Accession consists of records related to the history of the Dora Wilensky Salsberg Memorial Fund at Jewish Family and Child. Included are: a Canadian Jewish News feature ("Legacy of Life") on Dora Wilensky; a Dora Wilensky Memorial Fund pamphlet; correspondence from J.B. Salsberg regarding Sharyn’s ongoing role with the Jewish Communal Service Graduate Studies Scholarship Program; correspondence regarding the Fund between Sharyn Salsberg Ezrin and Richard Cummings, Ron Levin, Gordon Wolfe, and Sam Helfenbaum; fund and endowment statements regarding the Dora Wilensky Memorial Fund; and correspondence between Sharyn and the Toronto Jewish Congress Endowment Fund.
Also includes: records documenting the J.B. Salsberg Tribute Dinner held at Beth Sholom Synagogue on November 13, 1991; Canadian Jewish News and Toronto Life profiles of J.B. Salsberg; an interview of J.B. Salsberg by Sandy Naiman; J.B. Salsberg's eulogy by Irving Abella; and one DVD of a J.B. Salsberg video tribute.
Also includes three photographs of J.B. Salsberg and Dora Wilensky, and four issues of various JF&CS publications.
Dora Wilensky Salsberg was one of Toronto’s earliest professionally trained Jewish social workers and a leader in the Canadian social work field. She was born in Russia on July 28, 1902 to Hyman and Mary Wilensky. She had three younger sisters: Bertha (b. 1903) Jenny (b. 1905), and Fagel (b.1910). In 1907, the family immigrated to Toronto where Hyman worked at a cap factory.
Dora had the highest marks in the province of Ontario upon graduating from high school and graduated as a gold medalist in modern history from McMaster University in Toronto. She initially pursued a career in teaching, but had difficulty securing a job due to discrimination. When her only job offer from Oshawa was given on the condition that she change her last name, Dora decided to become a social worker.
After studying at the New York School for Social Work and working briefly in Chicago, Dora returned to Toronto and took up the position as Executive Director of the Jewish Family Welfare Bureau in 1931. When the JF&CS was formed in 1943 she served as its first Executive Director. Under her leadership, JF&CS gained a reputation as being one of the most advanced and progressive agencies in Toronto. She was among the first to hire a psychiatric social worker and to introduce play therapy as part of treatment; she remained on top of advances being made in the field in other countries and encouraged her staff to regularly engage in professional development activities.
Dora attempted to enter the United States for professional development in the fall of 1948. She was refused entry by the commissioner of immigration and naturalization. Her aim was to attend a postgraduate course in social work at the University of Pennsylvania. In spite of numerous official letters of endorsement, her application for admission was denied.
Dora was also actively involved in various professional organizations. She was a member of the National Board of the Canadian Association of Social Workers, served on the Board of Governors and various committees of the Canadian Welfare Council, and was active on the Social Planning Council (formerly the Welfare Council of Toronto). In addition, she was instrumental in the establishment of the University of Toronto’s post-graduate course in social work. For her service to the field, she earned both the King George V and Coronation medals.
In 1927, Dora married J. B. Salsberg. Although she legally adopted his name, she always used her maiden name professionally. They did not have any children. On March 20, 1959, Dora passed away from cancer at the age of 56.
104 photographs : b&w and col. (3 slides) ; 30 x 23 cm and smaller
Scope and Content
Accession consists of handwritten Yiddish writings from the 1930s and 1940s; newspaper clippings about Salsberg's move away from the Communist Party; tributes to Dora Wilensky including newsletters and journals from the Canadian Association of Social Workers, the Ontario Welfare Council, and the Neighborhood Workers Association; correspondence and a newspaper clipping about the Dora Wilensky Fund; drafts and newspaper clippings of tributes to poet Melech Ravitch; and miscellanea including a banner from the Labour Council of Kiryat Yam commemorating a medical centre named in honour of Salsberg, a floor plan of the 21st legislature of Ontario parliament, and a publication of the story The Young Wanderer by Eliezer Smoli and Moshe Smilansky 1945. In addition, the accession includes letters by J. B. Salsberg to his wife Dora Wilensky and various letters to Salsberg from individuals such as politician Leslie M. Frost, actor Lou Jacobi, and president of the Workmen's Circle Israel Breslow. Of particular note is a letter from the Consulate General of the United States, including a copy of an order from the Department of Justice confirming his defection from the Communist Party and granting entrance into the United States according to the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952. Also included are photographs of an art exhibition by Israel Kaplansky 1983; family photographs and portraits; photographs of J. B. Salsberg at various events; photographs of Dora Wilensky's family; and three 35 mm slides of J. B. Salsberg.
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 the 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.