Sack, Benjamin G.

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SACK, BENJAMIN G.

SACK, BENJAMIN G. (1889–1967), Canadian journalist and historian. Born in the Kovno region of Lithuania, in 1905 Sack and members of his family joined his father, already in Montreal. Sack received some traditional education, but was for the most part an autodidact who overcame poverty and muscular dystrophy to learn Russian and English while still in Europe, and French and various secular subjects in Canada. With the encouragement of his older brother, Sack began writing poetry and drama in Hebrew and Yiddish. In 1907 Sack began a 50-year relationship with the Montreal Yiddish daily the Keneder Adler. He served as editor-in-chief in 1914–16, and again in 1922–28, and as associate editor from 1929 until his retirement. Sack wrote some 5,000 articles on subjects ranging from local news to literature, published for the most part in the Adler, although some of his articles also appeared elsewhere in the Yiddish and English press.

From his early days on the Adler, Sack was drawn to Canadian Jewish history, an area that was virtually untouched and in which he would become a pioneer. Drawing on material in archives, discussions and correspondence with informants, occasionally using sources in private hands that no longer survive, as well as consulting the Jewish and non-Jewish press, Sack produced a substantial survey of Canadian Jewish history in A.D. Hart's The Jew in Canada (1926). Another noteworthy achievement was the publication of the first volume of what was to be a two-volume study of Canadian Jewish history. It was published first in English in 1945 as History of the Jews in Canada: From the Earliest Beginnings to the Present Day and in Yiddish in 1948 as Geshikhte fun Yidn in Kanade. He never completed volume two, but the English translation of his unfinished manuscript has been published as Canadian Jews – Early in this Century (Montreal, 1975). Sack also served as a contributing editor for the Universal Jewish Encyclopedia. In his History and other historical writings, Sack could be overenthusiastic in his celebration of certain Jewish heroes, and he certainly wanted to demonstrate to Jews and non-Jews alike the positive contributions of Jews to Canadian history, even reaching back to New France when no Jews lived there. For all their shortcomings, Sack's publications, both his journalism and historical efforts, rank among the most important bodies of work in Canadian Jewish nonfiction.

bibliography:

C.L. Fuks (ed.), Hundert yor yidishe un hebreyishe literatur in Kanade (1982), 118–21; R. Menkis, Canadian Ethnic Studies, 23:2 (1991), 24–38; R. Margolis, B.G. Sack Articles in the Keneder Adler, 1910–1955, manuscript in National Archives of Canadian Jewish Congress, Montreal; S. Hayes, Preface to Canadian Jews-Early in this Century (1975).

[Rebecca Margolis and

Richard Menkis (2nd ed.)]