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.
1.2 m of textual records (2 v.) and other material
Joseph Baruch Salsberg (1902-1998) was a labour leader, political activist, politician, insurance salesman, and journalist. He was also active in various Jewish organizations, including the Canadian Jewish Congress (CJC), the Jewish Federation of Greater Toronto, and the New Fraternal Jewish Association. He is well-remembered by contemporaries, such as Sam Lipshitz, as a “champion of the people," committed to social justice, the plight of the working class, and the preservation of Jewish culture.
J. B. was born in Lagov, Poland on November 5, 1902 to Abraham and Sarah-Gittel Salsberg. Abraham immigrated to Toronto in 1910 and J. B. followed with his mother and two younger sisters in 1913. They settled at 73 Cecil Street. Abraham and Sarah-Gittel had additional children in Canada: Nathan (b. 1915), Reuven (Bob or Robert, b. 1917), Betty, and Thelma. Abraham worked as a peddler in Toronto.
J. B. briefly attended Landsdowne Public School, but dropped out around 1915, against his parents' wishes, and took a job in a leather goods factory to contribute to his family’s income. J. B.’s parents had hoped he would become a rabbi and, despite his full-time employment, J.B. continued to study Torah with scholars at the synagogue on Centre Avenue.
In 1917, J. B. decided to pursue the ideas of Zionism and socialism and, abandoning his plans to become a rabbi, became involved in establishing the Young Poale Zion organization, a Labour Zionist youth group dedicated to secular aims. Around 1922, J. B. was made secretary general of the Young Poale Zion of America in New York, where he worked for one year. Shortly after returning to Toronto, he became the organizer for the Hat, Cap, and Millinery Workers Union of North America in Chicago. J. B. married Dora Wilensky in 1927.
In 1926, J. B. joined the Communist Party of Canada (CPC). He was an active member of the CPC for 30 years, serving as the head of its Trade Union Department for two decades. In 1929 he was suspended from the party for one year as a dissenter. In 1932, he became the Southern Ontario District union organizer for the Communist Workers' Unity League.
It was as a member of the CPC that J. B. entered electoral politics. After a series of failed bids in municipal and provincial elections between 1935 and 1937, J. B. was elected alderman of Ward 4 in Toronto in 1938. He only held the position for one year. In 1943, J. B. was elected to the Ontario Legislature as the representative for the St. Andrew riding. J. B. sat as member of provincial parliament for the Labor-Progressive Party (the provincial wing of the CPC) for 12 years. For several years, he was the only elected Communist in North America. As MPP, he helped create legislation banning discrimination in public places and introduced a bill that would ensure fair employment practices in the province. He lost his seat to Allan Grossman in 1955 and unsuccessfully ran in the federal election later that year. Remembered by journalist Gordon Sinclair as “one of the best debaters in the house," J. B. was well-respected by members of all political parties. Out of admiration for J. B., Conservative Premier Leslie Frost named Salsberg Township in Northern Ontario in his honour.
Throughout the 1930s and 1940s, J. B. had grown increasingly concerned about reports of Soviet antisemitism and privately urged party leaders to pursue the issue. In 1956, when Soviet First Secretary Nikita Khrushchev exposed the transgressions of Stalin’s regime, J. B. went to Moscow as part of a CPC delegation. After meeting with Khrushchev himself, it became clear to J. B. that antisemitism was indeed a problem in the USSR and that his efforts to probe the situation were being stonewalled.
J. B. publicly expressed his concerns about Soviet antisemitism in a series of articles published in the Vochenblatt from October 25, 1956 to December 13, 1956. He finally left the Communist Party in 1957. However, he remained a member of the United Jewish People’s Order (UJPO), a Communist Jewish fraternal organization.
Entering the business world, J. B. established the Model Insurance Agency Limited in 1957, where he served as president for several years. In 1959 J. B.’s wife, Dora, passed away. Around this time J. B. also resigned from the UJPO, along with other members who felt the organization needed to be more critical of the Soviet Union. They founded an alternative, non-Communist, left-wing Jewish organization, the New Fraternal Jewish Association, where J. B. served as president for several terms and edited its publication, Fraternally Yours.
In his later life, J. B. was active as an executive member of organizations, such as the CJC and the Baycrest Centre for Geriatric Care. He was the first chairman for the CJC Ontario Region’s Soviet Jewry Committee and the Committee for Yiddish. He also began writing an award-winning weekly column for the Canadian Jewish News. J. B. was awarded the CJC’s Samuel Bronfman Medal for distinguished service, and the Jewish Federation of Greater Toronto’s Ben Sadowski Award of Merit. A strong supporter of Israel, he was involved in the creation of two Israeli medical centres that are named in his honour. He also helped establish the J. B. and Dora Salsberg Fund and the J. B. Salsberg Fund for Yiddish at the Jewish Foundation of Greater Toronto. J. B. passed away in 1998.
The records were donated to the OJA in a series of accessions. Material from accessions 1991-5-4 and 1992-9-4 were donated by J. B. Salsberg. The remaining material was donated by his estate after his death.
Scope and Content
Fonds consists of records documenting J. B. Salsberg's personal, professional and Jewish communal activities. The bulk of the records are textual and relate to his membership in the CPC (later LPP), election campaigns, and Jewish communal work. Included is correspondence; photographs; reports; political writings; certificates; agendas; pamphlets; brochures; booklets; flyers; campaign literature; campaign notes; posters; newspaper clippings; press releases; articles; transcripts; speeches; telegrams; political platforms, briefs and submissions; statements; constitutions; resolutions; newspapers; meeting minutes; bulletins; periodicals; notebooks; notes; course guides and outlines; medallions; pins; plaques; donation receipts; event invitations and programmes; lists; blank employment applications; a school test; a study; a coin; a drawing; a sketch; an audio cassette; and a delegate card.
Records are arranged into the following five series: 1. Personal ; 2. Labour Zionism and union activities ; 3. Political career ; and, 4. Jewish community involvement. There are also four files and one item attached directly to the fonds.
Physical Description Note: Includes 53 photographs, 7 medallions, 11 pins, 4 posters, 2 plaques, 1 sketch, 1 drawing, 1 audio cassette, 1 desk name plate, and 1 coin.
Physical Extent Note: Fonds was reduced from approximately 7 metres to 1.5 metres. The culled material consisted primarily of published books, periodicals and pamphlets that had been collected by J. B. Salsberg. For further details about what was culled please view the accession records.
Associated Material Note: Queen's University Archive also has a J. B. Salsberg fonds, 14 hours of interview tapes with J. B. Salsberg and records of the UJPO are held by the Multicultural Historical Society of Ontario (MHSO).
Salsberg, J. B. (Joseph B.), ca. 1903-1998
For additional records in OJA's holdings, see: Ben Kayfetz fonds 62, series 8, file 2 ; accession 2008-11-2 ; accession 2004-1-4 ; and oral histories AC 71 and AC 226.
Series consists of records documenting J. B. Salsberg's political career. The bulk of the records are textual and cover such topics as: Salsberg's membership, suspension and resignation from the Communist Party of Canada (later the Labor Progressive Party); Salsberg's election campaigns; and, Salsberg's activities as MPP for the riding of St. Andrew. Included is: correspondence; photographs; reports; political writings; agendas; pamphlets; booklets; flyers; campaign literature; campaign notes; campaign posters; newspaper clippings; press releases; speeches; telegrams; political platforms, briefs and submissions; statements; constitutions; resolutions; newspapers; bulletins; periodicals; notebooks; notes; course guides and outlines; donation receipts; event invitations; blank employment applications; and a delegate card.
Physical description note: includes 7 b&w photographs, 3 pins, and 3 posters.