Voices of the Past Remind us of our Relevance Today

The voices on this recording illuminate the achievement of the Jewish community in the late 1950s when they built the Bathurst JCC at 4600 Bathurst Street. As the community moved northward, there was a need for a new athletic and cultural centre to service the families living in the surrounding neighbourhoods.  The new Northern ‘Y’ was dedicated in 1961 at Bathurst Street and Sheppard Avenue in a beautiful ravine.

Fourteen years later, a new cultural and physical education wing was added to better serve the needs of its members. This included the addition of the Leah Posluns Theatre and the Koffler Centre of the Arts. The BJCC thrived for decades, offering members a place to gather, socialize, play sports, nosh, exercise, dance, swim, and build community.

In late August of this year, the OJA received an exciting donation of audio recordings from the company Kay Radio. Included is a recording of the North Y groundbreaking ceremonies from the winter of 1958 when community leaders, rabbis, and local politicians gathered to celebrate this moment. Some of the individuals identified speaking are: Rabbi Feinberg, Ellis I. Shapiro, Sam Granatstein, Kelso Roberts (Attorney General of Ontario), Fred Gardiner, Vernon Singer, and Mayor Nathan Phillips.

When you listen to the audio, you can hear the praise for the community's “forward-thinkingness” in building a "Y" on this property by those who spoke at this ceremony. And, their words remain relevant today as the community embarks on rebuilding this campus for the current and future generations.

A Brand Spanking New ScanPro 3000!!

The OJA gets a new Microfiche Scanner and Reader

The OJA has purchased a new state-of-the-art Microfiche Scanner and Reader--The ScanPro 3000 (yes! That is the actual name!!) Our old scanner was in desperate need of replacement and one of our frequent researchers was troubled by how cumbersome it was to use. This happened to be Bill Gladstone, local historian, CJN writer, and executive member of the Agudas Hamishpocha. They are a family organization founded in 1928 that still meets regularly and raises money to support various Jewish causes. Bill worked with the organization to make a substantial donation to the OJA to cover the expenses of a new Micofiche Scanner and Reader. As an historian and writer, Bill understands the importance of microfilm in archives and of making this material accessible. The OJA is grateful to Bill, the Agudas, and the Foundation of Jewish Toronto for making this gift possible.

Microfilm is still considered an important format for long-term preservation of delicate originals with high erosion rates (such as newspapers) or for those records that are requested so frequently that they are at risk of damage through constant handling. Micrographic scanners have advanced tremendously over the past several years. Commonly known as microfilm readers, these machines are an invaluable research tool for archives and libraries, whose collections often consist of microfilmed or microfiched records.

Many of the OJA’s most requested collections are on microfilm, particularly our periodicals. This includes:

The Yiddisher Zhurnal (1915-1959)
Der kamf : Der veg : Vochenblatt (1924-1972)
The Canadian Jewish News (1960-1996)
The Jewish Times (1897-1914)
Goel Tzedec Congregation minutes (1889-1917)
Holy Blossom Temple minutes, ledgers books, birth, marriage and burial registers (1856-1969)
Beth Jacob Synagogue (Hamilton) marriage register (1924-1940)
Numerous scrapbooks and diaries of individuals.

The ScanPro 3000 is the top-of-the-line model from ScanPro, the most widely used scanner in archives and libraries. It features a 26 megapixel optical camera capturing the smallest details on the page; high resolution scanning, the capability for in-text searching in multiple languages including Yiddish and Hebrew type; and automatic page scanning capabilities, which can scan entire rolls or partial rolls at up to 10 images per minute.

With a new and robust micrographic scanner, the OJA will better serve our researchers into the future. In addition, the scanning software will enable us to create text-searchable PDFs that can be emailed. We will also be able to link these pdfs to our online database so that users can access the content by keyword searching our database. Providing accessibility to this content to remote users is an extraordinary leap in making the OJA's rich collections available to users across the globe.

Thank you Bill Gladstone and Agudas Hamishpocha!

The Removal and Preservation of the Mandel's Creamery Window


The word “community” is the wireless password at Bicerin, the charming coffee place, a few stores down from 29 Baldwin Street where this morning, the Ontario Jewish Archives oversaw the careful removal of the original hand-painted Yiddish sign from Mandel’s Creamery that had remained there for over 70 years. 

As I walked away with my coffee, I smiled at this chosen password, given what we were about to do in the next hour. Baldwin Village, a designated heritage neighbourhood, is a thriving assortment of independent bookstores, record shops, noodle houses, new age boutiques, an Asian Gelateria. This is indeed a community, and an increasingly rare one in our Starbucks-saturated city.

I began to consider the various meanings of the word “community” that we toss around so frequently. I think about the heartfelt and helpful response of the community when the OJA first raised awareness about the potential threat to this last Yiddish sign of the once thriving Jewish neighbourhood.

When, just 10 days ago, the OJA was asked by the owners of Formocha, the incoming business at 29 Baldwin Street, to remove the window, a very different community came together to ensure its safe removal. Within hours, through the UJA Federation of Greater Toronto’s Real Estate Division, led by David Sadowski, the Ontario Jewish Archives was connected with a trustworthy glass company who brought their best people out to do the job. And through the OJA’s connections with the Heritage Community, we had a number of consultants eagerly sharing their expertise on how to handle the removal and ensure its long term preservation. They, too, sent their people this morning to aid with this job. For this community of people that quickly reacted and responded, we are grateful.

And, of course, I think about this Jewish community of new immigrants that once thrived on these streets--the community that used to buy their butter and cheese at Mandel’s Creamery, their blueberry buns and Shabbat Challahs at various bakeries, the street peddlers, the legendary live chickens. The smells of the community! And, I hear the sounds as well—the Yiddish that was once spoken on these streets. During this period (roughly 1920-50s), there were three Yiddish newspapers printed and read locally in Toronto, including a daily—The Yiddisher Zshurnal. It was the mother tongue that brought all these immigrants together in this community. Unfortunately, it was not passed on to their children as the parents wanted their children to assimilate—to learn English, to be Canadian, part of that community. Gey Gezunt.

The Yiddish language is long gone from this neighbourhood. And, the removal of this sign—the last remnant—saddens me. However, we will work with Formocha to install a reproduction of the window so that the origins of its  location is remembered. And, the OJA will preserve the sign and find a way to create a tribute to this language of the past in Baldwin Village, to remind us of the many layers that make up our city of newcomers.

The OJA is incredibly grateful for the cooperation of the owners of Formocha and the considerable support received from the Mandel family. And, as always, I am grateful for my OJA community--Archivists Donna Bernardo-Ceriz and Melissa Caza. If you have further questions, please contact ojainquiries@ujafed.org.  

Dara Solomon

Director, Ontario Jewish Archives

Update on Mandel's Creamery Window

I wanted to give you an update on the Mandel Creamery window on Baldwin Street – the last remaining Yiddish sign in the former Jewish neighbourhood that flourished in the 1930s and 40s.

When John’s Italian Caffe closed its doors at 29 Baldwin Street, there was concern that the Mandel Creamery sign would be lost. But I write to let you know that a solution has been reached with the owners of Formocha – the new owner – to preserve and protect the window.

More information here: http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2015/07/12/yiddish-sign-survives-threat-to-last-vestige-of-jewish-enclave-on-baldwin.html 

After ongoing conversations, the owners of Formocha – who are currently rebuilding much of the interior of the space – have asked the Ontario Jewish Archives to come remove and preserve the window. Formocha’s owners understand the significance of the window and thankfully do not want to risk damaging it during the extensive renovations.

The removal by a professional glazing firm will likely happen next week. To ensure the preservation of the window and sign, the Ontario Jewish Archives are working with heritage consultants and professional art handlers during the process.

We are proud that our efforts to raise community awareness and support helped to highlight the importance of this sign and the need for its preservation. Our plan is to preserve the glass while exploring options for creating a tribute to the Yiddish language in the former Jewish neighbourhood.

We are incredibly grateful for the cooperation of the owners of Formocha and the considerable support from the Mandel family. If you have further questions, please contact ojainquiries@ujafed.org.  

Dara Solomon

Director, Ontario Jewish Archives, Blankenstein Heritage Centre

Mandel's Creamery Window

For close to 100 years, the hand-painted Yiddish writing from Mandel's Creamery at 29 Baldwin Street advertised "..Eggs, cheese, cream cheese, made fresh everyday...".

Unless swift action is taken, this historic sign - and a very real and visible connection to the past - will be gone from this once vibrant Jewish neighbourhood.

In the collections of the Ontario Jewish Archives, Blankenstein Heritage Centre (OJA), the sign appears in the backdrop of a number of photos through the decades. The window is a regular stop on the OJA's "Sense of Spadina" Walking Tour, an opportunity to see the the last remnant of Yiddish in this former Jewish neighbourhood that teemed with butcher shops, cafes, labour union offices, and community buildings - where Yiddish was the predominant language on the street.

Though Mandel’s Creamery closed in the late 1970s, John's Italian Caffe, a charming “checkered-tablecloth-red-sauce" restaurant protected the Yiddish writing, integrating it into its identity. In the summer, patio patrons ate Margheritta pizzas in front of the Yiddish writing - a beautiful co-mingling of cultures across time.

When the OJA learned that John's Italian Caffe had sold to new owners, efforts were made to reach out to them, but were unsuccessful. On July 2, we heard that the Yiddish writing had been scraped off. Fortunately, this was not so. It appears that the writing remains on the glass, hopefully sandwiched safely between a window-covering sticker advertising the coming of the new business, a Taiwan-style tea shop called FormoCha.

The OJA is making efforts to reach out to the new owners in an effort to preserve the sign in the current location. If they are not interested in keeping the Yiddish writing on the glass, the OJA will raise money to have the window removed, preserved and, hopefully, re-installed in a public monument. 

As OJA's mandate is to collect, preserve and make accessible the documentary resources of the Jewish communities across Ontario - it is incumbent upon us to preserve this sign.

We need help to do that. We hope you will help us protect this window. There are two things we are asking.  

1. Share this blog post through social media using #MandelsCreamery.

2. Help us financially to continue our efforts to preserve our local Jewish heritage through efforts like this. Donate online.

If you have questions about how else to get involved, please contact me directly ojainquiries@ujafed.org.

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