Bill Gladstone

Archaeology of Toronto’s ‘Ward’

The Ward Uncovered: The Archaeology of Everyday Life, edited by Holly Martelle, Michael McClelland, Tatum Taylor, and John Lorinc. (Coach House Books, 2018) In recent years the history of the old “Ward” neighbourhood of downtown Toronto has been reclaimed and remembered in books, museum exhibits, and, most significantly, a vast archaeological dig behind City Hall…

Visiting my ancestral towns in Belarus

From the Canadian Jewish News, 2018 Zhlobin, in the Minsk province of Belarus, was the birthplace of my maternal grandmother, Esther Arnoff Naftolin, who was born there about 1895. Her grandfather, Binyamin Rubinowicz, had been a blacksmith in Zhlobin, and she had had many uncles, aunts and cousins there as well. She left as a…

Toronto City Guide befits a great city

Toronto Architecture: A City Guide (McClelland & Stewart) From the Canadian Jewish News, February 2018 In 1985, when architectural journalist Patricia McHugh released the first edition of her encyclopedic Toronto Architecture: A City Guide, the old industrial and residential neighbourhoods near the downtown core were still in decline, and, although the city was experiencing a…

Rabbi W. Gunther Plaut: An Appreciation

From the Canadian Jewish News, 2017 From the moment in 1961 that he stepped into the role, Rabbi W. Gunther Plaut was always much more than rabbi of the esteemed historic Reform congregation, Holy Blossom Temple of Toronto. It was entirely Toronto’s gain and St. Paul Minnesota’s loss when Holy Blossom enticed Rabbi Plaut here,…

Obit: Simcha Simchovitch, eminent Yiddish writer (2017)

From Canadian Jewish News, July 2017 Simcha Simchovitch, a Polish-born Holocaust survivor and prominent poet and writer in both Yiddish and English, died in Toronto on July 12, 2017 at the age of 97. The winner of various literary prizes including several Canadian Jewish Book Awards and two I.J. Segal awards for Yiddish Literature, Simchovitch…

Book explores history of Jews of Salonica

Jewish Salonica: Between the Ottoman Empire and Modern Greece By Devin E. Naar. Stanford University Press 2016. by Bill Gladstone Jews first arrived in the city of Salonica, formerly known as Thessaloniki, soon after their dispersal following the Roman conquest of ancient Israel. Salonica again became a prime destination for Sephardic Jews after Spain expelled…

Hooray for Reclaim the Records

Above: Screengrab of Reclaim the Records homepage. This fall (2016), a U.S.-based grass-roots organization called Reclaim the Records (RTR) celebrated its first major victory by opening a website (www.nycmarriageindex.com) to allow the public to search the indexes of New York City marriage records from 1950 to 1995 for free. The records were previously accessible only…

Broadway’s newest Fiddler is one for the ages

  Wonder of wonder and miracle of miracles, the new production of Fiddler On The Roof at the Broadway Theatre in New York — directed by Bartlett Sher and freshly choreographed by Israeli choreographer Hofesh Schechter — is good enough to make seasoned theatregoers forget that they ever saw a previous production of Fiddler or…

Review: Sailor and Fiddler, by Herman Wouk (2016)

Sailor and Fiddler: Reflections of a 100-Year-old Author, by Herman Wouk (Simon & Schuster) This slim volume, which the author describes as a “non-autobiography,” will be of special interest to people interested in literature, for it focuses primarily on Wouk’s writing life and how he came to create such popular works as The Caine Mutiny,…

A Matzah Factory on Ontario Street

One good thing about matzah is that even after the passage of many months, it often tastes no more stale coming out of the box than when it was first baked. In a parallel vein, I hope the following tales concerning an early matzah factory in Toronto won’t seem too stale even if they go…