Thursday, February 14, 2013

Remembering Syd Wise at the Ontario Jewish Archives

For fifteen years, the UJA Federation of Greater Toronto’s Ontario Jewish Archives had the honour of working with a committed and charming volunteer named Dr. Syd Wise who passed away peacefully at North York General on January 31st at age 97. Dr. Wise was a pediatrician in Toronto for over six decades, taking care of thousands of children over multiple generations. He set up his practice in the late 1940s after returning to Toronto from serving in the U.S military during the Second World War. Regularly bumping into his grown up former patients, he would say, “That’s one of my babies.”

OJA Archivist George Wharton who manages the volunteers recalls, “I’ll always remember Syd and his accomplishments while volunteering at the OJA for two reasons. Of course his phenomenal memories of the faces and lives of three generations of the Toronto Jewish community made him our finest and most treasured single font of information about Toronto Jewry. But just as important were his constantly-displayed charm, wit, modesty and caring concern. It was a privilege to have worked with him.”

Archivist Donna Bernardo-Ceriz describes the joy of working with Syd, “He had the most incredible memory. He was able to identify people in photos that were more than 50 years old. To me, this was another example of how Syd truly cared for the people he met during his life. He was genuinely interested in your story and would remember you years later.” Ellen Scheinberg, the OJA’s former director echoes that sentiment, “…His expertise was indispensable and his enthusiasm and commitment to the volunteer group and Archives was greatly appreciated... He was a special individual who will be dearly missed.”

Syd Wise (left) and his siblings in front of their father Anshel Wise's cigar store and "steamship office"
100 Dundas Street West, 1922. OJA, #2010-5/2.

Unfortunately, I only had the opportunity to know Syd for a short period after joining the OJA last May as the new director. However, I have since learned a great deal about him—and through his story—about Jewish life in Toronto. Over the years, Syd donated many personal records related to the family. There are photos of Syd as a young boy at Camp Yungvelt and photos of Mimi cooking cabbage rolls for the Hadassah Bazaar. Syd also donated records related to his father, Anshel Wise’s business, a cigar store and steamship agency, which helped bring thousands of immigrants to Canada in the 1920s.

Though Syd will be missed dearly by all of us, his legacy will live on at the Ontario Jewish Archives.

—Dara Solomon
Director, Ontario Jewish Archives