A Slum Off Yonge?

The Jewish Ward

Neighbourhoods can also be considered gateways.  During the 1860/70s, relatively small waves of Jewish immigrants arrived to Toronto as a result of the harsh conditions experienced in their homeland in the Russian Empire and settled in the area surrounding the West side of Yonge street between Queen and College.  They sought refuge from a political system which prevented them from being a part of civil society (this included restrictions on running for office, going to University, and having gainful employment).



A Birds Eye View of The Ward

A Birds Eye View of The Ward

A similar, significantly larger wave of immigration of Jewish people from Eastern Europe occurred prior to World War I, as conditions became more dire for Jewish life in Russia.  When they arrived, they found it relatively difficult to find employment that allowed them to observe the Sabbath.

T. Eaton Factory, Circa 1900

T. Eaton Factory, Circa 1900

Many found work for the T. Eaton Company at the corner of Yonge and Queen as garment-makers.  They established communities in St. John’s Ward (later referred to as “The Jewish Ward” or “The Ward”) close to their employment to save money and be close to other sources of employment during the off-season.  Because a large part of Jewish culture relies on cohesiveness and proximity to the Synagogues, the community had a relatively high amount of self-containment.

A Jewish Butcher Shop in the Ward

Despite this, more established immigrants feared that a self-contained culture would increase antisemitism in Toronto– a phenomena they escaped from in their homeland.    As a result, the Jewish community required all Jews in Toronto to join the established Holy Blossom organization and participate in activities that would accelerate their acculturation process.  For many Jews, this included participation in Masonic lodges and the B’nai B’rith which encouraged social activity and community service.

Choose Next: Greektown on Yonge? or Conclusion: Scrutinizing Gateways

About Ryerson On Yonge

A course in the Faculty of Arts, we have been studying the history of the neighbourhood around Yonge and Dundas, and Ryerson campus, in order to consider the social context and cultural importance of the new Student Learning Centre, which will occupy 341 through 355 Yonge Street. This blog is not an official Ryerson publication, and is a student-composed analysis of campus and its neighbourhood.
This entry was posted in The Heart of Downtown: Yonge Street as Gateway. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to A Slum Off Yonge?

  1. Pingback: The Heart of Downtown | Ryerson On Yonge

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