None Is Too Many

Winner of the National Jewish Book Award

Winner of the Canadian Historical Association’s Best Scholarly Book in Canadian History Prize

Included in the Literary Review of Canada 100: Canada’s Most Important Books

One of the most important books in Canadian history, None Is Too Many conclusively lays to rest the myth that Canada has always been an accepting and welcoming society.

Today, we think of Canada as a compassionate, open country to which refugees from other countries have always been welcome. However, between the years 1933 and 1948, when the Jews of Europe were looking for a place of refuge from Nazi persecution, Canada refused to offer aid, let alone sanctuary, to those in fear for their lives.

Rigorously documented and brilliantly researched, None Is Too Many tells the story of Canada’s response to the plight of European Jews during the Nazi era and its immediate aftermath, exploring why and how Canada turned its back and hardened its heart against the entry of Jewish refugees. Recounting a shameful period in Canadian history, Irving Abella and Harold Troper trace the origins and results of Canadian immigration policies towards Jews to demonstrate that the forces against admitting them were pervasive and rooted in anti-Semitism.

First published in 1983, None Is Too Many has become one of the most significant books ever published in Canada. This fortieth anniversary edition celebrates the book’s ongoing impact on public discourse, generating debate on ethics and morality in government, the workings of Canadian immigration and refugee policy, the responsibility of bystanders, righting historical wrongs, and the historian as witness. Above all, the reader is asked: “What kind of Canada do we want to be?”

This new anniversary edition features a foreword by Richard Menkis on the impact the book made when it was first published and an afterword by David S. Koffman explaining why the book remains critical today.

Publication Timeline

About the Authors

Irving Abella was the J. Richard Shiff Chair for the Study of Canadian Jewry and professor emeritus of history at York University. Abella served as president of the Canadian Jewish Congress and was a member of the Order of Canada and the Order of Ontario, and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada.

Harold Troper is professor emeritus of education and history at the University of Toronto. Troper’s work has received numerous honours and awards including the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship, the American Jewish Book Award, the Canadian Historical Association Prize for Best Scholarly Book in Canadian History, and the J.I. Segal Book Award. He is also a three-time winner of the Canadian Jewish Book Award.

Richard Menkis is an associate professor of history at the University of British Columbia.

David S. Koffman is the J. Richard Shiff Chair for the Study of Canadian Jewry and an associate professor in the Department of History at York University.

In Memoriam

Irving Abella passed away on Sunday, July 3, 2022. Read about his impressive career as a historian and Jewish community leader in The Globe and Mail, the CBC, Ottawa Citizen, and The Canadian Jewish News. Read his obituary here.

Malcolm Lester passed away on Friday, April 1, 2022. Read about his contributions to the Canadian publishing industry in The Globe and Mail, Quill & Quire, and The Canadian Jewish News. Read his obituary here

From Our Editor, Natalie Fingerhut

In 1983, my late stepfather gave me a copy of None Is Too Many, first published by Lester & Orpen Dennys, for my 13th birthday. By that young age, I had developed an interest in the Holocaust and was excited to read about how Canada had helped to save the Jews of Europe, including my maternal grandparents. How shocked I was to read Abella and Troper’s words:

It is a story summed up best in the words of an anonymous senior Canadian official who, in the midst of a rambling, off-the-record discussion with journalists in early 1945, was asked how many Jews would be allowed into Canada after the war. His response seems to reflect the prevailing view of a substantial number of his fellow citizens: “None,” he said, “is too many.”

That can’t be true, I thought to myself. Canadians help people. We aren’t racist. We aren’t anti-Semitic. We are the kindest country in the world!

As Canadians read page after shameful page, our eyes were open to a disquieting truth. Canada was guilty of racism. Anti-Semitism was rife among policy makers. We shut our door while six million Jews died.

Forty years later, I have the privilege of publishing the anniversary edition of this devastating account of deliberate inaction, of bystanding, of anti-Semitism. This edition has been made more moving by the recent passing of one of the authors, Irving Abella, and the original editor of the book, Malcolm Lester. Irving Abella was a pillar of the modern Canadian Jewish community. Originally a labour historian, Abella and his co-author, Hesh Troper, stumbled upon the story behind None Is Too Many and relentlessly researched and interviewed and wrote the account that we have today. This uncovering of a shameful moment in Canadian history, to me, feels so brave. Abella and Troper didn’t know how the book would be received. After all, who wants to have their dirty laundry aired for public viewing.

Abella would go on to author A Coat of Many Colours: Two Centuries of Jewish Life in Canada to accompany an exhibit of the same name that year at the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Ottawa. He also served as president of the Canadian Jewish Congress, the advocacy body for the Jewish community, from 1992 to 1995.

In 1993, he was inducted into the Order of Canada. “His writings and lectures have helped us to appreciate the rich and diverse roots of our country, and broadened our understanding of the contributions generations of immigrants have made to Canada,” the award noted.

I met Malcolm Lester once and heard about him often. He was a mensch – a man of honour. His colleague, Louise Dennys, herself a giant in Canadian publishing, said of Lester that he was loyal, gentle, and kind. And yet he had a great passion to publish books that would have a real impact in Canada, especially Canadian Jewish writing. That he published None Is too Many isn’t a surprise.

Lester & Orpen Dennys closed down in 1991, but Malcolm Lester stayed in publishing. Towards the end of his career, he opened up New Jewish Press, which produced five titles focused on Jewish non-fiction. His dedication to Canadian Jewish literature remains a gift to us all.

Today, New Jewish Press has a new home at the University of Toronto Press. Malcolm Lester’s light is a guiding force for all of us at the Press.

May the memory of Irving Abella and the memory of Malcolm Lester be a blessing.

About New Jewish Press

New Jewish Press Logo

New Jewish Press is an imprint of University of Toronto Press, in partnership with the Anne Tanenbaum Centre for Jewish Studies, that includes outstanding books on Jewish culture, history, philosophy, literature, and religion. Books published under the New Jewish Press imprint will contribute to the Canadian and international Jewish cultural landscape by connecting with a broad and intellectually engaged readership.

In 2018, the Anne Tanenbaum Centre for Jewish Studies (CJS) and University of Toronto Press (UTP) announced that the two organizations have entered into an agreement for UTP to acquire the inventory and all contractual rights relating to the New Jewish Press, the inaugural publishing program of the (CJS) at the University of Toronto that began in 2016. The CJS-UTP Publishing Advisory Board has since aimed to shape the publication of outstanding books in the domains of Jewish culture, history, philosophy, literature, and religion.

New Jewish Press builds on the legacy of its founder, Malcolm Lester. NJP was the final publishing venture that Lester embarked on as a way of spotlighting the experiences and stories of the Jewish community in Canada. Lester published five books under the imprint:

  1. Double Threat: Canadian Jews, the Military, and World War II by Ellin Bessner
  2. The Evidence Room by Anne Bordeleau, Sascha Hastings, Robert Jan van Pelt, and Donald McKay
  3. The New Spice Box: Contemporary Jewish Writing edited by Ruth Panofsky
  4. The Riot at Christie Pits by Cyril Levitt and William Shaffir
  5. Come Back for Me by Sharon Hart-Green

New Jewish Press proudly creates a literary space for vital Jewish voices and debates. The imprint publishes books for people interested in Jewish life in a global age. We have published books on a range of pressing issues for the Jewish community, including intermarriage, the Israel-Palestine conflict, and how ancient Jewish wisdom can improve today’s workplace. Our stunning collection of graphic novellas, But I Live: Three Stories of Child Survivors of the Holocaust, demonstrates the superior editorial and production quality we offer to our authors as well as our unique contribution to Holocaust studies.

Our New Jewish Press books stand on three pillars: accessibility, inclusion, and courage. We believe in the power of words to change a conversation.


Why This Book Matters Today: A Video from David S. Koffman

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