Our monthly meeting for September was held on Sunday, September 25th. Our guest speaker was Gerry Miller who talked about the Jewish families of Brantford and Brant County. The biggest influx of Jewish families into Brant occurred in the early 1900s - between 1900 and late 1920. Most of the immigrants were Russian or Polish. These families left their home countries to get away from persecution, a total intolerance to their religion and culture and to get away from severe prejudice. They were very religious. These early immigrants mostly spoke Yiddish and kept within their very tight community. Many of the men set up as merchants or peddlers.
Mr Miller spoke of the merchants along the south side of Colborne Street. Many of the names were familiar to members of the audience: Henkle, White, Beckerman, Nyman, Tulchinsky, Yampolsky, Kanter, Finkelstein, Silverstein.
These immigrant families settled near their place of worship on Albion, Pearl, Palace and Waterloo streets. Mr Miller spoke of the first synagogue, which was on the corner of Pearl and Palace. Until it was recently refurbished and made into student housing, the red brick building still had the original stain glass windows with the Star of David. The second synagogue was on Waterloo and was named Beth David in honour of David Axler. Louis Henckle was one of the founders of the new synagogue.
Second generation Jewish families were better educated and tended to be professionals like doctors (Ben Henry, Mo Zaltz) or lawyers. Later generations tended to move to larger centres like Toronto or even to the States, and slowly the Jewish population in Brantford dwindled. The synagogue closed in 2001.
Mr Miller's talk was a wonderful walk down memory lane for many of our audience members. Our own Al Adams recalled having a "scrap route" when he was 10. He said it started on Water Street and then onto Colborne. Al dealt with many of the scrap dealers who were the early Jewish families in Brantford. The talk provided some wonder social history about our City.