Employment and Business

Many of the first Jewish people who came to settle in Niagara Falls in the first three decades of the 20th century started out as peddlers or junk dealers. Capitalizing on the availability of cheap hydro-electricity and the proximity of the great lakes for shipping, Myer Salit was the only Jewish resident in town to turn his modest business into a steel empire. Most of the residents went on to develop businesses as retail merchants. Abraham Gampel’s Rainbow Dress Shop, as well as men’s wear stores belonging to Samuel Kaminsky and Max Gold, were among those that found a place downtown, as did watchmaker and jeweller Irving Milchberg.

Two of Niagara Falls’ most prominent and enduring businesses were the Rosberg Department Store and Salit Steel. Another less typical occupation was that of rug-making, an initiative undertaken by Abraham and Hymie Bogomolny in the wake of the Depression. The brothers developed the Niagara Rug Company into the largest manufacturer of braided rugs in Canada. Another unusual business among the small Jewish communities of Ontario was started in 1968 by a group of local businessmen headed by Henry Muller and Vince Delorenzo. They opened the Houdini Magical Hall of Fame. Ripley’s Entertainment bought the property in 1996 and built a "four dimensional" movie theatre which is still in operation today.

Niagara Falls offered a range of opportunities for the enterprising immigrant generation and their children. By the mid-1950s, close to two-thirds of working Jews in Niagara Falls were self-employed retail merchants. However, this small Jewish community, like many others, saw members of the second and third generations leave town to pursue their education and then their careers. A number of these individuals, born in Niagara Falls during or just after the Second World War, achieved nation-wide recognition. These include journalist Barbara Frum, lawyers Eddie and Brian Greenspan and pediactric plastic surgeon Ronald Zuker

Jennie (Greenspan) Bogomolny, a much loved citizen of Niagara Falls, arrived as an eight-year old in 1928, left to attend the Toronto Normal School and returned to Niagara Falls and worked as an elementary school teacher. She began teaching in 1940 and remained a devoted teacher until her retirement in 1977. Battlefield School established a special citizenship award in her name.