Allan Gould – a prolific writer, a former CJN columnist and a popular teacher at Kolel: The Adult Centre for Liberal Jewish Learning – died suddenly of a brain aneurysm Feb. 21. He was 68 years old.
A native of Detroit who moved to Toronto to marry his wife, Merle, in 1968, Gould wrote, co-wrote or edited more than 40 books, including The Great Big Book of Canadian Humour; First Stage: The Making of the Stratford Festival; Toronto Street Names; Fodor’s Toronto; What Did They Think of the Jews?, and The Unorthodox Book of Jewish Records and Lists.
Danny Siegel – Gould’s co-author on the latter book and a close friend from their teenage years in United Synagogue Youth – said in a eulogy that Gould had a palpable “zeeskeit” (sweetness), and spoke with a profundity that often astonished those who heard him.
Siegel recalled Gould’s “constant chatter and banter and free association” and his ability to make others laugh.
“Beyond the unending stream of words, there was a tzaddik,” he added, referring to Gould’s love of tikkun olum, tzedakah, his “insistence on treating people with dignity,” and the donation of his organs.
Gould’s son, Judah, said in his eulogy, that his father “believed he had to use his skills to fight peacefully for justice in our broken world,” and expressed pride in his father’s activism. Gould taught literacy in a “freedom school” in rural Mississippi in 1964 as part of the “Freedom Summer” project, aimed at helping the local black population register as voters.
At the time, Gould was an undergraduate at Wayne State University in Detroit, studying philosophy. He went on to earn a master’s degree in theatre at New York University, and a PhD in English and theatre at York University, which he completed in 1977.
He taught English, theatre, comedy and humanities at York, the University of Guelph, Centennial College, the University of Toronto’s School of Architecture, and the Ontario College of Art (now OCAD University).
A longtime freelancer, Gould wrote more than 1,000 magazine articles. A National Magazine Award winner, he was also a speaker, and a speechwriter for business people and politicians.
As well, he performed and wrote for radio and television, including his weekly political satire presentations on Dan Harron’s Morningside, on national CBC Radio. He was head writer for the CTV quiz show Definition, and was a script editor and writer for the TV series King of Kensington.
Gould’s daughter, Elisheva, speaking at the funeral, recalled her father’s “sense of adventure and fun,” his constant kibitzing and his “ferocious loyalty” to her mother.
Rabbi Elyse Goldstein, founder of Kolel and now rabbi of the City Shul, said Gould lived “with so much gusto” that he filled the years he was given to the brink, and sometimes to overflowing, with meaning and purpose.
Gould leaves Merle, his wife of 44 years, his children, Judah and Elisheva, and his brother, Murray.
It is with great sadness that I learned that Allan died. He brought joy and laughter to the world and could lighten anybody's heart. I am grateful for having known him. It was way too soon for him to leave us.
Barbara Finkel (Leviton)
I still think of Allan from when we were teenagers.
He was someone who will always be remembered as having
Allan was my oldest and best friend. He was a wonderful person and an unforgetable character with a rapid fire wit and sense of humor and an even more rapid fire delivery. His passion for the arts, his passion for his religious heritage, his passion for justice in the world, his passion for just about everything he encountered was the way he lived his life, passionately, and was legendary among those who knew and loved him. When I was told that Allan had died two months ago, I thought that it would be very hard to imagine a world without Allan in it. As weeks have passed, turns out it's even harder than I imagined it would be. Michael Stulberg