For Jewish Book Month—remembering writer Ethel Vineberg

October 29 | 2021

When I was a girl in Montreal, my mother presented me with the children’s book Grandmother came from Dworitz: A Jewish story (Tundra Books, 1969)My mother was keen to impress upon me that the book’s author, Ethel Vineberg, was related to us. Only now, a half-century later, have I discovered that the connection was through my paternal grandmother, and that Ethel Vineberg was equally the author of The History of the National Council of Jewish Women of Canada. I’ve discovered, too, the whereabouts of Dworitz, or Dvorets—in present-day Belarus.

What hasn’t changed over the decades is my enjoyment of this family narrative of traditional life in the Pale of Settlement, including the decision made by one fearless young daughter to immigrate to America. Nachama, whose father encouraged her to read the Bible but also Tolstoy, eventually settled with her husband near Saint John, New Brunswick, where she raised her daughter Ethel. Ethel Vineberg thus begins her family history with the words, “I write this because I am the link between the old and the new. I was born here, but my mother came from Europe. I shall tell you the stories she told me and that her mother told her of a way of life that no longer exists.”