90th commemoration

Rebecca Rosenthal

Rebecca Rosenthal

Played by Julie Tepperman

Joey and Zev’s mother is extremely protective of her two boys, and she is worried that the violence and persecution of Jews in Europe and Russia has come to Toronto in the form of the “Pit Gang” and “Swastika Clubs.” Like Zev, she believes in taking action against the racist thugs, but she also believes there are alternatives to violence. After the Riot she goes directly to Toronto’s Mayor Stewart and successfully convinces him to make the “Swastika clubs” illegal.

Historical Context

Nazism was a fascist movement that drew strength from anti-communist, antisemitic, and nationalistic language. Antisemitism used by the Nazi regime became a tool for fascists in Canada and started to appear on the streets of Toronto in early 1933.

While some Canadian newspapers, such as the Globe and the Daily Star criticized Nazism, sources such as the Telegram stated that the anti-Jewish violence happening in Nazi Germany was exaggerated. This underreaction allowed local fascist supporters to use Nazi symbolism such as the swastika, with few consequences.

To the Jews the symbol invoked genuine fears as news of increasing violence in Germany made its way to Canada. In response, Jewish community leaders organized protests and demonstrations and spoke out in against Nazism in Germany and rising antisemitism at home in Canada.

Click here to learn more about the history of the swastika and how to tell when it is being used as a symbol of hate.

Following the October 1917 Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, many western countries began to fear communism and the threats it posed to democracy. Canada was no exception with many Canadian newspapers discussing the dangers of communist ideology and how the spread of communism locally put democracy in Canada at risk.

The Jewish community was often closely tied to communism because of their Eastern European roots and the labour-friendly policies communism offered. Although only a small portion of the Jewish community supported communism, these comparisons led to the community being equated with the Communist party. They helped supporters of fascism spread antisemitic language as a front to fighting the threat of communism. 

Even when discussing the riots at Christie Pits, some sources at the Toronto Telegram claimed that the spark for the riot was caused by Jewish Communists.