Concept

Irving Abella

Summary
Irving Martin Abella (July 2, 1940 – July 3, 2022) was a Canadian historian who served as a professor at York University from 1968 to 2013. He specialized in the history of the Jews in Canada and the Canadian labour movement. Abella was born in Toronto on July 2, 1940. His parents were Esther (Shiff) and Louis Abella. He studied at the University of Toronto, obtaining a Bachelor of Arts in 1963 and a Master of Arts the following year. He commenced his doctoral studies at the University of California, Berkeley, before returning to the University of Toronto and being awarded a Doctor of Philosophy in 1969. He wrote his thesis on Canadian labour history. Abella first taught at York University in 1968, specializing in labour and Jewish history. He continued teaching at that institution until 2013. During the early 1970s, he started the first university course in Canadian Jewish studies at Glendon College, which he considered his greatest achievement. He served as president of the Canadian Jewish Congress from 1992 to 1995. He was also chair of Vision TV, a religious broadcaster. He was president of the Canadian Historical Association for the year 1999-2000. Abella's books include Coat of Many Colours: Two Centuries of Jewish Life in Canada (1990) and None Is Too Many: Canada and the Jews of Europe, 1933–1948 (1982). He stated that the latter – which detailed the Canadian government's immigration policy during the 1930s that led it to accept only 5,000 Jewish refugees during World War II – was not intended to be more than an academic text. However, it ultimately impacted the immigration policy of the government at the time. After Ron Atkey, the minister of immigration, read a draft copy of the manuscript, the Canadian government welcomed 50,000 Vietnamese boat people by the end of 1980 (up from the original goal of 8,000 refugees per year). Abella married Rosalie Silberman Abella in 1968. They met while studying at the University of Toronto together, and remained married until his death.
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