Department of History

Department of History
Department of History

Professor Emeritus Gerald Tulchinsky - Tribute

We are very saddened to announce the passing of Professor Emeritus Gerald Tulchinsky. Jerry joined the Department of History in 1966 and taught Jewish History past his retirement in 1999. In his retirement, he continued to work passionately on his research to  present day. We will miss him very much. Obituary - Kingston Whig Standard

IN MEMORIAM - Dr. Gerald Tulchinsky
by Dr. Peter Campbell

            For a number of years Jerry gave a lecture in my Canadian History course on anti-Semitism in Canada between the First and Second World Wars.  The last couple of years, when he was ill, Jerry would caution me that he might have to sit down to deliver the lecture.  I knew better.  Once Jerry walked into that classroom his illness fell away, and he was a man reborn.  Jerry did not need a computer and a chair, just eloquence and a piece of chalk.  

            He began with his own story, of the anti-Semitism he and his family experienced growing up in southern Ontario.  At this point the message he wanted to convey could have been about the uniqueness of the Jewish experience of discrimination, but that was not what Jerry wanted the students to understand.  He wanted them to understand the Depression experience, to understand why his mother left bread and tea at the back door for the men riding the rails.  Jerry was insistent, one might even say relentless, in his quest to get students to see anti-Semitism in historical context, to really gain an appreciation of how hunger, unemployment, state repression, and desperation caused people to lash out at the perceived causes of their misfortune.  To the younger generation, inured to the idea that the appropriate response to discrimination is moral outrage, this was perplexing stuff.  But Jerry understood something, that moral outrage does not often produce lasting solutions to deep-seated historical wrongs.

            In the Canadian historiography there is an ongoing debate about anti-Semitism in Canada that revolves around a central question – were French Canadians more anti-Semitic than English Canadians.  Jerry had a message for the students, and his message was that this is not an historical question.  For Jerry, the historical question was why the Achat Chez Nous movement happened in Quebec, and the Christie Pits riot happened in Toronto.  Jerry realized that assessing blame is an evasion, and a way of disguising our own responsibility for the evil we are so quick to condemn.

            It has been said many times that Canadians do not appreciate the talents and contributions of their fellow Canadians.  I want to end by saying that I learned as much, if not more, about the historian’s craft from Jerry as I have learned from E.H. Carr or Eric Hobsbawm.  I learned something else from Jerry, that you can be enormously proud of your ethnic and religious identity, but at the same time have a deep appreciation of the historic struggles of peoples not like yourself.  And we all, no matter who we are or what the occasion, must always take time to laugh.