The Ontario Jewish Archives, Blankenstein Family Heritage Centre (OJA) is the largest repository of Jewish life in Canada. Founded in 1973, the OJA, a department of UJA Federation of Greater Toronto, acquires, preserves, and makes accessible the records that chronicle our province’s Jewish history. The collection documents organizations, individuals, synagogues, schools, summer camps, leisure, athletes, and businesses.
There are many ways to explore the OJA’s collection and learn about the province’s Jewish past. You can make an appointment to look at photographs, films, Yiddish newspapers, hand-written correspondence, and even an original Superman drawing! Through exhibitions, programs, research assistance, and walking tours, the OJA tells the stories of Ontario’s Jewish community.
The OJA reaches people of all ages from children in the classroom, to scholars in the universities, to teens researching their grandparents, to adults discovering their family history, and to seniors re-connecting with their pasts. The OJA services over 600 researchers per year, including academics, students, curators, genealogists, filmmakers, radio and television producers, journalists, UJA Federation staff, Jewish agencies, and other organizations.
The Christie Pits riot is relatively unknown to many Torontonians, despite it being the largest outbreak of ethnic violence in Canadian History. Instigated by the notorious “Pit Gang”, the riot occurred on 16 August 1933 at Toronto’s Christie Pits (Willowvale Park) at a baseball game between the Harbord Playground and St. Peter’s teams. The riot was the culmination of years of persistent and insidious antisemitism levelled at Toronto’s Jewish residents. It is now understood as a watershed moment in the Jewish community’s history when self-advocacy and allyship became central pillars of communal life. However, Christie Pits is not solely a Jewish event, as Italian allies and supporters who were participants in the riot have their own stories that have been circulated and shared within their community.
In May and June 2023, the Ontario Jewish Archives, in partnership with the Toronto District School Board’s Jewish and Italian Heritage Committees and the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs partnered to present The Riot at Christie Pits, a live theatrical production presented by The Hogtown Collective, created by Sam Rosenthal and Drew Carnwath with music by Measha Brueggergosman. Produced by Hogtown Productions.
What is a primary source?
Primary sources are original materials that were created at the time under study. Examples of primary sources are an artifact, document, diary, photograph, or autobiography. On the Scrolling Spadina website, there are primary sources available at each tour stop underneath the videos.
What is a secondary source?
Secondary sources are materials that are second-hand, often created after the event or time-period being studied. Secondary sources are often based on an analysis of primary sources and offer judgements about past events/issues, such as books and magazine articles. Some materials that begin as secondary sources can sometimes be studied as primary sources. For example, someone interested in the history of education may use a textbook from the 1950s as a primary source.
What is archive-based learning?
By using primary sources as a point of inquiry, students are provided with an unfiltered and first-hand account of the people, places, and events under study. Archives-based learning helps students:
Primary sources require the user to examine the records and draw conclusions based upon the evidence found in the source. All the required information for understanding the context of the record is not necessarily always present. Students must consider the creator’s bias or subjectivity, the intended audience, and the reliability of the information when making assumptions or inferences.
History consists of multiple viewpoints. Primary sources can be used to consider different perspectives when analyzing information. These perspectives can be shaped by both current and historical narratives.
Forming reasoned conclusions based on facts and evidence requires the use of primary sources. When students can connect the information gleaned from primary sources with information gleaned from other sources of research, they deepen their understanding and construct a base of knowledge that can be applied to other learning opportunities.
Primary sources teach students that they too are participating in history. Their actions, thoughts, and relationships are part of a continuum of history that will one day form our understanding of the past.
The Christie Pits Riot Resource Guide outlines the knowledge and experience that students in grades eight and ten can acquire by using the Christie Pits Riot website and the educational resources. Each lesson contains a pre and post discussion guides and activities that engage directly with the content on the Christie Pits Riot website. A supplementary teacher’s guide with guiding questions and responses accompanies this package along with the worksheets and resources referred to in the lesson plan.
Grade 8: History
Strand B. Canada, 1890 – 1914: A Changing Society
B1. assess key similarities and differences between Canada in 1890–1914 and in the present day, with reference to the experiences of, major challenges facing, and actions taken by various individuals, groups, and/or communities.
B2. use the historical inquiry process to investigate perspectives of different groups and communities, on some significant events, developments, and/or issues that affected Canada and/or people in Canada between 1890 and 1914.
B3. describe various significant people, issues, events, and developments in Canada.
Grade 8: Geography
Strand B. Global Inequalities: Economic Development and Quality of Life
B1. analyse some interrelationships among factors that contribute to global inequalities, with a focus on inequalities in quality of life, and assess various responses to these inequalities.
B2. use the geographic inquiry process to investigate issues related to global development and quality of life from a geographic perspective.
B3. demonstrate an understanding of significant patterns in and factors affecting economic development and quality of life in different regions of the world.
Grade 10: Canadian History since World War I
Strand B. Canada, 1914 – 1929
B1. describe some key social, economic, and political events, trends, and developments between 1914 and 1929, and assess their significance for different groups and communities in Canada.
B2. analyze some key interactions within and between different communities in Canada and between Canada and the international community, from 1914 to 1929, and how these interactions affected Canadian society and politics.
B3. explain how various individuals, organizations, and specific social changes between 1914 and 1929 contributed to the development of identities, citizenship, and heritage in Canada.
Grade 10: Canadian History since World War I
Strand C. Canada, 1929 – 1945
C1. describe some key social, economic, and political events, trends, and developments between 1929 and 1945, and assess their impact on different groups and communities in Canada.
C2. analyze some key interactions within and between different communities in Canada, and between Canada and the international community, from 1929 to 1945, with a focus on key issues that affected these interactions and changes that resulted from them.
C3. explain how various individuals, groups, and events, including some major international events, contributed to the development of identities, citizenship, and heritage in Canada between 1929 and 1945.
This lesson focuses on the immigrant communities and experiences as seen through the lens of the theatrical production of Christie Pits. The characters and stories we will explore will look at the immigration experience of various communities that took part in the riot at Christie Pits. We will be taking a look at the shared immigrant experience as well as the lasting impact the Christie Pits Riot had on the city of Toronto and its diverse communities.
Important Note: We encourage teachers to use trauma informed care when conducting this lesson. Immigration stories may bring up traumatic and upsetting feelings for students. The stories the students explore or tell might bring up sensitive topics.
Big questions to discuss:
Students can complete a KWL Chart to discuss these questions and reflect on their previous knowledge and lived experience. Students will complete the “know” and “want to know” sections before the activities and will complete the “learned” section following the reflection.
Materials and technology needed: Computer to explore the Christie Pits website, Christie Pits Immigration worksheet, pen or pencil.
After the initial discussion, students are to explore the following character profiles and associated history pages:
In the Christie Pits Immigration worksheet, students will be asked to fill out the worksheet based on factors that contributed to each character’s immigrant experience. Students are encouraged to listen to the character profiles and look at the history pages associated with the characters to learn more about the factors that impacted their immigration journeys.
Materials and technology needed: Immigration document analysis worksheet, Family document PowerPoint, pen or pencil
Students will be broken up into teams and receive an assigned group of documents. Individually the students will fill out a worksheet about the clues they find in the images and documents.
Family One: Jewish Immigration Experience, Joseph Kalman Wainryb
Family Two: Italian Immigration Experience, Tulio Beghetto
Once students have studied the documents, they will then be asked to write a journal entry from the perspective of this individual. The journal should look at the immigrant experience, the individual’s emotions and the changes they went through on their journey. Students should refer to the questions discussed while looking at the family documents and writing their journal entries.
After the activities, the class is encouraged to have a discussion that considers the following questions:
Students are encouraged to reflect on personal experiences, or any stories they may be familiar with.