STEINBERG , Canadian family. Montreal's Steinberg family history exemplifies the classic model of poor immigrants from humble origins who succeeded in business and amassed a large fortune. The family immigrated to Montreal from Hungary in 1911. They eked out a living largely through the efforts of ida roth steinberg, who opened in 1917 a small grocery store on St. Lawrence Boulevard in the heart of the immigrant area. ida and william steinberg (Sternberg in Hungary) had six children, of whom sam steinberg (1905–1978) was the second eldest and ultimately the most prominent. All six children worked in the family store but Sam proved to be especially bright, talented, and innovative. He was also highly motivated and had a remarkable entrepreneurial sense. As a young man, he became the dominant figure in the family enterprise and guided the firm as it became a main grocery chain serving the Quebec consumer and an integral part of the Quebec scene. Under Sam's leadership the Steinberg's supermarket chain also expanded beyond Quebec into Ontario and had major interests in the United States. Known for quality products, innovation, top customer service, and high ethical business standards, through the second half of the 20th century the Steinberg's chain was recognized as one of the most successful Jewish-owned companies closely associated with the growth of the Montreal Jewish community.
Sam Steinberg controlled the company until his death in 1978. While he was alive, the company also remained very much a family business, employing many family members, though this ultimately proved to be a weakness. Of the other Steinberg siblings, nathan played a key role as a senior vice president and Sam's right-hand man. In the next generation, Sam's son-in-law, mel dobrin, became president of the firm and Nathan's son arnold steinberg was executive vice president. By the 1970s, however, the family enterprise encountered difficulties adapting to the changing business conditions. The situation became more acute after Sam died with no clear succession plan in place. Deteriorating relationships between the family and the firm's professional management and among several family members led to discord, much of which became public, and ultimately resulted in the sale of the company in 1989.
Sam Steinberg's two obsessions were the business and his family. He had little time for community activities and was often at odds with Sam *Bronfman, the titular leader of the Montreal Jewish community during Sam Steinberg's active years. Nevertheless Steinberg did head the organizing committee for the Pavilion of Judaism at Expo '67, Montreal's world fair. He also served as president of the Montreal Jewish General Hospital and was active in the Canadian Council of Christians and Jews.
Most of the Steinberg clan, nearly 100 descendants of Sam Steinberg and his five siblings, remain in Montreal, where several have played significant roles in and provided financial support to Jewish and large community activities. Despite the healing of some of the family rifts that developed before the sale of the family business, the family no longer acts as a coherent unit.
[Harold M. Waller (2nd ed.)]