Leventhal, Abraham Jacob (‘Con’) (1896–1979), lecturer, essayist, and critic, was born 9 May 1896 in Lower Clanbrassil St., Dublin, son of Moses (Maurice) Leventhal, draper, and Rosa Leventhal (née Levenberg). He was reared in an orthodox Jewish family; his mother, a poet and lifelong Zionist, was a founder member of the Women's Zionist Society. His early years, spent in the ‘Little Jerusalem’ district of Dublin in and around the South Circular Road, were recalled in his article ‘What it means to be a Jew’, published in The Bell (1945). Contemporaries remembered him as a ‘rather serious boy passionately fond of books and culture in all forms’ (Berman, 45). Educated at Wesley College, Dublin, he went on to attend TCD, where as a student in modern languages he obtained first-class honours in all examinations for three successive years. In 1918 he edited the college magazine TCD. It is not certain how he came to be nicknamed ‘Con’ as a student; however, J. P. Donleavy suggested it developed from his tendency to begin sentences with ‘When I was on the Continent. . .’ (TCD, MS 9308/431). Taking time out from his studies immediately after the end of World War I, he joined the first Zionist commission and travelled to Palestine, where he helped found the Palestine Weekly newspaper. He was subsequently invited to join the Jewish National Fund's London office, where he worked on the Zionist Review. On returning to Dublin he completed his degree in 1920, and the following year travelled to Paris, where he met James Joyce (qv). One of Joyce's earliest Irish admirers, Leventhal recollected being quizzed by him about members of Dublin's Jewish community known to them both.
He married (October 1922) Gertrude Zlotover of Dublin; they had one daughter. After a period working for his father-in-law, Joseph Zlotover, in the family furniture business on Mary St., he made some unsuccessful attempts to start his own business. Among these ventures was the short-lived Irish Book Shop on Dawson St., which he ran from 1924 to 1925. It was possibly this lack of success that gave him the idea to encourage TCD to found the Students Appointment Association, aimed at providing graduates with practical business skills. The college accepted his proposal and engaged him as its first administrator. Having completed his Ph.D. in contemporary French literature, he was appointed to the staff of the French department at Trinity in 1932, replacing his friend Samuel Beckett (qv), who had resigned the previous year. During his years with Trinity he was for some time assistant editor of the college's literary magazine Hermathena, to which he contributed his own translations of French poetry.
Throughout the 1920s and ‘30s Leventhal was closely associated with many of the most progressive cultural movements in Dublin. He regularly attended meetings organised by a circle of Dublin Jews to promote Jewish culture and nationalism, and lectured the group (founded in the early 1920s) on Joyce. This interest in Joyce brought about his lengthy association with Seumas O'Sullivan (qv) and the Dublin Magazine, beginning in 1923 when Starkey agreed to publish his enthusiastic review of Ulysses. However, they failed to secure publication for the article, as the printers (hostile to any mention of Joyce) refused to set the text. In response to this censorship Leventhal started his own magazine, the Klaxon (1923). Its only number carried a shortened version of the offending review, which he published under the pseudonym ‘Lawrence K. Emery’. His involvement with the more radical elements of the Dublin intelligentsia continued through his association with the iconoclastic magazine Tomorrow (1924), edited by Francis Stuart (qv).
Leventhal's interests also extended to drama. A member of the avant-garde Dublin Drama League, in whose productions he sometimes performed, he was a close friend of Madam Bannard Cogley, Micheál MacLiammóir (qv), and Lennox Robinson (qv). His own column, ‘Dramatic commentary’, was featured in the Dublin Magazine from 1943 to 1958. Among the other journals and newspapers to which he contributed were the Irish Times, Irish Press, Listener, Westminster Weekly, Financial Times, and International Herald Tribune. He was also a regular broadcaster on Radio Éireann and the BBC. Closely associated with Ethna MacCarthy (qv) for many years, he married her (1956) after the death of his first wife. After retiring from lecturing in 1963 he moved to Paris, where he became Samuel Beckett's literary assistant. He died there in 1979. Portraits of Leventhal were executed by John Russell (1920) and Avigdor Arikha.