How and why was the Society founded? The following story tells all…
In the Fall of 1948 it was decided to hold the annual convention of the Quebec Bar Association at Mont Tremblant Lodge, a facility in Quebec’s Laurentian Mountains owned by Joseph Ryan. At the time, the Lodge, like many other establishments in the Laurentians and elsewhere, had a policy of “no Jews and no dogs.” When representation was made to change the venue, Ryan replied that, as it was off-season, there would not be many gentile guests around to be offended by a Jewish presence!
N.L Rappaport conferred with then-Bâtonnier Gustave Monette, K.C., who is visibly upset, and asks to address a Montefiore Club meeting of Jewish lawyers. He apologizes for his ignorance about the Mont Tremblant Lodge’s discriminatory policy, and for the Bar Council’s as well, but indicates that it is too late to change the venue. He urges Jewish lawyers to attend.
But Montreal’s Jewish lawyers meet and decide to boycott the Bar Convention at the Lodge. Indeed, the affair galvanizes the city’s Jewish lawyers to unite to advance their objectives. Society meetings are held at the Spanish and Portugese Synagogue, Hillel House, the Young Israel Synagogue, the Windsor Steak House, and the Stage Coach Restaurant. The Montefiore Club soon becomes the Society’s meeting place, even its unofficial home.
To prevent the recurrence of incidents like the unfortunate Mont Tremblant affair, Gustave Monette also assures the group that the Bar of Montreal would amend its constitution whereby one member of the Jewish faith would be on the Council at all times. Arrangements are made with the English-speaking section of the Bar of Montreal that one of the Anglophones be a Jew.
And so the Society is born, its mandate to lobby for fair representation of Jews on the Bar and the Bench. It also constitutes a social group for Jewish lawyers and provides a forum for learning about new and evolving legal matters. As well, since the Society’s inception, it is recognized that the Jewish representative on the Council of the Bar of Montreal is a nominee of the Society.
Benjamin Robinson becomes the first President of the Society, and first Jewish representative on the Council of the Bar of Montreal to be nominated.
The Society is named to honour Rufus Daniel Isaacs, a brilliant and accomplished British jurist and statesman. Born in 1860, this little-educated seaan and businessman became a very successful lawyer when his business hit financial trouble. Then, as a parliamentarian, he served as Solicitor-General, Attorney-General and Foreign Secretary, becoming the first Jewish member of the Cabinet. He was made Lord Chief Justice of England, taking the title of Lord Reading.
For 70 years, the Lord Reading Law Society has been an active participant in the Quebec legal community and beyond. Please use the links on the left hand side to learn much more about our history and involvement.
We also invite you to read more about the Society and its history at the Museum of Jewish Montreal website, and to read the history of the Society as told by the Canadian Jewish News.