Joe Salsberg: A Life of Commitment
This book follows the life and intellectual journey of Joseph Baruch Salsberg, a Polish-Jewish immigrant who became a major figure of the Ontario Left, a leading voice for human rights in the Ontario legislature, and an important journalist in the Jewish community. His life trajectory mirrored many of the most significant transformations in Canadian political and social life in the twentieth century.
Award-winning historian Gerald Tulchinsky traces Salsberg’s personal and professional journey – from his entrance into Toronto’s oppressive garment industry at age 14, which led to his becoming active in emerging trade unions, to his rise through the ranks of the Communist Party of Canada and the Workers’ Unity League. Detailing Salsberg’s time as an influential Toronto alderman and member of the Ontario legislature, the book also examines his dramatic break with communism and his embrace of a new career in journalism.
Tulchinsky employs historical sources not used before to explain how Salsberg’s family life and surrounding religious and social milieu influenced his evolution as a Zionist, an important labour union leader, a member of the Communist Party of Canada, and a prominent member of Toronto’s Jewish community.
- World Rights
- Page Count: 232 pages
- Illustrations: 24
- Dimensions: 6.0in x 0.6in x 9.0in
Reviews‘This intriguing and balanced account of a minority activist and politician in shaping Canada’s political culture in middle decades of the twentieth century will be of great interest to students of politics, the left, the labour movement, as well as ethnic and immigration history.’
Canadian Historical Review, vol 95:02:2014
Tulchinsky is a tremendous storyteller whose exceptional writing brings meaning and life to Salsberg and his impact on Canada.
Joe Salsberg: A Life of Commitment is an important book.
This is an important reminder of why, to two generations of Toronto Jews, Salsberg was a folk hero… They saw him as their champion. His was a remarkable career, and this is a remarkable book, to be not simply read, but savoured.’
University of Toronto Quarterly vol 84:03:2015
‘Fascinating biography… Tulchinsky has provided a valuable and absorbing account of one of the most important and intriguing Jewish labour leaders in Canadian History.’
Ruth A Frager
Labour/Le Travail, vol 76: Fall 2015
“Joe Salsberg’s significant roles in the history of Canadian Communism, the labour movement, Jewish Canadian life, and human and civil rights make him well worthy of a full-scale biography, and I doubt if anyone is as well-equipped as Gerald Tulchinsky to write such a book. Tulchinsky vividly portrays the terrain of Jewish immigrant life, abundantly underlining Salsberg as a larger-than-life character and a mensch.”
John Manley, Senior Lecturer in History, University of Central Lancashire
“I have long admired Gerald Tulchinsky’s scholarship, dedication, and craft. Here, he reaches a new level in telling the story of Joe Salsberg – indeed, a story that encapsulates the urban Jewish experience in the twentieth century. Tulchinsky has done a superb job in projecting Salsberg’s various ideological positions within the context of Jewish life and of Canadian politics throughout the century. This is an excellent work, and one from which there is much to be learned.”
Frank Bialystok, Professor, Canadian Studies Program and Centre for Jewish Studies, University of Toronto
“Gerald Tulchinsky’s contribution to Canadian Jewish history has been immense, and this biography of Joe Salsberg is in a sense the crowning of his career. Tulchinsky brings new light to the field by focusing attention on a single individual who was a pivotal figure in his community – a man who represented in many ways the specific path of the Canadian Jewish experience in the twentieth century. His book illustrates that Salsberg’s contribution to Canadian society was both exceptional and typical of his generation.”
Pierre Anctil, Professor of History, University of Ottawa
Author InformationGerald Tulchinsky is an emeritus professor in the Department of Queen’s University. He is also the author of Canada’s Jews and a winner of both the J.I. Segal Award and the Toronto Jewish Book Award.
Table of contents
Chapter One: From Lagow to Toronto
Chapter Two: Party Maverick
Chapter Three: Labour Stalwart and Political Novice
Chapter Four: “From a Human Point of View”
Chapter Five: Family Quarrel
Chapter Six: Still Counselling Otherwise
PrizesJ.I. Segal Canadian Jewish Studies Award for Best Book - Winner in 2014
Subjects and Courses