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Belle James
Material Format
sound recording
Interview Date
21 April 1975
Oral Histories
Belle James
AC 016
Interview Date
21 April 1975
Stephen Speisman
Total Running Time
Side One: 46 minutes
Side Two: 5 minutes
Copied August 2003
Use Restrictions
Copyright is held by the Ontario Jewish Archives. Please contact the Archives to obtain permission prior to use.
Belle James (nee Levy) was born in Toronto in 1908. Her father, Rabbi Meyer Levy became chief rabbi of Toronto in 1905/6.
Material Format
sound recording
Name Access
James, Belle
Levy, Meyer
Weiss, Lottie
Geographic Access
Toronto, Ont.
Original Format
Audio cassette
Copy Format
Audio cassette
AC 16: Side A.
0.00 - 1.57: Sound quality is poor.
2.04: Belle refers to an autobiography written by her father, Rabbi Meyer H. Levy. Her father was ordained at age 22 in 1891 in Vilna. He immigrated to New York in 1892. He worked in Syracuse as a rabbi for 5 years. He left the rabbinate and entered business but business failed.
5.58: Rabbi Levy returned to the rabbinate to serve as Chief Rabbi in Toronto in 1905/6.
6.18: While in business, Rabbi Levy worked in Rochester and Detroit and knew Henry Ford.
7.18: Belle’s parents were married in Europe.
7.54: Belle was born in 1908.
7.59: Rabbi Levy came originally to the Chestnut Street Synagogue and then went to the Russishe Shul.
8.50: Belle recalls where the family lived. She was born on University Ave., next door to Mary Pickford. They then moved to 2 homes on Alice Street, 2 homes on Baldwin, 288 Bathurst St. and 2 homes on Palmerston St.
11.35: Belle’s sister is Lottie Weiss.
11.52: Belle recounts the synagogues with which Rabbi Levy was affiliated. Russishe Shul, Adath Israel, Rumainishe Shul, Hebrew Men of England, Berkley Street Shul, Palmerston Avenue Shul.
12.44: Belle explains how Rabbi Levy was remunerated for his services.
13.18: Belle describes her mother’s charitable acts. She was a founder of the Home for the Aged.
14.16: Belle recalls travelling with her father to open synagogues in Niagara Falls, St. Catharine and Welland, ON.
14.51: Belle recalls Rabbi Levy’s visits to Kingston to visit Jewish in-mates and to the jail farm north on Yonge Street.
16.04: Belle recalls the good relationships between her father and other rabbis in the city. e.g. Rabbi Jacob, Rabbi Brickner and Rabbi Isserman.
18.00: Belle describes the controversies concerning kashrut.
20.00: Rabbi Levy gave hashgacha (supervisory overseer) for some products. Belle recalls his relationship with George Weston.
21.07: Rabbi Levy had some political influence.
22.58: Belle describes her father as charismatic and more liberal in behaviour. Other orthodox rabbis tended to be less approachable.
25.58: Belle describes her Jewish education.
29.40: Belle’s brothers studied at the Simcoe Street Talmud Torah with Nathanson.
30.42: Belle recalls that her father was close with other Orthodox rabbis.
31.40: Rabbi Levy remained active in the rabbinate until 1951, when Belle’s mother passed away.
32.43: Belle and Stephen Speisman discuss the names and locations of some of the downtown synagogues.
33.37: Belle relates a story involving Rabbi Levy and a mashgiach, Reverend Margolis.
34.43: Belle recalls the shachtim of the time in Toronto. Mittel Farber, Yankel David Farber, Garfinkel.
35.18: Belle recalls accompanying her father to the cemetery to an event that seemed like a party.
36.18: Belle explains why Rabbi Levy is buried in the Lubavicher section of Mount Sinai Cemetery.
37.08: Belle notes that her parents did not eat meat for many years because they did not recognize the hashgacha. Belle recounts a story involving her mother tempted to eat meat immediately before she died but in the end not succumbing.
41.42: Rabbi Levy was responsible for the Yiddish Hebrew Journal. Helped to bring Hirsch.
42.18: Belle recalls her father dancing on the table in response to the signing of the Balfour Declaration
43.05: Rabbi Levy requested in his will to be buried in Israel.
43.40: Belle reminisces about mishalachim from Rishon LeTzion in Palestine staying with her family.
AC 16: Side B
0.20: Rabbi Levy was instrumental in starting a matzah factory in Toronto on Dundas Street.
1.50: Rabbi Levy secured a permit for Jews to buy Passover wine during the Prohibition. Additionally, he got a wine permit for Rabbi Gordon who later sold the permit to Parkdale wines.
3.49: Rabbi Levy had connections with Hirsch-Manischewitz.
Oral Histories

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