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The Event:

A walking tour of downtown Brantford's Jewish community sponsored by the Downtown Brantford BIA

Jewish interactive multi-media display by Laurier Brantford, culinary appetizers, Jewish music

The Jewish story by Professor Frank Bialystok

Shtetl on the Grand performance by Brant Theatre Workshops

 



BRANTFORD’S IMMIGRANT COMMUNITIES

 

The Canadian Industrial Heritage Centre is one of the proud partners of an organization that is planning an event to be held on November 26th   2019, at the Research and Academic Centre at Laurier Brantford. This program focuses on Brantford’s Jewish community’s importance to the City’s commercial history.

Before the First World War, Brantford was one of the most important manufacturing centres in the Dominion, but also, and not coincidentally, the city with the highest proportion of “foreign born” residents in Canada. The influx of immigrants to the area in the last few years of the nineteenth century provided the manpower to build the economic miracle that was Brantford. The CIHC is focusing on telling this story by examining the roots of this chapter in Canadian history.

The 2019 program focuses on the influx of Russian Jews, but there are many other immigrant stories yet to be told, including the Anatolian Armenians and their Alevi Kurdish neighbours who joined them here. There were also Hungarian and Polish workers who found work at Brantford’s industries.

It is proposed that, with the necessary funding and support, the committee interpret the stories of these significant immigrant groups in a way that opens these histories up to the larger history of Brantford. The committee itself represents a partnership between Brant Theatre Workshops, Laurier Brantford, the Brantford Public Library, the Brantford Museum and Archives, the Canadian Industrial Heritage Centre, and the many independent artists and researchers with whom we have coordinated. We hope that the Jewish project acts as a template for the interpretation of the histories of the other immigrants groups.

About the Inspiration

 

In 1881, the first Jewish family moved to Brantford, Ontario. By the 1960’s the community peaked at 150 families and at the turn of the last century there were only 28 families left. Gerald Tulchinsky, “the leading scholar of Canadian Jewish history”, saw this as “a pattern: initial settlement, followed by growth over a decade or two, and then decline as the younger generation sought greater opportunities in the cities.”  

Gerald Tulchinsky was born in Brantford in 1933. He was an example of that third generation. His grandparents were among the early immigrants, scrap dealers primarily, and his parents were local merchants. Jerry became a professor at Queens. In his retirement he wrote a memoir of growing up Jewish in Brantford, titled “Shtetl on the Grand”. He died two years ago and never had a chance to return to his home town to promote the book.

Jacob Joseph Tulchinsky was born into the Jewish community or shtetl of Brantford, Ontario in 1933. He was educated in his hometown, went to University in Toronto, and became “the foremost scholar of Canada’s Jews” at Queens University in Kingston. 

Recently, the book was reprinted and it has been circulated by word of mouth and a brief mention in the Brantford Expositor. The idea of a public reading from the book was suggested and the concept has attracted a small ad hoc committee that has been exploring the staging of an event to honour the book and the wider story of the Jewish community in Brantford and its role in the development of the city.

 

Project Partners

Canadian Industrial Heritage Centre

The Canadian Industrial Heritage Centre (CIHC) is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting and honouring Canadian Industrial Heritage through public education and the preservation of historical data, resources, and artifacts. 

Laurier Brantford

Laurier Brantford is Wilfrid Laurier University's second campus located in Brantford, Ontario. The first and original campus of Wilfrid Laurier University is located in Waterloo, Ontario. It serves 3,000 students in Brantford.

Brant Theatre Workshops

Brant Theatre Workshops has produced heritage theatre productions at the Bell Homestead, Ruthven Park, Brantford Armouries and Brantford General Hospital. BTW has created special heritage/educational projects with Hagersville Secondary School, BCI, St. John’s College and Laurier Brantford.

Brant Historical Society

Established on May 8, 1908, the Brant Historical Society is an independent registered charity operating two museums uniquely positioned to make a difference in the lives of Brant citizens. Its purpose is to collect, preserve and share the history and heritage of Brantford/Brant County and Six Nations/New Credit.

Brantford Public Library

The Brantford Public Library is a two-branch system with locations at 173 Colborne Street and 441 St. Paul Avenue in Brantford.