Digging into archives
In addition to dealing with emigration from Poland, Ravvin’s story touches on life in the Saskatchewan prairies as it was experienced by Jewish newcomers.
“I drew from all the sources I could gather, to follow my maternal grandfather’s efforts to bring his family after him to Canada at a time when this was very difficult to do,” he says.
The book required years of archival research.
“I was fortunate that his letters in Yiddish and English from the time were preserved in three important archives. My effort to mine these archives is a part of the story I tell,” he notes.
For Ravvin, the book challenges the historical notion that Canada was a welcoming country.
He maintains that his grandfather’s story still resonates today. “The reality of his file is: never take no for an answer,” Ravvin says.
“The ‘none is too many’ rubric that officially ‘explains’ the Jewish efforts to enter Canada in this period does not apply to him,” says Ravvin, referring to the unofficial Canadian policy in the 1930s and ’40s that blocked Jewish immigration.
“He would not have heard this phrase but would have declined to follow its guidance.”
The launch of Norman Ravvin’s new book, Who Gets In, takes place on June 15 at 7 p.m. at the Museum of Jewish Montreal (5220 St. Laurent Blvd.)
Find out more about Concordia’s Department of Religions and Cultures.