Southern African Legacy Project
Although a small number of Jewish Southern Africans did begin immigrating to Ontario as early as 1907, the largest waves began arriving in the 1970s soon after the violent Soweto riots. By 2011 nearly 5,000 Jews from South Africa were living in Toronto.
The OJA realized that its vast collection of material relating to Jewish immigration was missing the fascinating stories of immigrants who arrived in Ontario after the Second World War, including those from South Africa and Zimbabwe. Recognizing the importance of actively pursuing material from the more recent immigrant waves that have really shaped today’s community, the OJA launched the Southern African Legacy Project (SALP) in 2014. This is the OJA’s first collection development initiative focused on a specific immigrant group, and the OJA plans to use this pilot as a model to work with other groups in the future.
As part of this project, OJA archivists are meeting with Southern African immigrants to hear their stories and collect photographs, letters, speeches, scrapbooks and other records detailing their experiences in Southern Africa and Ontario. To complement the archival material, the OJA is also recording oral history interviews with a small sample of individuals representing different cross-sections of the community, such as people who immigrated in different eras and at different life stages. The collection that is emerging holds a wealth of information about Ontario’s Jewish South African community: why they left South Africa and Zimbabwe, why they chose Canada, initial impressions of Canada, the challenges they faced when integrating into life here, the differences and similarities in Jewish traditions, and the important role they have played in Ontario’s Jewish community.
The OJA’s project is being supported by a committee of committed former Southern Africans: Stephen Pincus (Project Chair), Colin Baskind, John Cohen, Michael Meyer, Lorraine Sandler, Richard Stern, and Heather Super. We gratefully thank them for their generous assistance, time, advice and support.
How To Participate
To be a part of this exciting initiative, please contact OJA Assistant Archivist Faye Blum at firstname.lastname@example.org or 416-635-5391 x. 5183.
Below are examples of what we collect:
Family photographs and videos: family portraits, images/videos of weddings, bar/bat mitzvahs, your first few years/winters in Canada, your first home in Ontario, celebrating Jewish holidays in Ontario, recreation/hobbies, cottage life, Jewish summer camps, cooking in your kitchen, images relating to important hobbies, etc.
Personal documents: memoirs, speeches delivered at family events (e.g. weddings, anniversaries, etc.), eulogies, journals/diaries, correspondence with family and friends, invitations to family events (such as, weddings, bar mitzvahs, etc.) unique recipe books/cookbooks, etc.
Immigration records: correspondence relating to your immigration, shipping container lists, travel tickets, photographs of your journey, etc.
Jewish communal involvement: newsletters, meeting minutes, speeches, event invitations/programs, photos or other documents from Jewish organizations/clubs that you are involved with, etc.
Records related to career: Photographs showing you at work/events/award ceremonies, correspondence, event invitations/programs, speeches, writings, etc.
Business records: Business plans, photographs, promotion/publicity materials, flyers, advertisements, correspondence, inventory lists, audited annual financial statements, etc
- We collect records from all time periods (nothing is too old or too recent)
- Our focus is on your life in Ontario (although a selection of material documenting your life pre-Ontario is relevant)
- The amount of material you provide is up to you (it could range from one single item to 50 boxes or more)
- The records you provide don’t need to directly relate to the fact that you are from South Africa, but there does need to be material relating to your life in Ontario.
This pilot project has been a tremendous success so far! While the OJA previously held almost no material on the Southern African community, it now holds a rich collection of material representing the stories of over 90 Southern Africans! And, the collection continues to grow every day.
We have collected:
- Over 2000 photographs
- Over 130,000 MegaBytes of digital images and textual records (or over 800 electronic files)
- Over 2 metres of textual records (or around 10,000 pieces of paper)
- Over 500 minutes of video
- Over 60 issues of the SAJAC News
- Over 640 recipes
- Over 2000 minutes of recorded oral history interviews
The OJA is currently developing an exciting new website featuring the fascinating stories of this community through the presentation of recorded oral histories and highlights of collected photographs and documents. The oral history clips on the website will illustrate key themes common to all stories: leaving South Africa and Zimbabwe, arrival in Canada, adjusting to Canadian life, Jewish/Canadian identity, contributions, and ties to home. We plan to launch this dynamic website at a reception in fall 2018. Please stay tuned for more information.
Southern African Jewish Community Study
As part of the Ontario Jewish Archives, Blankenstein Family Heritage Centre’s South African Legacy Project, we have commissioned an important study to examine the demographic profile of ex-Southern African Jews living in Toronto and to examine the impact their immigration had on their life and Jewish identity. We hope that you will complete this study and please forward to ex-Southern Africans that you know and encourage their participation.
CLICK HERE TO BEGIN