Chanukah With the Liberal Caucus

Last night on December 7th, Ellen Scheinberg and Brooky Robins attended a Chaunkah party at the Legislature Building hosted by the Ontario Liberal Caucus. This was the first time they have held this type of event and it was a splendid affair. Monte Kwinter (MPP,York Centre) and Dr. Eric Hoskins (MPP, St. Paul's) the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, co-hosted the reception.

Monte Kwinter at the Provincial Legislature.

There was a large group in attendance that included senior UJA Federation lay people such as Elizabeth Wolfe (Chair, UJA Federation) and David Spiro (Chair, Committee of Public Affairs for UJA), all of the CJC staff, some UJA Federation staff and many other community leaders. There were also major philanthropists there as well such as Joe Lebovic.

A number of the Liberal MPPs, besides Kwinter and Hoskins, attended as well. We had the opportunity to chat with Michael Colle (Eglinton-Lawrence), David Zimmer (Willowdale), Tony Ruprecht (Davenport) and Linda Jeffrey (Bampton-Sprindale), the Minister of Natural Resources. Everyone was very friendly and and in good spirits. I particularly enjoyed my conversation with Linda, since she came across as being very open and willing to reveal some of the interesting challenges she was confronting today.

The Chanukah ceremony began with a brief opening speech by Dr. Hoskins, followed by an address by Monte Kwinter. Monte introduced Rabbi Goldfarb from Holy Blossom Temple, who recited the prayers for the lighting of the menorah. The honour of turning the lightbulbs on the electric menorah that they had was given to Premier Dalton McGuinty. He did a commendable job pronouncing "chag Sameach" and seemed to enjoy this role.

Premier McGuinty greeting the crowd.

After the ceremony, the crowd continued to mingle and enjoy the wine and hors d'oeuvres that were available. Everything was delicious, however the Legislature could truly benefit from my bubbie's latke recipe. Their latkes were a little too moist in the middle and lacked the crispyness that most of us appreciate. Given that this is their first year hosting a Chanukah event, I suspect that they will address this concern and refine their recipe, so that those who sample their latkes will be taken back to the Kensington Market era and the delicacies that were enjoyed in restaurants like United Bakers and Goldenbergs.

On the whole, I would rate this Chanukah party very high and felt it was a very successful reception. The Liberals have been very committed to supporting Jewish initiatives and voicing their objections against anti-Israel and anti-Semitic propoganda and actions within the province. In turn, Monte Kwinter has made great efforts to promote education about the Holocaust, by taking part in the Yom HaShoa event and briging that important issue into the Legislature each year. They should certainly be commended for their responsiveness to these issues and support.

Russian Veterans Initiative

The Archives is currently working on a project that involves interviewing approximately 20 Jewish veterans who served in the Russian military during the Second World War. They are all living in Toronto at this time and many were given medals for their bravery.

Ontario Jewish Archives, accession #2010-11/11.

Grigoriy Genin giving a lecture to a group of soldiers in 1945 outside the village of Kefermarkt, Austria.

Ontario Jewish Archives, accession #2010-11/11.

Len Pearl is responsible for conducting the video interviews. He is relying on state of the art technology, employing a green screen background and HD footage. The interviews will be used in the future for programming and exhibitions implemented by the OJA along with the Canadian Jewish Museum that will be constructed within the next few years.

In addition, the OJA has been acquiring photographs, documents and artifacts from the veterans and scanning items in cases where the individual is not comfortable donating their treasures. As a result, we have acquired wonderful photographs of their lives in Russia before the war, medals, certificates, honours and other items. Since this group was not very well documented by the OJA in the past, this project will help document the many important stories and adventures of these heroic veterans, ensuring that the interviews and records are well preserved for future generations to enjoy and appreciate.

Mount Sinai Hospital Plaque Ceremony

On the 17th of November, Mount Sinai Hospital held a reception and ceremony to reveal the historic plaque that Heritage Toronto created to commemorate this important Jewish institution. The OJA was responsible for the selection of sites -- which were reviewed and approved by the HT Board -- as well as the review of the text for the plaque and contribution of photographs.

The event was held at the MoRoCo chocolate shop and restaurant located across the street from the original hospital situated at 100 Yorkville Avenue. The CEO of Mount Sinai along with Dr. Gross, designer Brian Gluckstein and Eric Slavens, the board member of Heritage Toronto who initiated this program, delivered speeches. Special mention was made of the fact that Dr. Harry Arthurs, the former Dean of Osgoode Law School and grandson of the founder of Mount Sinai Hospital, Dorothy Dworkin, was present. Since he is a great friend of the OJA, we made sure to notify him about this event and were extremely pleased that he could come. Eric Slavens also graciously thanked Ellen Scheinberg for her contribution to the plaque and role in the program.

Rebecca Carson (HT), Dr. Ellen Scheinberg, Dr. Harry Arthurs and Brooky Robins

The ceramic plaque is quite beautiful and includes four black and white photographs of the early building, the hospital, Dworkin and her Ezras Noshem Society and a doctor examining a patient during the 1920s. This institution was extremely important to the community, since it fulfilled the crucial function of providing kosher food and services in Yiddish to Jewish patients. Since other hospitals would not hire Jews at that time, it also provided work for Jewish doctors who wanted to remain in Toronto and practice medicine. Everyone was quite pleased with the design and content of the plaque and the Mount Sinai board in particular were thrilled that their hospital was being recognized. 

Recently the building was demolished, but the original facade was preserved and is now the entrance for Teatro Verde, a commercial and condo complex located in the heart of Yorkville. Since this is the only remnant left of the original edifice, the plaque will help provide the historical context needed to reveal its rich history and importance to the city of Toronto. 

Remembrance Day Ceremony at Lipa Green

On November 11th the OJA organized a Remembrance Day event at the Lipa Green Centre in the Tamari Family Hall. We were fortunate to have approximately 55 veterans in attendance, many of whom arrived in uniform with their medals, accompanied by family members. Although most of them served in the Canadian forces during the Second World War, we also had a significant number in attendance who were part of the Allied forces or the Machal during the War of Independence. A record number of Lipa Green Centre staff, in the range of 90 people or more, was also present. A few of the veterans revealed that they had never been to this building before and all expressed how pleased they were to be invited to take part in the Federation ceremony.

Carol Kassel and David Green

The ceremony began with a message from UJA Federation President, Ted Sokolsky, welcoming everyone and discussing the importance of honouring our veterans. He also informed the crowd about a new program that Federation is launching to support Jewish veterans in need. He was followed by Norm Gardner, from the Jewish War Veterans of Canada, who delivered the main address. Cantor David Rosen from Beth Radom Congregation gave a moving version of the prayer for fallen soldiers, as well as the Canadian and Israeli national anthems. 

There was an informal reception held after the ceremony. This provided us with the opportunity to chat with the veterans and discuss new programs, such as the oral history initiative and Jewish Museum project, that are in progress.

OJA's Home Movie Project

The OJA has been working on a home movie project for the past year. We have been actively collecting home movies dating from the 1920s until the 1950s that document Jewish Toronto. The archival films have been digitized to make these wonderful depictions of early Jewish life in Toronto more accessible. The footage documents themes such as simchas (weddings, anniversaries, bar mitzvahs), recreation, Jewish camps, travel and important events within the community.

One of the largest collections that the OJA possesses is that of Dr. A.I. Willinsky, one of the first Jewish doctors to practice in Toronto and an early photography and film enthusiast. His films document the construction of Holy Blossom Temple in 1937 as well as his family's activities, adventures and travels. You can view clips from our films a number of films from our collection on our YouTube channel

For those who are interested in donating home movies to the Ontario Jewish Archives or learning more about the home movie project, please contact the OJA.