Gordon, Nathan

views updated


GORDON, NATHAN (1882–1938), rabbi, lawyer, community activist. Gordon was born in New Orleans. He was educated in the public schools there but his secondary and post-secondary education was in Cincinnati. In 1906 he earned both a B.A. from the University of Cincinnati and his rabbinical ordination from the Hebrew Union College. Several months after graduation he became the spiritual leader of Montreal's Reform Temple Emanu-El. He strongly supported the Reform ideal of social activism and became an active voice against corruption in Montreal's governance and the attendant neglect to social services. He also participated in the creation of the Mount Sinai Sanatorium in Ste. Agathe in 1913, and helped in its subsequent maintenance. Unlike most of his American colleagues, and his predecessors in Montreal, Gordon was both a Reform Jew and a Zionist, and spoke for Zionist groups in Jewish communities in Ontario and Quebec.

In 1916, Gordon earned a law degree from Laval University in Montreal (now the Université de Montréal) and left the pulpit. He first practiced with the well-known Jewish lawyer Peter Bercovitch; in 1919, however, he became the prosecuting attorney of the city of Montreal, a position he held until 1921 when he returned to private practice. Gordon remained concerned about the social welfare of Montrealers and was a member of the Non-Catholic Juvenile Court Committee. He also stayed active in Temple Emanu-El, and served as its president for a number of years. In the 1930s he took part in the reorganization of the Canadian Jewish Congress and served as president of its Eastern Division.

Gordon had an interest in academic Jewish studies. He earned an M.A. in 1909 at McGill, writing on capital punishment in biblical and rabbinic texts. In 1913 he earned a Ph.D., with his thesis titled "Prolgomena to the Social Customs of Mishna." In 1909 he was appointed lecturer in the Department of Oriental Languages and Literature at McGill.


A. Hart (ed.), The Jew in Canada (1926): 125; G. Tulchinsky, Taking Root (1992); L. Tapper, Biographical Dictionary of Canadian Jews (1992), 6, 28, 93, 111.

[Richard Menkis (2nd ed.)