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The Rewarding Life of Dorothy Dworkin

For the week of Monday July 23, 2012

On July 25, 1976, the funeral of Dorothy Dworkin was held in Toronto, Ontario. She was 86 when she died, having devoted her life to serving the Jewish community of Toronto.

Dorothy Dworkin in her nursing uniform, circa 1909
© Ontario Jewish Archives, photo no 6745
Born on April 17, 1890, in Latvia to an Orthodox Jewish family, Dorothy Goldstick came to Toronto, in 1904. She studied nursing in the United States and, in 1909, she also obtained a diploma in midwifery. Upon returning to Toronto, she became one of the first women in the Jewish community to possess this training. In 1910, she ran the Jewish dispensary (a medical establishment that offers low‑cost services) in Toronto. The following year, she helped form a Women’s Auxiliary at the dispensary. She later helped to found an orphanage for Jewish children.

In 1911, Dorothy married Henry Dworkin, a Jewish man of Ukrainian origin and an advocate of workers’ rights. Henry Dworkin and his brother operated Dworkin Travel, a tobacco shop, confectionary and travel agency. This agency helped hundreds of Jewish people immigrate to Canada, despite the restrictive migratory policies of the time, and facilitated their integration into the country. The couple worked to ensure the agency’s success. Henry travelled to Europe and accompanied the immigrants, while Dorothy remained in Toronto where she organized the immigration, counselled the newcomers and managed the agency. After the death of her husband in 1928, Dorothy took over the agency.

Dorothy Dworkin
© Ontario Jewish Archives / 2006-1-2
In 1922, Dorothy helped found Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto. She was involved in this institution until her death. This new Jewish hospital gave access to health services in Yiddish and offered kosher meals to patients. In addition, it allowed Jewish doctors, who could not practise their profession in other institutions because of discriminatory measures, to practise medicine. By organizing fundraisers, Dorothy ensured financial support for the institution, now a major Toronto hospital.

Dorothy became a Canadian citizen in 1934. In 1935 she started publishing a bilingual newspaper, in English and Yiddish, called Kanader Naies (Canadian News), which was in print for 20 years. After a long life devoted to charitable work, Dorothy Dworkin died in July 1976.

For her work in providing health care and social services to Jewish immigrants, Dorothy Dworkin was named a person of national historic significance in 2009.

To find out more about Canada’s Jewish history, read "The Convention of All Canadian Jews", Lillian Freiman: A Mother to Thousands, Montréal’s Jewish Community on the Main, Toronto's Cultural Mosaic  and The "Jewish Magna Carta"  in the archives of This Week in History.

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