Zev’s good friend and neighbour Domenico is an amateur boxer, and he’s good enough to become a professional. Dom and his family, like hundreds of other Italian families, have close ties to the Jewish community in Toronto: they are immigrants, they have fewer opportunities, and as Catholics they are frequently persecuted by the Protestants of the city. When Zev asks Dom to help in the fight against the “Pit Gang,” Dom answers the call.
Many immigrants that arrived in Toronto in the early 1900s came to start a new life. Most Jews were fleeing violence and pogroms in their home countries, while Italians were often seeking jobs to support their families at home in Italy. Regardless of their reasons for immigrating, everyone who arrived in Toronto was in search of a better life.
In the early 1900s, immigrant life in Toronto was very difficult. Upon arrival to the city, most Jewish and Italian immigrants settled in St. John’s Ward (“the Ward”), an area with poor living conditions and overcrowding. There were also pockets of settlement in the Beaches and Junction neighbourhoods of the city. Although immigrants that settled in the Ward arrived from many different countries, they formed close bonds in these tight and challenging living conditions.
Toronto’s early Italian community was diverse with people arriving from many different regions in Italy. Despite these distinct communities, most Italian immigrants of the early 1900s in Toronto identified with the larger Italian community. Many found work as merchants, artisans, or labourers. Various Italian neighbourhoods were established around the city, including below College Street beside the Jewish neighbourhood of Kensington Market.
Discrimination against immigrant communities was unfortunately very common in Toronto during the 1930s. Jews and Italians alike were turned away from public and private facilities like the city-run pools and public beaches.