Two Decorated Brothers: Leo and David Heaps at the OJA

Highlights of the Heaps Family Accessions

The stories of the only Jewish brothers to receive the Royal Military Cross during the Second World War are found at the Ontario Jewish Archives, Blankenstein Family Heritage Centre (OJA). Born in Winnipeg in 1916 and 1923 respectively, David and Leo Heaps were the sons of the politician A. A. and Bessie Heaps (nee Morris). Prior to enlisting in the Canadian army in 1942, David Heaps worked as a journalist. In 1943, he was promoted to Sergeant and served in the 2nd Canadian Infantry Division in the Allied Expeditionary Force. He was the only soldier in his regiment to serve for the entire European campaign, and fought at Caen, Channel Ports, Brussels, Antwerp, Falaise Gap, the Schelde and the final campaigns in Holland and Northern Germany.

Ontario Jewish Archives, accession 2012-4/2.

David and Leo Heaps with their father, A.A. Heaps on leave from the front in London, Feb. 1944.

Ontario Jewish Archives, accession 2012-4/2.

Leo Heaps received his education at Queen's University, the University of California, and McGill University. At the age of 21, during the Second World War, he was seconded to the British Army and found himself commanding the 1st Parachute Battalion's Transport. He participated in the Battle of Arnhem (1944) as a paratrooper. He was captured by the Germans and upon his escape, he went on to participate in the Dutch underground resistance movement, whose members helped him cross over enemy lines and rejoin the war. Leo Heaps was awarded the Royal Military Cross for his work with the Dutch Resistance. David also achieved the same distinction, thereby making them the only Jewish brothers during the Second World War to win the decoration.

After the war, Heaps went to Israel and aided their army in the establishment of mobile striking units. Whilst there, he met his wife-to-be, Tamar. Together they had one son, Adrian, and three daughters, Karen, Gillian, and Wendy. During the Hungarian Revolution, Heaps led a special rescue team to bring refugees out and across the border. In the mid-1960s he returned to Britain where he dabbled in various entrepreneurial projects as well as writing several books, notably The Grey Goose of Arnhem, telling his own story of Arnhem, the aftermath of the battle, and also the stories of other Arnhem evaders and their dealings with the Resistance. Leo Heaps spent most of his life in Toronto, Canada, and was amongst the forty Canadian veterans who returned to Arnhem in 1994 to mark the 50th anniversary. He died in 1995

Ontario Jewish Archives, accession 2012-2/4.

Paratroopers before landing in Holland, Sept. 1944.

Ontario Jewish Archives, accession 2012-2/4.

David and Leo’s father Abraham Albert Heaps (1885-1954) known as A. A. Heaps, was the founder of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation, the forerunner of the New Democratic Party. He was arrested for his involvement in the 1919 Winnipeg General Strike, but later acquitted of all charges. He began his political career as an alderman and member of the Trade Union Council and later was elected to the federal House of Commons representing Winnipeg North. He fought against antisemitism and quotas and advocated for the acceptance of Jewish refugees in Canada. He was defeated in 1940 and retired from public life and lived the rest of his days in Montreal.

Over the years, Leo Heaps’ son Adrian has donated records to the Ontario Jewish Archives, Blankenstein Family Heritage Centre related to both his father’s and uncle’s military service and more peripherally, to his grandfather’s political life. This includes extraordinary photographs, military currency, business cards, manuscripts, postcards, as well as war-time correspondence between the brothers and with their father A.A. Heaps. In the most recent accession, there is also a 1948 letter from Leo to Israel’s first Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion, discussing some issues he was experiencing with the Israeli army. Preserved for future generations and the thousands of people that do research at the OJA, these records document the extraordinary contributions made by the Heaps family. Through them, we gain an intimate view into various world events of the past century. 

Renovation Schedule at the OJA

As many of you already know, the OJA was the fortunate recipient of a Canada Cultural Spaces Fund grant from the Government of Canada with a matching gift from the Blankenstein family. This grant is allowing us to renovate our vault and public space in order to better serve our community into the future. Renovations are inherently disruptive but the staff of the OJA will do our best to minimize the effects. The following is our renovation schedule and how it affects you:

Pre-Renovation Closure: Dec. 15-Dec. 23

This clousre is necessary to allow us time to pack up our offices and reference collection and prepare the vault for the move. We will be closed to researchers and will not be accepting new donations of archival materials. If your need is urgent, please contact us and we will try to accomodate you.

Holiday Closure: Dec. 24-Jan. 2

The OJA will be closed over the Chistmas and New Year holiday period.

Vault Move: Jan. 5-Jan. 6

These two days have been dedicated to the move of our archival material. Thousands of boxes of textual records, over 60,000 photographs, our films, oral histories, and shelving will be moved out of our space to be housed in temporary quarters until the renovations are complete. Our collections will be inaccessible during these two days.

Renovations and Move Back: Jan. 7-March 31

OJA staff will continue to have access to our collections during the renovation period. We will do our best to accomodate your research requests in a timely manner. On-site research will be available for those who need direct access to the records. Donations of new material will be accepted.

Please contact us if you have any questions or would like to discuss your needs with an archivist. Thank you for your patience and we look forward to seeing you in our new space in April!

OJA Receives Capital Grant from the Government of Canada

The Ontario Jewish Archives, Blankenstein Family Heritage Centre (OJA) is pleased to announce that we are the recipient of $195,100 from the Canadian Government through the Canada Cultural Spaces Fund for the renovation of our vault and public space. The announcement was made yesterday by Member of Parliament Mark Adler (York Centre) on behalf of the Honourable Shelly Glover, Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages.

 “We are pleased to provide funding for the Ontario Jewish Archives, an important cultural space in our community that hosts a significant collection of artifacts documenting the contributions of the Jewish community in Canada,” Adler said in a statement.

This grant will support the installation of a modern, dedicated HVAC for the OJA vault as well as new lighting, monitoring system and compact and moveable shelving that will provide the archives with more storage space and better environmental conditions. The project will also update the public areas, creating a more comfortable and efficient space for researchers and staff. This grant is matched by funds generously provided to the OJA by the Blankenstein family.

 “The OJA is the largest professionally maintained repository of Jewish archival material in Canada. We have over 5000 cubic feet of textual material and 60,000 photographs. We also hold films, oral histories, artifacts and newspapers,” says Dara Solomon, Director of the OJA. “We have an obligation to ensure that these treasures are managed according to best practices and under optimal conditions. As a result of this grant, the OJA will be better positioned to continue our important work of preserving, collecting and sharing the stories of our community into the future.”

Left to right: Jackie Shulman, OJA Foundation Board of Directors; Mark Adler, MP; Dara Solomon, Director of the OJA.

Mark Adler, MP, makes the announcement on site at the OJA.

Left to right: Jackie Shulman, OJA Foundation Board of Directors; Mark Adler, MP; Dara Solomon, Director of the OJA.

Cecil Street Plaque Presentation

On Wednesday July 9, the OJA was pleased to participate in the heritage plaquing ceremonies for Cecil Street in Toronto. Approximately 200 people were in attendance at the Cecil Street Community Centre.

In partnership with the OJA, Heritage Toronto has now plaqued 13 Jewish heritage sites around the city. This latest site, Cecil Street, is unique in that it recognizes the impact and importance of a whole area to the vibrancy and well-being of a community, rather than one particular building or event. Cecil Street was once home to a high concentration of organizations, synagogues, social service agencies, meeting halls and fraternal groups and clubs that supported a growing and diverse Jewish community from the 1910s to the 1960s.

The heritage plaque features a short history of the street and archival photos from the collection of the OJA. One photo is of particular note as it depicts two small boys standing on the front steps of the Ostrovzter Synagogue (now the Cecil Street Community Centre). These two boys were Dr. Gordon Perlmutter and Gurion Hyman and both were on hand with their families to help unveil the plaque, now more than seven decades since that photograph was taken -- a special treat for all those in attendance.

The ceremony also featured a moving speech by Gurion Hyman's son, Dr. Avi Hyman, on the legacy of Cecil Street and what the area meant to the Jewish community at the time and what it now means to second and third generation Jewish Torontonians. The evening also included messages from Eric Slavens, chair of the OJA; Brent Pearlman, board member of Heritage Toronto; and Adam Nelson, representative of Scotiabank.

The presentation was followed by the OJA's A Sense of Spadina walking tour that guided four groups of participants through the Spadina area neighbourhood. If you would like to learn more about the area, you can sign up for one of our Sense of Spadina walking tours happening this summer and fall.

On left: Ontario Jewish Archives, item 1180 (cropped). On right: Marcus Mitanis, courtesy of Heritage Toronto.

Gordon Perlmutter and Gurion Hyman outside 58 Cecil Street, former Ostrovtzer Synagogue, now the Cecil Street Community Centre, 1938 and 2014.

On left: Ontario Jewish Archives, item 1180 (cropped). On right: Marcus Mitanis, courtesy of Heritage Toronto.

Heritage Toronto plaques Baycrest Hospital

The Ontario Jewish Archives, Blankenstein Family Heritage Centre and Heritage Toronto invite you to join us for a plaque presentation commemorating the history of Baycrest, an exceptional facility dedicated to comprehensive geriatric care, as well as one of the world’s top research institutes in cognitive neuroscience.

The Baycrest Centre for Geriatric Care began as the Jewish Old Folks Home, an elder care residence established by the Ezras Noshem Society, a Jewish women's mutual benefit organization. These women initiated the fundraising for the Home in response to the lack of Jewish elder care in Toronto, particularly problematic in that Jewish seniors required kosher meals, and more significantly, the ability to communicate with their staff in Yiddish. In 1917, they were able to purchase a home at 31 Cecil Street, just southeast of College and Spadina and officially opened between September 1918 and January 1920.

The Home was originally run by a small staff and volunteers from the Ezras Noshem Society, but by 1938 was serving more residents than the house could hold, so the organization bought the houses at 29, 33 and 35 Cecil Street and expanded outward. By this point, the Home's services had also grown to include a hospital ward, recreational programming, and synagogue services.

By 1946 it was clear that there would be need for larger, more modern facilities, and a major fundraising campaign led to the construction of the current complex on Bathurst Street, opening in 1954 as two institutions, the Jewish Home for the Aged and Baycrest Hospital. Additions in the 1970s included the Baycrest Terraces, an apartment building for seniors, and the Joseph and Minnie E. Wagman Community Centre, which allowed Baycrest to begin offering social and recreational services for Jewish families as well as seniors.

In the last 30 years, Baycrest has made great strides specifically in terms of research and care for medical challenges that predominantly affect elderly populations, such as vascular disorders and cognitive difficulties. Its medical facilities are affiliated with the University of Toronto and are internationally renowned, all while it has continued to provide the care and religious and cultural programming relevant to its residents and surrounding community.

The plaque presentation takes place on Wednesday, May 28, 2014 at 11:00 am in the Silverman Garden Court at 3560 Bathurst Street. Speakers include Heritage Toronto Board member Brent Pearlman; Plaques and Markers Program supporter, Scotiabank’s Rene Kaliafian; City Councillor of Ward 15, Josh Colle; and OJA Board member Edwin Goldstein, who together will address Baycrest’s significant contribution to Jewish life in Toronto. To RSVP please visit http://heritagetoronto.org/event/jewish-old-folks-home-later-baycrest-plaque-presentation/

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