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Tribute to Dr. Gerald Tulchinsky by Dr. Gordon Dueck

When I was a graduate student I read a book called Konin. It was about an old Polish town, its history of Jewish-Christian co-existence during the middle ages, its destruction of Jews--neighbors turning on neighbors--during the Holocaust. I was devastated. I dialed Dr. Tulchinsky’s number and we talked. There was no one else in Kingston that I could talk to about this. Students shouldn't call professors, not at home. He answered my call and listened. He could've lectured but he heard me weep. He was an imposing figure but also one of the kindest men I ever met.

He created the Holocaust course I now teach.  He was my mentor (eventually he got me to stop calling him Dr. Tulchinsky and to refer to him as Jerry). I learned a lot from him. We all did. But he wasn’t always the dean of Canadian Jewish history.

When I first asked him whether he would agree to be my supervisor in the field of modern Jewish history, he said Queen's is no place to learn about that. Go to Montreal or Toronto or New York. Then he published his books Taking Root and Branching Out. Then he helped create the Jewish Studies Department and ran it for several years. He made Queen's University a place to study Jewish history. 

Recently I sent him an email with a link to a film documentary called Spadina, made in the 1980s. I knew he would like it because in it was footage of Joe Salsberg--activist, unionist, politician--being interviewed. And he was delighted. He said he was collecting images of the garment trade workers of Toronto and gave me a list of scenes that he would like screen captured. He died a few days later.

Jerry never stopped working, because he loved what he did and the persons and places he wrote about. He is an example to us all. May his memory be a blessing.

Gerald Tulchinsky

Department of History, Queen's University

49 Bader Lane, Watson Hall 212
Kingston ON K7L 3N6




Queen's University is situated on traditional Haudenosaunee and Anishinaabe territory.