Fonds 9 - Jewish Immigrant Aid Services of Toronto fonds

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Jewish Immigrant Aid Services of Toronto fonds

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  • Textual record
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CA ON00210 9

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  • 1925-1982 (Creation)

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Physical description

31.8 m of textual records. -- 319 photographs : b&w and col. ; 21 x 26 cm or smaller

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Administrative history

By 1919 the plight of post-war Eastern European Jewry and the need for a united community voice for Canadian Jewry led to the creation of the Canadian Jewish Congress. Its founding meeting was held on March 16, 1919 in Montreal. Though it briefly maintained a tiny regional office in Toronto, the CJC remained inactive until 1933, when it fully reconvened by opening offices in Winnipeg, Montreal, and Toronto. Egmont L. Frankel was the first President of the new Central Division in Toronto. While the National Office in Montreal focused on the overarching issues of the social and economic rights of European Jewry, assistance for Jewish immigrants, and combating prejudice in Canada, the Toronto office dealt with local violent anti-Jewish demonstrations as well as continuing discrimination both in employment and in access to public recreational facilities. The structure was based on regular national biennial plenary conferences at which policies were delineated and national and regional executives were elected. Between plenary sessions, National and Regional Councils were in charge. These were augmented by the following standing committees: Administrative, Officers, Personnel, Financial, Publications, and Educational and Cultural. Special committees were created to deal with issues such as: youth, community loans, kashruth, fundraising, Israel, Russian Jewry, and various emergency issues such as refugees, immigration, and housing. During the 1930’s the Central Division Office moved several times and occupied offices in the following locations; Yonge St., the Bond St. Synagogue, Scheuer House, the Zionist Building, and its long-term home at 150-152 Beverley Street where it remained until its July, 1983 move to the Lipa Green Building in North York. Its activities expanded to include taking responsibility for Jewish educational standards but, by 1941, its main efforts shifted to support for Canada’s war effort. Immediately after the end of the war, the focus again shifted to Jewish immigration projects and the maintenance of Jewish identity in small communities. By 1950, the CJC’s use of the title “division” was changed to “region” to accommodate internal operational “divisions” within each region. Also, by then, the Central Region was busy expanding its programs for all Ontario Jewish communities, creating a province-wide council of youth groups, and working with the newly-created Bureau of Jewish Education (later Board of Jewish Education, now Mercaz). Standardization of kashruth rules in Ontario was implemented. As well, regular educational conferences and cultural events were held throughout the province, while province-wide fund-raising efforts in support of Moess Chittin for relief projects in Israel and for local Congress activities were expanded. Many of its educational and cultural responsibilities necessitated working with other Jewish organizations such as the United Jewish Welfare Fund, Jewish Immigrant Aid Society (JIAS), Hadassah, the Canadian Legion, B’nai B’rith, the World Jewish Congress, the American Jewish Congress, and the many Landsmenshaften (Jewish mutual benefit societies, each formed by immigrants originating from the same Eastern European community). During the 1960s, the Central Region began sending Moess Chittin relief shipments to Cuban Jews unable to acquire kosher foods for Passover. Its lobbying efforts included participation in the Royal Commissions on Hate Propaganda, and its greatest success came with the introduction and implementation of Ontario’s Fair Employment and Fair Accommodation Practices legislation, an achievement in which Congress played a pivotal role. From 1971 to 1989 the major focus became international and Canada-wide lobbying for, and providing support to, Soviet Jewry. Virtually all local and Canadian efforts to assist the Soviet Jewish “refusniks” were organized and coordinated in Toronto by the CJC Ontario Region office, which provided staff and funding for the many lobbying activities and public demonstrations which characterized this successful effort. As of November, 1975, the CJC Central Region’s responsibilities in Toronto were radically altered. To improve cost efficiency in Toronto, CJC educational and social service program activities were merged with similar programs already provided by Toronto’s United Jewish Appeal. The UJA assumed sole responsibility for these amalgamated programs in Toronto and was renamed Toronto Jewish Congress. The CJC Central Region still retained province-wide responsibilities for Ontario’s smaller Jewish Communities, and its office remained in Toronto. Also, following this reorganization, its name was changed to Canadian Jewish Congress, Ontario Region. Although CJC no longer provided direct social and educational programs to Toronto, the TJC’s senior executive was, at the time, still obliged to continue to keep it notified about developments concerning previous Congress responsibilities. From 1983, the Ontario Region's offices were located in the Lipa Green Building at 4600 Bathurst Street. It continued its work of financially supporting various Israeli institutions and fostering Canada-Israel relations. It also spearheaded the movement to support and protect Jews in Arab lands, especially in Syria. Funding for the CJC came from the Canadian Council for Israel and Jewish Advocacy, which restributed a portion of the funds raised by the local Jewish federations across Canada.
The CJC dissolved in 2011. Today, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) acts as the Jewish community's primary lobby group.

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Administrative history

The Jewish Immigrant Aid Society of Canada was established in 1920 by the newly-formed Canadian Jewish Congress (CJC). A Toronto branch was established in Toronto in a storefront office on Spadina Avenue, but the organization was rudimentary, and as the enthusiasm that spurred the founding of CJC died out, JIAS soon faltered. Then in 1922 it was taken over and reactivated under the cooperative support of the Federation of Jewish Philanthropies of Toronto, B'nai B'rith and the Council of Jewish Women. JIAS was legally incorporated on 30 August 1922. It also operated under the moniker of the Emergency Jewish Immigrant Aid Committee, and it changed its name to Jewish Immigrant Aid Services in 1954.
Charged with organizing emergency relief for European Jews in distress, JIAS became the central agency of the Jewish community to facilitate the lawful entry of Jewish immigrants into Canada, and provided them with welfare services, transportation, and assistance with accommodation and employment after their arrival. In addition, JIAS offered consultation services for sponsors of potential immigrants, ran a competitive foreign remittance service, and campaigned to counter the activities of unscrupulous steamboat agents, lawyers and influence peddlers, or “shtadlanim,” who often victimized immigrants and sponsors alike.
In conjunction with similar efforts by the CJC, JIAS was also actively engaged in negotiating for the increased admission of Jewish immigrants to Canada. In 1923, the federal government instituted a permit-based immigration program and JIAS competed with travel agents and solicitors in the private sector for these limited quota permits. After combating the anti-immigration policies of the Depression era, the outbreak of war in 1939 virtually closed the already limited avenues for immigration.
JIAS Canada was organized into a National Office in Montreal and regional offices in Winnipeg (Western Region), Toronto (Central Region) and Halifax (Eastern Region). The Central Region covered Ontario, and established a full-time head office in 1935 at 399 Spadina Avenue in Toronto (hence the Central Region was sometimes called simply the Toronto Office). The office later moved to 265 Spadina Avenue. JIAS Toronto’s board of directors met on a regular basis at different locations in Toronto, including 206 Beverley Street and in the Talmud Torah building at 9 Brunswick Avenue. The first JIAS Toronto board included notable Toronto residents such as Henry Dworkin, Mrs. Draiman, Mr. Kronick, Dr. Brodey and Mrs. Willinsky. The role of the board was to oversee the operations of the Central Region. It rendered decisions on issues relating to finances, procedures and policies, negotiations with the federal Immigration Branch, as well as individual cases that required their attention.
General meetings of the Central Region membership were held annually. The 1943 JIAS constitution states that regional annual meetings were to be held for “receiving and considering reports,” holding nominations and elections for the executive, and discussing JIAS’s program and policies.
In the post-war era, JIAS shifted its focus to renewed efforts on behalf of individual claimants and community support, while the focus for lobbying for a reversal of Canada's immigration policy fell increasingly under the jurisdiction of the CJC. A boom in immigration between 1947 and 1952 saw the arrival of large numbers of Jewish immigrants to all parts of Canada and the Toronto Office of JIAS renewed its efforts to meet the needs of this new influx. Major world events also sparked other waves of immigration from Hungary, Czechoslovakia, North Africa and Russia, to which JIAS responded in turn. JIAS worked in conjunction with other immigrant aid societies such as HIAS, the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, in the United States, to facilitate immigration to the United States, and later to Israel, where many of the immigrants and refugees coming to Canada had family and ultimately settled.

Custodial history

Custody of these records was transferred to the Ontario Jewish Archives by JIAS in 1983, as preparations were under way for the move to a new facility in North York. Much of the material was in four-cubic-foot boxes and in file cabinets. The accession was divided into three sections: files which were at the JIAS office and had been retained in their original order; files which had been retrieved from a flood in the basement of 152 Beverley St. and consequently had been thrown into dry boxes without regard to order; files discovered in the furnace rooms at 150 and 152 Beverley St., intact but covered in coal dust. The bulk of the records were stored off-site, with dirty files being isolated from the rest. The dust-covered materials were cleaned at an off-site location, placed in temporary boxes and transferred to the Archives and restored, as far as was possible, to their original order. Clips were removed and replaced as appropriate with archivally acceptable ones. All materials were transferred to acid-free folders and boxes.

Scope and content

Fonds contains the records of the Toronto Office (Central region) of the Jewish Immigrant Aid Services of Canada. The fonds consists primarily of textual records: minutes, correspondence, financial records, reports, immigration files, naturalization case files, social service case files and the records of attempts to trace missing individuals. There are also photographs of special events, speakers and arriving immigrants.

The fonds represents an important resource for the study of Canadian Jewry, especially when taken in conjunction with the JIAS National Office records at the Canadian Jewish Congress National Archives in Montreal, and those of the Western Office at the Library and Archives of Canada. It documents the means by which a particular Canadian ethnic community has dealt with the problems of rescue, settlement and government relations. These records also offer insight into the relationship between the Toronto Office and the other branches of JIAS, and invite comparison with similar agencies in the United States, as well as those of other ethnic groups in Canada.

The material collected includes information about the countries of origin, transportation routes, settlement and employment patterns of Jewish immigrants to Canada in the twentieth century. The documents also touch upon important related issues such as advocacy, sponsorship, admission processes, health and social problems.

These records cover several waves of immigration following the Second World War: Holocaust survivors in the late 1940s, Sephardic (North African) and Hungarian Jews in the 1950s, Russian and Czechoslovakian Jews in the 1960s, and additional Russians in the 1970s.

The records also contain significant information for those researchers looking to conduct genealogical research into Jewish immigrants and their descendants.

The fonds has been arranged with one sous-fonds, which contains the records of the National JIAS office in Montreal. In total there are 17 series. The Toronto office (main fonds) series are: 1. Board of Directors and Executive Committee Minutes; 2. Annual meeting proceedings; 3. Reports; 4. Legal ; 5. Administration; 6. JIAS Committees; 7. External committees; 8. Financial ; 9. Arrivals; 10. Immigration case files; 11. Social service assistance case files; 12. Photographs; 13. Miscellaneous. The National Office sous-fonds is divided into the following series: 1. National executive meeting minutes; 2. National annual meeting proceedings; 3. National annual reports; 4. Publications; and Photographs.

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Case files can be searched using the JIAS Inmagic database screen, however, both the database and the physical records are closed to researchers under PIPEDA. Only staff are permitted to perform searches and the records must be reviewed before being released to the researcher.

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Finding aids

The original finding aid, in print form, is extant but contains numerous omissions that have been updated in the OJA's InMagic database.

Associated materials

The CJC National Archive, in Montreal, has additional JIAS records from 1920-1989 including 275 m of textual records and graphic materials (3250 photos): collection number I0037; alpha-numeric designation MA 4. The National Archives of Canada, Manitoba branch, in Winnipeg, has Jewish Historical Society of Western Canada JIAS textual records from 1923-1950 on 18 microfilm reels: Former archival reference number MG28-V114 (no replacement listed). The originals of these records are maintained by the Jewish Historical Society of Western Canada.

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General note

Although many of the immigration case files contain photographs of the particular immigrants, these were considered an integral part of the files and have not been described separately. The National Executive of JIAS, although dominated by the Montreal office, included representation from the other offices and board meetings were held in Toronto and Montreal throughout the 1940s and 1950s.

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Physical extent is based on fully processed records. Additional accessions are not included (see Related Material note below).

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