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Inspirational Immigrant Story That Helped Shape Toronto Opening Jewish Film Festival

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A small collection of Jewish families helped build and shape the city we now call home.

And a new Canadian documentary from Ron Chapman, that’s opening this year’s edition of the Toronto Jewish Film Festival, documents this extraordinary story of a group of resilient Jewish immigrants who came to Canada in the first half of the 20th century after surviving religious persecution in their homelands to build wildly successful real estate and land development businesses that would help shape the future of Toronto.

Shelter tells the story of these families who found they were discriminated against by the established business community in Toronto. Consequently, circumstances forced them into entrepreneurship, in which they bought land, built homes, and then reinvested in the process.

Aware of the coming influx of immigrants in the post-war years, these new Torontonians anticipated the need for affordable, quality rental housing and knew that high-rise apartments were the answer.

READ: Toronto Housing Market Activity Continues to Cool, But Prices Hit All-Time High

In Shelter, Director Ron Chapman uses a compelling mix of stunning recreations, archival footage, and photographs, and interviews with these groundbreakers and their families to tell this inspiring piece of the city’s history.

From 1952 to 1975, their companies, renowned and still active developers, built over 500,000 apartment rental units across all areas of the city, winning awards and accolades and providing shelter for countless newcomers.

Those interested in Toronto’s development industry will surely recognize many faces in the film, which features exclusive interviews with these celebrated visionary businessmen and their families.

Participants include Sam Brown (The Brown Group), John H. (Jack) Daniels (The Daniels Corp.), Mendel Tenenbaum (The Tenen Group); Shirley Diamond (wife of the late Eph Diamond, Founding Partner and Chairman, Cadillac Fairview Corp); Anne Weinbaum (wife of the late Jack Weinbaum, W. J. Realty & Gonte Construction, now the Preston Group); and David and Cary Green (sons of Al and Harold Green, Greenwin group) along with the Cogan, Green, Hofstedter, Krehm, Merkur, Minz, Ross, and Rubinstein families.

Shelter, which runs just under 90 minutes, will be streaming Thursday and Friday only, and tickets are $12 for the digital screening or $15 with a food bank donation.

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