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‘A Stitch in Time’ Exhibition

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In 1945 and 1946, The Jewish Post published supplements comprised of advertisements and articles that dealt with the development and expansion of Winnipeg’s garment industry. They appeared shortly after World War II, which had given the industry a significant impetus. The editorial of 1945 notes, “There are now nearly 100 firms in Winnipeg manufacturing in quantity such articles as women’s coats and suits, dresses, ladies’ wear, trousers, windbreakers and work pants, overalls and work shirts, fine shirts, sportswear, furnishings, suspenders, knitted goods, lingerie, leather goods and novelties, gloves hats, caps and millinery.”

The Jewish Post was founded in 1925 by Ben Cohen, a former printer and ad seller with The Israelite Press, to address the cultural and intellectual needs of a growing number of English–speaking Jews. According to Lewis Levendel, Winnipeg lawyer M.J. Finkelstein described Cohen as “the good father of the paper” who had “remarkable energy, an almost bewildering driving force.” By the mid-1940s, the paper offered readers a mixture of local, regional and international news as well as business and children’s columns. Frederick Fingerote, the paper’s first fulltime editor, was among the first Canadian Jewish journalists to report on anti-Semitism in Nazi Germany. After the War, the paper published numerous editorials encouraging the Canadian government to relax its immigration laws and admit more Jewish refugees.

In his study on the Winnipeg garment industry from 1900–1955, Gerry Berkowski states that during the War, the industry experienced tremendous growth, so much so that that the city and region were able to compete on equal terms with eastern manufacturers. By 1948, Winnipeg created enough garments to satisfy local needs and to export to eastern markets. Moreover, Winnipeg was the nation’s most important manufacturer of overalls and shirts, and made impressive headways in other industry sectors.

Jews were critical to the garment industry in both wholesale manufacturing and retail distribution. The extent of their contribution, especially in relation to their population, was brought to the fore by Louis Rosenberg from information culled from census data for 1941. While Jews made up 7.7% of the population, almost 49% of all men and 21% of all women employed in clothing and textile were Jews while 21% of all women were Jews. In the production of hats and capes, 63% of all men and 49% of all women were Jewish. In hosiery and knit goods, Jews comprised 48% of all men and 36% of all women. In men’s and women’s furnishings, 40% of all men and 17% of all women were Jews. Of furriers, 53% were Jews. They made up 29% of all wholesale merchants and 33% of all retail merchants in a range of economic activities including the garment industry.