Review of 'Gerald & Sheila Goldberg of Cork: A Son's Perspective' from the Galicia Jewish Museum

Julia Moor, Galicia Jewish Museum

Review: Gerald & Sheila Goldberg of CorkA Son’s Perspective
In Gerald & Sheila Goldberg of Cork. A Son’s Perspective by David Goldberg, Mr.

Goldberg tells the story of his parents’ lives with a goal of highlighting their achievements and fleshing them out as people. To do so, he begins with a brief introduction, followed by the “early days” of both of his parents. From there, he goes through the years, covering family traditions, careers, pursuits such as charities and music, and homelife. Mr. Goldberg describes the family home of Ben-Truda as a community hub full of art and good cooking, and creates a warm, home-like atmosphere through simple text on a page. The end of the book is dedicated to Gerald and Sheila’s term as the first Jewish Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress of Cork, and closes by discussing the ends of their lives.

Throughout, Mr. Goldberg’s love and reverence for his father’s memory is palpable. Even when he is forced to correct Gerald’s own recollections with hard facts, he is not cruel nor demeaning, and instead considers the historical factors which would have made a more fanciful version of the truth so appealing. Family history–from origins in Lithuania and immigration, to hardships faced in Ireland–is essential to understanding Gerald and the Goldberg family as a whole. It was these factors that gave Gerald his two core defining identities: he is an Irishman and a Jew, and these could come into conflict, especially when antisemitism reared its ugly head. A picture of Gerald fighting against such injustice is clearly painted through the tales of his most important court cases. Throughout, winning arguments was essential to Gerald. It is through subjects such as this that Mr. Goldberg acknowledges how his father could be a difficult man. The author’s honest look at who his father was speaks volumes of his integrity as a researcher. Gerald could be cold and withdrawn, and it was Sheila’s influence that balanced this out.

In terms of Sheila, Mr. Goldberg exhausts all compliments to characterize his mother. She was kind, loving, friendly, an excellent cook, a perfect hostess, and so much more. Her charitable endeavors are described at great length and each one had a lasting impact on Cork. Many of her projects, such as Meals on Wheels, were aimed at serving the disadvantaged and marginalized of society, and the care she gave to such projects is evident. There were elements of tragedy in her life, such as the fact that she was never able to attend university, and these sorts of discussions flesh out what drove Sheila. The end of her life rings of tragedy as well, as she succumbed to Alzheimer's and lost her precious memories. Some of the most heart-wrenching passages of the book are dedicated to Mr. Goldberg’s reflections on the injustice of the end of his mother’s life.

Mr. Goldberg himself takes on many roles in his book. At times he is a simple and impartial narrator, recounting the events of his families’ lives, both their triumphs and defeats. In other passages, he allows himself to imbue the text with greater emotion and nostalgia. In both cases, he serves the best interest of the integrity of his subject material; hard facts remain as such and beautiful recollections from childhood receive the due reverence they deserve. Mr. Goldberg walks the line between being too stiff and too sappy, and he manages this with grace, finding a sweet spot

Gerald & Sheila Goldberg of Cork provides a full picture of who Mr. Goldberg’s parents were, flaws and all. They had their accomplishments and disappointments, and all the while they strove to enrich their community and to support their loved ones. There were regrets along the way, such as Gerald’s law firm failing to maintain a lasting legacy. Nonetheless, it is clear that Gerald and Sheila will be remembered for their contributions to Cork, and even more so for their impact on their family. Mr. Goldberg’s book is worth a read if one has an interest in Ireland, law, Jewish history, or even just interesting people.