‘A better Canada because of him’: Tributes pour in at the funeral for renowned historian Irving Abella

A procession carries the body of Irving Abella out of Beth Tzedec synagogue into a hearse. (Screenshot courtesy of Benjamin's/YouTube)

On today’s episode of The CJN Daily, we’re taking a look at the life of Irving Abella, the acclaimed historian who died on July 3, 2022, at 82, after battling a long illness. His funeral was held Tuesday at Beth Tzedec synagogue in Toronto.

Abella was a history professor who taught for decades at York University, though he may best be remembered for co-authoring None Is Too Many with Harold Troper in 1983. In the book, they proved how Canada’s government during the Second World War deliberately turned away desperate Jews fleeing Nazi Germany—a narrative that was kept secret for decades afterward.

He later headed up the Canadian Jewish Congress during the 1990s. He pushed Canada to pursue and penalize Nazi war criminals, and his advocacy work led Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to issue an apology to Canadian Jews for Canada turning away the hundreds of European refugees aboard the MS St. Louis in 1939.

Today you’ll hear clips of Abella’s funeral, including eulogies from his children and Rabbi Baruch Frydman-Kohl, who share heartfelt, intimate, laudatory stories of a private man who ran things at home while his wife, Rosalie Abella, served for 17 years as the first Jewish woman appointed to the Supreme Court of Canada.

What we talked about:

The CJN Daily is written and hosted by Ellin Bessner (@ebessner on Twitter). Victoria Redden is the producer. Michael Fraiman is the executive producer. Our theme music is by Dov Beck-Levine. Our title sponsor is Metropia. We’re a member of The CJN Podcast Network. To learn how to support the show by subscribing to this podcast, please watch this video.