Stopnica (Stopnitz) is a small town in Poland, in Kielce Province. It was first settled by Jews in the seventeenth century. Over the centuries, the Jewish population rose, and in 1921, Jews numbered 3,328 persons and represented 76 percent of the total population. This is the last year for which accurate information is available. In 1939, there were about 2,600 Jews living in Stopnitz, most of whom perished during the Holocaust.
In Toronto, a small group of Jewish Stopnitzer landsleit formed a club to perform social and benevolent activities, including assisting other Jewish Stopnitzer newcomers who had come to Canada. The club supplied monetary and physical assistance to help new immigrant families who became members. There was a Society doctor, sick benefits for members who were unable to work, and other general help. In 1946, the club was reorganized to become the Stopnitzer Young Men’s Benevolent Association, S.Y.M.B.A. It later added to its objectives and activities the perpetuation of the memory of Jewish Stopnitz inhabitants murdered in the Shoah.
Shortly after its formation, the Toronto S.Y.M.B.A. purchased a cemetery section at Bathurst Lawn Memorial Park for the benefit of its members. Donations were made to Jewish charities and, when it was founded, to the State of Israel. Until a few years ago, there was an annual bond drive luncheon for the State of Israel Bonds. Other social activities that took place during the early years were picnics for members and their children, as well as dances; however, by the 1980s, as the social demographics and interests of the members evolved, social activities almost completely stopped. Monthly breakfast meetings for the members took place until a few years ago. Lively conversations and discussions were the order of the day. The concurrent interchange in both English and Yiddish provided an interesting, and sometimes animated, discourse of input and opinion with varying levels of interest and attentiveness.
There is also a New York Stopnitzer Society, but there is no formal connection between it and the Toronto S.Y.M.B.A. During the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s there was an annual joint brunch in Florida for “snowbirds” of both the Toronto and New York Stopnitzer Societies. There was also an active and completely autonomous Stopnitzer Ladies’ Club in Toronto. The S.Y.M.B.A. provided an annual donation to the Ladies’ Charity Tea, which raised money for the Jewish National Fund and other Jewish causes. Most of the members are now in their eighties and nineties. This presents the current and future Executives with the challenge of ensuring the continued active longevity of the Society and, when the necessity eventually arrives, a dignified conclusion. The Society at that point will provide an everlasting memorial to its members and to all the Jews of Stopnitz who perished in the Holocaust. Through our fund at the Jewish Foundation, the Stopnitzer name will live on and continue to support the endeavours of the Jewish community in Toronto and around the world.
The Society maintains an Internet website at www.stopnitzer.ca.
as told by the Executive Committee, S.Y.M.B.A.