Celebrating Jewish Pride from the Collection of the OJA

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June 1, 2020

pride toronto
Pride Parade, (Toronto, ON), 2017. Rafi Yablonsky collection, Ontario Jewish Archives, accession 2019-6-7.

The Ontario Jewish Archives, Blankenstein Family Heritage Centre is the largest repository of Jewish life in Canada. For Pride Month, the OJA has compiled a list of LGBTQ+ stories from Ontario’s Jewish community.

Podcast: Jewish Institutional LGBTQ Beginnings in Toronto
Click to listen on Sound Cloud.
Click here for a transcript of the audio.

Congregation B’nai Kehillah (“Children of the Community”) was the successor group to Toronto’s first gay Jewish group, Ha’ Mishpachah (“The Family”). The group met for approximately two years in the late 1980s, holding Friday night services downtown at Holy Trinity Church. The group also held High Holiday services one year. In addition to holding religious services, the congregation printed newsletters in 1978 and 1979. And, in conjunction with the World Congress of Gay and Lesbian Jewish Organizations, it hosted a Shabbaton in Toronto with visiting members of gay Jewish groups from the United States.

Congregation B’nai Kehillah of Toronto collection, Apr. 1978. Ontario Jewish Archives, Blankenstein Family Heritage Centre, accession 2019-10-3.

Video: Oral history interview with Harvey Brownstone and Howard Levine

Harvey Brownstone discusses his discovery of Chutzpah, an early advocacy group for gay Jews in Toronto. Brownstone was the first openly gay judge appointed in Canada. Howard Levine worked as an area and general planner with the City of Toronto’s Planning and Development Department and served as Councillor for Ward 14.

Additional OJA Pride Stories from the Collection:

  • Reclaiming Our Pride Video , OJA, 2010-5-17
  • Pride Parade Photos, 2017. OJA, 2019-6-7
  • MNJCC, LGBTQ+ at the J Photos, 2019 Pride Month. OJA, 2019-6-6
  • Kulanu Toronto (2009-2015). OJA, 2018-5-8

Pride Parade, (Toronto, ON), 2013. Kulanu Toronto collection. Ontario Jewish Archives, accession 2018-5-8

The OJA’s collections span all segments of Ontario’s Jewish community, including families, businesses, cultural organizations, and synagogues. These records date from the community’s earliest days in the province in the 1850s to the present. Search the full collection at ontariojewisharchives.org.

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