yiddish toronto

Historical Yiddish sign searches for new Toronto home

Last summer, one of the few visible remnants of Jewish life in Baldwin Village seemed to disappear. For decades, the storefront window at 29 Baldwin St., displayed a Yinglish (Yiddish and English) sign that said, "butter, cheese, cream, eggs fresh every day," long after the original Mandel's Dairy closed and John's Italian Caffe took its place.

The new tenants, however, didn't want to keep the hand-lettered sign. But luckily, the Ontario Jewish Archives worked with a glass company to save the entire pane, which is currently in storage. The organization is now looking to restore it.

"One option we are exploring is creating a monument/public art sculpture in the Kensington Market neighbourhood that celebrates the language and rich culture of Yiddish," Dara Solomon, the Director of the Ontario Jewish Archives, tells me via email.

But before that happens, you'll be able to get a glimpse of Yinglish on College Street. That's because the Mandel's sign has been recreated at Fentster (which means window in Yiddish), a new storefront window gallery at 402 College St., at Makom (a grassroots Jewish organization) space.

yiddish toronto

This installation, titled Mandel's Dreamery, aims to harken back to a time when College Street - and Kensington Market - was the bustling centre of Jewish life in Toronto. But unlike the original Mandel's sign, this newfangled version, set in front of an archival photograph of Trachter's Milk Store, says, "butter, cheese, cream, eggs. Only memories."

"This installation is an echo of a memory" says curator Evelyn Tauben, who's putting on the exhibition along with the Ontario Jewish Archives and the Ashkenaz Festival. "You can't get kosher food in this neighbourhood fresh every day. That's a different era."

Yet, she's quick to recognize that the stretch of College by Kensington Market still maintains vestiges of its Jewish identity. Along with Fentster and Makom, Caplansky's Deli and Free Times Cafe are nearby.

yiddish toronto

Mandel's Dreamery is slated to run until October 30 and Tauben plans to change up the installations at Fentster every couple of months. And while that window gallery will depict art related to contemporary Jewish life, the Mandel's Creamery sign will hopefully get a new home to help us remember the past.

Images via Fentster. and Randy McDonald in the blogTO Flickr pool.


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