Victor Goldbloom, the pediatrician-turned-politician, was eloquent, as always, in outlining his life’s work and his reaching out to city, province and country in his book Building Bridges, released a year before he died at 92 in 2016.Now Sheila Barshay Goldbloom, his wife of 67 years, has come up with a perfect companion piece, Opening Doors, which details her fascinating life and her commitment to the disadvantaged, seniors, cultural communities and health issues.“Victor chose Building Bridges, which related to his professional life, but my professional life has really been around ‘opening doors’ in trying to get people to talk together, whether if it’s within the family or the larger community,” Goldbloom says in her downtown apartment.Unlike her husband, Goldbloom has always tended to shy away from the limelight, but she, too, has always been a force of nature. She may be petite in frame and speak in the gentlest of tones, but she continues to loom large.So it comes as little surprise to those who know her best that Goldbloom would choose to embark on writing her first book, to be launched June 20 as she approaches her 94th birthday.“I was rather reluctant to do this at first, but my children were after me to do it,” says Goldbloom, mother of Bishop’s principal and former Gazette publisher Michael, P.R. consultant/political strategist Jonathan and Susan in New York. “I told them I was retired, that I didn’t want to take on anything that would give me pressure. Besides, I’m not a writer and I certainly can’t spell.”But after more pressure from her granddaughter, she relented. No surprise, either. She has never adhered to a predictable game plan.This was the woman who, after giving birth to her kids, decided to go back to school in her mid-30s to pursue a Master’s degree in social work at McGill. And after earning that degree, she went on to teach in the field and serve as mentor to countless students and staff members over the next three decades.“I felt I needed intellectual feeding after having the kids, and after being turned down for a job at Morgan’s, because they were leery about hiring married women,” she says. “So I thought maybe I could audit one class in literature at McGill. Then things just mushroomed.”
Sheila Goldbloom – wife of the late Victor and mother of Michael – on her new book Opening Doors at home in Montreal on Wednesday June 12, 2019. Goldbloom has a photo of Franklin D. Roosevelt and Eleanor Roosevelt amongst the family photo memories on her fridge door.
Dave Sidaway /
After retiring from teaching at McGill, she would become involved in an array of community causes, be it bridging religious groups or advocating for seniors. No accident that like her husband, she, too, received Order of Canada and National Order of Quebec honours.What many may not know is that Goldbloom was born and raised in New York. A family connection put her in contact with Victor, who was studying medicine in New York. Although marriage hadn’t been in the plans during her early 20s, she was unable to resist this charmer, a Renaissance man, and moved to Montreal with him 71 years ago.She knew next to nothing about this city, province and country. Nor was she at all proficient in French. It is worth noting, in fact, that while earning her bachelor’s degree at Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts during the Second World War, her French professor urged her to stay in the class because “you are a good example for the other students of how not to speak French.”She took that as a challenge and was eventually able to converse rather well, to the delight of her fully fluent husband, who was to become Canada’s Commissioner of Official Languages, after stepping down as a Liberal member of the National Assembly.There has been one constant presence that has guided Goldbloom through her life: the example set by Eleanor Roosevelt, the wife of U.S. president Franklin Delano Roosevelt. “The structure of this book came from Eleanor Roosevelt,” Goldbloom says. “It’s her life that really set such an example for me. Her philosophy was that people can and do change. She certainly did in many ways, and she became FDR’s support system. That really struck a chord with me, and, as a social worker, had me thinking change was always possible.“I think change has to happen, or else we’re going to blow up the world. But we have to get involved with one another, and we really have to learn to communicate with one another … to open doors.“I feel I’ve been a particularly fortunate person, and one of the themes of my book is that I’ve always felt I had a responsibility to give back because of all that was given to me, and I’ve tried my best to do so.” Goldbloom has had a fridge magnet for longer than she can recall of Eleanor Roosevelt, underneath which is one of her more memorable quotes.The quote goes: “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”Softly adds Goldbloom: “Words to live by.” Related
Sheila Goldbloom – wife of the late Victor and mother of Michael – on her new book Opening Doors at home in Montreal on Wednesday June 12, 2019. Goldbloom has a photo of Franklin D. Roosevelt and Eleanor Roosevelt amongst the family photo memories on her fridge door. Dave Sidaway / Montreal Gazette
Dave Sidaway /
AT A GLANCE:The launch of Sheila Barshay Goldbloom’s Opening Doors takes place June 20 at 7 p.m. at Temple Emanu-El-Beth Sholom, 4100 Sherbrooke St. W. Public is invited. The book costs $24.95 plus tax and is available at amazon.ca, amazon.comand https://www.templemontreal.ca/product/sheila/ as well as at the Paragraph bookstore.