Review: An Italian Renaissance, Choosing Life in Canada

by Jew Wishes

An Italian Renaissance: Choosing Life in Canada, by Robert Eli Rubinstein, is more than a family memoir depicting the family’s move from a Displaced Person’s Camp (DP camp) in Italy to Canada. It is a loving tribute to the family members who survived the Holocaust/Shoah.

From the first page to the last, I couldn’t put the book down. I was engrossed with the story line, and taken by the frankness with which Rubinstein depicted his family’s journey through the Holocaust/Shoah and beyond. But, the reader soon realizes that the journey is also his own, as he reconciles the fact that he was born in Torino, Italy, to parents who lived in Grugliasco, a DP camp, with the fact that his mother tended to romanticize the time spent there.

Rubinstein not only visited Torina, Grugliasco, and his familial roots in Hungary, but learned much about the history behind the DP camp. He writes an honest account of the living conditions within the DP camp enivronment, which is taken, not only from familial accounts, but also historical documents, and oral statements from others.

He writes forthrightly, but beautifully, detailing his parent’s journey to Canada, to start life anew, and unbeknownst to them, in a city that was filled with antisemitic individuals. His family and the other Jewish refugees were known as “greenies”, a derogatory term, and one used frequently when being spoken of. Rubinstein depicts his parent’s struggle to survive in Canada, learning new trades, and eventually starting their own businesses, under adverse circumstances.

Although his parents were angry at what had befallen them, and although they didn’t feel that G-d showed them goodness in their horrific trials of family loss and survival, they still practiced Judaism and instilled the traditions within their family environment. Rubinstein had all of this to contend with on a daily basis, yet, he too weathered his own storms.

As a child of Holocaust survivors, he was a survivor himself, surviving the DP camp conditions, and surviving his own battles that evolved from his parents’ struggles, not only in the post war camp environment, but in their starting life in a new country, with a new language, and a new cultural history. Yes, they were part of a Jewish influx, yet were basically isolated within ghetto like conditions when they first arrived.

Rubinstein’s story is compelling in its historical references to little known facts regarding the DP camp, how the Italian community treated the Jews, and also compelling in his revelations regarding his own journey, his own self-discovery and religious identity. He doesn’t diminish the events in any aspect, yet he manages to write in a vividly beautiful manner.

I was intrigued with the camp life and how the Italians treated the Jews, due to the fact that I am half Italian, with my mother being a first generation American, born of Italian immigrants. I learned much about the Italian mindset during the post war from reading this book.

An Italian Renaissance: Choosing Life in Canada, is an important book that details post war life in Italy and in Canada, but also is a poignant and inspirational book detailing
Robert Eli Rubinstein’s family’s struggles and the love he has for them. They chose life in Canada, and life chose them.

I highly recommend it to everyone.

From Jew Wishes.

The original article may be found here.

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