Wednesday, 25 January 2017





The series of digital stories about Toronto history and culture which make up this project are the work of fifty-three Master of Museum Studies (MMSt) graduate students. The project was inspired by the 2015 Myseum Intersections – Telling Toronto’s Stories and invited each storyteller to select an object from local collections which has significance to Toronto’s past and present. The objects inspired the authors to connect historical events with contemporary context so that they tell stories about the multiple intersections that happen in the city.

Musings will be posting collected stories once a cycle. We hope that, after reading the stories, you will know Toronto a little bit better. And perhaps you will find similar stories in your own objects!

Our partners for this project, to which we are extremely thankful, are:
Now, without further ado, object stories from Ontario Jewish Archives.



The smell of beet borsht and the savoury taste of cheese inside a blintze… that’s what Jewish culture tastes like at United Baker’s, a true Torontonian institution.

A dairy restaurant [1] serving traditional Ashkenazi [2] fares, United Baker’s was originally located in Kensington Market until it closed in 1986, but still maintains a location uptown at 506 Lawrence Avenue West. The Ladovsky’s, a Polish-Jewish family, established the original United Baker’s in 1912 when Kensington Market was the centre of the Jewish community in Toronto and the population of Kensington Market was almost 100% Jewish. [3]

The copy of the last menu [4] used at United Baker’s in Kensington Market, can be found in the Ontario Jewish Archives (OJA). Herman Ladovsky, the second-generation owner of the restaurant and his daughter Ruthie Ladovsky donated this object to the archives when the downtown location closed in 1986. Herman and Ruthie have signed the menu with the message: “With fond memories of a long history.” 

United Bakers Dairy Restaurant menu, cover. (1986).
Ontario Jewish Archives, fonds 83, file 8. Scanned copy of object by OJA.
Although similar dishes can be found on United Baker’s 1986 menu and on their current menu, this object is significant because it represents the migration of the Toronto Jewish community north during the past 60 years. [5] By the end of the Second World War, Jewish peoples had prospered from their businesses in Kensington Market and began moving to wealthier neighbourhoods uptown, while new immigrants displaced by the War were moving into the more affordable houses in Kensington Market, at the same time Jewish families were relocating from the area. [6]

Today, United Baker’s still provides a meeting place for Jewish immigrants to Toronto and their descendants. Ruthie Ladovsky, the third-generation co-owner of United Baker’s, gives insight into why the restaurant originally gained popularity: “It was a real meeting spot. The same as it is today.” [7]

United Bakers Dairy Restaurant menu, inside. (1986).
Ontario Jewish Archives, fonds 83, file 8. Scanned copy of object by OJA.
Herman Ladovsky was a great supporter of the Ontario Jewish Archives, [8] so much that after his death in 2002, the Ladovsky family installed a plaque at the OJA that reads: “A Jew is not a Jew unless he is a member of a community.” [9] With continued support from a community of customers from all cultures, United Baker’s still remains a central place for schmoozing [10] and for enjoying delicious homemade food.

1. A restaurant that does not serve meat or meat-products to accommodate those who follow the Kosher laws of kashruth that disallow milk and meat from being consumed together.
United Baker’s. (2012). “United Baker’s Dairy Restaurant: Celebrating 100 Years, a Toronto Tradition Since 1912.” United Baker’s. 21. Retrieved from
2. Jewish peoples originating from Central and Eastern Europe.
3. N. Li, (2015), Kensington Market: Collective Memory, Public History, and Toronto’s Urban Landscape, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 15.
4. United Bakers Dairy Restaurant menu. (1986). Ontario Jewish Archives, fonds 83, file 8. Scanned copy of object by OJA.
5. E. Roher, (1986, August 4), “A Spadina tradition, restaurant to close,” The Globe and Mail. Ontario Jewish Archives.
6. Li 2015, 17.
7. Li 2015, 54.
8. Li 2015, 72.
9. Ibid.
10. Socializing and chatting in a group setting.



Personal Photo of Mackenzie Papineau Battalion Pin Taken at the Ontario Jewish Archives
Hidden away in the Ontario Jewish Archives (OJA) is a Mackenzie Papineau Battalion pin. The pin is small, about the size of a dime, but the colours are bold, and it is smooth to the touch. Despite the size, the artifact has a powerful message: No Pasaran. Translated from Spanish, the passage means: "they shall not pass". These words were the slogan of men and women who fought against fascism during the Spanish Civil War.

The pin's origin is a mystery. Archivists claim that little is known about how the object fell into the Joseph Baruch Salsberg fonds at the OJA. Many members of the Jewish community were actively involved with the labour movement, including Joseph Salsberg. Salsberg's files provide copious information about his political involvement with the Communist Party of Canada, but show little information about how he acquired the pin. This being said, the pin reveals the Mackenzie Papineau Battalion’s strong connection to the city of Toronto.

The Mackenzie Papineau Battalion was made up of almost 1,600 Canadians who defied the Canadian government, broke the law, and fought against the fascists in the Spanish Civil War. Spain became politically divided after the abdication of King Alfonso XIII in 1931, which escalated into the Spanish Civil War after a fascist coup d'état in 1936. Many nations, including Canada, wanted to avoid aggravating the conflict at all costs. As a result, the Mackenzie King government imposed the Foreign Enlistment Act, to bar any Canadian involvement. However, the members of the Battalion foresaw the dangers of fascism, and knew they must act.

Toronto was one of the two meeting points for these soldiers when they left their lives behind, and began their journey to Spain. In Toronto, these men prepared to be smuggled out of Canada while hiding from the RCMP. This was done with the help of the Communist Party of Canada. The story goes that the Communist Party would meet volunteers in Toronto or in Montreal and travel with the volunteers until they reached Spain, providing them with clothing, and travel tickets. As they were being smuggled out of Canada, volunteers were under threat of being arrested by the RCMP for attempting to disobey the Foreign Enlistment Act.

Once in Spain, the Mackenzie Papineau Battalion faced even greater challenges. The fascists led by General Francisco Franco were being supported by Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini. Ultimately, many members of the battalion were captured, wounded or killed. Having lost the War, the surviving members eventually returned to Canada only to face discrimination for their actions. They were placed under RCMP surveillance and deemed to be criminals, communists and rebels.

Regardless of how they are perceived, the memory of the Mackenzie Papineau battalion lives on through artifacts scattered across Toronto, the city where their journey began in 1936.

For more information on the Mackenzie Papineau Battalion:

Secondary Sources

Beeching, William C. (1989). Canadian Volunteers: Spain 1936-1939. Regina: Canadian Plains Research Center.

CBC radio. (2012) Canada's 'MacPaps' and the Spanish Civil War (Promo) [Podcast] Retrieved from:

Frohn-Nielsen, Thor Erik. (1982). “Canada’s Foreign Enlistment Act: Mackenzie King’s Expedient Response to the Spanish Civil War” Masters dissertation. Available from UBC Theses and Dissertations. University of British Columbia. DOI: 10.14288/1.0095528

Howard, Victor. (1987). The Mackenzie-Papineau Battalion: the Canadian contingent in the Spanish Civil War. Ottawa: Carleton University Press.

Jones, Hayley Mae. (2014). Final Paper: The Canadian Spanish Civil War Volunteers. (Unpublished Undergraduate paper). University of Ottawa: Ottawa.

Petrou, Michael. (2008). Renegades: Canadians in the Spanish Civil War. Vancouver: UBC Press.

Poggi, Mathew. "Spanish Civil War Veteran’s and the Pursuit of Recognition." Masters dissertation. (n.d.) url:

The Friends and Veterans of the Mackenzie-Papineau Battalion. (n.d.). Canadian Volunteers in Spain 1936-1938. Retrieved from:

The Friends and Veterans of the Mackenzie-Papineau Battalion. (n.d.) Bibliography. Retrieved from:

The Friends and Veterans of the Mackenzie-Papineau Battalion. (n.d.) La Pasionaria (Dolores Ibarruri, Member of the Spanish Parliament) Farewell to the International Brigades in Barcelona, Spain. Retrieved from:

The Friends and Veterans of the Mackenzie-Papineau Battalion. (n.d.) Poetry, Speeches, Texts on Individual Brigadistas. Retrieved from:

Wikipedia. (2014). No Pasarán Speech (1936) by Dolores Ibárrui Spanish Civil War, Speeches. Retrieved from:

Wikipedia. (2015). They shall not pass. Retrieved from:

Primary Sources
Blum, Leon. (September, 1936). 5697 - Approaching the Crisis. The Jewish Standard. (p. 5, 40-43). Ontario Jewish Archives.

International Workingmens Association an Archosyndicalists. Events In Catalonia. Ontario Jewish Archives. Fonds 32, series 3-3, file 24.

Mackenzie Papineau Battalion pin [object] – [195-?].Ontario Jewish Archives. Fonds 92, Series 3, Item 2.

Workers Party of Marxist Unification of Spain. (October 1936). The Spanish Revolution. Ontario Jewish Archives. Fonds 32, series 3-3, file 24. 

Workers Party of Marxist Unification of Spain. (November 1936).  The Spanish Revolution. Ontario Jewish Archives. Fonds 32, series 3-3, file 24.



Dora Till could be defined best as a leader in the Jewish community in Toronto. From her early commitment to community service, her advocacy for women, children, and the elderly, Till aimed to make changes and fulfil a need within her community wherever possible. According to Ontario Jewish Archives (OJA) Archivist Donna Bernardo-Ceriz, Till emphasised the welfare of youth and elders in the Jewish community and urged others to give back through donations, volunteer work, or by participating in community events.

During her long and inspiring philanthropic career, Dora Till, participated and created a number of organisations that directly helped Jewish mothers and children. From the Federation of Jewish Philanthropies of Toronto, the United Jewish Welfare Fund (UJWF), and The Women’s Service Council, Till actively donated her services, skills, and passion wherever she was needed. Till later served as the vice-president for the Maternity Hebrew Aid Society and later become president of Women’s Auxiliary at Baycrest Heath Sciences.

The Ontario Jewish Archives, Blankenstein Family Heritage Centre is currently displaying an exhibit entitled Polyester, Pattern, and Perms: Fashion from the 1960s and 70s. The exhibit highlights women, their fashions, and their lifestyles during the 60s and 70s, giving viewers a glimpse into Toronto’s history and it’s Jewish community.

The “Visit of Constance Bennett to Baycrest Women's Auxiliary, 1961” is one of the photographs displayed in the exhibit and depicts six women in the midst of conversation. Taken by Famous Portrait Studio, a significant institution in the Toronto Jewish community, the photograph features Constance Bennett, who during her career as an actress started in over 60 films, standing in the center, wearing a glamorous fur coat, and Dora Till, who stands to Bennett’s left. The photograph was taken during an annual fundraiser held by the Women’s Auxiliary in honour of Baycrest hospital. 

Jewish Home for the Aged hosts Constance Bennett, 13 Dec. 1961.
Ontario Jewish Archives, fonds 18, series 3-4, file 11.
The Women’s Auxiliary, which operated separately from Baycrest, helped to encourage female participation, leadership, and aided in the foundational work for the hospital. Through various initiatives, from program development to running the hospital’s gift shop, the women at Baycrest filled an important role in the operation of the hospital. One of the Women’s Auxiliary main initiatives was an annual fundraising event, and under Till’s leadership, the Auxiliary was able to directly aid in the build and development of their new facilities on Bathurst, which is still in use today.

Jewish Home for the Aged hosts Constance Bennett, 13 Dec. 1961.
Ontario Jewish Archives, fonds 18, series 3-4, file 11.
Due to her long-standing commitment to the Jewish community and her unwavering leadership, Dora Till was the first woman to ever receive the UJWF’s Ben Sadowski Award for Jewish Community Service in 1969. Till was a central figure to her community, a prominent women through her philanthropic work, and was instrumental in the rebuilding of Baycrest hospital.

The Ontario Jewish Archives, Blankenstein Family Heritage Centre is the largest repository of Jewish life in Canada. Check out their website to learn more about Till and other prominent figures in the Jewish community.



Sylvia Schwartz, 1950.
Ontario Jewish Archives, fonds 80, series 5-1, item 17.
A quick search in the Ontario Jewish Archives reveals some fascinating information about the photographic work of Sylvia Schwartz. Schwartz, pictured in the photograph below was born with a medical condition known as dwarfism. [1] She is best known for capturing wonderfully creative formal portraits of servicemen during the war, families, brides, and eventually carved out her own niche specializing in child portraiture.

Schwartz had the ability to connect with children on a level that most adults could not. She could get children to sit quietly and pose in creative and charming positions and the result was formal children’s portraiture with exceptional lighting, props, and posing. After the death of her sister, Sylvia Schwartz established the Ruth Schwartz Children’s Book Awards, which was later changed to the Ruth & Sylvia Schwartz Children’s Book Awards [2] to honor both sisters. For over 35 years, this award has recognized artistic excellence in Canadian children’s literature and features two awards, which are presented annually, for picture books and for young adult readers.

The Ontario Jewish Archives holds the records of individuals who have made important contributions to the Jewish communities of Ontario, and Sylvia Schwartz serves as a reflection of the important role that Jewish citizens played in the artistic history of Toronto. Sylvia’s is also the story of female artists in Toronto during the 1940’s. Through both her life and her work, Sylvia Schwartz has demonstrated her involvement and engagement with the philanthropic community in Toronto. Personal philanthropy has been a mainstay of funding art programs in the City of Toronto, and through her partnership with the Ontario Arts Foundation, [3] Schwartz has helped build a stronger art community.

Her legacy continues to touch the lives of numerous gifted children around the Toronto area. Alan Walker, the Executive Director of the Ontario Arts Foundation writes, “We hear time and time again from Ruth and Sylvia Schwartz Children’s Book Award winning authors at how moved they are by the insight and sophistication shown in the school-age jurors. These awards have a profound impact on all involved, and we thank the Ruth Schwartz Foundation and the Ontario Arts Council for helping to make these awards such a memorable experience for all.” [4] Her story leaves us wondering just how many other less known female artists have also left a lasting legacy on the city? To learn more information about Sylvia Schwartz or other prominent Jewish Torontonians, visit the Ontario Jewish Archives at

1. “Dwarfism.” 2015. Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation.
2. “PERSONAL PHILANTHROPY Ruth & Sylvia Schwartz Children's Book Awards.” 2015. Ontario Arts Foundation / Fondation Des Arts l'Ontario. Ontario Arts Foundation / Fondation des Arts l'Ontario. Accessed.
3. “Sylvia Schwartz.” 2015. Sylvia Schwartz. Ontario Jewish Archives. Accessed.
4. “Shortlist For 2015 Ruth and Sylvia Schwartz Children's Book Awards Announced.” 2015. Shortlist For 2015 Ruth and Sylvia Schwartz Children's Book Awards Announced. Ontario Arts Council. Accessed.



This two inch sliver of silver engraved with the words “Tip Top Tailors: Canada’s Largest One Price House” was brought to the Ontario Jewish Archive (OJA) by a collector. It is a small pocketknife from the 1960s. There is no record of who owned and used the pocketknife. Instead, I started to think about all the people who might have owned it, and the company that made it. From trendy Tip Top Lofts downtown to the old Jewish furriers on Queen West, there is no question that the garment trade physically altered the city of Toronto. Tip Top Tailors’ history is the story of the Dunkelman family who owned it, of the Jewish immigrants who worked there, and of the labour and Zionist movements that shaped their experiences.

Tip Top Tailors Pocketknife from the Ontario Jewish Archives, Blankenstein Family Heritage Centre,
circa 1960’s, photo by author
A Jewish immigrant named David Dunkelman founded Tip Top Tailors in 1909. His concept was to sell one-price suits tailored to measure. This business model quickly became a success, transforming Dunkelman into a leading manufacturer of men’s clothing in Canada. Until 1967, Tip Top Tailors was owned and operated by members of the Dunkelman family. The Dunkelmans were well known Zionist leaders in Toronto, and maintained a strong commitment to assisting Jews in the diaspora.

While the Dunkelmans had built a comfortable life in Toronto, many of their Jewish employees had a very different experience when they settled in Canada. After World War Two ended in 1937, a large number of Jews who had lost their homes to the Nazis, were displaced. Many of these Jews had been tailors in Europe because that was one of the few professions open to Jewish people. Meanwhile, Canada was experiencing a shortage of skilled labourers in factories because so many men had joined the war effort. From 1946 to 1948, an initiative by the Canadian Overseas Garment Commission, called the Tailor Project, provided sponsorship and housing to displaced Jews from Europe to work in Canadian garment factories. Tip Top Tailors was one such company. [1]

Tip Top Tailors factory interior, Toronto, [ca. 1933].
Ontario Jewish Archives, Blankenstein Family Heritage Centre, item 2373.
While the Tailor Project certainly helped many displaced people find shelter and work in Canada, Jewish immigrants to Toronto had few options. Not only did they face anti-Jewish sentiments in their new homes, they faced the reality of harsh labour conditions in the garment factories. In Sweatshop Strife, Ruth Frager describes the sweatshops of 20th century Toronto as places where “…women toiled alongside men, and Jews toiled side by side with non-Jews…” Eventually, workers in the sweatshops unionized in order to build better working conditions. In today’s culture of imported fast fashion, it is easy to forget that our city was shaped by the local garment industry. We may never know who used this pocketknife, but its history tells the stories of the industrialists and workers at Tip Top Tailors.

1. A Daily News article from November 6th, 1947 described Tip Top Tailors taking on 75 displaced persons.

Works Consulted
Charles, Alana, “Condo of the Week: The Tip Top Lofts Building,” BlogTO, June 25, 2015 Retrieved on November 13, 2015

Frager, Ruth A. “Sweatshop Strife: Class, Ethnicity and Gender in the Jewish Labour Movement of Toronto 1900-1939.” University of Toronto Press, Toronto 1992, pages 1-24

Gladstone, Bill, “Tailor Project brought displaced persons to Canada.” February 19 2015, Canadian Jewish News, Toronto ON

Tip Top Tailors, “Homepage” 2015, Retrieved on November 13th 2015

Wigoder, Geoffry, Ed. “The New Encyclopedia of Zionism and Israel.” Fairleigh Dickinson University Pr; Rev Sub edition, 1994

(ca. 1960’s) Tip Top Tailors pocket knife, Morris Norman Collection, The Ontario Jewish Archive, Fond 22, item 165, Toronto ON.

Various authors, 195-?-1996, “Biographies of Dunkelman Family Members,” Benjamin Dunkelman Fonds, Ontario Jewish Archives, fond 2, series 1-1, file 9, Toronto, ON.

Various Authors, “Mrs. D. Dunkelman obituaries,” Benjamin Dunkelman Fonds, Ontario Jewish Archives, fond 2, series 1-1, file 3, Toronto, ON.

Tip Top Tailors, 1941-1949, “Tip Topics, Vol 9 No. 3,” Benjamin Dunkelman Fonds, Ontario Jewish Archives, fond 2, series 3-1, file 1, Toronto, ON.Meduiau, Walter and Thomas Aplin, Overseas Garment Workers Commission Correspondence1946-1948. Men's Clothing Manufacturers' Association of Ontario fonds, Ontario Jewish Archives, fonds 31, file 1, Toronto ON,

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