‘A Stitch in Time’ Exhibition
These advertisements were published in Yiddish in The Israelite Press / Dos Yiddishe Vort from the late 1920s to the early 1940s. The paper was founded in 1910 as Der Kander Yid/The Canadian Israelite, and by 1913 had changed its name to The Israelite Press; it was the principal newspaper of the Winnipeg Jewish community.
After World War II, it reached a peak circulation of 4,000. Its pages bristled with local, national and international news, and covered topics and issues that satisfied a variety of intellectual needs, literary tastes, and philosophical and political perspectives. It provided a forum for an array of ideological discourse and of values encompassing Zionism, socialism, liberalism, conservatism, and Judaism interpreted from religious as well as secular points of view. Arthur Chiel noted that The Israelite Press “was a powerful influence in moulding Jewish opinion in Manitoba and western Canada… It spoke boldly, at all times the advocate of Jewish rights, the champion of creative Jewish life on the Canadian scene.”
It also provided the community with an understanding of the institutions, organizations, principles, and values that animated and defined Canadian political and civil society.
At the time, Yiddish was spoken by many in the Jewish community. According to the 1931 Government of Canada census, almost 96% of Winnipeg’s Jewish population called Yiddish their mother tongue. In the 1941 Census, this had fallen slightly to 90%, yet was a higher percentage than that reported in Montreal, Toronto, or any other Canadian Jewish community. What needs to be taken into consideration, however, is the changing definition of the term “mother tongue.” For the 1931 Census, “mother tongue” was defined as “the language of the home whether the person has learned to speak it or not.” For the 1941 Census, a language remained a mother tongue “even if one cannot speak it, as long as one understands it.”