Read the full stories of Hamilton life from 1945-2015, celebrating our life, community and achievements.

Community Life & Leisure

COMMUNITY LIFE & LEISURE

There’s never been a shortage of communal and social activities here, from helping to feed the needy, to running fundraising events and even staging shows. Some events began small and over the years have become permanent fixtures in the city’s calendar. And aside from our tribute here, the importance of collecting our community’s historical details and stories has been recognized and recorded in various forms.

Hadassah Bazaar

COMMUNITY LIFE & LEISURE - Hadassah BazaarIn 1917 the second Hadassah-Wizo chapter in Canada was formed in Hamilton. The chapter’s annual Hadassah Bazaar, raising money for children in Israel, became a fixture on the city’s calendar, with the bake sale being a popular feature. Local celebrities were invited to bake a cake to raffle for the 1987 bazaar and these included radio host Paul Hanover’s cheesecake and fashion leader Milli Gould’s white chocolate wrap mousse cake.

Another annual Hadassah event was the dinner and fashion show.

 

Harold Kudlats

In 1962, five young musicians were waiting in the lobby of the Royal Connaught Hotel in downtown Hamilton for Harold Kudlats. Harry was a booking agent -and uncle to Eugene Levy – who had worked with acts such as Fats Domino, Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong. The young men told him they wanted to break away from playing with Ronnie Hawkins – and wanted Harold to be their agent. They shook hands and for the next few years – till they were scooped up by Bob Dylan – Harold kept The Hawks, who later became renowned as The Band, busy playing clubs across Canada and the US.

HAMILTON, Arpil 19, 2002--Retired music agent Harold Kudlets with photos of bands he either represented or booked as a promoter., DIGITAL PHOTO (John Rennison, The Spectator.)jlr FOR STORY BY: Foley

HAMILTON, Arpil 19, 2002–Retired music agent Harold Kudlets with photos of bands he either represented or booked as a promoter., DIGITAL PHOTO (John Rennison, The Spectator.)jlr FOR STORY BY: Foley

 

Temple Sisterhood

When the Deborah Ladies’ Aid Society (later Deborah Sisterhood) was founded, it was the first group of Jewish women organized for charitable purposes in Canada. Sisterhood was a vital part of Temple Anshe Sholom, raising funds for the synagogue as well as being involved in many educational and social projects.

One tradition the women undertook was to cook for the shul’s ChanuCOMMUNITY LIFE & LEISURE - TEMPLE SISTERHOOD NOREEN GILLETZ GUEST DEMOkah dinner. For some reason it was one event where volunteers lined up to help make latkes, even though preparing them was oily work. One explanation might have been due to the strict quality control; often the latkes didn’t make the grade and inevitably were offered to the helpers.

One year the daughter of then-Rabbi, Rabbi Zeplowitz, combined her bat mitzvah with the celebration and the Sisterhood found themselves preparing a meal for 500 guests! This entailed cooking 3 large turkeys, but late into the evening, when the volunteers were ready to call it a day, Joe the caretaker helped take the last turkey out of the oven – but it was apparent it still wasn’t cooked.

Rabbi Z, as he was affectionately called, found them all in the kitchen, looking forlornly at the oven. Taking pity on them, he assured them they could go home: he had a meeting at the shul that evening and would take care of the turkey himself.

Unfortunately he didn’t get back to it in time – and the next evening some of the guests were served a drier portion than they might have liked.

 

Entertainment at the Beverly

A lot of fun was happening at the Beverly Golf and Country Club, even if no-one was out on the greens playing much golf there in the 1960s. Before Muriel Back and Samieth Mintz opened a cosmetics store together, the two women put on shows at the club, bringing together talent in the community to either be onstage or help behind the scenes. There were three shows in all – in 1963, ‘65 and ‘67.

COMMUNITY LIFE & LEISURE - Shows at the Beverly - 'My Feh Lady' Courtesy Amy Back
Muriel’s daughter Amy recalls some of the hilarious titles, such as “My Feh Lady” and “Westdale Story”. Helen Greenbaum (Cindy Smyth’s mother) sang and played rehearsal piano: Michael Levine’s mother played piano for her: and Lillian Goldblatt (Wendy Schneider’s mother) had a beautiful voice and was usually in the shows.

COMMUNITY LIFE & LEISURE - Amy Back, Producer, Writer & PerformerBarbara and Sondi Goldblatt were not allowed to sing so were always the dancers.

These performances were very popular and Muriel taught her daughter Amy to always cast people from large families, because that’s how you sold lots of tickets!

Amy Back herself went on to become a professional writer, producer and actress and aside from two one-woman shows in Toronto she also wrote, produced, directed and performed in more recent community shows such as “There’s No Business Like Shul Business” and “Purimspiel – Esther’s Dilemma, as well as UJA’s “Cabaret”.

Na’amat Author’s Luncheon

COMMUNITY LIFE & LEISURE - Organizers of early Na'amat Author's Luncheons
Thirty years ago a group of Jewish women unwittingly started an annual tradition.

The members of a newly-formed chapter of Na’amat (a charity that raises funds to support women and children in Israel) rented a room the downtown YWCA and hosted a box-lunch talk.  Their speaker was Robert Mendelsohn, the controversial American author of How to Raise a Healthy Child In spite of Your Doctor. The volunteers lovingly made the $5 lunches from scratch, which included a trip to an apple farm the fruit and home-baking the rolls and cookies.

Since then the event has grown and the guest list reads like a Who’s Who of Canadian literature. One memorable speaker was literary lion Mordecai Richler.

One of the volunteers drove into Toronto to pick him up – and he appeared to be in a grumpy mood. They got to Hamilton early and so a coffee was suggested. Richler replied he was looking for something stronger.  It was 10.45 in the morning. They headed to Hess Village where luckily the Na’amat member surprised Richler by keeping up with the flow of whisky. The luncheon, held at a hall at St Joseph’s hospital, was a great success and continue without a hitch – (although Richler refused to put out his cigar in the non-smoking hospital facility).

 

Tracing and Recording Our Roots:

The Jewish Genealogical Society

COMMUNITY LIFE & LEISURE -Jewish Genealogical society
In 2003 a group founded the Jewish Genealogical Society with the goal of helping those interested in exploring their Jewish roots. The organization is a member of the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies and continues to meet each month, offering talks on topics ranging from The History and Culture the Jews of Australia to The Not-so Mythical Village of Chelm.

The Jewish Hamilton Project
COMMUNITY LIFE & LEISURE - Jewish Hamilton Project - 2  Producers Wendy Schneider & Billy ShaffirWhen Wendy Schneider, editor of the Hamilton Jewish News, borrowed a friend’s camcorder one day to record her family history, the idea for the Jewish Hamilton Project was born. She and Billy Shaffir, a sociology professor at McMaster University, began interviewing members of the community.
It took them five years and the end result is an interactive DVD that tells a rich history as recounted by Jewish Hamiltonians telling their experiences and fond memories of growing up and living in Steeltown from the 1930s to the 60s.

Working Families – Stories & Treasures
Another ambitious project recently emerged to record the city’s Jewish heritage. Through a Trillium grant, a workshop-based community arts project called Working Family Stories and Treasures of the Hamilton Jewish Community was created.

For a year, beginning in 2011, participants of all ages were invited to tell the stories of Jewish working families in the city. It was brought to schools, retirement home and community where artists led them from researching their family history to creatively expressing their favourite stories. The resulting artwork was exhibited at the You Me gallery on James Street North.

 

Out of the Cold Program

In 2000, Gloria Silverman, Rabbi Silverman’s wife, suggested that the Jewish community become involved in helping to feed dinner to the city’s needy and homeless through the Out of the Cold program. Because most of those needing help were centred in Hamilton’s downtown, none of the synagogues were appropriate locations, so instead a group of volunteers began hosting one of the nine sites that operate during the coldest months of the year.

COMMUNITY LIFE & LEISURE - Out of the Cold program
Volunteers from across the Jewish community, including some good cooks, joined together to raise funds, prepare and serve meals. The rumour was that numbers rose on Tuesdays at their site because those attending knew the Jewish chefs were there – and the food would be delicious! The menu was certainly special and included dishes such as roast chicken with apricot sauce.

Eating In Jewish Hamilton

EATING IN JEWISH HAMILTON

Food is synonymous with Jewish life, so it’s no surprise to find community members running food and restaurant businesses. Some even became local legends. Today these maestros serve up everything from kosher prepared foods to barbecued chicken, cool wraps, falafel or pastrami on rye.

Chicken Roost

EATING IN JEWISH HAMILTON - Chicken Roost Courtesy Hamilton SpectatorOn October 1st 1948, Max and Benny Mintz prepared for the grand opening of their Chicken Roost restaurant on King Street in downtown Hamilton. Max, aged 23, wore his best – and only – suit, as he wanted to make a good impression on his customers. But just before opening time, the brothers realized their cash register was empty – and they had no money to make change.

Thinking quickly, Max ran down the street to a menswear store and sold his only suit for $10.
Chicken on a bun with its famous sauce, served with French fries and a coke proved to the hugely popular items on the menu. Several famous customers ate there, including Mae West, Liberace and Pierre Trudeau who had a private dinner there.

The restaurant closed in 1986 but The Chicken Roost was a much-loved and popular destination for almost 40 years.

In 1992 Max opened another more upscale restaurant called Maxwell’s which was featured in gourmet magazines.

 

Boleslawsky’s Delicatessen

Boleslawsky’s Delicatessen on York Street was the acknowledged centre of Jewish Social life in the 1950s. As Edie Rochkin recalled: “Everyone who came to Hamilton came to Boleslawsky’s. It was like a club at night. People would buy a bottle of pop, and sit and kibitz for hours.”

One of the legendary stories is about the customer who came in, ordered a coke for a nickel and gave a $100 bill to Ziskind Boleslawsky in payment. Without at word, Ziskind just went upstairs and returned with $99.95 change.

 

Martin’s Sports Town Grill or Hutzler’s Steakhouse

EATING IN JEWISH HAMILTON - Martin's Sports Town Grill  Courtesy SLAM! WrestlingHamilton sent so many massive men to the squared circle that the city was commonly referred to as “The Factory” in the wrestling business. Born in Germany, Martin Hutzler’s parents managed to escape in the late 1930s. Turning to pro wrestling after the war, Martin never made it big but was content to stay local and fought for the fun and competition rather than the glory.

In 1948 he opened Martin’s Sports Town Grill – or Hutzler’s Steakhouse, as it was known, on the corner of Barton and Oak Streets and it came complete with a wrestling ring inside. All the wrestlers chose to eat there. Lincoln Alexander, former lieutenant-governor of Ontario, recalled watching some of the men eat three steaks at one sitting!

After Martin died in 1966, his widow Ruth ran the restaurant for a time before it was sold.
(Courtesy SLAM! Wrestling)

Saul Cohen the Butcher

Saul Cohen came to Canada in 1948 at the age of 18. He was an Auschwitz survivor and except for a cousin in New York, the only member of his large family to remain alive.

Saul’s first job in Hamilton was at a factory but a butcher friend persuaded him to join as a partner and the two set up shop on York Street in 1950. When his partner went to the States, Saul moved the store to Westdale where most of the Jewish community was living then. Over time, the other city’s kosher butcher shops closed and his became the last one.

Despite his personal hardships, Saul was always cheerful and known for his kindness. He was also modest: in a 1982 interview with Moura Wolpert, then local reporter for the Canadian Jewish News, he said he learned on the job and although it wasn’t his chosen career, he was “too young to retire and too old to start something new!”

 

Hamilton Kosher Meat Market – (Hamilton Kosher)

Saul decided to retire and put the butcher store up for sale. When he heard about this, Lester Krames called his son-in-law Phil Zians. He knew that Phil had always wanted to own his own business and on hearing about the opportunity, Phil contacted his brother Mike, a certified Chef. The two men signed up for a meat-cutting class at George Brown College in Toronto and moved to Hamilton.

It was hard work setting up shop and at first the men worked 22-hour days. Today, Hamilton Kosher, as it’s affectionately known, offers prepared foods and catering services, with everything from homemade noodles to brisket and baked salmon.

 

Westdale Delicatessen

Necha and Meir Kadar visited Canada in the early ‘80s and fell in love with the country. Back in Israel, Necha worked in human resources and Meir was a government employee, but after their trip here, they decided they wanted to move.

Hamilton, Ontario, April 29,2015  Meir and Necha Kaidar own and operate the Westdale Deli. For Amy Kenny Rest Review / Cathie Coward/ Hamilton Spectator

Hamilton, Ontario, April 29,2015 Meir and Necha Kaidar own and operate the Westdale Deli. For Amy Kenny Rest Review / Cathie Coward/ Hamilton Spectator

Three years later they left their jobs and came to Hamilton and within a few months, the delicatessen in Westdale came up for sale and they bought it.

Thirty years on the favourite item on the menu is corned beef or pastrami on rye: and falafel and hummus, and Necha’s 18 varieties of homemade soups.

Switzer’s Deli

Although more kosher-style than kosher, Switzer’s Deli was the place for the community to meet and eat in the 1980s and ‘90s. With its fifties look, red booth seating and traditional Jewish menu you could enjoy everything from bagel with lox and cream cheese, to chicken kneidel soup and full dinners. The take-out counter would additionally be busy selling cakes and rugelach.

The restaurant was a family affair, run by Barry and Brenda Netkin along with their daughter Lisa. Barry’s family had always been in the food business. His father Samuel came to Canada from Russia and started the Netkin family produce business, which he ran for several decades from the lot that’s now Jackson Square. As a teenager Barry started out hooking up the horses to their delivery carts and a few years later began driving.

Samuel was known to be generous and even through the tough years of the depression, their home was always open to the hungry, sharing whatever they had, which at times wasn’t very much. In later years, when he became a grandfather, he would take all the children out for breakfast and his grand-daughter Lisa recalls how sometimes on the weekends, Samuel would drop off a big box of fruit on their doorstep before anyone was awake.

The iconic Switzer’s closed in the mid 1990s and was bought and run for a time by three Jewish siblings, Carolyn, Andrea and Debbie Molot, who re-named it – appropriately – Sisters.

 

The Bean Bar

EATING IN JEWISH HAMILTON - The Bean Bar , Debbie Molot  Photo credit Wendy Schneider, Hamilton Jewish NewsIn 1993, with management but no restaurant experience, three young mothers and sisters opened up The Bean Bar, in Westdale Village. Carolyn, Andrea and Debbie Molot all had young children had home and they juggled family lives with a coffee bar that was becoming increasingly popular. Within months their customers were asking for a liquor licence and soon it was time for what had begun as a trendy place to have coffee to grow bigger.

When the opportunity to buy Switzer’s Deli presented itself, the women bought the Main Street West restaurant, renaming it Sisters, but running two busy establishments proved too challenging and the Deli closed. Debbie’s two sisters moved on to other endeavours so she brought in an experienced chef to help her turn the Bean Bar into a trendy and elegant lifestyle restaurant that continues to draw crowds today.

Charred

The Morgenstern name has been synonymous with the department store that’s been on James Street North since 1968. But across the street another Morgenstern is making a name for himself at Charred, a Portuguese-style barbeque chicken restaurant – not the kind of food you might expect from a Jewish kitchen.

It all started back in 2008 when Mark Morgenstern decided to close the London, Ontario clothing store he’d managed for 33 years. He was concerned about what his long-term employees would do for work, but then one of his managers reassured him that she was going to join her brother in running his very successful Portuguese restaurant.

EATING IN JEWISH HAMILTON - Charred, owner Mark Morgenstern  Photo credit Wendy Schneider Hamilton  Jewish News
Curious, Mark went to eat there and was won over. He and his brother and sister already owned a building across from the family department store on James Street North and Mark wanted to bring the delicious menu to Hamilton. The first hurdle in the years of planning was to persuade his family that barbecued chicken was a better concept than a coffee shop. And within a short time after opening, he was proved right. Of the 943 Hamilton restaurants listed by the online review site Urbanspoon, Charred has consistently placed in the top 15.

Longtime restauranteurs Max and Cynthia Mintz have checked out Charred and Morgenstern, who remembers eating at the Mintz’s Chicken Roost as a youngster, was thrilled to get their seal of approval.

Growing Up In Hamilton

GROWING UP IN HAMILTON

Not surprisingly, the childhood experience has changed in our community over the past 70 years, just as it has anywhere else. Where our youngsters gathered and the activities created to bring them together may have changed location and as more options evolved, attracting and sustaining a commitment may be more challenging today. But core Jewish values continue to be present in children’s lives as they grow up Jewish here – just as it was for previous generations.

 

Sam Brownstone & the JCC on Delaware

GROWING UP IN HAMILTON - Sam BrownstoneSam Brownstone was often referred to as the “mayor” of Hamilton’s Jewish community and widely viewed as “the glue that held the community together”. His first job in Hamilton was youth director at the Jewish Community Centre on Delaware Avenue, which was named the Jacob N. Goldblatt Memorial Building.  Sam went beyond youth programming and the centre truly was the heart of the community at the time.  With time – and the demographic move westwards – the JCC moved with it to its new 45-acre property on Lower Lions Club Road in Ancaster.

 

Max and Stella Rotman

GROWING UP IN HAMILTON - Delaware JCC

Max Rotman was the Physical Education Director at Delaware Avenue JCC and he founded Camp Kadimah, which continues today.  Max and his wife Stella were dedicated to helping build bridges and to keep children out of trouble in the ’50s and ’60s.   After they passed away, The Max Rotman Humanitarian Award was established, and for more than 30 years it is annually presented to grade 11 and 12 students from across the city who show leadership and have conducted themselves “in a manner, bringing honour to their community while maintaining a cheerful dedication to serve the needs of their fellow person”.

 

Rabbi Eisenstein & the Hamilton Hebrew Academy

GROWING UP IN HAMILTON - Rabbi Eisenstein Photo Credit Lawrence YanoverZev Eisenstein grew up in New York and in his early teens, bowing to peer pressure, was a gang member, often playing lookout to warn when the police were approaching.  At school, his grade one teacher forced him to wear a dunce’s cap because she thought he wasn’t working hard enough – a humiliation that motivated him to go into the profession and build children’s self-esteem, not diminish it.
He arrived in Hamilton as Principal of the Hamilton Hebrew Academy in 1973 – which had opened ten years earlier – and remained as Principal for 30 years, staying on to teach until 2011.  Every morning he greeted his students with a smile and his famous motto: “It’s a beautiful day at the HHA”.

 

Kehila Jewish Community Day School

A group of young parents visited Jewish day schools in Toronto and were inspired by the new and successful models of education they saw there. They too wanted their children to experience an integrated curriculum, where Judaic and secular subjects were connected and which encouraged students to absorb learning and think critically.  Back in Hamilton they conducted an educational survey of Jewish families and based on the results, they opened Kehila in 1989 with just five students initially enrolled, and eventually grew to over 40.

 

Temple Playhouse

Celia Berlin opened Temple Playhouse in 1983, renting space at Temple Anshe Sholom. She had moved to Hamilton from England two years earlier and shortly after found herself a single mother supporting her own mother and young family.  “Rabbi Baskin knew I was homesick in the early days and he would come by every day to see how I was.” Working several jobs, she single-handedly funded the kindergarten which has become a landmark institution in the community.  Temple Playhouse began with just eight children enrolled and grew to 120 over the years.

In the photo: role-playing parents saying kiddush are Adam Viradi left, and Elisha Goldblatt.
GROWING UP IN HAMILTON - Celia Berlin & Temple Playhouse

Morris Black Public Speaking Contest

Morris Black photo for bookMorris Black left a wonderful legacy when he passed away in 1970. In his will, he set aside a provision of funds for an essay contest in his home community of Peterborough, Ontario. His son Rick Black and wife Wendy brought the idea to Hamilton in 1984 and the public speaking contest has become an annual tradition ever since.

 

Sunday in the Park with the PJ Library

GROWING UP IN HAMILTON - PJ LibraryChildren at Beth Jacob enjoy Sunday morning story-reading and crafts with the PJ Library. In warmer weather the event is held outdoors at Beulah Park, round the corner from the synagogue. Hamilton’s PJ Library program is made possible through the generosity of The Shirley and Morris Waxman Family, Hamilton’s UJA Lion of Judah Division and The Hamilton Jewish Federation.

 

Making Hamilton Home

MAKING HAMILTON HOME

With the end of the war in 1945, the community opened its doors to survivors. Hamilton Jews organized greeting parties and arrangements were made for many of them to stay at the Jewish Community Centre on beds supplied by local stores such as Dominion Furniture. Some of the younger ones were adopted by families, and many eventually made their homes here. Fast forward to 2015 and Jewish families from around the world are still choosing to make Hamilton home.

 

Vine’s Deli

Vine's DeliHelen Goldberg and her children survived the Holocaust in France by going into hiding. Widowed after the war, the family arrived in Hamilton in 1953 where Helen met and married Harry Vine, a fruit peddler. Helen had run a successful restaurant in Paris. She felt discontented ‘waiting for my husband to come home and give me money’ and yearned to be her own boss again. So she rented a store on York Street and converted it into the successful “Vine’s Delicatessen” that became well-known for its Kosher cuisine.

 

Arthur & Margaret Weisz

weiszMargaret and Arthur Weisz’s lives are a story of courage and hope. They survived the Holocaust and managed to flee Communism in their native Hungary. The couple and their young son arrived in Canada in 1951 penniless and spoke no English. Arthur worked as a bricklayer’s helper in Hamilton and in 1953 began working in real estate. Meanwhile Margaret cooked meals for the boarders they took in.
Arthur went on to build the real estate empire, Effort Trust and both he and Margaret were honoured for their philanthropy. After their death, their grand-daughter Danna founded Margaret’s Legacy, a program for schools that tells the family’s story, chronicling their wartime experiences and escape from Hungary – and exploring themes of tolerance and courage.

 

Ora Markstein

The Arts - Ora Markstein sculptress  Photo Credit Mike LalichOra Markstein was born and raised in an Orthodox family near Budapest and studied drawing and painting. When she was 15 she met her future husband, Francis but the romance was interrupted when weeks later the Holocaust began. Francis was taken away for slave labour and Ora and her family was sent to Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen. Although she lost many relatives, Ora, her sister and parents survived the war and she was reunited with her sweetheart. They married 10 days later in what Ora described as the poorest wedding she ever attended. Back in their Hungarian town, the synagogue – and the Jewish community – had been destroyed, so the wedding took place in an old-age home. Once in Canada, Ora began carving stone as a peaceful antidote and a sculptress was born. Despite her diminutive frame, she began to sculpt prolifically in the physically-demanding medium and her work, expressing the themes of love, loss and renewal, met with widespread acclaim at each of her numerous exhibitions.

Newcomers

…AND NEWCOMERS

And then there were others who chose to live in Hamilton – some immigrated to Canada from various parts of the world, and other chose Hamilton over other places they lived within Canada. We are proud that our Hamilton Jewish community continues to be a welcoming place that makes newcomers feel at home.

 

Making Newcomers Feel at Home

hilton and shirleyHilton and Shirley Silberg immigrated to Canada from South Africa in 1977 and moved to Hamilton in 1980. They will never forget the kind invitations they received when they first arrived in Hamilton. One invitation in particular remains memorable. They were invited for Passover to the home of Barbara and Abby Goldblatt and before the seder began, Barbara stood up, with a glass in her hand, and welcomed all the guests. Then, to the surprise of her guests, she proceeded to spill red wine over the centre of the tablecloth, announcing that everyone could now relax and enjoy the evening. Her daughter Lori confirmed that she did this every year so no-one felt badly if they stained the tablecloth.

 

Leon Karan

IMMIGRATION 4 - Leon Karan with the Chai Choir,Leon Karan and his family were able to leave the Soviet Union and in 1991 chose to come to Hamilton. Within a short time Leon was able to continue his piano teaching career, including as instructor at McMaster University. He opened his own studio shortly after and many of his students have received top awards and scholarships in local, provincial and nationwide competitions, with some becoming professional musicians. His own daughter Ilona is an accomplished opera singer. But in the community he is probably best known as the founder and conductor of the Chai Choir, which runs through the Hamilton Jewish Social Services. The singers practice weekly and regularly perform throughout the city.

 

Yves & Luba Apel

MAKING HAMILTON HOME - Yves & Luba Apel & family“How we came to be in Hamilton is one part chance and one part design.
“I came to Canada the month the Berlin Wall fell in 1989. Our family left Kishinev, capital of Moldova to re-unite with my grandmother and two of my aunts and their families who lived in Dundas. We didn’t arrive as refugees like they did about twenty years earlier because the Soviet Union was becoming destabilized, the ban on emigration was lifted and my parents, like many other Jewish families, quickly packed up and left.

“Like many immigrants before us, we came with few possessions but we were all young and ready to make a living here.  I was seventeen and after a year of high school in Hamilton, I went to the University of Toronto to study.  Luba, my high school sweetheart in Kishinev, emigrated to Israel with her family at about the same time and after we met again during my winter break in 1993, we married six months later and made our home in Toronto.

“We lived there for only about a year and as I was establishing a career in financial advice, we had to decide where we would ultimately want to raise a family and grow my practice.  We knew Hamilton as a community that ran at our pace, where we wouldn’t be ‘lost’, where we were welcomed just a few years before and where we could grow as a family, as individuals and as members of the community.

“And so, 20 years ago we moved to a rented apartment in Hamilton. In a few short years we got pretty much everything we imagined – a family, a community and a thriving business – and have never looked back. Yes, we got to Dundas because my relatives chose this for us – and for this we thank our lucky stars – but we returned and stayed in Hamilton because it always felt like home.  We have always felt welcomed here.”
– Yves Apel

 

Anita Bernstein and Adrian Jaspan: Naomi Bernstein and Mike Dressler

MAKING HAMILTON HOME - Anita Bernstein, Adrian Jaspan, Naomi Bernstein, Mike Dressler  & familyWhen Anita Bernstein was widowed and living in Montreal, she had two options of where to move her young children closer to family: Toronto or Hamilton. She chose Hamilton because she thought it would be easier for her kids to become integrated into a smaller community.

She herself found it welcoming and the Na’amat women’s group was a big bridge in helping her make friends. When she met her future husband Adrian, he was living in Toronto with his two teens. He was comfortable leaving big city life and the faster pace of life and made friends quickly, really getting to know people, instead of at the superficial level that was more common in a busy urban setting. Although his daughter Angie and son Nick were teenagers when they arrived, both like living here and have adopted the community as their own.

MAKING HAMILTON HOME - Naomi Bernstein & family Photo Credit Simon WilsonAnita’s daughter Naomi and husband Mike grew up in the Hamilton area and chose to stay too. They wanted to live near both sets of parents and settled in Dundas because they found the town an ideal place to raise a family. A more human pace of life – plus less travel time to work – were additional attractions and the couple have become very involved at Kehila where one of their sons attends

 

Vadim & Augustina Gershkovich

MAKING HAMILTON HOME - Vadim & Augustina Gershkovitz & familyVadim and Augustina Gershkovich moved from Israel to Toronto where they raised their family of six. While big city life offered all kind of professional and social opportunities, they realized they wanted a more ‘homey’ place and “a Jewish community that cares.” Friends with Yves and Luba Apel, they visited Hamilton and in 1993 decided this was where they wanted to be. They haven’t looked back. “We love it here, and so far all our kids want to stay too,” said Vadim.
Vadim and Augustina are on the Negev Dinner’s organizing committee and their son Gabriel helped promote the event.

Organizations

ORGANIZATIONS

Creating a new business or organization takes special skills and we can take pride in the fact that many members of our community dedicated themselves to improving and enriching life in Hamilton.  Here’s a sample of what was achieved over the years.

INSTITUTIONS - JNF

Irving Zucker

INSTITUTIONS - Irving ZuckerIrving Zucker joined the Royal Canadian Air Force during World War II and trained bomber and gunnery crews. Following his discharge, he became interested in radio broadcasting and founded CHAM in Hamilton and eventually, he assembled a network of radio stations across Ontario and in Eastern Canada.

Financed by this and other various business ventures, he later founded the Irving Zucker Foundation and established scholarships at McMaster University

In 1994, Irving donated seven sculptures to the Art Gallery of Hamilton which are on display in Commonwealth Square, adjacent to the gallery.

He received the Order of Canada for his philanthropy in 1997.

Joseph Singer – Architect

Born in Poland in 1924, Joe Singer had many narrow escapes during the war that took him across the world, from Uzvbekistan, Iraq, Iran, to India and England. He flew 28 missions over Germany in a Lancaster Bomber as a member of the Polish squadron of the Royal Air Force and was awarded a Polish Cross of Valour.

Joseph grew up in Krakow, a 1,000-year-old city that was once Poland’s capital. He was surrounded by every style of building – Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque and influence by this – as well as the fact that his uncle was an architect – Joe knew from boyhood that he wanted to be one too.
After the war he was able to study at architecture school and then moved to Canada. For the next 50 years he designed a large number of schools and public buildings in the Hamilton area (including the Hamilton Board of Education’s Headquarters on Main Street in downtown Hamilton) as well as institutions in the Jewish community. He was the architect for the Adas Israel Synagogue, Shalom Village Nursing Home and more recently designed the new chapel – including the ark of stained glass – at Temple Anshe Sholom which was created in memory of Marjorie Baskin, Rabbi Baskin’s wife.

In the 1950s of Hamilton, Jews were not allowed to play golf at some of the city’s leading clubs, and Joe was approached by Ben Shekter to design the Beverly Golf and Country Club, intended for the Jewish community, even though few played. Ben himself was a non-golfer, so to encourage membership, the club was promoted as a country retreat where young families were welcome.

Joe also collaborated with Arthur Weisz and Effort Trust, designing commercial buildings, shopping malls and apartment buildings, many of which continue to stand as his legacy today.

Photo courtesy of Emmy Singer.

 

Hamilton Jewish Federation

INSTITUTIONS - Living Logo Jewish Federation of Hamilton 2013 Courtesy Amy Back

By 1916 Hamilton’s Jewish community had several organizations that took care of financial support, immigration and other civic affairs. The Council of Jewish Organizations was established in 1955, expanding its mandate to oversee education, recreation and culture. It was renamed the Hamilton Jewish Federation in 1975.

Every year the Federation launches its annual United Jewish Appeal to fund the community’s agencies. Always looking for ways to attract attention, one year a Cabaret show was put on and another time a singing and dancing flash mob converged outside the Jewish Community Centre.

When Federation redesigned their logo in 2013, a crowd gathered to create a ‘living’ logo. The plan was to submit footage of it to the Guinness Book of Records, but in the end there was no time to put the submission together according to the rules.
INSTITUTIONS - Meeting of the Council of Jewish Organizations, pre Federation Courtesy Wendy Schneider

Read All About It! First Hamilton Jewish News Published

Communicating events and publicizing appeals has always been a feature of Hamilton Jewry. The front page of a November 1949 edition of the CJO News – published by the-then Council of Jewish Organizations – fields a story quoting Building Campaign Chairman, Ken Soble, urging the community to donate the remaining funds necessary to complete the building of the Delaware JCC.

In 1976 Jewish Federation published its first official newspaper, with the front page announcement that the Women’s Division would be hosting a talk at the JCC, given by Yael Dayan, daughter of Moshe Dayan, the Israeli military leader and politician.

Today the Hamilton Jewish News, edited by Wendy Schneider, has more than 1,800 subscribers and approximately 5,000 readers out in the community. The paper – in line with the technological times – has a digital editor, Ben Shragge, with an online edition, twitter feed and Facebook page.

Beth Tikvah

Hamilton is lucky to have people in the community who – when they see something is lacking – decide to do something about it. Stan Tick is one of those people. He had two brothers with special needs and when his father died and his mother became unwell, Stan tried to find the best care he could for his siblings. He tried to keep them at the family home but that wasn’t working and so placed them in a lodging home.

INSTITUTIONS - Beth Tikva residents
Both brothers were unhappy there and because no other suitable facility existed locally, the choice that remained was to move them to Toronto, far from family and everything familiar, or to open a home for developmentally challenged adults here.

Beth Tikvah opened its doors in 1990 and to this day, the six-bedroom house continues to offer specialized accommodation in a Jewish setting. Aside from the family-like atmosphere that puts its residents at ease, Beth Tikvah has also built a reputation for the high standards of care it provides.
Jewish Social Services & the Anonymous Gift

The need to look after each other had been recognized from the moment a group of Jewish families settled in Hamilton, back in the 1859s and several organizations served that purpose. But in 1929 during the depression years they amalgamated to form Jewish Social Services to meet the ever-increasing needs of the community. In the 1950s the agency expanded to help resettle a wave of Hungarian refugees and when the former USSR began to allow increased emigration, work focused on helping with these new immigrants.

Over the years Executive Director Carol Krames and her team has helped many who came in distress and the struggle to raise sufficient funds continues to be more urgent. So you can imagine her surprise when one Yom Kippur morning she opened her front door to find an envelope with $1000 in cash and an anonymous note that acknowledged the trust she would put the donation to good use.

At first it was tempting to compare the handwriting with signatures of past donors, but then it made more sense to respect the person’s anonymity – even though to this day their identity has never been uncovered.

Shalom Village

Shalom Village was founded in 1974 to fulfill the mitzvah of honouring our fathers and mothers. Community leader Ben Shekter was keen to establish a Jewish senior’s care facility. He had cared for his elderly father and found support services in the community were lacking. Because of his experience, he committed to establishing a residence and nursing home in Hamilton.

Many others in the community were afraid any kind of facility would be too costly and an ongoing burden to the community as a whole. Suggestions were made that it should be attached to the old Jewish community centre on Delaware; loud arguments for and against and a difficult time.

Volunteers Ludwig Benario, Sheila Burman and Sam Smurlick were determined to see what could be done. They surveyed the surrounding communities, examined existing small homes for the aged and developed committees to investigate design, support and financial help in the community.

Eventually local architect Joseph Singer was hired to draw up the plans and Shalom Village was built.
Today Shalom Village offers a variety of options for seniors, including apartments for those looking to live independently as well as convalescent and long-term care for residents.

Recognized In Their Field

RECOGNIZED IN THEIR FIELD

Some became experts, others made discoveries, several become acknowledged for their talents. Our community has had its fair share of those who were gifted and have made a difference in their field.  From medical work to sport and entertainment, here are a few people whose contribution has spread beyond our city boundaries.

 

Dr. May Cohen

RECOGNIZED IN THEIR FIELD - Dr May CohenDr. May Cohen is acknowledged as an important catalyst in the great strides made in Canadian women’s health.  She worked hard on issues such as gender equality in the medical profession, at a time when she herself was one of the few women to attend medical school.  May was born in Montreal and grew up in Toronto. She graduated from high school as Ontario’s and then at University of Toronto’s medical school, she led her class again, earning a gold medal for academic excellence. In 1977 she joined McMaster’s Faculty of Health Sciences, where she co-founded the Women’s Health Office – the first of its kind in Canada.

 

Eugene Levy

2008HamiltonND006Eugene Levy has a long list of talents and credits to his name. He is the only actor to have appeared in all eight of the popular American Pie films as well as appearing in over 50 movies.  Though best-known as an actor and comedian, he is also a producer, director, musician and writer.  Eugene went to Westdale Secondary School and then studied at McMaster University, where he met film producer and director Ivan Reitman and fellow actor Martin Short. Eugene went on to join Second City in Toronto and made his name in the sketch comedy series Second City Television. In 2008 he received Canada’s highest performing arts honour, the Governor General’s Performing Arts Award and in 2011 was appointed to the Order of Canada.

Dr. Harry Hotz

Hamilton, Ontario, Nov 24,2010, Dr Harry Hotz examines 17 month old Serenity Charbonneau in his office at the Wilson Medical Center Wednesday morning. Dr Hotz has been a practising pediatrician for 66 years . He is believed to be the oldest practising physician in Canada. Cathie Coward PhotosHamilton, Ontario, Nov 24,2010, Dr Harry Hotz examines 17 month old Serenity Charbonneau in his office at the Wilson Medical Center Wednesday morning. Dr Hotz has been a practising pediatrician for 66 years . He is believed to be the oldest practising physician in Canada.  Serenity is held by her Aunt Tammy Decker . Cathie Coward Photos

At 94, Dr. Harry Hotz only recently retired as a paediatrician and with more than 60 years’ experience, is believed to be the longest-serving in his field in Hamilton – and possibly in the world!  When Harry was a baby, his family left Lithuania and settled here to join his grandfather, who was doing well in the real estate business.  Harry won a scholarship to study medicine instead and in 1959 opened his own clinic on Main Street East. That was also the year he met his wife Ruth, who was working as an operating room nurse at Toronto’s Mount Sinai hospital.  Because he and his family had arrived penniless in Canada, Harry never forgot the challenges of moving to a new country and he dedicated his practice to helping new immigrants. Unlike most specialists, Harry commonly made house calls and was available nights and weekends, seven days a week.

 

Steve Paikin

RECOGNIZED IN THEIR FIELD -  Steve Paikin back right with parents Larry & Marnie and brother JeffWhen Steve Paikin was growing up, his mother Marnie would read the sports section of the Globe and Mail out loud while the family ate breakfast and after school, Steve joined the neighbourhood kids in a game of street hockey or football.  His love of sports continues to this day and it’s amazing he became a current affairs journalist and not a sports correspondent. But after a summer as intern at the Hamilton Spectator he got hooked on news. He’s now well-known as the veteran anchor of TVO’s current affairs programme, The Agenda with Steve Paikin, and is the only appointee to receive both the Order of Canada and Order of Ontario the same year.

 

Caissie Levy

RECOGNIZED IN THEIR FIELD - Caissie LevyCaissie Levy grew up surrounded by music at home. Both her parents enjoyed music and liked to sing and as a family they would travel wherever necessary to see the latest musical theatre. Today she is in demand on Broadway, landing her first big role at 21 in the cross-American tour of Rent, just a few days after she graduated from acting school. Other productions followed, including Hair (which went to London’s West End) and most recently a lead role as Fantine in Les Miserables.

Eva Vertes

RECOGNIZED IN THEIR FIELD - Eva Vertes, graduation day at Princeton UniversityWhen Eva Vertes was nine years old, she came across a book about the ebola virus and after reading it, she became fascinated by the science of disease. While still in high school, she ended up studying Alzheimer’s in a neuro-science lab mornings before class and in the evenings after school. After a year she came up with some startling findings and at 17 won first prize when she presented her work at an international science fair.  At 19, Eva made a presentation about her cancer research for TED talks, where renowned inspirational speakers are available online.  After high school Eva went on to study molecular biology at Princeton and then realized she needed a medical degree to conduct research with clinical applications. She decided to study medicine at the University of Florida and is currently a cancer researcher.

Ariel Shaffir

RECOGNIZED IN THEIR FIELD -  Ariel Shaffir with his mother Rivka, former principal at the Hamilton Hebrew Academy and father BillyfWhen he was still in elementary school, Ariel Shaffir predicted, to skeptical friends of his parents, that the show “Friends” would be a big hit. He was right. What no-one could have predicted then was that Ariel himself would move to Hollywood, work with some top names in comedy and become an executive producer. Ariel is the son of McMaster sociology professor Billy Shaffir and the late Rivka Shaffir, who was past principal of the Hamilton Hebrew Academy. He grew up in Dundas and went to the Hamilton Hebrew Academy and Highland Secondary School. He went on to law school at McGill but found he was spending more time writing and when he sold a screenplay while still a student, the idea of working in film became more attainable. While on a camp trip to Israel, Ariel met the then-unknown comedy writer Seth Rogen and followed him when he moved to Los Angeles. As executive producer, Ariel’s main job is to go over the script and write alternate scenes or jokes in case they’re needed when the film is edited. His latest film, The Interview, (about a journalist recruited by the CIA to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong-un), shot him and his colleagues to fame when it started an international diplomatic incident and was almost banned from movie theatres.

Joel Dembe

At 19, Joel Dembe was the youngest member of the Canadian National Wheelchair Tennis team and has been ranked Canada’s number one player.

RECOGNIZED IN THEIR FIELD -  Joel DembeHe is a Paralympian (London 2012), and a two-time Canadian National Wheelchair Tennis Champion. Tennis has enabled him to travel all over the world to compete.

A benign spinal tumour removed at birth caused partial paralysis but that didn’t stop Joel. By the time he was seven, he was using a wheelchair and became active in sports, playing track and field, sledge hockey, baseball and golf.  As a teenager, he met Frank Peter Jr., one of Canada’s top wheelchair tennis players, and was inspired to take up tennis. Although he had a good career as a marketing analyst on Bay Street he decided to leave so he could focus entirely on tennis, spending a minimum of 15 hours a week on the tennis court practicing.  Joel is currently training for this summer’s 2015 Parapan American Games.

The Arts

THE ARTS

Hamilton has bred many an artist from within the Jewish community who’s made an impact and contributed to the vibrancy of our city. They are generous with their talents, enriching our lives by creating galleries, donating art to local museums as well as entertaining us with their music.

 

Herman Levy

THE ARTS - Herman Levy Courtesy McMaster Museum of ArtHerman Levy launched McMaster University on the stage of international art. In the 1980s he donated almost 200 works and after his death in 1990, a bequest of millions of dollars provided the means to purchase more.

The grandson of immigrants from Alsace Lorraine, Herman grew up in Hamilton and joined the family’s flourishing jewelry business. He developed his interest in art while apprenticing in Amsterdam’s diamond district, where he visited the city’s many museums and galleries.

Under Herman’s helm, Levy Brothers continued to do well until 1960 when he closed the company for good and decided instead to focus his energies exclusively on art. He donated works by eminent Impressionists, such as Pissaro and van Gogh to McMaster’s Museum of Art and perhaps his most famous donation was Monet’s Waterloo Bridge, Hamilton’s only painting by the artist.

O-MA-NOOT Gallery

THE ARTS -  O-Ma-Noot Gallery opening at Beth Jacob - CopyWhen a group of artists began looking for gallery space, they came upon an idea; why not ask if they could fill empty walls in Beth Jacob’s foyer with their art? The gallery, named O-Ma-Noot (which means ‘art’ in Hebrew) held its opening reception in 2013 and since then has featured works on a variety of themes and media. The founding curators and local artists include Tzvia Devor and Hana Pinthus Rothchild.

 

Boris Brott


The Arts - Boris Brott DO WE NEED A PHOTO CREDITIn 1988 Boris Brott, an internationally-recognized conductor, founded the largest non-profit orchestral music festival in Canada, and the only one to have a full-time, professional orchestra-in-residence.
Boris held musical directorship posts across North America and served as Assistant Conductor under Leonard Bernstein at the New York Philharmonic.
He also established The National Academy Orchestra of Canada that enables emerging young Canadian musicians to play in some of the country’s leading orchestras, as well as helping them become professional musicians. Graduates have gone on to hold positions with virtually every major orchestra around the world.

Rachel Desoer, Cellist

Rachel Desoer greTHE ARTS - Rachel Desoer cellistw up in Hamilton and began playing the cello at the age of five. By her teens she’d become passionate about chamber music, especially string quartets, and studied at the Oberlin Conservatory in Ohio and New York’s prestigious Juilliard School.

Rachel won numerous international music competitions and performed as a soloist and with orchestras all over the world, as well as winning numerous music competitions.

In 2010 she joined the prize-winning all-female Cecilia String Quartet and has also performed solo as well as collaborating with dancers, composers, jazz musicians, vocalists and film-makers.

Rachel’s cello is on loan from the Arts Musical Instrument Bank and is a rare instrument made in 1929 by Carol Giuseppe Oddone, considered of the most remarkable craftsmen from Italy’s Piedmont school.

 

Ben Caplan

THE ARTS - Ben CaplanBen Caplan is known for his signature raspy voice and as a songwriter and performer bold in both range and ferocity. Ben studied history and philosophy at university but turned to a musical career when he found academia too confining. When not writing or recording either solo or backed by his band, The Casual Smokers, Ben is almost perpetually on tour and has played more than 1000 shows since the release of his debut album in late 2011.

He sports an impressively distinctive beard and encourages supporters to be part of his ‘beard brigade’.

A Touch of Klez

THE ARTS -  A Touch of Klez In 2003 bass player Michael Glogauer made an announcement from the Beth Jacob’s bimah during Rosh Hoshana services inviting any musicians in the congregation to form a Klezmer band. Klezmer music originated in the villages and ghettos of Eastern Europe in the middle ages. Klezmorim, or itinerant Jewish troubadours, would travel to villages to perform at weddings and other joyful occasions.
The announcement brought together a group of musicians from the community – some of whom previously played rock or classical music but never played klezmer before. Although Michael, the original founder, has since moved away, the band continues to play at weddings and bar mitzvahs across the Golden Horseshoe and at one time were hired for a convention.

The Next Generations

THE NEXT GENERATION

What draws young people to live here? That’s what we asked the next generation and their replies were consistently enthusiastic. Ours is a community that has much to offer and everyone agreed it’s a great place to set down or continue to grow roots.

 

Eric Waxman

MAKING HAMILTON HOME - Eric Waxman“I think the biggest thing growing up as a Jewish boy in Hamilton had to be the HJMBL, the Hamilton Jewish Men’s Baseball League.  It was a key part of Hamilton Jewish community life in the 80s and 90s.  It was a place to get some exercise and compete, have fun and the odd argument, but really a place where Jewish people gathered.

“A large portion of the community took part and everyone knew about it.  As kids, we’d go out every Sunday morning to watch our dads play slow pitch baseball.  Moms, girlfriends, children and parents would all come out to watch (or more realistically gather in the nice weather to meet friends).  In its heyday, the competition was actually pretty good, and I believe at its peak the number of teams in the league got as high as 12.  Local companies owned by members of the community would sponsor the teams.

“The HJMBL helped create a closer, tighter and more involved community and was open to everyone – Orthodox, Conservative and Reform Jewish men all participated.  There were even a few Rabbis who played over the years.

“As a young boy, I looked forward to becoming old enough to play too.  We’d talk about it at Hebrew school as we played baseball during recess.  To this day, one of my closest friends is someone I met playing Sunday morning baseball and when I do get together with people I haven’t seen in a number of years, the baseball league always seems to come up in conversation.”

 

Yves Apel

“How we came to be in Hamilton is one part chance and one part design.
MAKING HAMILTON HOME - Yves & Luba Apel & family
“I came to Canada the month the Berlin Wall fell in 1989. Our family left Kishinev, capital of Moldova to re-unite with my grandmother and two of my aunts and their families who lived in Dundas. We didn’t arrive as refugees like they did about twenty years earlier because the Soviet Union was becoming destabilized, the ban on emigration was lifted and my parents, like many other Jewish families, quickly packed up and left.

“Like many immigrants before us, we came with few possessions but we were all young and ready to make a living here.  I was seventeen and after a year of high school in Hamilton, I went to the University of Toronto to study.  Luba, my high school sweetheart in Kishinev, emigrated to Israel with her family at about the same time and after we met again during my winter break in 1993, we married six months later and made our home in Toronto.

MAKING HAMILTON HOME - Yves & Luba Apel & family 2
“We lived there for only about a year and as I was establishing a career in financial advice, we had to decide where we would ultimately want to raise a family and grow my practice.  We knew Hamilton as a community that ran at our pace, where we wouldn’t be ‘lost’, where we were welcomed just a few years before and where we could grow as a family, as individuals and as members of the community.

“And so, 20 years ago we moved to a rented apartment in Hamilton. In a few short years we got pretty much everything we imagined – a family, a community and a thriving business – and have never looked back. Yes, we got to Dundas because my relatives chose this for us – and for this we thank our lucky stars – but we returned and stayed in Hamilton because it always felt like home.  We have always felt welcomed here.”

Anita Bernstein and Adrian Jaspan: Naomi Bernstein and Mike Dressler

MAKING HAMILTON HOME - Anita Bernstein, Adrian Jaspan, Naomi Bernstein, Mike Dressler  & familyWhen Anita Bernstein was widowed and living in Montreal, she had two options of where to move her young children closer to family: Toronto or Hamilton. She chose Hamilton because she thought it would be easier for her kids to become integrated into a smaller community.

She herself found it welcoming and the Na’amat women’s group was a big bridge in helping her make friends. When she met her future husband Adrian, he was living in Toronto with his two teens. He was comfortable leaving big city life and the faster pace of life and made friends quickly, really getting to know people, instead of at the superficial level that was more common in a busy urban setting. Although his daughter Angie and son Nick were teenagers when they arrived, both like living here and have adopted the community as their own.

Anita’s daughter Naomi and husband Mike grew up in the Hamilton area and chose to stay too. They wanted to live near both sets of parents and settled in Dundas because they found the town an ideal place to raise a family. A more human pace of life – plus less travel time to work – were additional attractions and the couple have become very involved at Kehila where one of their sons attends.

Laura Laengerer


“I love living in Hamilton as it has so much to offer. Hamilton is such a small community and many of my childhood friends still live here. I love the trails, waterfalls and the six-minute drive to work: I love the feeling of a small community and it’s great bumping into someone you know wherever you go.

MAKING HAMILTON HOME - Laura & Oliver Laengerer & family

“Jewish life in Hamilton is vibrant; there’s something for every age group, from youth groups like Mitzvah Mission Youth Organization to YAD (Young Adult Division). Between all the agencies I find myself attending several events every month and am very connected with the community through my nine- year career as the JCC Coordinator. What other small community has a butcher, several kosher caterers, four shuls, a mikvah, a JCC, various Jewish agencies, two day schools, two afternoon schools, a camp and much more?

“I’m proud to be a member of this wonderful community for over 42 years and couldn’t imagine raising my children anywhere else. I want them to be able to walk in to Fortinos or shul and know everyone just like me. I also want my kids to go to Camp Kadimah and work as a counselor there just like I did.
“Our little community has so much to offer; I’m glad to be a part of it.”

 

Danna and David Horwood

Both Danna and David grew up here and lived in Toronto for a short time after they married. When David was offered a job at Effort Trust, run by Danna’s family the Weiszes, they decided to come home. Being in Hamilton brought them closer to both their families and Danna feels their three children are growing up more grounded and with a more down-to-earth and less competitive social circle. Living in Toronto would be too pressurized and they love being in a walkable neighbourhood, with everything close by.

MAKING HAMILTON HOME - Danna & David Horwood & family The couple has been involved in many community organizations, including leading United Jewish Appeals. Danna is currently on the Executive Committee of the Jewish Federation, has helped with past JNF fundraisers and together she and David are co-chairing this Negev Dinner.
Rachel (Loewith) Rochwerg

“I loved growing up in the Hamilton Jewish Community. It was a very large part of my childhood and still is a big part of my identity. When I think of back, I think of two things: the Jewish Community Centre (JCC) and the Hamilton Hebrew Academy (HHA). I attended the HHA for 11 years and the most important thing it gave me was a sense of community. I still consider classmates among my closest friends and the HAA fostered a sense of my identity from a young age.

“The JCC on Lower Lions Club Road, is another place where I spent many “funday Sundays” as well as holidays. The walkathon still sticks out in my mind, as well as the Morris Black speaking contest, major events that we’d never miss. Our family Sunday afternoons at the JCC were filled with friends, fun and always a new adventure.”

 

Samantha Berlin and Mike Bromstein

MAKING FAMILY HOME - Samantha Berlin & Mike Bromstein & family“My father’s British company expanded to Canada and he was offered a job in Toronto, so we moved here from England when I was nine. My Dad chose Dundas because he knew someone an English family living in Hamilton.

“Canada was far safer than England and as children we had a greater sense of freedom here. Cynthia Kudlets and her whole family were wonderful to us, helping us get settled.

“Mike and I were both living in Dundas when we starting dating.  We didn’t consider living elsewhere.  Dundas is a wonderful place to raise a family and create a life. Neither of us like nor have an appreciation for big cities, so moving to one wasn’t even a question.  We each have extended family, jobs and friends here in town.

“The life that we’ve built is a good one.”

 

Vadim Gershkovich

MAKING HAMILTON HOME - Vadim & Augustina Gershkovitz & familyVadim and Augustina Gershkovich moved from Israel to Toronto where they raised their family of six. While big city life offered all kind of professional and social opportunities, they realized they wanted a more ‘homey’ place and “a Jewish community that cares”.

Friends with Yves and Luba Apel, they visited Hamilton and in 1993 decided this was where they wanted to be. They haven’t looked back. “We love it here, and so far all our kids want to stay too,” said Vadim.

Vadim and Augustina are on the Negev Dinner’s organizing committee and their son Gabriel helped promote the event.

 

Jeff Paikin

“There’s a strong sense of community and a certain ruggedness to coming from Hamilton.  There’s also a strong accountability within the community, as Hamilton is Canada’s “biggest small town.”  You can’t lose your accountability to others in a community our size, so what you do matters and remains part of your history.

“Also people in this community genuinely care about each other and want to help each other.  It’s a real city and was a fantastic place to grow up.

“My brother Steve and I grew up under the influence of Rabbi Baskin at Temple Anshe Shalom.  We both had our  bar mitzvahs there and Jeff was married there too.  We went through Sunday School and received the vast portion of our Jewish education in that amazing building.

“Being part of the Negev dinner on three different occasions has been a huge highlight.  We saw our father and mother honoured individually in different years and then we had the good fortune of being the honourees ourselves, with two healthy and involved parents as part of the committee.

“That memory is irreplaceable for us.”

When Scrap Was King

When Scrap was King

Hamilton’s Jewish community was built by the families who worked in the scrap industry and with its booming base of steel mills, the city offered the perfect opportunity for immigrants – many unable to get jobs elsewhere – to get into this gritty work.

Some Jewish families who had collected scrap in Europe carried on their traditions here. Others took up the trade for the first time in their new home.

Jacob Goldblatt, who settled in the city in the early 1900s, was seen as the founder of the Jewish scrap metal business and developed a large enterprise that supplied smelting materials for Stelco’s furnaces. He helped others get started and was known to lend a horse and buggy for newcomers so they could go out and see what they could salvage. Srul Paikin came to Hamilton when Jacob Goldblatt offered to set him up in the scrap business here. His grandson Larry recalls how his grandfather worked with a horse and wagon, going up and down the streets of Hamilton crying out for “rags, bottles and bones” and keeping the horse in a small stable behind their home in the centre of the city.

Isaac Waxman came to Canada in 1911, hoping to continue his trade as a shoemaker, but he was forced to turn to scrap dealing when he was fired from his job because he refused to work on Shabbat. Other families – to name a few – were Frank, Hoffman, Hotz, Lax, Levy, Posner and Rochwerg.

Legendary stories abound of how the men – friends outside of work – would try to undercut each other in their dealings, screaming in Yiddish until they reached a compromise. And then get together later at some community meeting as if nothing had happened.

Today a few of the Jewish families are still in the industry, but as the next generation came up, their parents wanted them to be doctors and lawyers and be educated – not to have to get their hands dirty.

Where We Worshipped

WHERE WE WORSHIPPED

It’s amazing to think that at one point there were five synagogues in Hamilton – and at a time when there were half the number of Jews living here. Each of the buildings had their own character, reflecting the congregations that worshipped there, who were determined to build a shul with presence, despite the financial challenges they presented. This strong spirit drew eminent religious leadership to our city – as well as creating a wealth of anecdotes

 

Benny Goodman Drops By

WHERE WE WORSHIPPED - Benny Goodman
Big band leader and clarinetist Benny Goodman was once playing a gig in Hamilton and afterwards joined a yahrzeit service at one of the synagogues.
Aside from having a celebrity in their midst, he caused great excitement: after he finished his prayers, he gave a $20 bill to whomever was in charge – a lot of money back in the 1940s.

 

Cannon Street Shul & The Adas Israel

WHERE WE WORSHIPPED - Cannon St shuul In 1912, a handful of Polish immigrants began a minyan in a small home on downtown’s Caroline Street. A few years later they moved to a home on Cannon Street, but by 1929 the 38 families built the Adas Israel Anshei Polin. The congregation was made up of peddlars and poor people, but they managed to furnish it with three magnificent chandeliers.

All shuls at the time were known by their location. This one was referred to as the Cannon Street Shul, later named the Adas Israel Anshei Sefard and finally shortened to just the Adas.

 

Rabbi Morton Green

WHERE WE WORSHIPPED - Rabbi Morton GreenRabbi Morton Green came to the Adas in 1958 and was told that he would need to adapt the sermons he was giving in English, because most of his “Paelisha Shul”congregants were Yiddish speaking peddlers and were finding what he was preaching irrelevant.

The synagogue became the heart of the community, but over time the Jewish community began to leave downtown and move to the west end of Hamilton. A lofty goal presented itself: it was time to move the synagogue too.

One day, not long after he had arrived, Rabbi Mordechai Green, aged 24, went into a local branch of the Royal Bank of Canada. He asked the manager for a half a million dollar loan. The manager asked what kind of synagogue they would be building. After he answered, the manager told him that as a child in the northern town of Timmins, his father had died, leaving his mother to raise him and his five siblings. An Orthodox Jew owned the local general store and on hearing about their loss, he told his mother that as long as the store was his, her children would always have clothes to wear and food to eat – and the store owner kept his promise.

All his life the bank manager had wondered how he could repay the kind deed. And that’s how Rabbi Green was able to build the Adas Israel synagogue on Cline Avenue North today.

Amazingly, the connection continued and the grandson of the general store owner in Timmins attended the Adas Israel’s 100th anniversary celebration in 2012.

Rabbi Green served as rabbi from 1958 to 2002 and is now Rabbi Emeritus.

 

Beth Jacob

WHERE WE WORSHIPPED - Hunter St shulBack in 1888 the Beth Jacob community – mostly Russian-born – converted a church with Gothic windows on Hunter and Park Streets into its new shul. The Hunter Street shul, as it was known, was much-loved and people remember it for its aura of grandeur. It would take many years of discussion in the 1950s before the congregation finally decided it was time to move with its westward-seeking and growing community. In 1956, with some mixed emotions, the current building on Aberdeen was opened, but not before the old Aron HaKodesh and wooden benches were moved too. These now have a place in the small downstairs chapel of the Aberdeen Avenue synagogue. Sadly the Hunter Street shul itself was sold several times and eventually torn down to make way for a city parking lot.

 

Rabbi Silverman

WHERE WE WORSHIPPED - Rabbi & Gloria SilvermanIn 1966, the community hired Rabbi Israel Silverman, who moved to Hamilton with his wife Gloria and their five children. He was to remain their Rabbi for 30 years and became known as an outstanding scholar. He was known to have the ability to take the most arcane, pedantic, or seemingly distant text and make it come alive. Long before it became fashionable to adorn texts with visuals or attraction, Rabbi Silverman relied on the drama of question and answer, anecdote, and illustration to engage his students and congregants.

Understandably, Rabbi Silverman took his sermons very seriously and the congregation came to know that he did not take kindly to being interrupted by noisy children. If any child created a distraction while he was delivering his drash, he would stop speaking and wait till a parent acted or the child quietened down. On one occasion, the noise emanated from one of his own grandchildren. He paused as usual: and then seeing who it was, announced that his family members were exempt – and continued with his sermon.

Rabbi Silverman’s wife, Gloria, an accomplished educator in her own right, dedicated her time to building the Beth Jacob religious school, as well as spearheading the synagogue’s involvement with a school breakfast program and Out of the Cold, a project that provides hot winter meals for the city’s needy.

 

Temple Anshe Shalom

WHERE WE WORSHIPPED - Temple Anshe Sholom, Hughson St shuul
Temple Anshe Sholom (literally translated as ‘men of peace’) is thought to be the oldest Reform synagogue in Canada. Services went from being conducted in members’ homes in the early days to a room above a downtown leather goods store, but eventually funds were raised to build a synagogue which became known as the Hughson Street Temple. Like the other synagogues, it too moved westwards to its current location in Westdale, ironically a neighbourhood where until the 1940s, Jews were forbidden to buy property.

 

Rabbi Fackenheim

In 1938 Emil Fackenheim escaped Sachsenhausen concentration camp and by 1940 had made his way to Canada. He was interned in Quebec as an enemy alien but rescued by members of Temple Anshe Sholom, where he served as Interim Rabbi from 1943 to 1948.

He went on to become a Professor of Philosophy at the University of Toronto and notable in his field. He was also known as a good-humoured and energetic man, with a penchant for Hawaiian shirts!’

 

Rabbi Bernard Baskin & Marjorie Baskin

WHERE WE WORSHIPPED - Rabbi & Marjorie Baskin Courtesy Wendy SchneiderWhen Rabbi Baskin and his wife Marjorie arrived in Hamilton in 1949, they only intended to stay for a couple of years. Instead, with a young family and a growing community involvement, Rabbi Baskin led Temple Anshe Sholom for 40 years. He went on to gain many accolades including the first recipient of the B’nai B’rith Humanitarian Award, Hamilton’s Jewish Community Man of the Year and he received an Honorary Doctor of Divinity degree from Hebrew Union College in New York.

He also bestowed his wisdom on his congregation and on a personal level, Harvey Brownstone, JCC leader Sam Brownstone’s son, recalls this story about Rabbi Baskin:
“At my bar mitzvah, Rabbi Baskin took me aside and recommended that I strongly consider using my developing academic and social skills in a career devoted to the pursuit of justice. The legal profession, he said, had a strong tradition of counting Jewish lawyers among its most distinguished, accomplished members; and many Jewish lawyers, trained in the laws of the Talmud, had gone on to become judges.
“I had no idea what lawyers actually did, as we had no lawyers in my family. But Rabbi Baskin’s words echoed in my head throughout my undergraduate years and led me to pursue a legal career as soon as I was eligible to apply to law school.”

Harvey went on to become a judge of the Ontario Court of Justice. Rabbi Baskin continues to delight audiences with his regular Books and Ideas talks, as well as a column in the Hamilton Spectator. He is also Rabbi Emeritus at Temple Anshe Sholom.

Cantor Ruth Slater

When Ruth Slater was hired in the 1980s by the Temple, she became only the second female cantor in Canada. One day a young girl came up to her after services and told her she had been to a bar mitzvah in Toronto and wanted to tell Ruth something shocking she had seen there. Ruth was perturbed at what the little girl was about to tell her. The little girl leaned in and told her that the cantor at the bar mitzvah was a man!

 

The Korman Scroll

Joseph Korman was one of nine brothers who lived in Russia when the Second World War broke out. Like many others not wanting to fight, he cut off the tip of one of his fingers to evade being called up. Amazingly, all nine Korman siblings survived and each managed to bring torah scrolls from their communities with them. Joseph’s was sent to him after the war ended.

When Joseph and his family moved to Hamilton and joined Temple Anshe Sholom, he donated the scroll to the synagogue.

The Ferguson Shul

The Ferguson Avenue shul was known as the ‘broigasa shul’ because anyone who was angry with one of the other religious institutions would go there instead. The “angry shul” was carved from an old mansion and had a blue ceiling with gold and silver stars. The regular congregation was small, with about 70 people, but had no devoted members in the end. Eventually, it was sold off cheaply – and much against the rules, the proceeds divided.

The Hess Street Shul (Ohev Zedeck)

Within walking distance of the Cannon Street shul was the Hess Street synagogue. It was known as the shul where everyone davens in harmony, whether they were rich, poor, Polish or Litvishe but apparently there was an incident when a congregant shouted at the Rabbi, but otherwise community memories are fond of this small shul that closed in the early 2000s.
WHERE WE WORSHIPPED -  Hess St shuulMany of the artifacts inside were rescued and are now in the chapel at Shalom Village and a bench can be found inside BLove vegan and raw food restaurant in Dundas.

WHERE WE WORSHIPPED [additional material]

Rabbi Itkin

Rabbi Zalman Itkin and his wife Faigi came to Hamilton in 1980 and founded Chabad Lubavitch here. Their home was open to all and many a hungry McMaster student enjoyed Shabbat dinner with them.
One day Zalman was walking to synagogue from his Westdale home, holding hands with two of his children and singing all the way. Some passing teenagers laughed at them mockingly – but in response the rabbi just sang louder.

Temple Anshe Sholom

Rabbi Irwin Zeplowitz

There were big shoes to fill when Rabbi Baskin stepped down, but strong leadership at the Temple continued with the hiring of Rabbi Irwin Zeplowitz in 1989.

He brought with him family-based innovations including congregational dinners and mitzvah projects, encouraging young people to take part in congregational life.

One day an extraordinary thing happened. A congregrant came running into his office and told him there was a pig roaming outside of the synagogue. Apparently a nearby resident had bought a Vietnamese pot-bellied pig and it had got loose. Rabbi Z (as he was affectionately called) asked where it was. On the front lawn came the answer – “What should we do?” he was asked. Rabbi Z replied; “Don’t eat it!”