadian Jewish women of their life experiences. They are meant to serve as living legacies to and examples for future generations of Jewish women. As editor Liz Pearl notes, they "may include details reflecting relationships with significant others, philanthropic endeavours and community service" (xviii). While the women writers come from many walks of life and meet success in a wide range of vocations, all express the significance in their lives of their Judaism and of being Jewish. As such, the book will appeal primarily to young adult and adult members of the Jewish community.

Nine selections are by women who were born elsewhere and now live in Canada. In "The Importance of Remembering," Holocaust survivor and Hungarian-born Irene Guttman Romer implores us to remember the atrocities of World War II as a means of revenge for those "who were silenced forever" (160). In "Daddy, Why are you Crying?" Diana Mingail immerses readers in everyday life during World War II when the Japanese began bombing Calcutta. The story's title refers to two events in Mingail's life when she saw her father cry, each time when he read news of "bad things happening to Jews" (116). The story is both personal and informative, explaining that, after the Japanese attack on Burma, Jewish families took refuge in Calcutta, raising the Jewish population suddenly from 1,500 to 5,000. Other accounts from this group address topics ranging from racism to the diasporas.

While some of the writers were born elsewhere and immigrated to Canada, the majority were born, raised, and live here. Over half of the writers are from Ontario and most of these, from Toronto. Four live in Montreal, one in Goose Bay, and the rest in western Canada. Notably absent is any representation from the Maritime provinces. Further, most of these writers appear to be in mid-life. One of the shortfalls of the book is the absence of birthdates which, if known, would place the writers in their historical context. However, those born and raised in Canada are less focused than those who immigrated to Canada on war, the Holocaust, or racism.

Instead, they focus on their achievements, community service, and the ways in which Judaism imbues their lives. Several write about their professional lives such as writer, artist, performer, hospital chaplain, family counselor or bereavement counselor. Some describe their volunteer activities. Traditional Jewish foods and holiday dishes figure prominently in many accounts. Others write about Jewish holidays and customs. In "Even Solomon Gursky Isn't Here," Robin McGrath laments being the only Jew in Labrador, but finds strength in noting that the Innu, seemingly threatened with extinction twenty years ago, "are standing strong against government [End Page 251] and industry and fighting their way out of the alcoholic haze that had almost subdued them" (114). She concludes, "I will continue to light the Shabbat candles" (114). One of the most touching stories of the book is also the lead story. In "Not by Bread Alone," Rachel Adelman describes being prompted to return to her faith after dreaming of an empty grave which she interprets as representing the bones of her grandfather who had been cremated. She determines that, by returning to Israel to live and raise her family, she will "[resurrect] the bones" (4). Without question, the dominant theme throughout all these brief life legacies is the reverence and respect for faith and customs.

The voices exude their wisdom and faith primarily through prose, but some use poetry, letters, prayer, or lists. Barbara Kahan dedicates her poem, "Requiem for Fannie," to her mother and, in outlining the story of her life, recognizes her indebtedness to her grandparents and culture. In "The Guardian Rabbis," Natalie Fingerhut uses letters to pay homage to the rabbis who guided her through life. In her "Introduction," editor Liz Pearl shifts away from prose and uses a long list of proverbs titled...