90th commemoration

Zev Rosenthal

Zev Rosenthal

Played by Jorge Molina

Joey’s older brother Zev Rosenthal has experienced racial prejudice and intolerance for a few years now… and he’s had enough. Zev wants to fight back against the racist “Pit Gang” and “Swastika Club” thugs who are parading up and down the Beaches in Toronto and intimidating the Jewish community. He manages to convince his best friend Domenico to join in his efforts to fight back, by being “ready” for the Riot at the ballgame.

Historical Context

In the summer of 1933, the Jewish people of Toronto, much like the rest of the city, were visiting the beaches to stay cool during the hot days. At Kew Beach, groups inspired by Hitler and national socialism in Germany at the time, had joined together to create a “Swastika Club.” 

The Toronto swastika clubs were created to intimidate and threaten those who were not of British descent. Members of these swastika clubs claimed to be “cleaning up” the beaches by attempting to remove the Jewish presence. Groups of both teenagers and adults wearing swastika badges would patrol the beaches and regularly harass Jewish people.

On August 7, 1933, this tension escalated into a confrontation at Kew Gardens. The constant harassment of Jewish bathers by the Swastika Club led to an altercation that almost resulted in a physical clash. The situation was de-escalated by police who were present at the time, however the same could not be said a week later at Christie Pits. 

This dangerous increase of open antisemitism and clear support for Nazism in Toronto created a climate of fear for Jewish people in the city.

During the 1930s, antisemitism was often seen as socially acceptable. There were many instances of permitted antisemitism, including Jews not being allowed to stay at hotels and resorts or visit beaches, golf courses, and parks. There were people who refused to rent living spaces to Jews and boycotted Jewish businesses. Signs indicating that no Jews were wanted showed up across Toronto and Ontario. There were also restrictions placed on the sale of land to Jews, called restrictive covenants.

The press could also be antisemitic, both overtly and subtly, for example pointing out the “Jewishness” of individuals featured in court cases in an attempt to disparage the community. Despite knowing what was happening in Germany at the time, some news articles, such as ones written by the Evening Telegram, cast doubt on reports of the atrocities in Germany leading up to the Holocaust. 

Many political players in the city of Toronto were not neutral on the topic, including Police Chief Dennis Draper. He spoke about the violence occurring around the city as a natural response, saying that the “Hebrew people arrived and caused trouble.”