Immigrating from Poland at the age twenty, Gordon Mendly (1904–1998) became one of the Toronto Jewish community’s most prolific photographers, documenting Jewish events and family occasions for over five decades.
Soon after Mendly immigrated to Toronto, he set up his first studio, International Studio, out of his home at 305A Queen Street West. He later opened Famous Studios in 1932 at his home address at 285 College Street, just west of Spadina. His final studio was located at 3145 Bathurst Street, just north of Lawrence, reflecting the Jewish community’s move north up Bathurst.
Mendly photographed many members of the Toronto Jewish community; as a result, his photographs document the life and activities of the Jewish community following the Second World War, a period of tremendous growth both in population and institution-building. Mendly photographed weddings and special events organized by different Jewish agencies and his work has won awards in both Canada and the US. Through his photographs, one can learn this period’s stories and rich social fabric: the development of the mutual benefit societies, the synagogues, and other communal organizations.
Gordon Mendly was also involved in many of the organizations that he photographed. He was the past president of the Herzl Zion Club; an executive member of the Canadian Jewish Congress Central Region, JIAS and Toronto B’nai Brith Central Region; board member of the Jewish Home for the Aged and Baycrest Hospital; vice-president of the Men’s Service Group of the Jewish Home for the Aged; on the executive of the Judaea Lodge, Knights of Phythias No. 52 and the Keltzer Sick Benefit Society; chairman of Jewish National Fund; affiliated with the Brunswick Avenue Talmud Torah and the American Society of Photographers; and co-chairman of the 1956-1961 UJA Metropolitan Division.
His photographs are dated from circa 1955 to 1973. They consist of portraits, Toronto Jewish businesses, meetings and conferences by various Jewish organizations and agencies, weddings, bar and bat mitzvahs, and special events.