The Gazette, April 29, 2013

Re: “Phyllis Lambert found calling in architecture” (Gazette, April 26)

Your article on architect Phyllis (Bronfman) Lambert refers to her creation of the architectural museum constructed adjacent to and encompassing the historic Shaughnessy House. Lambert saved the historic mansion from the wreckers. Quite possibly, though, she didn’t know the warm relationships between Lord Shaughnessy, a railway magnate (originally Donald Smith) and a number of Jewish personalities.

Early in the 20th century, Sir Mortimer B. Davis (the only Canadian Jew ever knighted — and that was for his enormous contribution to equipping the Canadian Army during the First World War) — had applied for membership in the exclusive Mount Royal Club and efforts were underway to blackball him by anti-Semitic members. Lord Shaughnessy made it known that if Sir Mortimer’s application for membership were rejected, he would leave the club and support another venture. Davis was admitted, and often lunched there with Lord Shaughnessy and, generally, two other rare Jewish members — Henry and Joseph Jesse. But the quartet ate alone, with other members referring to it as the “Jews’ Table.” The trio of Jewish members contributed enormously to the modernization of Montreal, introducing public transit, the first railway, etc.

Lambert’s father, Sam Bronfman, as stated, was known for his fierce temper. I was involved in the arrangements for Mr. Bronfman’s 80th (and last) birthday and arranged for two presentations to him. One was a caricature, drawn by artist Steve Yurani, of “Mr. Sam” with leaders of Israel, and the second, prepared by artist Pearl Wilensky (yes, related to the famed Wilensky café) of a large binder with tributes, in the style of a medieval manuscript.

In the excitement of the evening, when the failing Mr. Sam actually danced for the last time with Saidye, the family forgot the presentations, so the following evening, I drove up the mountain to the red brick Bronfman mansion to deliver the items. (They are now deposited in the Canadian Jewish Congress National Archives, located in Bronfman House.) Sam himself answered the door! He escorted me to his ground-floor office where the man once known for his acidic tongue proudly showed me his 80th birthday gifts — for his grandchildren!

(Among the hundreds who attended the party was Teddy Kolleck, long-time mayor of Jerusalem, who said to me, “Mr. King, will you introduce me to the mayor of Côte St-Luc? He has a higher percentage of Jews in this city than I have in Jerusalem.” He sat down with Sam Moscovitch and they had a long chat.)

Joe King