Goldberg book reviewed in The Law Society Gazette

Gerald & Sheila Goldberg of

Cork: A Son’s Perspective

David Goldberg. Oak Tree Press (2023), oaktreepress.ie. Price: €19.95 (incl VAT); €10.90 (e-book)

An Irishman, a Cork man, and a Jew. Cork-born solicitor Gerald Y Goldberg (1912-2003) always identified each of these personalities as being in equal measure, and his long life and career have borne witness to that equality.

The youngest of Gerald Goldberg’s three children (all sons), David pays homage to both his father and his mother Sheila in this ‘perspective’. The picture he paints of each of them is heartfelt, honest and, at times, critical – particularly in his and others’ relationships with Gerald. A notable feature of the book is the comparison between the author’s overall view of his mother as a generous and giving person, as opposed to that of his father as unquestionably brilliant, but also as self- centred and uncompromising in his opinions. What also comes through is the author’s own long-felt need to tell both their stories and,
in doing so, to clarify his own preconceived assessments of each of them. In the latter respect, David Goldberg – son, barrister, painter, and author – achieves that goal, which was long in its genesis.

In a wider context, though, primarily about the respective lives and achievements of Gerald and Sheila, the book also allows us glimpses into the lives and motivations of a multigenerational Jewish family, originating in 19th century Lithuania (then part of the Tsarist Russian Empire), that finds its way to Ireland and, more specifically, to Limerick, Cork, and Belfast.

Gerald was, first and foremost, a solicitor, who, after setting up practice in Cork in 1936, gained a unique reputation as being always single-minded and thorough in his representation of his clients. He was also to become a patron of the arts in Cork, sharing Sheila’s interests in music and in myriad charitable activities, as well as a member of Cork Corporation and of the Law Society’s Council. For many years, he was the best- known representative of the Cork Jewish community, achieving the ultimate accolade of being elected Lord Mayor of Cork in 1977/78, with resultant worldwide publicity and international tours.

Sheila (1916-1996) became well known
to Cork in her own right: first, through her involvement with the Cork Orchestral Society; then with what grew to be ‘Meals on Wheels’, as well as her charitable ventures. Her gentle, but firm, personality became the key to her success in her charitable fundraising activities.

In the brief note on the author himself, the book is described as a “memoir and analysis
of his parents, [which] explains the inner workings of a man’s life and how these affect the outer aspect of the man”. The last short chapter, entitled, ‘Beginning and ending’, is an emotionally charged sum-up reflection on both of his parents and how he perceived them, and why, later in his own life, he decided to put pen to paper.

In summary, this is a book worthy of being read, not only by Cork people of all faiths
and none who remember the Goldbergs,
but by anyone interested in the hard-fought, but ultimately successful, integration of
Jewish people into Irish society following
the unacceptable historical incidents of antisemitism, most notably in Limerick in 1904. To the author, well needed and well told!

Michael V O’Mahony is a past-president of the Law Society of Ireland.