319 photographs : b&w and col. ; 21 x 26 cm or smaller
The Jewish Immigrant Aid Society of Canada was established in 1920 by the newly-formed Canadian Jewish Congress (CJC). A Toronto branch was established in a storefront office on Spadina Avenue, but the organization was rudimentary. As the enthusiasm that spurred the founding of CJC died out, JIAS soon faltered. Then in 1922 it was taken over and reactivated under the cooperative support of the Federation of Jewish Philanthropies of Toronto, B'nai B'rith, and the Council of Jewish Women. JIAS was legally incorporated on 30 August 1922. It also operated under the moniker of the Emergency Jewish Immigrant Aid Committee, and it changed its name to Jewish Immigrant Aid Services in 1954.
Charged with organizing emergency relief for European Jews in distress, JIAS became the central agency of the Jewish community to facilitate the lawful entry of Jewish immigrants into Canada, and provided them with welfare services, transportation, and assistance with accommodation and employment after their arrival. In addition, JIAS offered consultation services for sponsors of potential immigrants, ran a competitive foreign remittance service, and campaigned to counter the activities of unscrupulous steamboat agents, lawyers, and influence peddlers, or “shtadlanim,” who often victimized immigrants and sponsors alike.
In conjunction with similar efforts by the CJC, JIAS was also actively engaged in negotiating for the increased admission of Jewish immigrants to Canada. In 1923, the federal government instituted a permit-based immigration program and JIAS competed with travel agents and solicitors in the private sector for these limited quota permits. After combating the anti-immigration policies of the Depression era, the outbreak of war in 1939 virtually closed the already limited avenues for immigration.
JIAS Canada was organized into a national office in Montreal and regional offices in Winnipeg (Western Region), Toronto (Central Region), and Halifax (Eastern Region). The Central Region covered Ontario, and established a full-time head office in 1935 at 399 Spadina Avenue in Toronto (hence the Central Region was sometimes called simply the Toronto Office). The office later moved to 265 Spadina Avenue. JIAS Toronto’s board of directors met on a regular basis at different locations in Toronto, including 206 Beverley Street and in the Talmud Torah building at 9 Brunswick Avenue. The first JIAS Toronto board included notable Toronto residents such as Henry Dworkin, Mrs. Draiman, Mr. Kronick, Dr. Brodey and Mrs. Willinsky. The role of the board was to oversee the operations of the Central Region. It rendered decisions on issues relating to finances, procedures and policies, negotiations with the federal Immigration Branch, as well as individual cases that required their attention.
General meetings of the Central Region membership were held annually. The 1943 JIAS constitution states that regional annual meetings were to be held for “receiving and considering reports,” holding nominations and elections for the executive, and discussing JIAS’s program and policies.
In the post-war era, JIAS shifted its focus to renewed efforts on behalf of individual claimants and community support, while the focus for lobbying for a reversal of Canada's immigration policy fell increasingly under the jurisdiction of the CJC. A boom in immigration between 1947 and 1952 saw the arrival of large numbers of Jewish immigrants to all parts of Canada and the Toronto Office of JIAS renewed its efforts to meet the needs of this new influx. Major world events also sparked other waves of immigration from Hungary, Czechoslovakia, North Africa, and Russia, to which JIAS responded in turn. JIAS worked in conjunction with other immigrant aid societies such as HIAS, the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, in the United States, to facilitate immigration to the United States, and later to Israel, where many of the immigrants and refugees coming to Canada had family and ultimately settled.
Custody of these records was transferred to the Ontario Jewish Archives by JIAS in 1983, as preparations were under way for the move to a new facility in North York. Much of the material was in four-cubic-foot boxes and in file cabinets.
The accession was divided into three sections: files which were at the JIAS office and had been retained in their original order; files which had been retrieved from a flood in the basement of 152 Beverley St. and consequently had been thrown into dry boxes without regard to order; files discovered in the furnace rooms at 150 and 152 Beverley St., intact but covered in coal dust. The bulk of the records were stored off-site, with dirty files being isolated from the rest.
The dust-covered materials were cleaned at an off-site location, placed in temporary boxes and transferred to the Archives and restored, as far as was possible, to their original order.
Clips were removed and replaced as appropriate with archivally acceptable ones. All materials were transferred to acid-free folders and boxes.
Scope and Content
Fonds contains the records of the Toronto Office (Central region) of the Jewish Immigrant Aid Services of Canada. The fonds consists primarily of textual records: minutes, correspondence, financial records, reports, immigration files, naturalization case files, social service case files and the records of attempts to trace missing individuals. There are also photographs of special events, speakers and arriving immigrants.
The fonds represents an important resource for the study of Canadian Jewry, especially when taken in conjunction with the JIAS National Office records at the Canadian Jewish Congress National Archives in Montreal, and those of the Western Office at the Library and Archives of Canada. It documents the means by which a particular Canadian ethnic community has dealt with the problems of rescue, settlement and government relations. These records also offer insight into the relationship between the Toronto Office and the other branches of JIAS, and invite comparison with similar agencies in the United States, as well as those of other ethnic groups in Canada.
The material collected includes information about the countries of origin, transportation routes, settlement and employment patterns of Jewish immigrants to Canada in the twentieth century. The documents also touch upon important related issues such as advocacy, sponsorship, admission processes, health and social problems.
These records cover several waves of immigration following the Second World War: Holocaust survivors in the late 1940s, Sephardic (North African) and Hungarian Jews in the 1950s, Russian and Czechoslovakian Jews in the 1960s, and additional Russians in the 1970s.
The records also contain significant information for those researchers looking to conduct genealogical research into Jewish immigrants and their descendents.
The fonds has been arranged with one sous-fonds, which contains the records of the National JIAS office in Montreal. In total there are 17 series. The Toronto office (main fonds) series are: 1. Board of Directors and Executive Committee Minutes; 2. Annual meeting proceedings; 3. Reports; 4. Legal ; 5. Administration; 6. JIAS Committees; 7. External committees; 8. Financial ; 9. Arrivals; 10. Immigration case files; 11. Social service assistance case files; 12. Photographs; 13. Miscellaneous. The National Office sous-fonds is divided into the following series: 1. National executive meeting minutes; 2. National annual meeting proceedings; 3. National annual reports; 4. Publications; and Photographs.
Physical description note: Physical extent is based on fully processed records. Additional accessions are not included (see Related Material note below).
Associated material note: The CJC National Archive, in Montreal, has additional JIAS records from 1920-1989 including 275 m of textual records and graphic materials (3250 photos): collection number I0037; alpha-numeric designation MA 4. The National Archives of Canada, Manitoba branch, in Winnipeg, has Jewish Historical Society of Western Canada JIAS textual records from 1923-1950 on 18 microfilm reels: Former archival reference number MG28-V114 (no replacement listed). The originals of these records are maintained by the Jewish Historical Society of Western Canada.
Jewish Immigrant Aid Services of Toronto
Records in off-site storage; advance notice required to view.
Partially closed. Researchers must receive permission from the OJA Director prior to accessing some of the records.
Other OJA records relating to JIAS may be found in the following accessions: 1979-9-5; 1988-5-2; 1991-10-5; 2006-3-11.