2023 Acquisition Highlights
Since the 1850s—the decades when Ontario's first synagogues came into existence—synagogues have occupied a central place in Jewish life in the province. In June, the OJA was honoured to acquire records from Adath Israel Congregation. Adath Israel traces its origins to the year 1911, when a group of Romanian Jews banded together to form the First Roumanian Hebrew Congregation Adath Israel (the name was shortened in the 1950s). Since those early days, the congregation has gone through a number of moves, but its members continue to honour their roots. The donation of the records was made possible by Michael Cohen, the congregation's executive director, and Rabbi Cutler, the congregation's senior rabbi. The donation itself (pictured left) took up an entire storage shelf, which means the OJA's archivists will have their hands full processing the records in the coming months and years!
Sometimes the best acquisitions come in at the end of the month. May was one of those months. On 30 May, Lewis Levendel donated material documenting a major controversy that transpired at Beth Tzedec in the 1970s. The story provoked national and even international news coverage, as one of the figures involved, Rabbi Stuart E. Rosenberg (1922–1990), was a well-known figure in both Canada and the United States. According to Encyclopedia.com, the controversy involved a "bitter power struggle between [Rabbi Rosenberg] and the officers of Beth Tzedec Synagogue in Toronto, which claimed then to be the largest congregation in the world."
At the time, there was some disagreement as to whether Canadian-Jewish periodicals, such as the Canadian Jewish News, ought to cover the scandal, with some feeling that to do so was to air the community's dirty laundry. Others, in contrast, felt that the reputation of Canadian-Jewish periodicals would be irreparably harmed were they not to cover it, since non-Jewish publications were. One of those journalists who did cover the scandal was Lewis Levendel, who subsequently wrote about the episode in his book, A Century of The Canadian Jewish Press: 1880s-1980s.
Thanks to Levendel's donation, researchers will be better positioned to make sense of this fascinating episode in Canadian-Jewish history.
Gerry Salsberg was a Canadian actor known for his roles in The Last Detail (1973), Breaking Point (1976) and Never Forget (2008). Born in Toronto, Ontario, on 15 March 1949, Gerry started performing on stage as a student, being active in stage productions in both high school and university. His accomplishments include a Best Actors Award from the St. Jean Film Festival, which he received for his performance as Wolf in the film Wolf Lanigan.
In February, Gerry's sister, Karen, donated a small amount of material documenting her brother, including some newspaper clippings, a program for a celebration of Gerry's life, and the text of a speech given by her. In April, Karen donated one additional folder of material, including this gorgeous headshot of Gerry, which was probably taken around 1972, the year Gerry appeared in a performance of Godspell.
In addition, to his work on stage and in front of the camera, Gerry was an avid photographer. He died on 22 June 2010.
In March, Judith "Jay" Nefsky, the first professional archivist of the Canadian Jewish Congress National Archives, donated records documenting her research into her extended family. As one might expect for an archivist, the records were logically arranged, which made the task of accessioning them rather straightforward. Shown here is a letter—logically filed in a folder titled Correspondence—to Judith from Stanley Everett. In the letter, Stanley discusses his interest in genealogy, his research into his mother's family, and the methods he has been using to conduct his research. Apart from providing information about the author's background, the letter affords us a window into the motivations that lie behind genealogical research. No doubt many of the researchers who come to the OJA for the purpose of conducting genealogical research can relate to at least a few of Stanley's remarks.
Apart from correspondence, Judith's donation also consists of a small number of photographs plus some documents and publications pertaining to Sudbury, Ontario.
In February, Camile Norton donated the records of her step-father, Willi Holz, to the OJA, and boy do those records tell a fascinating story!
Willi was born in Breslau, Germany, in 1912. He attended elementary school and technical high school in the city and worked as an electrician at several firms. In 1933, Hitler's National Socialist German Workers’ Party came to power and the trajectory of Willi's life, along with millions of other Jews, was sent on a a completely different trajectory. Shown left is a letter the German Metal Workers' Union sent to Willi (here spelled Willy) expelling him from the union because he is of nichtarischer ("non-Aryan") descent. The letter is dated 20 November 1933.
The above letter is only one of fifty-some records in this small but rich collection. Also included are Willi's diary, his German passport, a postcard from Palestine, the chronicle of Camp "L" (where Willi was interned), and personal correspondence. Taken together, these records tell the story of Willi's experience before, during, and after the Second World War, including his failed attempts to leave Germany for Palestine, Bolivia, and China; his tranfer to a camp for Jewish emigrants in Richborough, England; his eventual transfer to Quebec, where he was interned at Camp "L"; his transfer to Camp "N" in Sherbrooke, Quebec; his eventual release; his move to Toronto; and his path to Canadian citizenship, which he received on 4 May 1946. Willi's remarkable story came to an end on 10 October 1979. His funeral took place at Benjamin's Park Memorial Chapel.
In January, the OJA was pleased to acquire material documenting the Jewish War Veterans of Canada. The accession consists of twelve centimetres of textual records and approximately ninety photographs. The materials were stored in the fourth-floor boardroom of the former office of the Jewish War Veterans of Canada before being transferred to the OJA. Shown here is a document from the City of North York and signed by controller Norm Gardner and mayor Mel Lastman "in recognition of the exceptional contribution you [i.e., the veterans] have made to Our City." It was presented to the veterans on 6 June 1988, the fourtieth anniversary of the landing of the Allied forces in Normandy, France. Fun fact: Mayor Lastman became Toronto's third Jewish mayor after the amalgamation of Metro Toronto and its six constituent municipalties in 1988.