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Jewish Roots, Canadian Soil

Jewish Roots, Canadian Soil: Yiddish Cultural Life in Montreal, 1905-1945

Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 320
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  • Book Info
    Jewish Roots, Canadian Soil
    Book Description:

    Looking at Montreal's Jewish community during the first half of the twentieth century, Margolis explores the lives and works of activists, writers, scholars, performers, and organizations that fuelled a still-thriving community. She also considers the foundations and development of Yiddish cultural life in Montreal in its interaction with broader issues of diasporic Jewish culture. An illuminating look at the ways in which Yiddish culture was maintained in North America, Jewish Roots, Canadian Soil is the story of how a minority culture was transplanted and transformed.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-8589-8
    Subjects: History
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Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents (pp. vii-viii)
  4. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS (pp. xi-xii)
  5. PREFACE (pp. xiii-xxi)
  6. [Illustrations] (pp. xxii-2)
  7. ONE INTRODUCTION (pp. 3-38)

    IN 1925, NEW IMMIGRANT YANKEV¹ ZIPPER (1900–1983) JOTTED the following impressions of Montreal’s Jewish quarter into his diary: “I go out into the street, and Yiddish is being spoken. But what a mess they make of our Yiddish. Here they say:‘we’re busy,’meaning ‘they’re occupied.’ Business and more business; will I be able to adjust?” Despite his misgivings, Zipper’s sense of displacement in his adopted home was assuaged by his discovery of the city’s network of Yiddish cultural institutions:

    A cultural world does seem to exist here. The school is the centre for the radical nationalist intelligentsia. So...


    THE PERIODICAL PRESS FORMED A NEXUS OF YIDDISH CULTURAL activity in Montreal. Newspapers and other periodicals were central to the development of a vernacular print culture and broad reading public in the modern Jewish world.¹ As in Yiddish centres worldwide, local periodicals promoted and disseminated information about cultural events, published Yiddish books, and, above all, aff orded local Yiddish writers a stable tribune for their writing. Montreal’s leading Yiddish daily newspaper, theAdler,² provided a stable anchor for the city’s emerging Yiddish infrastructure. Alongside popular Yiddish theatre, it was among the few Yiddish institutions that were commercial enterprises; unlike Yiddish...


    MONTREAL’S YIDDISH COMMUNITY WAS ACTIVE, BOTH formally and informally, in the promotion of Yiddish literacy and the production and consumption of Yiddish literature in all its forms, from political tracts to belles lettres. The Jewish immigrant population transplanted and adapted Eastern European literacy patterns to Canada. Literacy movements that had emerged among nineteenthcentury modernizers in Tsarist Russia deemed reading central to the education and corresponding transformation of the public, and its Jews actively sought out opportunities for self-education.¹ This educational activity initially took place largely in the Yiddish vernacular, where literacy was high, estimated at 87 per cent for Soviet...


    IN SHARP CONTRAST TO ITS MINOR STATUS WITH IN A TRANSNATIONAL Yiddish milieu in the realms of the press, literature, or theatre, Canada emerged as a major world centre of Yiddish education. Montreal housed some of North America’s first and most enduring secular Jewish schools for children that placed Yiddish at the core of the curriculum, both as the language of instruction and as an object of study, and fostered a long-term commitment to Yiddish in the Jewish community. These secular Jewish schools (Yidishe veltlekhe shuln) were known asshulnorshules(shulorshulein the singular), which embodies...


    THEATRE MARKS THE ONLY AREA OF YIDDISH CULTURAL activity that came into its own in Montreal after 1945. A tradition of modern, secular Yiddish theatre emerged in Europe and the United States in the second half of the nineteenth century and expanded rapidly in centres worldwide during the fi rst half of the twentieth. As with the popular press and literature, the creation of an indigenous Yiddish tradition of Montreal theatre lagged behind larger Yiddish centres, notably nearby New York City, and was heavily infl uenced by them. However, unlike these areas, the development of Yiddish theatre was also linked...

  12. SIX TRANSITIONS: 1945 AND BEYOND (pp. 190-208)

    THIS STUDY HAS EXAMINED A MINOR YIDDISH CENTRE DURING the brief period in history when a transnational modern Yiddish culture flourished. It has explored the infrastructure created to facilitate, promote, and perpetuate Yiddish culture in Montreal during its formative period, 1905–45. Each chapter has discussed the different ways in which a cadre of dedicated ideologues, artists, and activists worked in tandem to create Yiddish-centred organizations and institutions: a Yiddish press; a public library and a cultural milieu to support Yiddish literature; a secular Jewish school system; and community theatre. For Jewish immigrants, who were offi cially and unoffi cially...

  13. NOTES (pp. 209-236)
  14. BIBLIOGRAPHY (pp. 237-276)
  15. INDEX (pp. 277-293)