Jewish Heritage Month in Canada

May 2, 2022 | Rachelle

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Posted on behalf of Taylor M.

May is Jewish Heritage Month in Canada! Here at Toronto Public Library, we are celebrating this month by featuring new books by Jewish authors. These books focus on Jewish history and highlight different aspects of Jewish culture.

The term Jewish can refer to a culture, a religion, a people and a language, depending on how it’s used in a sentence. According to the Canadian Jewish Heritage Month Act, the Jewish population in Canada is about 400,000 people. This is the 4th largest Jewish population in the world! As such, by celebrating Jewish Heritage in Canada, we are celebrating a culture shared by many Canadians. This diversity is part of what makes Canada such a wonderful place to live.

Our Jewish Heritage Month booklist features stories from different Jewish cultures, moments in time, experiences and intersectional voices. Jewish heritage and history is much more than the all too familiar trope of historical fiction which takes place during World War II, featuring an individual or a family fleeing Nazi occupied territory. There are so many more diverse stories available for adults, youth, and children to read. 

Last Kings of Shanghai

The Last Kings of Shanghai by Jonathan Kaufman

Did you know that there were many Jews in China, who helped turn it into the Modern China that we know today? The Last Kings of Shanghai tells the story of two family dynasties who "stood astride Chinese business and politics for more than one hundred seventy-five years, profiting from the Opium Wars; surviving Japanese occupation; courting Chiang Kai-shek; and nearly losing everything as the Communists swept into power." - From the publisher's description.


Who By Fire

Who By Fire by Matti Friedman

Many of us have heard of the talented Canadian singer-songwriter, Leonard Cohen, but did you know that he once serenaded Israeli troops during the Yom Kippur War? In October 1973, soldiers heard Leonard Cohen and a team of local pick-up musicians play. These moments would have a lasting effect on the soldiers and inspire some of his greatest music. Experience never-before-seen interviews, photographs, and written material from this point in Cohen's life. 


What Would You do if You Weren't Afraid

What Would You do if You Weren’t Afraid by Michal Oshman

Would you like to incorporate Jewish teachings into your daily life? Using principles from Jewish wisdom, Oshman has created a unique technique for personal growth. She draws upon her heritage and Jewish teachings to help solve common life struggles. Like not getting the job you applied for or healing from a break-up.   


Letters From Cuba

Letters From Cuba by Ruth Behar

Did you know that many Jews fled to Cuba prior to World War II? In Letters From Cuba "Esther's father has fled to Cuba, and she is the first one to join him. It's heartbreaking to be separated from her beloved sister, so Esther promises to write down everything that happens until they're reunited. And she does, recording both the good--the kindness of the Cuban people and her discovery of a valuable hidden talent--and the bad: the fact that Nazism has found a foothold even in Cuba." - From publisher's description


Turtle Boy

Turtle Boy by M. Evan Wolkenstein

For his Bar Mitzvah community service project, Will is forced to visit a sick boy, RJ, in the hospital. Initially, the boys don’t get along, but when RJ, who has an incurable disease, shares his bucket list with Will, the boys start to bond. As RJ's disease worsens, Will realizes that he needs to tackle his friend's bucket list before it's too late.

Beep Beep Bubbie

Beep Beep Bubbie by Bonnie Sherr Klein

When Bubbie gets a scooter to help her stay active, her grandchildren, Kate and Nate, don't know what to think. When they see how much fun the scooter can be, they realize that Bubbie is still Bubbie - with or without the scooter! Klein is a documentary filmmaker, author and disability rights activist. 


The People's Painter

The People's Painter : How Ben Shahn Fought for Justice with Art by Cynthia Levinson 

In this award winning book, learn about Ben Shahn, an amazing artist. "As an observant child growing up in Lithuania, Ben Shahn yearns to draw everything he sees—and, after seeing his father banished by the Czar for demanding workers’ rights, he develops a keen sense of justice, too. So when Ben and the rest of his family make their way to America, Ben brings both his sharp artistic eye and his desire to fight for what’s right. As he grows, he speaks for justice through his art—by disarming classmates who bully him because he’s Jewish, by defying his teachers’ insistence that he paint beautiful landscapes rather than true stories, by urging the US government to pass Depression-era laws to help people find food and jobs. " - From publisher's description

Jewish Mosaic Collection at TPL

A row of books on the shelf at the library.
Some books from the Jewish Mosaic Collection at Barbara Frum Branch. Photo taken by author (Taylor).

In addition to our Jewish Heritage Month booklist, we have many great titles featured in our Jewish Mosaic Collection. Available at the Barbara Frum and Armour Heights branches, this collection contains books from all genres! This collection highlights English-language materials about Judaism and Jewish culture, for adults, teens and children. Many of these titles are located system-wide and may be identified with a blue Jewish Mosaic label. We also have a small collection of Hebrew-language material at Barbara Frum branch. The Jewish Mosaic Collection is one of many special collections available at the library that highlight local communities in Toronto.