Dr. Victor Goldbloom, who died of a heart attack Monday, February 15 at age 92, is being remembered in Quebec and across Canada primarily for his accomplishments in politics and government. But for many Anglicans, especially those involved in interfaith relations, Goldbloom will also be known for his work in increasing understanding between Jews and Christians in Canada.
“He was a giant of a man in that sense, and will be enormously missed not just by the Jewish community in Montreal but by the Christians as well,” interfaith dialogue partner and friend Archbishop Andrew Hutchison, former primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, told the Anglican Journal February 17.
Helping Canadian Christians and Jews better understand each other, Hutchison said, is “certainly what he [Goldbloom] gave himself to right to the end.” Goldbloom remained on the executive of the Canadian Centre for Ecumenism until his death, for example, he said.
Archdeacon Bruce Myers, the Anglican Church of Canada’s co-ordinator for ecumenical and interfaith relations, called Goldbloom “an artisan of reconciliation between Jews and Christians, tirelessly promoting interreligious dialogue and common witness in Montreal and nationally.
“He embodied the psalmist’s cry: ‘How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity!’ ” Myers said.
Goldbloom, Myers added, had been a “fixture” of Jewish-Christian dialogue in Canada. “It’s difficult to imagine that landscape without him.”
Goldbloom was also a “vigilant defender” of freedom of religion, Myers said, and an opponent of the Quebec Charter of Values, the 2013 bill proposed by the Parti Québécois that would have prohibited the wearing of conspicuous religious symbols at work by government employees.
Another Anglican mourning Goldbloom’s passing is the Rev. Patricia Kirkpatrick, a priest from the diocese of Montreal with whom he worked in Christian-Jewish conversation.
“Because he was so active in Jewish-Christian dialogues at the local, national and international levels, he had a perspective on the process of dialogue like no other I have known,” Kirkpatrick said. “He was unstoppable in his search for dialogue partners and was never deterred.”
Kirkpatrick also had strong praise for Goldbloom not just as a dialogue partner, but as a human being.
“Quite frankly, Victor was like an oak tree…strong and bold, yet giving in its arms a place of life for so many of God’s creatures who were weak and at a loss to know what to do,” she said. “His sense of justice, and therefore injustice, was finely tuned and reminded us all of just how vigilant we must always be of ever-present tyrannies.
“But more than anything else, I remember his sheer joy at being able to partake in so many different ventures so that the world could be made a better place to live,” Kirkpatrick said.
Hutchison said he first met Goldbloom in the 1980s, working with him on Christian-Jewish relationships while he served as dean in Montreal. The working relationship soon became a friendship.
At one point, Hutchison recalled, he himself held a “Shoah service,” commemorating the Holocaust and offering an apology on behalf of all Christians. Goldbloom contacted him to ask if he could publish the sermon, which he did in the Canadian Jewish News, Hutchison said.
Goldbloom was strongly drawn to religion, Hutchison said. At Hutchison’s ceremony of consecration as bishop of the diocese of Montreal, Goldbloom read the Old Testament lesson in Hebrew. Since it was Friday night, the Jewish Shabbat, Goldbloom then immediately “dashed over to the temple for his own service,” Hutchison recalled.
Though Hutchison moved first to Toronto and then Vancouver Island, the two maintained their friendship. “We shared a good deal over the years,” Hutchison said, adding that as recently as December he had received a long email from Goldbloom in which Goldbloom expressed, among other things, a desire to visit Hutchison and his family in Vancouver Island.
“He was certainly a man who deserved the title gentleman with a capital ‘G’,” Hutchison said. “He was gentle and full of grace, and a very open and understanding individual.”
Much of Goldbloom’s success in improving understanding between Christians and Jews in Canada was due to his ability to maintain good relationships with people, Hutchison says. At one point, during the primacy of Archbishop Michael Peers, he says, relations between the Anglican Church of Canada and the Jewish community became strained because the church, Hutchison says, had made “strong comments” about Israel’s behaviour toward Palestinians.
“It was Dr. Goldbloom who I called and asked if he would meet with our then primate, Michael Peers, to see if we could effect some reconciliation,” Hutchison says. “That was done…They were able to talk things through.”
Trained as a pediatrician, Goldbloom entered politics in the 1960s, serving as Quebec’s first environment minister in the early 1970s. He also served for a time as the province’s municipal affairs minister, and is widely credited for saving the 1976 Montreal Olympics from disaster.
In 1979, Goldbloom left politics to become chief executive officer of the Canadian Council of Christians and Jews, a now-defunct organization, holding the post until 1987. During his life he also served on a number of other interfaith organizations, including the Canadian Interfaith Conversation and the Christian-Jewish Dialogue of Montreal. In 2012, Goldbloom was honoured by the Roman Catholic Church for his work in Christian-Jewish dialogue, receiving the Pontifical Equestrian Order of St. Sylvester Pope and Martyr from Pope Benedict XVI.
From 1991 to 1999, Goldbloom served as Canada’s official languages commissioner.
He is survived by his wife, Sheila Goldbloom, three children, four grandchildren, two great-grandchildren and a brother.