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Symposium to honour Queen's professor emeritus

By Anita Jansman

Ofyn Veg: A Symposium on Canadian Jewish Studies in Honour of Gerald Tulchinsky will be held next month at the University of Toronto's Centre for Jewish Studies. Dr. Tulchinsky is a Queen's professor emeritus of history and a leading scholar in the area of Jewish studies in Canada.

The Yiddish phrase Ofyn Veg, which means “on the road,” is a fitting way to describe Dr. Tulchinsky’s exploration and scholarship into the Jewish experience in Canada.

Professor Emeritus Gerald Tulchinsky

“Historians are on the road, working to construct Jewish Canadian history in some coherent way,” says Dr. Tulchinsky.

Born and raised in Brantford, Ontario, Dr. Tulchinsky studied at McGill and the University of Toronto. He taught at the University of Saskatchewan before joining the faculty at Queen’s in 1966, where he taught history until 1999. He was involved with the creation of the Jewish Studies program, which he sees as an important aspect of Canadian history, and remained involved with it until 2002.

Dr. Tulchinsky is the author of many papers and has published critically-acclaimed books: The River Barons, a study of Montreal businessmen; Taking Root: The Origins of the Canadian Jewish Community, covering the period from 1762 to 1920; Branching Out: The Transformation of the Canadian Jewish Community; Canada's Jews: A Peoples' Journey; and Joe Salsberg: A life of Commitment, which was published this year.

It is clear that at age 80, the topic still fascinates Dr. Tulchinsky.

“The history of the Jewish community in Canada says as much about the development of the nation as it does about the Jewish people,” he says.

That’s why he is pleased to be named for the Symposium on Canadian Jewish Studies, which he believes will serve as an “excellent launch pad for further investigation.”

Frank Bialystok, Sessional Lecturer in the Centre for Canadian Studies, University College, U of T, is playing a key role in setting up the symposium and believes Dr. Tulchinsky is a most deserving scholar to be honoured in this way.

“Jerry’s contribution has been immense in this field. We felt he had not been recognized anywhere to the degree he should be, either in academia or within the Canadian Jewish community,” says Professor Bialystok.

The full-day symposium will be held on November 17 in the Jackman Humanities Building on the University of Toronto campus. There will be four one-and-a-half-hour sessions, with two speakers per session. Topics will include immigration, Jews in Ontario, Yiddish, Montreal, labour and the left, the military, and business.

These relevant topics will surely provide material for ongoing study. “We still have lots of work to do and not just in the Jewish community but in ethnic investigation in Canada,” says Dr. Tulchinsky.

Dr. Tulchinsky appeared on The Agenda with Steve Paikin to discuss his latest book on Joe Salsberg, a former Member of Provincial Parliament and a major figure of the Ontario left.

Watch the interview with Steve Paikin

More information about the symposium