Executive Officer’s Badge, Ezras Noshem Society (1917)
Morris & Sally Justein Heritage Museum, Baycrest Hospital
This Executive Officer’s badge was issued by the Ezras Noshem Society in 1917. It identified the wearer as part of the society at events and during fundraising drives. The Yiddish text in the button reads:
Toronto Home for the Elderly
Founded by Women, January 1917
The Ezras Noshem, meaning “helping women”, was a women’s mutual benefit society. Made up of working-class Jewish women, the Society provided dues-paying members with financial support and help with household chores during times of illness or injury. The Ezras Noshem Society was just one of many sick benefit societies organized by Toronto’s Jewish community during the early 20th century. However, an encounter between two women compelled the Ezras Noshem Society to expand their activities beyond their membership.
In 1913, Slova Greenberg, an active member of the Society, met a 90 year-old woman named Pearl Fieman living in a city-operated institution. Pearl was extremely unhappy, not eating and feeling helpless. The public home wasn’t able to provide her with kosher food, religious care or medical attention in a language she understood. Recognizing that many in the Jewish community faced similar barriers to living well in their senior years, Slova Greenberg led the women of the Ezras Noshem in a fundraising campaign to open a Jewish home for the aged. In 1918, funded by donations from the community, the Toronto Jewish Old Folks’ Home opened in a converted house on Cecil Street.
Almost a century later, this small community-funded institution has grown into Baycrest, a world-class center for geriatric residential living, healthcare, research, and education.
Every object has a story. As the curator and program facilitator of the heritage museum at Baycrest, I try to present objects to our clients, staff and visitors in a way that will connect them with the people and places of the past. Additionally, through our Museum on Wheels program – an object handling and reminiscence activity –museum artifacts become entry points to discussion, encouraging our clients to share their memories and life stories.
The Ezra Noshem Society Executive badge is a treasured artifact for Baycrest because it is one of the few physical remnants of the early home on Cecil Street. As such, it is an important reminder of our own story. The foundation of what the organization is today was laid by the small group of determined women that formed the Ezras Noshem Society. They embodied the values of compassion, advocacy, respect and excellence that we hold as our guiding principles.
A great number of our programs and initiatives are still community-funded and the important place of culture, arts and spirituality at Baycrest can be traced to the initial activities of the Ezras Noshem Society at the Toronto Jewish Old Folk’s Home.
As we approach the 100th anniversary of the organization, the Morris & Sally Justein Heritage Museum at Baycrest will be commemorating our history with a series of special exhibitions. The Executive Officer’s badge will be one of the featured objects in the May 2015 exhibition called, CaringCommunity: A History of Health and Medicine in Jewish Toronto.
Museum Assistant, The Morris & Sally Justein Jewish Heritage Museum
Cassandra Zita. Museum Assistant, The Morris & Sally Justein Jewish Heritage Museum, “Executive Officer’s Badge, Ezras Noshem Society (1917).”