90th commemoration

Narrator/Joey Rosenthal

Narrator/Joey Rosenthal

Played by Nicholas Rice

The Narrator character is our guide, our Master of Ceremonies, and – as we soon find out – he is also Joey Rosenthal, all grown up! “The Christie Pits Riot” is really told from Joey’s point of view – both as a 14-year-old boy, and as an older man looking back on the events. He’s a bit magical, as he can talk directly to the audience AND be a part of the action of the play at the same time.

Historical Context

The riot lasted six hours. Remarkably, there were no casualties, however there were many injured. Three members of the Pit Gang were arrested but only one went to jail. The day after the riot, Toronto mayor William James Stewart banned the public display of the swastika. This act was one of Canada’s first policies prohibiting hate speech.

The response from the Jewish community to the events at Christie Pits was swift, with organizations gathering to respond to the rising antisemitism occurring in the city. Both the English and Yiddish Jewish press reported on the riot.

The Canadian Jewish Congress (CJC), which was founded in 1919 to unite Jewish voices after the First World War, was largely quiet until the early 1930s. The CJC was revived in 1934, following the riot. This renewal produced a new era of advocacy for the Jewish community, providing a platform for their voices to be heard outside of the community.