Seeking the Stories of Canada’s Tailors of 1948
Who were the tailors? Where did they come from? What was the impact of the Tailor Project on their lives and the lives of their families? How was the Jewish and broader community in Canada affected by this initiative? In what way has the Tailor Project helped to inform Canada’s approach to supporting other refugee groups? For the first time, the questions surrounding this vitally important but largely unknown episode in Canada’s history will be answered.
In 1947 the Canadian Jewish Congress, Jewish Immigration Aid Society (JIAS) and the Canadian Overseas Garment Commission recognized an opportunity to improve the lives of people in displaced persons camps and address a shortage of workers in the garment trade.
Known as the Tailor Project, this initiative brought more than 2,000 displaced people and their families from displaced persons camps in Europe to Canada. Around 1,000 of these people were Jewish and the 1,000 were not Jewish. Many of the people that were accepted in this program were tailors, but many of them were not. By April 1949 the tailors and their families had arrived in Toronto, Montreal, Winnipeg and Vancouver and were provided with housing and jobs in the garment manufacturing industry.
The Tailor Project was transformational for many survivors of the terrors of the Holocaust and World War II but their stories remain untold.
Max Enkin headed the team that went to the displaced persons camps. This research was initiated by Larry Enkin, son of Max Enkin, and is being conducted by Impakt Labs with the support of the Max and Larry Enkin Family Foundation.
We encourage anyone who came to Canada with The Tailor Project or whose family or friends were part of The Tailor Project to share their experiences and stories. We look forward to hearing from you.
To learn more about The Tailor Project, click on the following links:
The Tailor Project would not be possible without the guidance of the following organizations and individuals:
Thank you sincerely to all the families that have been willing to share their stories with us.
Max Enkin was an outstanding leader. He was born in Vitebsk, Russia, on July 20, 1901. Before coming to Toronto in the early 1920’s, he worked for two years in a factory office in Arnprior, Ontario. Max and Pearl Saldstein were married by Rabbi Brickner in 1921 and had two sons, Dr. Murray Enkin, Professor Emeritus of Obstetrics and Gynecology at McMaster University Medical Centre, and Larry Enkin who served as president of Cambridge Clothing, his fathers’ firm. After the death of Pearl in 1946, Max married Jeanette Gardner.
Max was a clothing manufacturer and the founding chairman of the Industrial Standards Act of the Men’s Clothing Industry. He worked for many years for the menswear firm of Warren K. Cooke and in 1950 at the age of 50, he purchased the Coppley Noyes Firm in Hamilton, Ontario. This later became Cambridge Clothing.
During World War II, Max was appointed Associate Clothing Administrator by the Wartime Prices and Trade Board. His work to maintain the supply of fabrics both in Canada and overseas was so valued that he was awarded the Order of the British Empire.
At the conclusion of the war, the Government opened the doors of immigration to allow those skilled in select trades to come to Canada. The needle-trade industries of Toronto, Montreal and Winnipeg made a joint proposal to the Government to bring two thousand skilled labourers and their families to Canada. When this proposal received approval, Max led a delegation to visit the DP camps in Europe to find suitable workers. Unfortunately, at the last moment the Government, realizing that most of those involved in the industry were Jewish, changed the rules of the program to limit the number of immigrants to Canada of any specific ethnic group to 50% of the total. Nevertheless, because of the work that Max did, many Jews were able to immigrate to Canada at this time where the “None is Too Many” policy of previous years had prevented Jews from doing so during the war years. For these efforts Max was awarded the Order of Canada in 1983.
Max was the first President of the Jewish Vocational Services of Toronto and served on the Boards of Mount Sinai Hospital, Baycrest Centre for Geriatric Care and the Canadian Friends of Haifa University.
About Impakt Labs
Impakt Labs is a non-profit organization founded in 2017 that conducts social issue research and incubates social enterprises and other innovative solutions to social problems. Impakt Labs was launched by Impakt, a B Corp founded in 2001 that helps corporations and civil society organizations benefit from social change.