De Sola

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DE SOLA , prominent Canadian family in the 19th and early 20th centuries. abraham de sola (1825–1882), rabbi, author, educator, was born into a London family of limited means. He received his general education at the City of London School and Jewish education from his father, David Aaron, and linguist Louis Loewe, secretary and aide to Moses Montefiore.

De Sola applied to be Second Hazan at Bevis Marks, but David Piza of Montreal got the job. De Sola, in turn, assumed Piza's position at Montreal's Shearith Israel in January 1847 where he used his pulpit to assert the positive value of emancipation for the Jews. He was convinced that Jews, even as they embraced the opportunities which equality offered, need never compromise their beliefs or practices but could remain what he called "consistent" Jews. De Sola lived by this credo. Looking to create a strong Montreal Jewish community, he soon organized a Hebrew Philanthropic Society, then a congregational school modeled on that of Rebbeca Gratz in Philadelphia. He was active in later incarnations of the Philanthropic Society and assumed a leadership role in the fraternal organization Kesher shel Barzel. De Sola also entered the intellectual life of Anglo-Montreal. He joined the Natural History Society, and eventually became its president. In 1848 he was appointed a lecturer in Hebrew and rabbinic literature at McGill College and in 1853 was named a professor of Hebrew and Oriental literature. He was awarded an honorary doctor of laws in 1858.

De Sola was a prolific author. He revised a catechism for use in Jewish schools in 1853, and in 1854 co-authored a Jewish calendar for 50 years, which included up-to-date information on the Jewish communities of North America. In 1873 he purchased from Isaac Leeser's estate the copyright, plates, and some stock of Leeser's Bible translations, Leeser's edition of the Sephardi liturgy (which De Sola considered superior to the Ashkenazi) as well as other works. De Sola published a number of works on the compatibility of science with Bible and Rabbinic Judaism. He joined some of Montreal's leading scientists, most notably the principal of McGill College, J.W. Dawson, in proclaiming the principles of natural theology and disdain for Darwin. De Sola outlined his views on science and religion in his portrayals of Jewish intellectuals as well as in more specialized studies, most notably his 1852–53 serialized "Observations on the sanatory institutions of the Hebrews as bearing upon modern sanatory institutions," published in 1861. De Sola also had an interest in historical issues and published derivative studies on the Jews of France, Poland, and England.

Abraham de Sola joined Montreal's Jewish patricians when he married Esther Joseph in 1852. They had seven children.

[Richard Menkis (2nd ed.)]

Abraham de Sola's eldest son, aaron david meldola (1853–1918), who was born in Montreal, was a Zionist, and the first Canadian-born rabbi. He studied under his father's direction, became his assistant in 1876, and succeeded him on his death in 1882 as rabbi of the Spanish and Portuguese synagogue. He was a member of one of the commissions appointed to deal with the Jewish school question in Quebec as early as 1886. De Sola, who wrote many newspaper articles in defense of Orthodoxy, was appointed first vice president of the Orthodox convention in New York in 1898 and was one of the committee of three who drew up its declaration of principles. In 1902, as vice president of the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations, he issued a protest against the Central Conference of American Rabbis for discussing the transfer of the Sabbath to Sunday.

clarence isaac (1858–1920), the third son of Abraham de Sola, was a Zionist and an industrialist. De Sola, who was born in Montreal, served as president of the Federation of Canadian Zionist Societies from its inception in 1899 until his death. He was also a member of the Zionist General Council of the World Zionist Organization. De Sola was a leading figure in the Canadian shipbuilding industry and general manager of the Comptoir Belgo-Canadien, the Belgium steel and construction trust. He was responsible for the establishment of a steamship service between Montreal and Antwerp. From 1904 until his death he was Belgian consul in Montreal.


C.E.M. de Sola, Jewish Ministers (1905); je, 11 (1905), 432–3; B.G. Sack, History of the Jews in Canada, 1 (1945), passim; C.E. Hart (ed.), The Jew in Canada (1926), passim. add. bibliography: G. Tulchinsky, Taking Root (1991), 40–60; R. Menkis, in: I.Y. Zinguer and S.W. Bloom (eds.), L'antisémitisme éclairé (2003), 313–31; A. Joseph, Heritage of a Patriarch (1995).

[Ben G. Kayfetz]

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De Sola

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