Tuesday, March 6, 2012

May declared Jewish Heritage Month by the Ontario Legislature

Shumer and Geldzaeler families, ca. 1895.
Ontario Jewish Archives, photo 1230.
On February 23, 2012, the Ontario Legislature passed Bill 17, making the month of May Jewish Heritage Month in the province. The Bill was presented by Eglinton-Lawrence MPP Mike Colle and co-sponsored by Thornhill MPP Peter Shurman and Parkdale-High Park MPP Cheri DiNovo. The Ontario Jewish Archives was in support of the bill and provided research assistance to Mike Colle's office by highlighting some important historical figures and organizations in the developement of Ontario's thriving Jewish community.

The bill recognizes the long and significant history of Ontario Jewry in the province. According to Irving Abella's A Coat of Many Colours, Moses David was the first practicing Jew to permanently settle in Upper Canada in 1803, in what is now Windsor, Ontario. Yet, it wasn't until the 1830s that Jewish settlements and communities in Ontario began to grow and by the 1850s, the Jewish population in Toronto was significant enough to warrent the formation of the Province's first synagogue: the Toronto Hebrew Congregation, now known as Holy Blossom Temple.

Although individuals have played an important role in the development of Ontario, it is the collective strength of the Jewish community that has allowed it to flourish into the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, especially during times systematic discrimination and antisemitism. Now thanks to the Ontario Government, this collectivity will be at the forefront every May as we celebrate what has been a remarkable two hundred years of Jewish communal development.