Little did I know when I took this picture how important the subject matter was going to be. I was going through my archives last night and found this photo taken on 8/26/11 when we were meeting Rosita for lunch in the Kensington Market area and ended up on Baldwin Street at a mediocre Mexican Restaurant across the street from John's Italian Caffe at 29 Baldwin. I stared longingly at the satisfied patrons at John's who seemed to be enjoying their lunch, and rued our choice of eateries. But at least I got this photo. My curiosity aroused, I found out that the yiddish sign in the window advertised the wares at the former Mandel's Creamery, which closed in the 1970's after 50+ years in the business when the Jewish community there migrated to the burbs.
When John's moved in, they understood the value of this history and left the sign in tact. In fact, this window appears to be the last remnant signaling the former thriving Jewish immigrant presence in the Baldwin Street area, and the yiddish lettering, the last of its kind in Toronto. John's went out of business last year, and the storefront had been vacant for some time, a source of great concern for Dara Soloman, director of the Ontario Jewish Archives, who has been monitoring the situation nervously, re: the fate of the window.
Coincidently, the day after I retrieved this previously orphan photo and began to look into it, I happened into the middle of an ongoing "situation" exacerbated by recent rental of the place to a "bubble tea" shop and people who might not understand the significance of what they inherited along with the shop. According to a 7/10/15 article in the Jewish Forward, the sign was being removed. Clarification in a 7/12/15 article in the Toronto Star, indicated that while a small amount of damage was done, Soloman was able to contact the new owners, inform them of the importance of the situation, and enlist their cooperation in keeping this historical artifact in tact. Disaster averted, for now!!!
Talking about relics from the past that somehow remind us of who we were and where we've come from, I've spent a lot of time on the Lower East side of NYC photographing, eating, and sitting on benches, remembering. The Lower East Side was at one time the center of Jewish immigrant life from the late 1800's till the late 1950's when slowly, one by one the old Jews started dying off and the younger ones moving to Long Island taking their businesses and/or their parents with them, until by 1995 or so, there was almost no trace of the former Jewish presence down there, much like Baldwin Street in Toronto. In fact, as far as I can tell, the last Hebrew lettering on any window of a place of business on the Lower East Side was the sofer (scribe) Rabbi Eisenbach, inscriber of Torahs and mezuzahs, and purveyor of Jewish religious objects. He has been gone since the 1997 or 1998 and all that is left is this orphan photo I took back then, and until now couldn't find a place to put it.