The jerusalem post
16:20 | 01/10/18

How it really was: Growing up Jewish in the Toronto ghetto

The first Jewish historical site recognized by the government of Ontario, the Kiever Synagogue (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons) The first Jewish historical site recognized by the government of Ontario, the Kiever Synagogue (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
In my childhood memories there was a ghetto, even if we did not know we lived in one.
KOFFLER’S DRUGSTORE on College Street was in the middle of the Jewish ghetto in the 1930s and 1940s. Murray Koffler took over as a stripling of 17, while finishing his last year of high school. A business genius, Murray created the largest drugstore chain in Canada, Shoppers Drug Mart. A lover of Israel, among many philanthropic activities on its behalf, he also founded the SuperPharm chain. Now since this is not a commercial, I return to Toronto’s ghetto.

At Murray’s request, I did something I never did or do. I sacrificed a Friday evening with my family to speak to a group of Torontonians whom he was leading on a trip to Israel for the Weizmann Institute.The first words of my speech were “As someone who grew up in Toronto’s ghetto…” Afterwards, a very polite but perturbed gentleman came up to me and said, “You shouldn’t say ‘ghetto’ about Toronto. There was never a ghetto in Canada.”


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