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.
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.’
Tulchinsky is a tremendous storyteller whose exceptional writing brings meaning and life to Salsberg and his impact on Canada.
‘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.’
‘Fascinating biography… Tulchinsky has provided a valuable and absorbing account of one of the most important and intriguing Jewish labour leaders in Canadian History.’
Joe Salsberg: A Life of Commitment is an important book.