Home Home Featured Test your knowledge of Canadian Jewish trivia

Test your knowledge of Canadian Jewish trivia


1. What wartime Canadian novel dealt centrally with Jewish characters and themes and won a Governor General’s Award?

2. What Canadian novel uses the Christie Pits riot of 1933 as a pivotal event in the story?

3. Who was the first documented Jew in what would become Canada?

4. Who leads you to the river “wearing rags and feathers from Salvation Army counters?”

5. What prominent philanthropist was born in Minnedosa, Man., built a single television station into a national TV network, and was instrumental in founding the Winnipeg-based Canadian Museum for Human Rights?

6. This Canadian served as an official war artist in the Second World War and was profoundly affected by what he saw in the Belsen concentration camp.

7. She was born in Niagara Falls and went on to become a legendary host for CBC radio and TV.

8. He once joked that the CBE (Commander of the British Empire) medal he received from Queen Elizabeth actually stood for “Creator of Bargains Everywhere.”

9. Who said, “A man without land is a nobody?”

10. They once wrote a skit titled “Rinse the Blood Off My Toga”, about a Roman private eye attempting to solve the assassination of Julius Caesar.

11. His magnum opus, Torah: A Modern Commentary (1981), was almost 1,800 pages long and 18 years in the making.

12. His works in Toronto include the Balfour and Tower Buildings on Spadina, the former Primrose Club on Willcocks, and the former Beth Jacob Synagogue on Henry Street.

13. The daughter of a famous cantor, she became Toronto’s first Jewish woman doctor.

14. Known as “a big man with a big heart,” he (and his brother) built up their Spadina Avenue in Toronto delicatessen into a multi-million-dollar enterprise.

15. This Israeli-Canadian writer wrote The Best Place on Earth, an award-winning collection of stories, and a compelling memoir, The Art of Leaving.

16. As Toronto’s first Jewish mayor, he oversaw and approved plans for the New City Hall.

17. He has written about the Russian-Jewish émigré community of north Toronto in several acclaimed novels and short story collections.

18. His famous detective, Benny Cooperman, was described in the Globe and Mail as “the country’s first truly Canadian detective hero.”

19. This Montreal poet-novelist greatly influenced Leonard Cohen, Irving Layton, Miriam Waddington and others; also wrote speeches for Samuel Bronfman.

20. A historic plaque marks the Spadina Avenue apartment in Toronto where this notorious American anarchist lived for a while.

21. This Winnipeg-born writer’s debut novel won a Governor General’s award, but despite phenomenal success and encouragement she didn’t produce a second novel for another 18 years.

22. This legendary London-born adventurer grew up in Western Canada and became a major-general in China’s nationalist army battling the Communists in the Chinese Revolution.

23. Polish-born Montrealer who became a literary sensation when two of his Yiddish novels were published in English translation in 1985.

24. She wrote the hit song that propelled a young unknown singer named Frank Sinatra to stardom.

25. Toronto-born female correspondent whose singular newspaper reports revealed the horrors of Stalin’s Soviet Union, and later Hitler’s Germany, to the world.

26. Lachine-born writer who later moved to Chicago and entered the top ranks of American novelists.

27. This writer, famous for his tales and poems of California frontier life, was descended from a prominent early Jewish family in Quebec.

28. Comic-book artist, born in Toronto, who created the iconic Superman superhero with a friend.

29. Toronto-born architect who designed the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, the AGO in Toronto, and many other iconic buildings.

30. This head of a major American film studio was raised in Saint John, N.B.

31. This powerful Hollywood film mogul was born in London, Ont., in 1892.

32. Canadian-born film director, responsible for The Out of Towners, Love Story, Plaza Suite, The Man in the Glass Booth and other popular movies.

33. Cinematic master of the macabre, the bizarre, and the schlocky.

34. Hollywood producer who scored a string of lucrative hits from the late 1970s to the 1990s, and was instrumental in building the TIFF Lightbox in downtown Toronto.

35. Creator of the long-running American TV show Saturday Night Live.

36. He played wise Pa Cartwright family in the classic TV western, Bonanza.

37. “Beam me up, Scotty.”

38. Host of Let’s Make a Deal.

39. Actor and stand-up comedian who first attained prominence as a doctor in the TV medical drama St. Elsewhere.

40. Band leader on the Late Show With David Letterman.

41. Musician, long associated with Bob Dylan, who formed his own band.

42. Son of Polish concentration-camp survivors who played bass and keyboards and sang for a band that has sold close to 50 million records. First name: Gary.

43. His biggest hit was “Theme from A Summer Place.”

44. Played the role of the father in the movie The Diary of Anne Frank.

45. Fast-talking comedian who rivaled Lenny Bruce for his pungent political satire.

46. He helped found the Famous Players movie chain.

47. Canadian movie mogul had a spectacular rise and fall, and likened himself to Icarus.

48. First manager of Toronto’s Royal Alexandra Theatre, as well as Hanlan’s Hotel, Hanlan’s Point Amusement Park, and Toronto Maple Leafs baseball club.

49. Toronto mayor born as Hyman Gewirtz.

50. Once boasted he could “sell refrigerators to Eskimos,” later became mayor.

51. Second City actor who starred in more than 60 movies and currently appears in a hit CBC satirical comedy.

52. Major art collector and theatre impresario.

53. In 1807 he was refused entry into the Legislature of Lower Canada because he was Jewish and refused to be sworn into office “on the faith of a Christian.”

54. Canada’s first Jewish cabinet minister, he served in the government of Pierre Trudeau.

55. He was elected to the Ontario Legislature despite the fact that he was an avowed communist.

56. Bohemian-born, German-speaking marble cutter and monument maker who became Toronto’s first Jewish councillor in the 1880s.

57. Toronto’s second Jewish alderman was known for his powerful skills as an orator, especially impromptu as the situation demanded.

58. Born into a working-class family in Toronto in 1929, he became a renowned sculptor who created the Three Graces fountain at Bay and Wellesley, and several major pieces for Expo ’67.

59. Canadian-born Israeli author whose popular works include The Aleppo Codex, Pumpkinflowers and Spies of No Country.

60. This pioneering film family built a movie chain across Canada when cinema was still in its infancy.

61. Architectural firm that built many early theatres in Toronto.

62. Notable short-story writer who lived in Ottawa.

63. This nurse worked for years to establish Mount Sinai, a Jewish hospital in Toronto.

64. Immunologist who co-discovered an antigen used as the basis of a blood test for colorectal cancer.

65. First Jewish woman on Supreme Court of Canada.

66. Historian of the Jewish community and the labour movement, was also president of the Canadian Jewish Congress.

67. War historian who served as head of Canada’s War Museum in Ottawa.

68. This literary historian became the foremost modern authority on the life and works of the American novelist Henry James.

69. Scholar and museum specialist who helped develop (and remains involved in) Polin, Warsaw’s world-class Museum of the History of Polish Jews.

70. Opatow, Poland-born Torontonian who ran a paint store and in his later years took up painting scenes from his childhood in the shtetl.

71. Prominent 19th-century Montreal rabbi, author, Orientalist and scientist, originally from London , England.

72. A pioneering American author and scholar of Jewish literature, she grew up in Montreal and earned a PhD from McGill University.

73. World-renowned philosopher who asserted that living Jewishly was the best way “to deny Hitler a posthumous victory,” a tenet he called the 614th law.

74. Hungarian-born chemist who won the Nobel Prize in chemistry in 1986.

75. Winnipeg-born Los Alamos scientist who died of acute radiation syndrome.

76. She is credited with negotiating ransoms for the release of thousands of Syrian Jews.

77. This Bronfman descendant became a prominent architect and established an architectural museum in Montreal.

78. Israeli-born architect who designed such outstanding buildings as the Mamilla Mall in Jerusalem, the National Gallery in Ottawa, and Habitat 67 in Montreal.

79. This Montreal-born cartoonist has drawn comic illustrations for the New York Times, Vanity Fair, Rolling Stone and other magazines.

80. A Holocaust survivor-turned-painter whose abstract expressionist canvases and other various works may be seen in public galleries in Canada and internationally.

81. Born in Montreal, chairman and co-investor in Cirque du Soleil.

82. His signature once adorned Canadian banknotes.

83. Winnipeg-born co-founder, with Izzy Asper, of CanWest Global Communications.

84. Came to Toronto from Russia by way of Israel when he was four, and parlayed a degree in economics into a vast corporate empire based on profits from steel factories in Ukraine.

85. Esteemed publisher long associated with the iconic publishing house McClelland & Stewart.

86. His brilliant career in comedy clubs is nothing to laugh at.

87. Halifax museum founder and philanthropist.

88. Legendary real-estate family achieved enormous wealth, but lost much of it on the Canary Wharf development project in London.

89. Massively wealthy pharmaceutical entrepreneur who, with his wife, came to a tragic end.

90. Dancer and co-founder of National Ballet of Canada.

91. She made her film debut at age 18 in a film by Denys Arcand, followed by another by Atom Egoyan.

92. As an actor, her most famous line was “I told him, ‘Julie, don’t go!’”

93. Vancouver-born actor-producer-director who moved to Los Angeles after landing a role on Judd Apatow’s cult hit TV show Freaks & Geeks.

94. King of Kensington actor memorialized with a statue in Toronto’s Kensington neighbourhood.

95. Author of the acclaimed novel, Basic Black with Pearls.

96. Dazzled the world as a juvenile jazz singer and, at age 26, continues to dazzle.

97. World-famous rapper and Raptors superfan.

98. Her book, How Should A Person Be?, was dubbed one of best of 2012 by the New York Times.

99. Although a poet, her 1996 novel Fugitive Pieces brought her international attention and many prestigious awards.

100. A pillar of the Yiddish writing community in Montreal, she wrote a three-volume novel chronicling life in the Lodz Ghetto.



1. Earth and High Heaven (1944) by Gwethalyn Graham

2. The Five Books of Moses Lapinsky, by Karen X. Tulchinsky

3. Esther Brandeau, arrived to New France disguised as a Catholic young man in 1738.

4. Suzanne, in the song of the same name by Montreal poet-troubador Leonard Cohen.

5. Israel “Izzy” Asper (1932-2003).

6. Aba Bayefsky (1923-2001) who sketched Toronto synagogues and scenes from Kensington Market later in life.

7. Barbara Frum (1937-1992) was host of CBC’s As It Happens and The Journal.

8. Toronto bargain-basement and theatre entrepreneur “Honest” Ed Mirvish (1914-1921), whose earliest brush with show business occurred when he was circumcised by Al Jolson’s father.

9. Duddy Kravitz’s grandfather in The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz, the famous novel by Mordecai Richler.

10. Famed comedy duo Johnny Wayne and Frank Shuster, who performed the skit on The Ed Sullivan Show during one of their record 67 appearances.

11. Rabbi W. Gunther Plaut who served at Toronto’s Holy Blossom Temple from 1961 until his death in 2012.

12. Toronto architect Benjamin Brown (1890-1974), one of the first Jewish architects in the city, several of whose works have been designated as heritage properties.

13. Minne Cohen, daughter of Cantor Bernard Wladowsky, worked at Women’s College Hospital and specialized in pediatrics as well as music.

14. Sam Shopsowitz (circa. 1921-1984) and brother Izzy developed and sold a vast line of delicatessen products under the corporate name Shopsy’s.

15. Ayelet Tsabari, born 1973.

16. Mayor Nathan Phillips (1892-1976) whose name lives on in Nathan Phillips Square, the iconic public square outside City Hall.

17. David Bezmozgis, who made his literary debut with a celebrated story collection, Natasha, published 2004.

18. Writer Howard Engel (1931-2019), who situated Cooperman in the fictional town of Grantham, modelled on the St. Catharines where the author grew up.

19. A.M. Klein (1919-1972), whose novel The Second Scroll has generated dozens of scholarly books and articles.

20. Emma Goldman, once described as “the world’s most dangerous woman,” was born in Kovno in 1869, and died in 1940 in a house on Vaughan Road, Toronto.

21. Adele Wiseman’s first novel, The Sacrifice, appeared in 1956, her second, Crackpot, in 1974.

22. Morris Abraham Cohen (1887-1970), better known by the nickname Two-Gun Cohen, became aide-de-camp to Sun Yat-sen in the Chinese National Revolutionary Army.

23. After Yehuda Elberg’s two novels, Ship of the Hunted and The Empire of Kalman the Cripple, were published by Syracuse University Press, the Globe and Mail hailed them as “unequivocal masterpieces.”

24. With Sinatra’s singing, Ruth Lowe’s 1940 song, “I’ll Never Smile Again”, became a popular hit that seemed to capture the mood of an era – and might again today. She also wrote various other popular favourites.

25. Rhea Clyman (1904-1981) wrote chilling eyewitness accounts of the Holodomor, the Soviet Union’s government-induced famine in the 1930s, and travelled over 8,000 kilometres across Russia to report on the gulags.

26. Saul Bellow’s much-acclaimed novels include The Adventures of Augie March (1953), Henderson the Rain King (1959) and Herzog (1964).

27. Bret Harte (1836-1902) was descended from the famous Hart family of Three Rivers, Que.

28. When he was 10, Joe Shuster (1914-1992) moved to Cleveland where he met Jerry Siegel, his collaborator on the Superman comic that debuted in DC Action Comics in 1938.

29. Frank Gehry, born Frank Owen Goldberg in 1929, moved with his family to California in 1947.

30. Louis B. Mayer, fabled head of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer motion picture studio, grew up in Saint John, N.B., where his father sold junk metal and his mother sold chickens.

31. Jack Warner and his U.S.-born brothers eventually established the Warner Bros. studio which launched the sound era with The Jazz Singer of 1927.

32. Arthur Hiller, who was born in Edmonton in 1932 and cut his teeth working for the CBC.

33. David Cronenberg (born Toronto 1943), director of The Dead Zone, The Fly, Naked Lunch, Dead Ringers, and Crash, among others (some best forgotten).

34. Born in Hamilton in 1946, Ivan Reitman’s most commercially successful movies include Animal House, Stripes, Meatballs, Beethoven and Ghostbusters.

35. Former Torontonian Lorne Michaels attended the U of T and worked at CBC before moving to L.A .in 1968.

36. Ottawa-born Lorne Greene (1915-1987) once said that he based his portrayal of the noble patriarch Ben Cartwright on his father, a shoemaker who died before the first episode of Bonanza aired in 1959.

37. Montreal actor William Shatner played James T. Kirk, heroic captain of the Starship Enterprise, in the hit TV series Star Trek.

38. Monty Hall, born Winnipeg 1921, was the suave host of this famous American talk show.

39. Howie Mandel, born in Toronto, 1955.

40. Paul Shaffer, born in Thunder Bay in 1949.

41. Robbie Robertson, born to a Jewish father and Mohawk mother in 1932, formed the famous band called The Band. He grew up in Toronto and spent summers on the Six Nations Reservation outside Brantford.

42. Born as Gary Lee Weinrib in Toronto in 1953, he achieved fame as Geddy Lee in the rock band Rush.

43. Bandleader and composer Percy Faith, born Toronto in 1908, died 1976.

44. Lou Jacobi, born Jacobovitch in Toronto, 1913.

45. Mort Sahl, born Montreal 1927.

46. N. L. Nathanson, actually an American who resettled in Toronto, got his start by purchasing an old theatre on Adelaide Street, the Regent, and converting it into a deluxe movie house.

47. Garth Drabinsky, founder (with Nat Turner) of the famous Cineplex chain of multiplex movie theatres.

48. High-flying Toronto entrepreneur Lol Solman (1866-1931) also owned the Toronto Ferry Company and managed Sunnyside Amusement Park and Loew’s theatre chain in Canada.

49. Phil Givens, Toronto’s second Jewish mayor, son of a tailor and graduate of Harbord Collegiate and Talmud Torah Eitz Chaim. The biggest battle during his tenure (1963 to 1966) was for the installation of Henry Moore’s sculpture The Archer outside City Hall.

50. Ace salesman Mel Lastman, proprietor of the Bad Boy furniture chain, became popular mayor of North York, then the whole city of Toronto.

51. Hamilton-born Eugene Levy currently stars in the hit TV show Schitt’s Creek which he created with his son Dan Levy.

52. David Mirvish, head of Mirvish Productions.

53. Ezekiel Hart of Trois Rivieres, Que.,was re-elected in a byelection but again refused to swear as a Christian. Only in 1831 was a bill passed granting Jews equal rights and privileges in Canada.

54. Herb Gray, who was from Windsor, Ont., and also served as deputy prime minister.

55. J. B. Salsberg had also been a popular alderman in the Spadina riding where he lived; he later became wise to the atrocities of the Lenin regime and distanced himself from Soviet communism.

56. Newman Leopold Steiner, who arrived in Toronto about 1856, also served as the first Jewish justice of the peace. He died in 1903 and is buried in Mount Pleasant Cemetery.

57. Louis M. Singer graduated from Osgoode Hall in 1908 and was first elected to office in 1914. He returned to practising law in 1917.

58. Gerald Gladstone also created the Reclining Female statue for Place Ville Marie in Montreal, the Martin Luther King Memorial in Los Angeles, and the Universal Man sculpture in the parking lot of Yorkdale Shopping Mall.

59. Matti Friedman grew up in Toronto and attended USDS Hebrew school as well as Mackenzie Collegiate.

60. Bernard Allen of Pennsylvania sent sons Jule and J.J. to Brantford to open a nickelodeon, followed by theatres across Canada, including Toronto’s Tivoli, Parkdale, College, St. Clair, Beach and Hollywood.

61. Many of the theatres built by the architectural firm of Kaplan & Sprachman featured the “Moderne style” characterized by neon-lit marquees and flowing streamlined curves and surfaces.

62. Norman Levene’s story collections include Canada Made Me and Something Happened Here.

63. Dorothy (Goldstick) Dworkin (1889-1976) also helped found a free Jewish medical dispensary in Toronto and became a noted philanthropist.

64. Samuel Orkin Freedman, born in Montreal in 1928, worked with Phil Gold on this momentous discovery.

65. Rosalie Abella, child of Holocaust survivors, champion of human rights and social justice.

66. Irving Abella, whose books include Coat of Many Colours and None Is Too Many (written with Harold Troper).

67. Jack Granatstein held the post from 1998 to 2001 and was instrumental in building the museum’s new home.

68. Leon Edel (1907-1997) was born in Pittsburgh but grew up in Yorkton, Sask.

69. Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, born in Toronto in 1942, was (rightly) described in the New York Forward as “The Woman Behind the Polish Jewry Museum.”

70. Mayer Kirshenblatt’s (1916-2009) paintings, as well as his recollections, were featured in the acclaimed book They Called Me Mayer July: Painted Memories of a Jewish Childhood, co-authored with his daughter, Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett.

71. The renowned Abraham de Sola (1825-1882) was minister of Montreal’s Shearith Israel Congregation and was invited by U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant in 1873 to open the U.S. Congress with prayer.

72. Ruth Wisse’s books include The Shlemiel as a Modern Hero and If I Am Not for Myself: The Liberal Betrayal of the Jews; she has also edited and translated various anthologies of Jewish writings by Sholem Aleichem, I. L. Peretz and Chaim Grade.

73. Emil Ludwig Fackenheim (1916-2003), who escaped Germany in 1939, served as a rabbi in Hamilton, Ont., and studied philosophy at U of T. He was the author of many books and the recipient of many awards.

74. John Polanyi, son of a Jewish father who left the faith, won the award for his work in chemical kinetics, involving a technique of infrared chemiluminescence; he shared the prize with Dudley Herschbach and Yuan T. Lee.

75. Involved in the Manhattan Project, the creation of the atom bomb, Louis Slotin (1910-1946) accidentally began a fission reaction that proved fatal to him.

76. Over a period of nearly three decades, Judy Feld Carr worked in secret to buy passports and visas, and arrange dangerous smuggling operations. “We were buying Jews, one by one, from a hostile government,” she explained.

77. Phyllis Barbara Lampert, born in Montreal in 1927, founded the Canadian Centre for Architecture in Montreal to help preserve architectural heritage.

78. Moshe Safdie, born in Haifa during the British Mandate, moved with his family to Montreal; other acclaimed works include Marina Bay Sands and Jewel Changi Airport in Singapore, the Technion Institute in Israel, and Toronto’s Pearson Airport.

79. Barry Blitt was born in Cote St-Luc in 1958 and studied at the Ontario College of Art and Design before moving to the U.S. in 1989. He has drawn numerous bitingly satirical covers about Donald Trump for the New Yorker.

80. Gershon Iskowitz (1921-1988), survivor of Buchenwald who immigrated to Canada, regarded painting as “just an extension of myself. It’s a plastic interpretation of the way I think. You reflect your own vision.”

81. Mitch Garber left law for a business career that has proven stellar, with many successful ventures in the United States and Israel. Currently chairman of the Combined Jewish Appeal campaign in Montreal.

82. Louis Rasminsky (1908-1998), born in Montreal and raised in Toronto, was the third governor of the Bank of Canada.

83. Gerald Schwartz also founded Onex Corporation and, along with wife Heather Reisman, started the Heseg Foundation, a scholarship program for IDF “lone soldiers.”

84. Alex Shnaider, born 1968, co-founded the Midland Group with Eduard Shifrin, and partnered with Donald Trump on the Trump hotel in Toronto. President of the Jewish Russian Community Centre of Ontario.

85. Avie Bennett (1928-2017).

86. Mark Breslin began as a stand-up comedian who co-founded (with Joel Axler) Yuk Yuk’s comedy clubs to make more venues available for comedians. He also works as an actor for TV and movies.

87. Ruth Miriam (Schwartz) Goldbloom (1923-2012), born and raised in New Waterford, N.S., co-founded the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 in Halifax.

88. Paul, Albert and the other Reichmann brothers established Olympia & York, which through savvy real estate investment projects became the largest property development companies in the world (at least for a while).

89. Apotex founder Barry Sherman and his wife Honey were generous philanthropists; the Apotex Foundation has given out more than $50 million worth of medicine to beleaguered countries to date. Their double murder in 2017 remains unsolved.

90. Celia Franca (1921-2007), daughter of a Polish-born tailor in London’s East End, was artistic director of the National Ballet for 24 years.

91. Mia Kirshner, born 1975 in Toronto, has played dozens of TV and cinematic roles.

92. Sylvia Lennick (1915-2009) spoke the line in a thick Brooklyn accent for a Wayne & Shuster skit on Ed Sullivan.

93. Seth Rogen, born 1982, made his breakthrough in the Judd Apatow-produced film Knocked Up in 2007, which cost $30 million and grossed $219 million.

94. Al Waxman played many leading parts in everything from Death of a Salesman to The Merchant of Venice, but none brought him more fame than his role in the TV show King of Kensington.

95. Helen Weinzweig (1915-2010), Toronto-based author of two novels and numerous stories; was married to composer John Weinzweig.

96. Montreal jazz singer Nikki Yanofsky, born 1994, has a preternatural ability to channel Ella Fitzgerald and other jazz greats.

97. Drake, aka Aubrey Drake Graham, cut his teeth with the Degrassi TV series and has had a stellar rap career that has made him easily able to afford his lavish mansion in the Bridle Path area.

98. Toronto author Sheila Heti, born 1976, is the daughter of Hungarian Jewish immigrants. The New Yorker called her 2011 novel The Chairs Are Where the People Go as “a triumph of conversational philosophy.”

99. Toronto writer-poet Anne Michaels wrote expansively in Fugitive Pieces about a Holocaust survivor trying to come back to terms with the world.

100. Holocaust survivor Chava Rosenfarb (1923-2011) published her major work, Der boim fun Lebn in 1972; later published in English as The Tree of Life. 

Bill Gladstone is a Toronto-based professional genealogist whose family surname was formerly Glickstein, and Glicensztejn before that. His website is www.billgladstone.ca