Discover Kensington Market’s historical Jewish businesses on the website Storefront Stories, and online exhibition produced by the Ontario Jewish Archives. Each landmark will tell you about the store that was once located at that very spot. Along the way, you’ll discover stories of family, food, entrepreneurship, and a commitment to community that lives on in Kensington today.
Kensington Market is known today for its bustling streets, eclectic character, diverse ethnic food shops and close-knit community. This unique neighbourhood can trace its roots back to the early twentieth century when it was better known as “the Jewish Market.” Storefront Stories tells the history of the Jewish businesses that once thrived in this part of our city.
The concentration of Jews in Kensington Market was partly due to the antisemitism that prevented Jews from moving into non-Jewish neighbourhoods, and partly due to personal choice. People wanted to live in an area where they knew others like themselves and where there were businesses that supported their way of life.
By 1920, Kensington Market was a bustling Jewish neighbourhood, serving all the needs of this largely immigrant community. Businesses ranged from food purveyors like kosher butchers, dairy stores, and bakeries to social gathering spaces such as restaurants, ice cream parlours, and billiard halls that functioned as social hubs for the residents.
The Ontario Jewish Archives, Blankenstein Family Heritage Centre (OJA) is the largest repository of Jewish life in Canada. Founded in 1973, the OJA, a department of UJA Federation of Greater Toronto, acquires, preserves and makes accessible the records that chronicle our province’s Jewish history. The collection documents organizations, individuals, synagogues, schools, summer camps, leisure, athletes, and businesses. There are many different ways to explore the OJA’s collection and learn about the province’s Jewish past. You can make an appointment to look at photographs, films, Yiddish newspapers, hand-written correspondence, and even an original Superman drawing! Through exhibitions, programs, research assistance, and walking tours, the OJA tells the stories of Ontario’s Jewish community.