Benjamin Dunkelman (1913-1997) was a successful businessman and President of Tip Top Tailors. He had a distinguished military career in both the Canadian army during the Second World War and in the Haganah during the 1948-1949 Arab-Israeli War.
Dunkelman was born in Toronto to David Dunkelman (1883-1978) and Rose (nee Miller) (1889-1949). He had three sisters and two brothers: Joseph, a movie executive; Ernest, a manufacturer; Zelda; Veronica; and Theodora. His father, David, was a successful entrepreneur who established Tip Top Tailors in 1910. Both David and his wife Rose were fervent Zionist community activists.
Benjamin Dunkelman attended Upper Canada College and, at the age of 18, visited Palestine (now Israel). While in Palestine, he worked for a year on a kibbutz, mostly as a guard protecting it from nearby Palestinians. During the Second World War, Dunkelman served as a Major in the Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada and in that role gained respect for his knowledge of mortars. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) in 1945 for his role in the final Allied assault on Germany. Two years later, Benjamin Dunkelman returned to Palestine to join the Haganah in the 1948-1949 Arab-Israeli War. As a commander, Dunkelman captured Nazareth, and brought northern Galilee under Jewish control. Near the end of the war, Dunkelman met and married Yael Lifshitz, a corporal in the Israeli Army. Dunkelman was elected National Commander of the Jewish War Veterans of Canada in 1977.
In addition to his work as a soldier, Dunkelman was a successful businessman. He served as president of Tip Top Tailors after his father stepped down, and was also director of Colonial Finance Corporation, president of Cloverdale Shopping Centre and president of Renforth Developments. Besides operating the Dunkelman Gallery for modern art, Dunkelman and his wife Yael ran the Constellation Hotel and Dunkelman’s Restaurant.
Dunkelman later wrote of his experiences in both wars in his autobiography Dual allegiance (MacMillan, 1976). As well as the DSO, Dunkelman was awarded the Fighter’s Decoration of the State of Israel (1970), and an Israel Bonds Award Dinner in Tribute to Ben Dunkelman (1977). He was a guest of honour both at a reception hosted by the Canadian Society for the Weizmann Institute of Science and the veterans of the Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada (1976) and at a 7th Brigade Reunion in Israel (1991).
Scope and Content
Fonds consists of records documenting Benjamin Dunkelman's personal, business, and military activities. Included is personal and business correspondence and other records, maps, photographs, news clippings, and scrapbooks assembled by Dunkelman. The bulk of the records relate both to Dunkelman’s autobiography Dual allegiance and to his military career in the Second World War and in the Arab-Israeli War of 1948-1949. Other records relate to his business work with Tip Top Tailors, the Constellation Hotel, Dunkelman’s Restaurant and the Dunkelman Gallery, as well as to his Zionist actvities, his writing and public speeches, and his personal life.
The fonds is organized into the following series: Personal records and correspondence, Zionist materials, Businesses, Second World War, Arab-Israeli War, Dual allegiance, and Speeches.
Physical description note: Includes 218 photographs, 60 maps, 7 postcards, 5 architectural drawings, and 3 albums.
Associated material note: see the Ben Dunkelman fonds at Library and Archives Canada.
Dunkelman, like his parents, was an active Zionist throughout his life. As a young man from 1930-1931, he lived in Israel and later fought in the Arab-Israeli War. Following the war in 1948-49, he wrote articles, kept correspondence, encouraged investment, and gave speeches in support of Israel. He was also on the executive committee of Israel Speaks, an American publication, and was a member of the Zionist Organization of Canada (ZOC). In 1976, Dunkelman agreed to be the deputy president of the ZOC’s Charitable Fund.
Scope and Content
The series consists of records documenting Ben Dunkelman's Zionist activities. Included are legal papers, photographs, correspondence, articles and newspaper clippings.
Herb Mowat was a Canadian Zionist who maintained a correspondence with Dunkelman during the 1950s and 1960s. Dunkelman acquired some of his records.