Based on a 60-year-old manuscript that surfaced in 2009, The Rise of the Toronto Jewish Community by Shmuel M. Shapiro paints an authentic and colourful portrait of the community from its earliest days to about 1950, highlighting its strong immigrant and Yiddish flavour. Vivid descriptions of the soup kitchens, soda parlours, steamship agents, coffee houses and Christian missions bring Toronto’s vanished ‘Ward’ and Spadina neighbourhoods back to life. Softcover, 6×9 inches, 168 pages, 90 photographs and illustrations.
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Based on a 60-year-old manuscript found in an archives, The Rise of the Toronto Jewish Community by Shmuel Mayer Shapiro paints one of the most colourful and authentic portraits yet to emerge of what is now Canada’s largest Jewish community, from its earliest days to about 1950, highlighting its strong immigrant and Yiddish flavour. Here are vivid thumbnail sketches of many early synagogues, “anshei” congregations, landsmanschaft organizations and immigrant aid societies, along with a gallery of key personalities from the community’s formative period. The author, himself a prominent figure in his day, brings Toronto’s vanished Ward neighbourhood back to life with vivid descriptions of the soup kitchens, soda parlours, steamship agents, coffee houses and Christian missions that once graced its predominantly Jewish streets.
The narrative also offers detailed accounts of the evolution of the local Yiddish press, Jewish labour unions and indigenous garment industry on Spadina Avenue, as well as of the consequential garment workers’ strike at the T. Eaton Company in 1912. The text is enhanced with many period photographs and illustrations, a glossary of Yiddish and Hebrew terms, and an afterword by the late Ben Kayfetz.
Shmuel Mayer Shapiro (1887-1958) was born in Mozir, Russia and came to Toronto about 1911. He soon began writing for the Yidisher Zhurnal or Hebrew Journal, Toronto’s daily Yiddish newspaper; he later became its publisher and operated it until 1957. He was also a provincial justice of the peace and an honourary president of the Canadian Jewish Congress. He wrote The Rise of the Toronto Jewish Community in the late 1940s but it was never published in his lifetime.