Canadian Jewish Political Affairs Committee
Thanks to you, May is now Jewish Heritage Month in Ontario!

Thanks to you, May is now Jewish Heritage Month in Ontario!

At CJPAC, we know that the most powerful way to ensure our community’s voice is heard is to empower community members. Last week – thanks in part to the emails sent by hundreds of community members from across the province – Ontario legislators unanimously passed Bill 17, and declared May to be Jewish Heritage Month.

We at CJPAC are proud to work with community organizations – including the Jewish Federations and the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs – and grassroots community members to have a positive impact on our province and our country. If you are interested in receiving future action alerts, please click here to opt-in to CJPAC’s email list.

All told more than 60% of MPPs heard from their constituents about the importance of this bill. The passion displayed during speeches by elected officials underlines the strong connection that politicians of all stripes feel with the Jewish community, our history, and our contribution to Ontario.

The text of the speeches made by MPPs, including sponsor Mike Colle (Eglinton-Lawrence, Lib) and co-sponsors Peter Shurman (Thornhill, PC), and Cheri DiNovo (Parkdale – High Park, NDP), can be found below.



Mr. Colle moved second reading of the following bill:

Bill 17, An Act to proclaim the month of May Jewish Heritage Month / Projet de loi 17, Loi proclamant le mois de mai Mois du patrimoine juif.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Pursuant to standing order 98, the member has 12 minutes for his presentation. Mr. Colle.

Mr. Mike Colle: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I would just like to thank my co-sponsors, the member from Parkdale–High Park and the member from Thornhill, for supporting this initiative. I really appreciate that.

I would also like to thank a number of distinguished guests who are here today. With us today we have Larry Tanenbaum, the chairman of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment; we have, from the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, Stephen Adler and Howard English; from B’nai Brith Canada, we have Dr. Aubrey Zidenberg and Ruth Klein; from CJPAC, we have Rachel Chertkoff and Tomer Chervinsky; from the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Centre for Holocaust Studies, we have Avi Benlolo and Stacey Starkman; from the UJA of greater Toronto, we have Jeff Springer; from the Jewish Family Institute, we have Ellie Bass; from the Toronto Jewish Music Week festival, we have Judy Jacobs; and we also have Bernie Farber, Karen Mock, Howard Brown, and Roz Lofsky. Thank you for being here.

I just want to read into the record that, hopefully, with this proclamation of May as Jewish Heritage Month, we can acknowledge and honour all Jewish Ontarians who, through their everyday actions, work to provide a better life for future generations by joining hands with all who seek equality and opportunity. In this month, may we recall that the history and unique identity of Jewish Ontarians is part of the grand narrative of our province, forged in friendships and shared wisdom between people of all faiths.


Mr. Speaker, with this bill, we have an opportunity really to recognize the pioneers of Ontario who, over the last 200 years, have helped build this great province, from Kenora to Cornwall, and hopefully the passage of this bill will give all of us an opportunity, Jews and non-Jews, to recognize and celebrate in this great part of Ontario’s heritage.

We have chosen the month of May because there are many significant events that occur in the month of May. There’s the UJA Walk With Israel that occurs in May; B’nai Brith Canada has its annual policy conference; the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Centre Spirit of Hope benefit takes place; there’s the Holocaust Remembrance Day that takes place, according to the calendar; Israel Independence Day is celebrated; the Jewish Film Festival takes place during that month; Jewish Music Week is celebrated; and also, in the United States of America, various presidents, from George W. Bush to President Obama, have proclaimed May to be Jewish American Heritage Month.

As many of us know, in all of our communities, we have incredible pioneers, and I hope that this month will give us an opportunity to recognize the pioneers that come from the Jewish faith. They live in communities small and large. It goes back over 200 years, and they lived and worked in small communities, from Bancroft to Hamilton. In fact, 60% of all Jewish Canadians live in our province, and there have been many important Jewish Ontarians who grew up outside of the big city of Toronto. Broadcaster and trailblazer Barbara Frum was from Niagara Falls, and we all know her great contributions to broadcasting. Isaac Waterman from London, Ontario, founded Imperial Oil in 1880. Senator David Croll was the mayor of Windsor, and he became a Senator in Ottawa. Bora Laskin was born in Thunder Bay and became the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada. Fanny Bobbie Rosenfeld grew up in Barrie, and she was named Canada’s athlete of the half-century and won medals in both the Summer Olympics and Winter Olympics. Justice Michael Moldaver, who was just named to the Supreme Court of Canada, hails from Peterborough.

There are so many individuals who have contributed in their own communities to build a better Ontario. Their names are too countless to refer to, but I’m going to try and refer to some of them who have made a real difference in this incredible province.

If you look in theatre, there are people like Eugene Levy, who used to live just up the street here on Avenue Road, in fact; Howie Mandel; Honest Ed Mirvish—what he did for theatre in Canada and the world; the singer Amy Sky; Wayne and Shuster; and Celia Franca, founder of the National Ballet of Canada.

In the field of law, there are just so many numerous incredible contributors who have helped to make incredible contributions. One gentleman who deserves recognition is Abraham Lieff. Justice Lieff, actually, is the father of Ontario family law. And there’s the honourable Sidney Linden.

We’ve had great political leaders like Nathan Phillips, who was from Brockville, Ontario. We had Phil Givens, mayor of Toronto. We’ve had Mel Lastman. We’ve had Paul Godfrey as Metro chairman, who is now publisher of the National Post, and who was an incredible leader here in the city of Toronto and the province. These are some of the people who have contributed a great deal.

I wanted to mention two individuals that have quite a unique contribution, I thought, and are typical of the incredible spirit and tenacity of Ontarians of Jewish heritage. One is David Goldberg from Hamilton. He was a Royal Canadian Air Force fighter pilot in World War II.

Talk about tenacity. David Goldberg was shot down in France. He avoided capture. He literally walked all the way through France with the help of the French underground; walked through Spain, the Pyrenees, and ended up back in England. A month later, what did David Goldberg do? He volunteered again, went back to the front and continued to fight for democracy and freedom.

David Goldberg flew 235 missions as a fighter pilot. Then he came back to Hamilton, went to Osgoode Law School, became an outstanding lawyer, practised law and was a full-time reservist while he was practising law. So David Goldberg is typical of the incredible tenacity and the generosity of our Canadians of Jewish heritage.

Another interesting story is the story of the Green family. Lipa Green—the father of sons Harold and Al Green—started with his sons as chimney sweepers and cleaners. They used to sweep and clean chimneys. From sweeping and cleaning chimneys, they started repairing chimneys. From that they went on, with the bricks they were accumulating from repairing chimneys, to building houses. They went on to become founders of one of the largest construction development companies in Canada, the Greenwin firm, which has built housing all over Ontario. In fact, the Green family is also known for their incredible philanthropy to the arts, to sculpture, to the Reena Foundation. They’re an incredibly philanthropic family.

Or I could mention the family of Larry Tanenbaum, whose father, Abraham, came by ship from Poland in 1912 and started acquiring scrap metal. From scrap metal he eventually created one of Canada’s most formidable construction companies.

These are the people in the Jewish community who helped build this country and are still building this country. Whether they be architects like Jack Diamond, or the wonderful contributors to the arts; whether it be the philanthropy of the Sonshine family; Peter Munk, the industrialist and entrepreneur; Murray Koffler and the incredible contributions that he made; the Tanenbaum family; Joseph Rotman; Seymour Schulich—all these people were builders, entrepreneurs, risk-takers, pioneers, and always generous and always very, very proud of their Jewish roots and loving of their Canadian roots.

They have left marks that are still with us today. If you look at Holy Blossom synagogue, a beautiful work of architecture up Bathurst; Beth Tzedec; the Kiever Shul in Kensington Market, one of the oldest shuls. I know there’s also what they call the Parkdale shul, the Junction Shul—beautiful works of architecture.

There’s also the influence they’ve had on our cuisine, our food, our music. Oddly enough, this year, the United Bakers Dairy Restaurant in my riding is celebrating their 100th anniversary. The Ladovsky family has been operating this bakery in Toronto for over 100 years, and this May they will be celebrating that centenary. Mazel tov to the Ladovsky family.

Mr. Speaker, I’ve just given you a snapshot of the incredible diversity, generosity, loyalty—in fact, in World War II, over 16,000 young Jewish men volunteered to fight for Canada. Over 30% of the population of Jewish males over the age of 21 volunteered to fight for Canada, and they served this country well in time of war and they served this country well in time of peace.


I just hope that with the passage of this bill, we can recognize the contributions not only of those who are well known and have made contributions but all the unsung heroes who have made Ontario their home and have, over the last 200 years, really made a difference and really contributed to making this the great province and the great country that it is.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Further debate?

Mr. Peter Shurman: What a great day this is for Ontario. High time that we did this, so I rise today to join my colleagues in support of Bill 17, An Act to proclaim the month of May Jewish Heritage Month.

Before I go any further, I’d like to pay special tribute to my colleague the member for Eglinton–Lawrence for coming up with this idea and for inviting myself and the member for Parkdale–High Park to co-sponsor the bill with him. It’s a genuine display of non-partisanship and something that is long overdue in our province.

Thornhill, which of course I represent, has the largest Jewish population in the province of Ontario—at last count, something like 60 synagogues in Thornhill alone, and probably 10 more since I did that count.

People often wonder about us, about us as a community, a community that has been around in one form or another for many thousands of years. For example, here in Ontario, people will often ask, “Why are so many of you professionals? Why do so many of you own businesses?” The answer is actually quite simple. It’s because, in the early 19th century, when Jewish immigrants started to arrive in the province of Ontario, they couldn’t get jobs in the big corporate set-ups that existed at the time, so they had to go on the necessity-being-the-mother-of-invention idea and invent jobs. Inventing a job meant you either became a professional or you started a business, and some of these things survive today.

Of course, we’ve gotten past the days where there are corporate barriers to Jewish people, and, for that matter, any other people in this wonderful diverse province that we have.

That’s part of the history, and that’s one of the things that we can expose when we introduce Bill 17 and wind up with a law that creates Jewish Heritage Month. Bill 17 is precisely about that. It’s about recognizing Jewish Ontarians and their many contributions to our province’s history. Ontario was founded by new Canadians, who took it upon themselves to build a great province, and indeed, that’s what we have in Ontario.

The first Jewish immigrants, as I mentioned, struggled when they arrived in the early part of the 19th century. They established their small businesses to support themselves and their families. My colleague from Eglinton–Lawrence has very well enunciated the same list of people that I have here, who are great contributors from the community.

I might add, in medicine, Dr. Rena Buckstein in haematology and Dr. A.I. Wolinsky in anaesthesiology; in business, Peter Munk, the founder and chairman of Barrick Gold; Joseph Rotman, of Clairvest; Heather Reisman, founder and CEO of Indigo Books—the list goes on and on.

In sports, you mentioned Mr. Tanenbaum, who’s with us today—go, Leafs, go!—and Dan Shulman of TSN and ESPN. There are just so many.

Institutions founded by the Jewish community to help serve the growing immigrant population of Ontario—and this again may surprise some people—Mount Sinai Hospital was founded originally to serve Toronto’s poor, Yiddish-speaking immigrant population. Can you imagine that beautiful edifice on University Avenue starting that way? It welcomed Jewish doctors and medical interns, who were often rejected by other institutions back in the day. Mount Sinai has grown, of course, into one of North America’s top teaching, research and medical institutions.

Baycrest hospital and home for the aged was founded by the Ezras Noshem Society, which was a charitable women’s group, to care for the elderly. This facility, too, has grown into one of Canada’s leading institutions in aging and brain health research and innovation.

May, as Mr. Colle of Eglinton–Lawrence has duly noted, is a really important month. It’s when we mark Holocaust Remembrance Day, or Yom ha-Shoah, when we remember those who were lost in that tragedy; Israeli Independence Day, or Yom Ha’atzmaut, marking Israel’s declaration of independence; a UJA walk for Israel, which raises money and awareness for the cause of Israel, so well represented in Canada by our Prime Minister, Stephen Harper; the Jewish film festival; and Jewish Music Week. It is fitting that May be the month designated as Jewish Heritage Month.

In conclusion, this bill has received the endorsement of prominent members of the Jewish community, many of whom are represented here today—organizations as well as individuals. Interestingly, it’s also endorsed by the National Congress of Italian Canadians for whom we—I was involved in this as well—helped pass Italian Heritage Month for another great builder group in the province of Ontario last year.

Hundreds of communities have helped build this province. Bills like Bill 17 help us, as Ontarians, to illustrate and recognize these contributions, and I urge all of my parliamentary colleagues to join me in support of Bill 17 and see to its speedy passage here today.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Further debate?

Ms. Cheri DiNovo: It’s a pleasure and a privilege to rise and speak to this bill. I welcome our guests here, as have been welcomed before.

At the risk of breaching some protocol here, I just want to show that in my riding, the Junction Shul just celebrated its 100th anniversary. I was there to celebrate that. It was a joyous, joyous occasion. I found myself talking to this delightful gentleman in his 80s—I didn’t know who he was—and he was talking about his own particular history.

He was talking about how his family came to the Junction when the Junction was a very poor, very Jewish area prior to World War I and how he got involved in the scrap metal business—this was his grandfather Abraham—and how he was one of the founders of the Junction Shul, and then how the sons went into the business. I said, “So, are you still in the business?” He said, “No, no, I moved from that into other things.”

I discovered later that the gentleman I was speaking to was Joey Tanenbaum. I discovered at that point also that he was the gentleman who was gracious enough not only to have kept, in part, the Junction Shul alive, but also to provide the wonderful scotch for the l’chaim party after the celebration of the Junction Shul.

My history is interwoven with Jewish Heritage Month in the sense that I grew up in a very Jewish neighbourhood. People say, “Where was that?” I say, “The Annex.” I grew up in the Annex and just to the south of me was Spadina Avenue, which was all Jewish back then, and Kensington Market, which was all Jewish back then. In fact, Huron Street public school was an interesting mix between Italians and Jews. That was the Annex and that was Spadina and Kensington Market.

I went to all my friends’ bar mitzvahs. I don’t remember bat mitzvahs back then, but the bar mitzvahs weren’t anything like the bar mitzvahs my children have gone to. They were usually held around the kitchen tables. They were held just with the family—very, very different times but all part of Jewish Heritage Month.

I also want to bring attention to some of the incredible history of Jews in Canada, which I don’t think anybody really knows, that’s not part of the community, and that is, that their contributions go way back to the 18th century. In fact, the first Jew we have on record who emigrated here came back in 1738 and went to French Canada back then. Of course, it was totally different. She snuck in dressed as a man. The feminist in me loves this story. She snuck in dressed as a man and she was deported because she wouldn’t convert to Catholicism—very cool—and then, of course, proceeded to come in more and more after that.

And another stat, too, which I love to share is that B’nai Brith was founded in 1875. Most people don’t know that, either, and I think these are facts we should celebrate. This is how far back the history goes.

Of course, it’s not always bright, and part of this—and I think the member from Thornhill alluded to this—is that we, as Canadians and Ontarians, have to share the dark side of how Jewish immigrants were treated here as well. I grew up with my father, who was of course not Jewish—Italian-Canadian Catholic—talking about the race riots in Christie Pits when Nazis would beat up Jews. I grew up with stories about how horrible it was that out in the Beach—the member from the Beaches here—on the boardwalk it said, “No Jews or dogs allowed,” and that was within memory.

I grew up with the story told to me by my family about how Canada turned away the vast majority of Jewish immigrants who wanted to emigrate here between 1930 and 1939. I think we accepted 4,000 out of 800,000. So we need to remember the dark background, to remember that we need to celebrate what has been accomplished since then, and despite that. These accomplishments have been done despite that.


Again, it’s interesting: The member from Thornhill mentions the legal profession and the professions where Jewish immigrants have excelled, but in fact, they weren’t allowed in to study in those professions for most of the history of their immigration here. There were quotas in government, too. The city of Toronto had quotas and would not allow Jews to be policemen or work for the transit system. That’s all part of the backdrop of the celebration that we need to remember, because we remember that this was all overcome as part of it, and that it was, of course, completely legal not to hire somebody or rent to somebody because they were Jewish. All of that is part of the background, which continues today, by the way. There are still horrendous acts of anti-Semitism that go on. So that’s the background.

The foreground, however, of this bill is celebration. It’s celebrating the great accomplishments and, of course, all that continues to be accomplished, too.

Another intersection of my life and this story is that one of the first times I ever interacted in a political context was when I got invited to have lunch with the mayor. I think I was eight years old at that time, and it was because I took part—completely innocently; I didn’t realize I had. Photographers came to our schoolyard and took a picture of me with my best friend, who happened to be a Jamaican Canadian—one of the first, actually, in our school, the only young black woman in our school. I was pretty fair, and there’s a picture of me and her whispering to each other; it was for the Canadian Council of Christians and Jews. I still have that poster. It’s framed in my office here at Queen’s Park, if you ever want to look at it.

So again, a forefront agency that worked to overcome racism, overcome stigmatism, overcome oppression, and again, really an institution that was founded by Jewish immigrants and their descendants.

I’m going to leave some time for my colleague. In fact, what was really interesting is we were kind of jostling for time. We both wanted to speak to this bill, so that in itself says something. We’re excited about it; we’re excited about the celebrations that are going to happen in May, we hope, and we’re excited about being able to share all of this experience with everyone out there.

I also just want to close by saying that if you ever come to Parkdale–High Park, you have to go to 56 Maria Street in the Junction and go to the Junction Shul. One of the delightful things about the Junction Shul is that it had a rabbi for only a very short period of its history. It has been led by the congregants. They only come together now to worship for High Holidays, but it’s the oldest synagogue that has been in continuous service, at least for High Holidays, in Ontario. And I’m the beneficiary, having it in my riding. Its doors tend to not always be open, but if you give me a shout, I’m happy and they’re happy to take you on a tour of it, because it truly is a landmark. It’s truly beautiful—some of the most beautiful art, lovingly preserved by the founding families of that shul, and brought together in a wonderful book.

This is part of our heritage, this is part of the Jewish heritage, and this will become part of Jewish Heritage Month. Thank you.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Thank you. Further debate?

Mr. Paul Miller: I too will join in this conversation and am very proud to be part of it. I’m from the Hamilton area and we have a very proud Jewish community in our city. They have contributed over many decades to our city, building industry and business, and also take an active part in our community on many, many levels—in sports, in arts and music; they have been a major contributor to the landscape of Hamilton.

I also can say that I married into a Jewish family; I married into the Paikin family, and my lovely wife and I have spent many years together. I’m quite proud of her heritage, and I being Scottish, she’s taken quite an interest in my heritage too. So we’ve shared some wonderful stories and have gone over a lot of colourful maps, and we have some destinations we’d like to visit. I certainly would love to go to the Holy Land one day with her and partake in some of the traditions and the wonderful culture.

The Jewish community has had many, many, many hills to climb over the years, and they’ve stuck it out. They’ve been brave troopers and they have overcome many, many setbacks to become a major part of the Canadian landscape.

I, too, as Cheri DiNovo spoke of, have had many friends in the community. I’ve worked with them in the steel mills. I’ve played sports with them, and many of them have become close friends. People, in general, share more in common than a lot of us would like to admit. I’ll tell you, it has been a character builder for me. It certainly has made me proud to be part of their community and part of their heritage, as well as—they actually have open arms. The rabbi that my wife had, Rabbi Baskin, was a very—how would I put it? I don’t like to use the word “liberal.” I don’t want to give you guys any credit, but he was a very liberal type. He certainly was open to all other faiths, and he was very, very co-operative in our community. He supported and got very active in the politics in our community. At every function for mayors or in elections, he was involved heavily and spoke at many of the community events. He was well-spoken, well-read and a tremendous, tremendous guy. We really appreciated his contribution to our community. Rabbi Baskin will always be remembered for his contributions to the Hamilton scene.

I can leave a little time for Cheri to finish off, because she did such a great job and I’m actually running out of steam here.

I just want to say congratulations. It’s long overdue. Let’s hope that we can open some more doors that have been shut for many years.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Further debate?

Hon. Eric Hoskins: I want to first thank MPP Colle for introducing this important bill, but also the two co-sponsors: MPPs DiNovo and Shurman.

I am honoured to rise in the House today to offer my support and, frankly, my admiration for all that Ontario’s Jewish community has accomplished and all that lies ahead.

It’s right that we as a Legislature, as elected officials and as citizens of this great province should recognize the month of May as Jewish Heritage Month, because in celebrating the Jewish community, we celebrate a community of citizens whose achievements and successes serve as a model for how we all can contribute to civic life in this province.

Mr. Speaker, I’m blessed to represent the great riding of St. Paul’s, and in my riding—we have nothing close to MPP Shurman’s count—we have five synagogues: Beth Tzedec, Beth Sholom, Forest Hill Jewish Centre, the Chabad of Midtown, and Holy Blossom Temple.

Two weeks ago, the Jewish community in St. Paul’s, and at Holy Blossom in particular, lost one of its most treasured members. Rabbi Gunther Plaut lived a storied life. He was a dedicated teacher and scholar. After fleeing Germany to escape the horrors of the Nazis, he became a tireless defender of human rights, of pluralism and of openness. Like the rabbis in attendance today from my constituency and beyond its borders, and like the Jewish community as a whole, he reached beyond his faith community to lift us all up.

That act of reaching out is a quality that I believe defines the Jewish community here in Ontario, through individuals but also through organizations like the United Jewish Appeal, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, the Canadian Jewish Political Affairs Committee, the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies, B’nai Brith, all of whom have representatives here today, and so many others.

The Jewish community has reached out and has established itself as an indispensable part of our larger community, to the point that your heritage is our heritage. As Ontarians and as Canadians, your achievements are successes that we celebrate together. Your history and your heritage is one that we are inspired by together.

One of the greatest honours that I have had as an MPP was to participate last year, for the second time, in a ceremony on May 19 of last year, with Premier McGuinty, the Canadian Society for Yad Vashem and 19 survivors of the Holocaust. These 19 men and women, these survivors, carry your history and your heritage within themselves. By their very presence, by their act of survival, they taught me so much about resilience, about what it means not just to carry on in the face of unspeakable, unimaginable tragedy, but to never forget—and most of all, to build. Through the numerous events I’ve had the privilege to attend, even in just the last year, I’ve seen the strength of the community that you’ve built together.


Here in Ontario our Jewish community has achieved so much, overcome so much and built so much. This bill is a small act of recognition for all that you have contributed to this great province and this country.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Further debate?

Mrs. Christine Elliott: I am very pleased to have this opportunity to speak in support of Bill 17, a bill proposing that the month of May be recognized as Jewish Heritage Month in Ontario. I’d also like to welcome our guests to the gallery today.

I’d like to start by applauding the member from Eglinton–Lawrence for bringing this important bill forward, and my colleagues the members from Thornhill and Parkdale–High Park for agreeing to co-sponsor it.

The Jewish community’s rich contribution to Canadian culture, science, business and innovation has done much to enhance the fabric of our multicultural society. From medicine to law, politics to philanthropy, it’s hard to think of a professional field that has not been positively impacted by the Jewish community.

It is so fitting that the month of May has been chosen as the month to recognize Jewish heritage, because among other important events, May also marks Holocaust Remembrance Day and Israel Independence Day.

Jewish Heritage Month would also give us the opportunity to recognize the phenomenal contributions many Jewish Canadians have made to our province. Rather than mentioning the many names that have already been mentioned by many of my colleagues, I’d like to recognize a particular field that I think many members of Canada’s Jewish community have made a significant impact on, and that’s in the area of business, particularly the area of business innovation.

As we know, we’re facing very difficult economic times here in Ontario, and I think we need to look elsewhere for some inspiration. We have a significant innovation gap here in Ontario which affects our productivity and our ability to compete on the world stage. It’s so fitting that so many Jewish Canadians have stepped up to the plate to make connections with Israel to form some partnerships—places that we can learn from.

Israel is well known as an innovation incubator, as a start-up nation, and there have been some very positive connections that have been made with the assistance of many members of the Jewish community, with both the federal government and the provincial government, particularly in the area of brain research, which is going on now. There are many other opportunities.

I would say that I recently had the opportunity to visit Israel several weeks ago and had the opportunity to visit Technion, the Israel Institute of Technology, and the Weizmann Institute of Science. There’s some wonderful work that’s being done there that we could truly learn from.

So I want to celebrate that, particularly today. There’s much we can learn here in Ontario, much that we can work on together so that we will have so much to celebrate and to be grateful for during the month of May.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Further debate?

Mr. Rosario Marchese: I want, in this brief minute, to express my support for Bill 17. I want to say, as an Italian Canadian, that the Jews and the Italians have grown up together in the area of Trinity–Spadina and have moved along Bathurst, where the Jewish community is on the eastern part of Bathurst and the Italian community is on the western part, all the way from the lake up to Thornhill and beyond. It’s quite a fascinating history that we share together.

The other little history I want to share is that my wife, who happens to be Chilean, is half Jewish, so it seems that the Italians and the Jews are connected in that way as well.

And in this brief 20 seconds I want to express my admiration to the Jewish community as a whole in two areas in particular; that is, the incredible commitment they have to anti-racism and human rights. That is something that I attribute to them as a community, and I wanted to express that in the brief minute that I have.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Further debate?

Mr. Monte Kwinter: I’m delighted to rise today in support of Bill 17.

In 1760, General Amherst, who captured Montreal for the British, had Jews in his regiment, including four officers who were Jews. The most prominent was Lieutenant Aaron Hart. After his service, he settled in Quebec. One of his sons was elected to the Legislature of Lower Canada on April 11, 1807, becoming the first Jew in an official opposition in the British Empire. At his swearing-in, he took his oath on a Hebrew Bible, which so enraged the Catholic population that he was expelled from the Legislature. The Legislature dismissed him in 1808 and 1809. He was re-elected again, but Jews were not allowed to hold elected office in Canada until a generation later.

This discrimination continued in various forms for many years. I’m old enough to remember where there were restrictive practices at clubs, resorts and workplaces, just to name a few, and I lived through that. There was no discrimination against me, but when I graduated from university, my first job, as an industrial designer, was with Dunlop Rubber. The most common comment I got from my Jewish friends: “How did a Jew get hired by Dunlop Rubber?” There was a perception that these corporations—not a perception, a reality—were not hiring.

Since these early days, the Jewish community has grown, prospered and participated fully in the life and culture of Ontario. Almost 20,000 Jewish Canadians volunteered to fight for Canada during the Second World War. This was the largest percentage of participation by any ethnic community.

After the war, roughly 40,000 Holocaust survivors came to Canada, settling mostly in Montreal and Toronto. I had the honour 18 years ago of participating in the first honouring of individual Holocaust survivors in the Legislature for their outstanding contribution to Ontario.

Today, we are acknowledging the significant contributions made by the Jewish community in the fields of medicine, law, politics, art, business and philanthropy. I want to add another interesting irony: In the early 1980s, I was the chairman of the Toronto Harbour Commission. One of the big issues of the day was that the harbour police and the port police were being duplicated by the Toronto police, and there was a huge issue in the community because of the expense. Over the years, there could never be a resolution. So on a particular day, I sat down with two of my friends: Paul Godfrey, who was the chairman of Metro at the time; Phil Givens, the previous mayor, who is now the chairman of the police commission; and Monte Kwinter, the chairman of the harbour commission, and we ironed out a deal that put this particular problem at rest.

The greater irony is that it took place in a building that even then was not allowing any Jews to be members. Here we were talking about it, and we said to each other, “If only our forefathers could see us now. Here we are solving this problem.”

Of course, since that time, things have improved, but as Cheri has said, there is still latent anti-Semitism out there. This particular bill is going to do a great deal toward bringing the general community together as we celebrate Jewish Heritage Month in May.

I am delighted to support it, and I hope that all of us will continue to support it. Thank you.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Further debate?

Mr. Ted Chudleigh: I’m very pleased to take part in today’s events. The only surprise that I have today is that there isn’t already a Jewish Heritage Month in Ontario, as they have been such an integral part of our community and our province for so long.

I was very pleased in 1997 to be able to pass the Holocaust Memorial Day Act, which was the first time a Holocaust memorial act was passed anywhere in the world outside of Israel. So Ontario led the way in passing the first Holocaust memorial act—the Holocaust Memorial Day Act. Since that time, all 10 provinces have passed Holocaust memorial acts, and I believe that the count in the United States is over 30 states. So Ontario led the way in the Holocaust memorial area.

This year, Holocaust Memorial Day falls on the 27th of the month of Nisan. In the Julian calendar, that day translates to April 19. So it’s a little early this year, as occurs from time to time, and maybe we’ll celebrate it on April 19 or maybe we’ll celebrate it on May 1. We’ll see how things go.


Many of us have spoken about the names that have been listed here, and it’s interesting that—I would like to make a few comments because many of them bring back memories or represent people that I’ve know.

Barbara Frum I met a number of times when she was on CBC. Of course, I enjoy reading her son’s articles. It’s very difficult to find—of course, the fourth estate isn’t here right now, but they listen in their offices, so you have to always be careful what you say about the press because they’re always listening. But I just say that it’s difficult to find a conservative reporter, a conservative journalist. Whenever I see a byline by David Frum, of course I scan it carefully. It is difficult to find a conservative writer. David is.

Some of the other names that pop out: Honest Ed Mirvish. If there was a father of Canadian theatre, it was Ed Mirvish. He brings back wonderful memories of just a great guy who built live theatre in Toronto to become—I think we have the third most active live theatre of any city in the world, following London and New York. Toronto runs number three, and it’s much to his credit that he made those things happen.

Johnny Wayne and Frank Shuster: I remember those two guys on TV—67 appearances on Ed Sullivan. But more than that, I remember them at the Toronto Maple Leaf games. Especially Johnny Wayne was a huge fan.

Mr. John O’Toole: That’s when they used to win.

Mr. Ted Chudleigh: Well, I tell you, one of the memories that I have of the 1967 Stanley Cup championships: When we won, they were on the ice that year. Who knows? It’s February, and we’re still in contention.


Mr. Ted Chudleigh: Get a goalie. The deadline’s coming; you need one.

Anyway, great, great memories.

Peter Munk: The world’s largest gold trader, and gold is trading at $1,800 an ounce or whatever. As gold has moved up and down, who amongst us hasn’t made a few bucks on a gold stock in this province? Great memories of him.

Sam Shopsowitz: Boy, the best corned beef sandwich that you can have anywhere in the province.

It goes on; I could go on.

Sam Sniderman: My father used to go down to Sam’s record shop on Yonge Street to buy classical records.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Thank you.

Mr. Ted Chudleigh: I know I’m going over, Speaker—to buy classical records. It was one of the few places you could get a huge selection.

It’s just part and parcel of our heritage in Ontario, and it’s just so right that we have this month of May.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Further debate?

Mr. Jeff Leal: It’s truly an honour for me to get some remarks on the record this afternoon with regard to this bill, An Act to proclaim the month of May Jewish Heritage Month. I want to share with the Legislature this afternoon a bit of the Jewish heritage in my riding of Peterborough.

The first Jewish man known to have settled in Peterborough was a shoemaker, Mr. L. Kert, who arrived in 1881. Other early Jews came too, including Moses Levin and Phillip Schulman; both were merchants, and both, of course, moved on to Toronto.

Around the turn of the 20th century, three of the patriarchs of the Peterborough community came to settle in our community: Abraham Low, David Florence and Abraham Swartz. Several years later, they were joined by Mr. A. Cohen, Mr. Elkin and Mr. Fineberg.

These community pioneers had to work hard to make ends meet because they could not afford to hire a shochet or a teacher. However, they spent the money necessary to get kosher meat from Toronto. They also took turns hosting services in their homes and teaching the children.

David Florence and Abraham Low both settled in Peterborough in 1905, as did many other Jewish immigrants. Both men also started as material recyclers. David Florence had first arrived in Canada in 1901, going to Kingston and then to Toronto before settling in Peterborough. He worked for six years before he felt ready to send for his wife, Fanny, and their children, who were then in Lithuania.

In the first and second decades of the 20th century, Peterborough’s Jewish population continued to grow. Messrs. Sukloff, Black, Cherney, Zacks, Green and Fine arrived in this period. All stayed to raise their families and become important parts of the Peterborough community.

By the mid-1950s, 78.7% of Peterborough’s Jews had been born in Canada and another 20.5% were naturalized Canadians, meaning that almost all members of the community had Canadian citizenship.

A remarkable story in innovation and expansion is that of the Cherney brothers, Harry, Meyer and Lou. The growth of their furniture businesses is a good example of the remarkable results that a surprising number of determined and hard-working immigrants were able to achieve.

In the 1960s, Peterborough’s Jewish community built the Beth Israel Synagogue, just east of the Peterborough Regional Health Centre. Peterborough’s Jewish community built our community, and that’s what we’re very thankful for, Mr. Speaker.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Further debate?

Mr. David Zimmer: Speaker, it’s my great pleasure to speak in favour of Jewish heritage day in Ontario. Everybody has made remarks about the tremendous contribution that the Jewish community has made. The month of May will recognize that contribution of the community, and it will recognize the contribution of the individuals that we’ve all heard about.

But there’s a second purpose behind Jewish Heritage Month, and that is tying in with the Jewish community’s great tradition of education and awareness. In Toronto, there are vast numbers of people, huge numbers of new immigrants, for instance, that have come into the city and into the province. Many of these new groups, and indeed many of the groups that have been here for generations, although somewhat aware of the great Jewish cultural traditions and the great Jewish contribution to our community, still do not appreciate the depth and the quality of that contribution.

I rather expect that during the month of May, when we look at the agenda of all of the events that the Jewish community is going to host, the awareness of the Jewish contribution to life in Ontario is just going to be explosive throughout all of the other communities. I think that’s a good thing, when you think of the society that we’re trying to build here in Ontario, where all religious groups, all ethnic groups, all racial groups—we want everyone to live together harmoniously. One of the ways we do that is by understanding each other’s culture, by appreciating each other’s culture and building together.

I think that’s the great benefit of a whole month of Jewish heritage events, awareness events and education events. It takes away some of the mystery; it answers some of the questions that other groups have about the Jewish community, and to the extent that we understand each other, that’s good for Ontario and that’s good for the Jewish community.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): The member for Eglinton–Lawrence, you have two minutes for a reply.

Mr. Mike Colle: I want to give my sincere thanks to all the members on both sides of the House who spoke so eloquently and passionately about this bill. I know that so many of you would like to speak even more, but time is limited. But I do really appreciate your heartfelt support on both sides.

I also would like to thank my rabbi, Rabbi Yossi Sapirman, who inspired me to do this, at Beth Torah Congregation. I’d also like to thank Dustin Cohen in my office, my executive assistant, for his incredible work, and my legislative intern, Craig Ruttan, who has done so much good work on this. They really went all out on this.

There were so many amazing comments made by all the members here. The member from Halton mentioned Sniderman. Well, I go back to Sniderman being on College Street, next to Kwinter’s, at College and Grace, where we used to get the 45s. Lombardi was on the other side and Becker’s was there, the deli. Like the member from Parkdale, I grew up at College and Grace, so we had a real mix. It was hard not to be schizophrenic: Were you Jewish? Were you Italian? Were you Catholic? But that’s how we grew up in Toronto, and it was a wonderful time in the 1950s. We didn’t play soccer; we played baseball, and our heroes were the same.

I just want to say that I dedicate this bill to my mother, who, as a young woman, was a seamstress and worked for one of the best tailors in Toronto, Mr. Wolfgang Pitka at Spadina and Dundas, who used to make suits for John Robarts.

They would tell my mother all the stories about being shanghaied Jews, coming all the way from Russia to Vladivostok to Shanghai. So my mother learned how to cook cheesecake, how to do latkes, how to do kishkas.

Anyway, thank you so very much. Bye-bye.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): The time provided for private members’ public business has expired.


The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Mr. Colle has moved second reading of Bill 17. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? I declare the motion carried.

Second reading agreed to.

Mr. Colle moved third reading of the following bill:

Bill 17, An Act to proclaim the month of May Jewish Heritage Month / Projet de loi 17, Loi proclamant le mois de mai Mois du patrimoine juif.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bas Balkissoon): Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry? The motion is carried.

Be it resolved that the bill do now pass and be entitled as in the motion.

Third reading agreed to.