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.
File consists of oral history interviews primarily documenting J.B. Salsberg's labour Zionist and political career. Included is one transcript of P. Pomerant's interview with J.B., one audio cassette recording of an interview conducted with J.B., and transcripts of interviews conducted by Sharyn Salsberg Ezrin with the following individuals: Al Hershkovitz, Norman Penner, Harry Simon, Robert Nixon, Sam Lipshitz, and Morris Biderman. Also included is correspondence regarding Ezrin's interviews.
2 medals : silver, ribbons attached ; 8 cm in length or smaller
1 pin : crown shape ; 1 cm
Scope and Content
File consists of certificates, medals and pins documenting J.B. Salsberg and Dora Wilensky's involvement in celebrations of His Royal Highness King George VI and Her Royal Highness Queen Elizabeth II's coronations. Also included is an invitation and programme book for a royal luncheon in Toronto.
Series consists of graphic and textual records related to J.B. Salsberg's personal life. Of note are records documenting the activities and passing of Salsberg's wife, Dora Wilensky. Included are photographs, portraits, stories, certificates, event invitations and programmes, correspondence, a graduation book, a newsletter, sympathy cards, a drawing, a sketch, and notes.
Physical description note: includes 19 photographs, 1 sketch, and 1 drawing.
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 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 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.
Around 1925, 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.
Scope and Content
File consists of records documenting the life and activities of J.B. Salsberg's wife, Dora Wilensky. Included is a graduation portrait of Dora, a photograph of Dora likely standing outside of McMaster Hall on graduation day, a photograph of Dora standing near a lake (ca. 1940), professional portraits of Dora, an I.L. Peretz School graduation book, correspondence regarding the death of Dora's mother, and a newsletter of the Canadian Welfare Council of Ontario.
File consists of letters of condolence and donation certificates that were sent to J.B. Salsberg after the passing of his wife, Dora Wilensky. Included are donation certificates of the Jewish National Fund, the ORT Scholarship Fund, and the B'nai Brith Women of America.
2 photographs : b&w and col. ; 14 x 20 cm or smaller
Scope and Content
File consists of photographs of J. B. Salsberg at family events. Included is one photograph of Salsberg with his wife, Dora Wilensky, and relatives at an unknown event, and one photograph of Salsberg delivering a speech at Karen Faith (née Salsberg)'s wedding. Karn, the daughter of Molly and Sam Salsberg, was one of four children along with Barry, Stan, and Gerry.
Related groups of records external to the unit being described: Other records relating to Barry, Stan, Gerry, and Karen Salsberg can be found in Accession 2017-11-17.
File consists of stories and artwork created by J.B. Salsberg's relatives. Included are short stories written by Salsberg's nephew Ricky Salsberg and neice Susan Goldberg, and one drawing given to him by his cousin Barbara Salsberg.
File consists of invitations and programme booklets for a Mothers' Day luncheon in honour of J.B. Salsberg's mother, Sarah-Gittel, who was president of the Halboshath Arumim Society. The event was sponsored by the Halboshath Arumim Society, the Talmud Torah Sisterhood, the Torath Emeth Sisterhood, and the Eitz Chaim Mothers' Association.
File consists of records documenting a tribute dinner in honour of J.B. Salsberg held on 13 Nov. 1991. The dinner was organized by Canadian Kupat Holim in recognition of his contributions to the community. Proceeds went to the establishment of the J.B. Salsberg Outreach Clinic for children with learning and development difficulties to be built in Kfar Saba, as part of the Meir Hospital. Included is correspondence, notes by Ben Kayfetz for the event and a photograph of Salsberg at the event with his siblings. Identified in the photograph are (left to right): Nathan Salsberg, Betty Troster (nee Salsberg), J.B. Salsberg, Thelma Pritzker (nee Salsberg), and Robert Salsberg.
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.
The Mackenzie Papineau Battalion (Mac-Paps) was a battalion of Canadians, largely working-class and politically left-wing, who fought in the Spanish civil war in the 1930s. Many members of the battalion were also members of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF).
File consists of J. B. Salsberg's published and unpublished political writings. Topics covered include: Metropolitan Toronto taxes, the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU), the Soviet Union, Soviet antisemitism, Palestine, the provincial Department of Lands and Forests and provincial fair practices legislation.
File consists of one campaign pin documenting J.B. Salsberg's failed bid in the Spadina Riding during the 1935 federal election. Writing on the pin states, "Make the Rich Pay / Elect J.B. Salsberg / Spadina Riding".
File consists of campaign material likely documenting J. B. Salsberg's bids for member of provincial parliament. Included is one campaign pin and one set of speaker's notes that were created by the Communist Party of Canada.
File consists of photographs of J.B. Salsberg during unidentified election campaigns. Included is a photograph of Salsberg delivering a speech and a photograph of Salsberg sitting with his wife, Dora Wilensky, and an unidentified man at a campaign stop (one matte duplicate of this photo is included, identifying the location as Camp Naivelt and the year as 1943).
Copyright is in the public domain and permission for use is not required. Please credit the Ontario Jewish Archives as the source of the photograph.
File consists of campaign material documenting J.B. Salsberg's bid in the St. Andrew riding during the 1943 provincial election. Included are campaign posters and copy of the Progressive Conservative Party's platform.
Copyright is held by the Ontario Jewish Archives. Please contact the Archives to obtain permission prior to use.
File consists of records documenting J.B. Salsberg's involvement in the UJPO. Included is correspondence, reports, statements, and a national convention agenda. Also included is a 25th anniversary booklet of Toronto's Morris Winchevsky Schools, which contains a message from Salsberg.
Copyright may not be held by the Ontario Jewish Archives. It is the responsibility of the researcher to obtain permission prior to use.
File consists of records documenting J.B. Salsberg's efforts to pass legislation on Fair Employment Practices. Included are news clippings, correspondence, copies of a bill and speech presented by Salsberg in the Legislature, a transcript of remarks by G. T. Gordon in the Legislature, a report of the Joint Labour Committee for Human Rights, blank employment applications, and a case file regarding the discriminatory hiring practices at a Dominion Bank branch in Toronto.