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

In my childhood memories there was a ghetto, even if we did not know we lived in one.

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January 10, 2018 16:20
The first Jewish historical site recognized by the government of Ontario, the Kiever Synagogue

The first Jewish historical site recognized by the government of Ontario, the Kiever Synagogue. (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

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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