Yiddish, simply put, is part of the fiber of our lives. It’s not just a language our parents and Bubys and Zaidys spoke at home, a song, or a story about the old country; it’s all of these things and more. Yiddish brings tears to our eyes when we hear a word, the lyrics of a song, or recall a melody. Yiddish is when we remember laughing in the kitchen over a story, or, how eight of us lived in one house with one bathroom (when it worked), a simpler time, a time of survival, a time when Toronto Jews were not allowed to serve at the front counters of our department stores. Kensington, Spadina and College, this is where the world was Jewish, and where our parents paved the way for us to flourish; and where Yiddish was the link from the old world to the new, where it was the connection between Jews, and a celebration of life.
This is what the Yiddish Club was about. People came once a month to celebrate the love and passion they had for all things Yiddish; a culture that is expressed in the language of our forefathers, our grandparents and our parents. As Jews we come together in many ways, but this was something different; a crystal, a gem, it was pure joy, it was a gathering from the heart. Our club grew from its inception, when the four of us discussed the idea on the sidewalk outside Ed’s Warehouse, to two hundred people gathering at the Primrose Club to talk, to remember, to laugh and to sing. There were so many magnificent moments. Once, Cantor Louis Danto sang a song in memory of his mother who perished in the Holocaust. It was so poignant, and a moment when each of us realized just how much we had lost. And on the other extreme, Al Waxman summed it up when he took the mike at one of our meetings and said, ‘There’s nothing like a room full of Jews!” And that says it all, from tears to laughter, deep sorrow, to joy, that is the sentiment of Yiddishkeit. Each meeting was concluded with a sing-a-long. People from thirty to eighty years old joined together for My Yiddisha Mama…
It was a truly remarkable moment for each of us, and one which fills our hearts with joy, and gratitude.
We hope that this Yiddish Club Endowment Fund will pave the way for future generations to embrace Yiddish; to take away even just a glimmer of what we felt, what we experienced and what we cherished.
As told by: Gerald Bloom, Jack Bloomberg and Victor Shields