Dora Till

Dora Till, ca. 1960. Ontario Jewish Archives, fonds 52, series 8, file 10, item 5.Dora (nee Tobias) Till was born in New York City on March 20th, 1896 to Max and Yeta Tobias. The family lived in New York until Dora was four and they moved to Toronto. Dora had five siblings. From a young age, she demonstrated a passion for social organization and welfare programs. At the age of 14 she became a member of the Boot and Shoe Society which assisted mothers and children in need and was also a member of the the Herzl Girls Club, a social club for young women. On 21 May 1916, Dora married Morris S. Till, her long time sweetheart. Together they had two children, Sigmund and Cecile. Sigmund, died quite suddenly at the young age of 11 from an illness.

In 1918, Till took her first steps towards becoming an important figure in the Jewish community, through her lifelong work of improving Jewish life, health and welfare. In 1918, Till joined the Hebrew Maternity Aid Society, and served as the vice-president for 15 years. One of the most important projects Till facilitated while president of the Hebrew Maternity Aid Society was the Mothers’ and Babes’ Summer Rest Home in Tollandale, Ontario. Till founded the rest home in 1919 and became the first president of the organization. It provided mothers and children with much needed two-week vacations to escape the heat of the summer and enjoy the outdoors. Till continued to play an important role in the Mothers’ and Babes’ Summer Rest Home until its closure in 1977.

Throughout her life, Till participated in many originations and sat on numerous boards and committees such as The Federation of Jewish Philanthropies of Toronto, The United Jewish Welfare Fund (UJWF), The Welfare Fund’s Women’s Division, and The Women’s Service Council. The Jewish Home for the Aged, the precursor to Baycrest Centre was another prominent organization that Till was involved with for many years. When the Baycrest Centre for Geriatric Care’s Women’s Auxiliary opened, Till was an obvious choice to became the first president, a position she held from 1955 until 1959. Through the Auxiliary, Till provided aid and assistance for the elderly Jewish population. The volunteers of the auxiliary hosted events and provided services such as a beauty salon, a gift shop, theatre nights, and fundraising projects, to name a few.

As a result of Till’s hard work on numerous organizations and projects she was able to improve and enhance the quality of life for the Jewish community in Toronto. She was recognized by the community for her achievements in 1969, when she became the first woman to receive the UJWF’s Ben Sadowski Award for Jewish Community Service and in 1977 as a recipient of the Queen’s Silver Jubilee medal for outstanding community service. Finally, in 1983 an entire floor of the Baycrest Centre was renamed after her and dedicated in her honour. Till continued to volunteer until her death on 22 November 1987.

Click images to enlarge