General Articles

No Jews Need Apply

Ghettos in Canada? Or pogroms? Hardly. But try looking for a job — in engineering, say — if your name is Greenberg

PIERRE BERTON November 1 1948
General Articles

No Jews Need Apply

Ghettos in Canada? Or pogroms? Hardly. But try looking for a job — in engineering, say — if your name is Greenberg

PIERRE BERTON November 1 1948

No Jews Need Apply


IN THE wartime winter of 1942, when employers of all kinds were desperate for men, a young accountant named Norman Lyons, who had been rejected for military service on medical grounds, started looking for a job.

Lyons was sent by the Unemployment Insurance Commission to a large war plant in Toronto which needed several accountants. After an interview by company officials, he was told there were no vacancies.

He phoned the personnel manager of a second war plant, giving his qualifications in detail. The personnel man said he was looking for a man like Lyons—there was a timekeeper’s job available and several accountants’ jobs open. When Lyons went around, the personnel man’s face changed: Lyons wouldn’t want the job, he said—the hours were long, the pay was low and he knew he wouldn’t be interested. He didn’t even bother lo take Lyons’ name and address.

Lyons tried a well-known accounting firm. The man he saw read his references, fold him he’d have no trouble placing him immediately, said there

was a crying need for men like him. Then, as an afterthought, he asked: “By the way, Mr. Lyons, what is your religion?” When Lyons told him, the company representative said sorry, there was nothing for him.

Lyons tried a second accounting firm. He was fold: “There’s no use beating about the bush. We don’t employ Jews here.”

The dilemma of Norman Lyons, who represents one of our most important minorities (there are more than 170,000 Jews in Canada, 1 1 of the population), has in the past half dozen years suddenly become a number one topic of conversation. A rash of books, plays, movies and radio broadcasts has deal! with the problem of antiSemitism. Because of “Gentlemen’s Agreement” and “Crossfire” and “Earth and High Heaven,” people are doing more talking and thinking about this particularly vicious expression of race prejudice

than ever before. Has the situation, then, changed since Norman Lyons went out looking for a job?

Race prejudice is a difficult thing to measure statistically, but Maclean’s made a stab at it a month ago in an effort to find out what comparative job opportunities there were for Gentile and Jew in a particular field.

Two experienced girls wifh similar backgrounds and training were selected to answer newspaper advertisements for stenographers, typists, book keepers and filing clerks. These occupations we chosen because they cut right across the industrn and business field from insurance companies., truck manufacturers -and because there is present a great shortage of experienced help in tl secretarial field.

One of the girls took the name of Greenberg, the other of Grimes. The girl with the Jewish-sounding name phoned a prospective Continuedon page 53

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Ghettos in Canada? Or pogroms? Hardly. But try looking for a job — in engineering, say — if your name is Greenberg

No Jews Need Apply

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employer first, gave her experience and qualifications and asked if she could make an appointment. The girl with the Gentile name phoned a few minutes later. The test was tried on 47 employers who were advertising in the newspapers for help.

In 41 instances the girl with the Gentile name was able to make immediate appointments to discuss I the job. In six cases she was told the job was filled. The girl with the Jewishsounding name (who phoned first) was i able to make appointments in only 17 instances. In 21 cases she was told the job was filled.

In nine other cases she got every Í kind of a brush-off from a phone ¡ slammed in her ear to a polite voice : telling her: “You wouldn’t want the

job anyway.” More than a week later,

11 of the firms which had told her t he ■ job was filled were still advertising j for help.

The firms which would make appointments with the Gentile job-seeker j but turned down the Jewish applicant included a perfume manufacturer, a nationally known soap company, a wholesale grocery, a manufacturer of construction equipment, a manufacI turer of business machines, a social ! welfare agency, a large hardware ; concern, a manufacturer of spices, a j manufacturer of trucks, a typewriter !

I company and six insurance companies.

Why They Bar Jews

'I'liis reporter checked with some of these firms to see if they had any hard and fast policy about employment.

'Flu* personnel manager of one of the ; insurance companies was shocked when shown that somebody at his firm had refused an appointment to a girl with a Jewish-sounding name. He said his company had no racial prejudices and as proof showed that several employees were Jewish. He said there was no discrimination unless “a Jewish applicant and a Gentile applicant had equal qualifications — then, I think, the Gentile would be picked.”

The personnel manager at a firm of underwriters said that nobody was turned down on a racial basis but that; many applicants were turned down because of “temperament.” He said that the Jewish “temperament” wasn’t conducive to employment among Gentiles. “They don’t know their place,” was the way he explained it. He said he 1 could not explain why the Jewish girl had been told the position was filled when it wasn’t.

The personnel manager of the large soap company said that his company j had no written policy but “there is an j unwritten law that we don’t employ Jews.” He could give no reason for this, he said, but the company had informed him by word of mouth that Jews were not to be employed.

The personnel manager of one of the war plants which had turned down Norman Lyons, the young accountant, in 1942, insisted that his company had no policy prohibiting employment on racial grounds. As proof, he said that out of his 1,500 employees three were Jewish.

Like a good many other personnel men, he could not explain why his company asked questions about race ¡ and religion on t he cards filled out by applicants. He said he guessed it was because in the old days there had been a good deal of discrimination and nobody had got around to removing t he questions.

One personnel man justified these

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questions on the grounds that his »mpany took a fatherly interest in its employees and liked to know all about [hem.

A Jewish Vocational Service was recently set up in Toronto to find jobs for Jews who found difficulty getting them through the National Employment Service. The J.V.S. asks: Where did you last apply for a job? Were you asked any questions about race or religion on a form or during an interview? Were you offered a job?

Of the 113 job-hunters who answered these questions in the first six months )f 1948, 60 reported that they had been asked no racial or religious questions, 50 were offered jobs. Of 53 applicants who had been asked these questions,

only 20 were offered jobs.

Under the Fair Employment Practices Code of the State of New York (the Ives-Quinn Act of 1945), it has become illegal for a prospective employer to ask about race and religion. Opponents of an FEPC in this country argue that “you can’t legislate against intolerance.” However, a report prepared at the request of the President’s (Committee on Fair Employment Practice shows that out of 450 job appli1 cants questioned, only seven per cent ¡were refused jobs by reason of religion ¡in New York City, while in 11 other large U. S. cities (where no FEPC exists) 15% were refused jobs because they were Jewish.

The Closed Shops

The recently published 1941 census figures on distribution of occupations by ethnic groups show as graphically as cold statistics can the dilemma of the Jew in Canada:

1 In occupations where he has to work for somebody else (when that somebody else is a Gentile) he hasn’t the same chance of employment as his Gentile opposite number. And when he does get into these occupations, his chances for advancement and promotion aren’t nearly as good as they would be if he were not a Jew.

The census figures show that in professions where a man is his own boss (medicine, law, dentistry) the proportion of Jews is higher than the 15 per thousand part that the Jews form in the total population. (Seven per cent of all lawyers are Jewish; similarly six per cent of all doctors, five per cent of all dentists.)

But in jobs where an employees’ security depends on a Gentile employer (teaching, banking, engineering) the number of Jewish professionals is much below the number that might be expected to be employed on a per capita basis.

It has been argued that certain vocations—agriculture for instance— “just don’t attract” Jews. The Jews themselves agree that agriculture is far down on the list. Nonetheless, Jewish farmers represent 1.19%* of the farm population, which isn’t far under their percentage (1.57 of the total population). On the other hand, banking can reasonably be expected to be as equally attractive as agriculture—if not more attractive. Yet out of 27,193 persons employed in banking in Canada only 27 are Jewish.

Similarly in the nursing profession, Gentiles outnumber Jews five to one on a per capita basis. In teaching the ratio is three to one. Although the census shows that the number of employable Jews in Canada represents 1.5% of the employable population, only one tenth of one per cent of all Canadian engineers are Jews. Engineering is considered one of the toughest of all professions for a Jew to break into. Recently a member of the engineering

faculty of the University of Toronto told me, “If a Jewish student came to me and asked whether he should go into engineering. I think I’d ask him to reconsider in the light of the few job opportunities available to him.”

The judicature is almost closed to Jews; the 1941 census showed that out of 578 Jews in the legal profession, only one had been elevated to the bench. (The ratio of Gentile judges was one to every 17 Gentile lawyers.) And although one twentieth of all Gentiles engaged in education had risen to be high-school principals or university professors, only l/34th of all Jews employed in the same profession had been able to reach the higher status. There were, in fact, only 18 Jewish highschool principals and university faculty members in Canada at census time.

“Problem” Cases

In some of the federal vocational training schools set up during the war to train war workers quickly, Jewish applicants found they couldn't take the course unless they got a “sponsor” -—somebody willing to employ them after the course was over. The schools felt they weren’t justified in training people who wouldn’t be offered a job. Jews were considered “problem” cases along with enemy aliens, Negroes, men about to be called up, married women, etc.—anyone the schools considered would have trouble getting a job. One Jewish girl who was turned down for a course at Danforth Tech in Toronto then registered under a Gentile alias and was admitted. On graduation she was interviewed successfully by a large war plant and told to report for work the next day. When she turned up, she was rejected. No reason was given.

Similarly, employers phoning National Selective Service in the early months of its formation found that they were being asked whether they had any racial or religious preferences. When one employer said he hadn’t, he then reported that the N.S.S. employee asked: “Even if they’re Jews?”

Selective Service, which has denied an over-all policy of discrimination, found it necessary to issue a directive to its employees that such questions were not to be asked.

The National Employment Service, which is the successor to N.S.S., asks no racial or religious questions on its cards but according to one high official: “I’m not saying that the boys don’t mark a little red X or something on a card if a man’s Jewish.” This doesn’t necessarily mean that the N.E.S. employee is discriminating against Jews. He knows there are certain firms which will not consider Jewish applications and it would only cause the applicant embarrassment to be sent there and turned down.

This economic discrimination means that an important and gifted minority is being forcibly channeled into a narrow field of economic endeavor. There are Jewish stockbrokers operating in most cities, but in Montreal, Toronto and Winnipeg, no Jew holds a seat on the stock exchange.

Often, the easiest way out for a young member of the Jewish community, looking for a job, as Norman Lyons did, and seeking some sort of security and a reasonable chance of promotion, is either to go into business for himself or to get a job with a Jewish firm. The Jew then often becomes accused of “clannishness” or of “taking over certain industries” (for example 21%, of all workers in the garment industry are Jewish), when actually he has been forced into these industries by a series of closed doors in others.

What is worse, the community slowly finds itself split in twain, divided by a

wall of segregation that can only lead to suspicion, mistrust and hate.

Segregation by race at which Canadians are apt to look askance when it is practiced in the southern United States is just as strong in the Canadian social world as it is in the economic world. There are golf clubs which make no bones about the fact that they won’t accept Jewish members; college fraternities and sororities which exclude Jewish students. Members of these clubs have argued that in private, social organizations they should be allowed to choose the people they associate with.

Ghetto Society

Never heless, we are tending toward a ghetto society, Canadian style, where Jew mixes only with Jew, Gentile only with Gentile. The Jews, barred from mixed companionship, must seek their own. In towns like Winnipeg and Toronto they have set up or are setting up their own golf clubs. On most campuses they have had to organize their own fraternities—some of which won’t accept Gentiles.

Discrimination exists right across the social board. A Jewish boy applies for membership in a Manitoba ski club and gets refused when he admits his nationality is Jewish. A few months later he makes a second application listing his nationality as Canadian. Then lie’s admitted. A Winnipeg woman who’s a first-class tennis player applies for admission to a tennis club, stating she’s Jewish. She’s turned down, too. A week later, on a visit to friends in Vancouver, she writes the same club under the name of Betty McDonald. She gets an air-mail letter of acceptance a few days later.

Because of an Ontario precedent it now appears to be perfectly legal for summer resort owners, at least, to sell property on the condition that it not bo resold to persons of Jewish race or religion. This ruling—made last May by Mr. Justice Walter Sehroeder— upheld a clause inserted by the Beach()’-Fines Association at Grand Bend on Lake Huron into its real-estate agreements which technically make it illegal for a real-estate owner in this area to invite a Jewish friend over for dinner. The Sehroeder decision, which is being appealed, is all the more important because it at least partially

gates a decision rendered by Mr. Justice J. Keiller MacKay in 1944 which held that such a restrictive covenant in a real-estate agreement was null and void. The situation will romain clouded in Canada until the appeal to the Sehroeder decision is heard. Meanwhile, there are still restrictive covenants. A federal member of parliament for Ontario recently sold a piece of property undor the written provision that it was not to be sold, rented or leased or used in any way (other than for domestic service» by Jews.

Summer Resort Ban

Tins sort of thing has already forced the establishment of all-Jewish summer resorts and is leading to a type of segregation which, though not as blatant as the Jim Crow stylo, can be just as dangerous.

Last summer Maclean's made a random study of summer resorts in Ontario, Quebec and the Maritimes to find whore they stood on accepting Jews.

Two letters were sent out to each of 29 resorts —one under a Gentile name of Marshall and the other under the name of Rosenberg. The Rosenberg letter was mailed half a day ahead of the Marshall letter so that if only one reservation were available, it would,

under normal circumstances, go to Rosenberg.

Out of the 29 resorts tested in this manner, Marshall was able to make reservations for a two-week holiday in 24 cases. Rosenberg was able to make reservations in only 12 cases. Six resorts which didn’t bother to answer Rosenberg made prompt reservations for Marshall. Six resorts told Rosenberg they were full up, but wrote Marshall offering him several choices of rooms and cabins.

A similar survey was undertaken in the summer of 1947 by the Canadian Jewish Congress in an effort to discover what, if anything, is meant by the terms “restricted clientele,” “select clientele,” “discriminating clientele,” etc. Using the technique outlined above, and the names Lockwood and Greenberg, the congress tested 48 summer resorts in Ontario and Quebec which used restrictive phraseology and 49 others that used no restrictive phrasing. The Jewish applicant was able to make reservations in only nine of the 48 “restricted” resorts while the Gentile applicant made reservations in 46 instances. In the nonrestricted group, the Jewish applicant was able to make 27 reservations, the Gentile applicant 47.

How extensive is anti-Semitism in Canada and is it increasing or decreasing? The only statistical indications to this are in the findings of the Gallup Foil. In January of 1943, a mid-war year, the poll asked people what nationalities they would oppose admitting into the Dominion as immigrants after the war. Forty-seven per cent of those questioned said they’d keep out Jews. This answer was all the more startling because it showed that Jews placed next to Germans and Japanese

-—who were our enemies at the time— as the most undesirable immigrants. The poll took a similar ballot in October of 1946. This time 49% of those questioned voted to keep out Jewish immigrants. And this time the Jews placed second only to the Japanese as most undesirable in the opinion of “average” Canadians.

Where is anti-Semitism at its worst in Canada? Once again, the Gallup Poll provides the only statistical answer. On the immigration quiz, the most prejudice against Jewish immigrants was found in Quebec. The Maritimes were next, followed by Ontario, the Prairies and British Columbia in that order. (The spread between Quebec and B. C. was 67 to 30.) Another Gallup Poll, which asked whether Canadians favored a failemployment practices code, showed most discrimination in the Maritimes with Quebec and Ontario a close second and third, British Columbia fourth and the Prairies showing least discrimination.

There seems to be little relation then between the size of the Jewish population in a given area and that area’s degree of anti-Semitism. Ontario’s

66.000 Jews represent 1.84% of her population. Quebec’s 69,000 represent 2% of her population. Manitoba’s

19.000 represent 2.6%. Manitoba, thus, has the highest per capita population of Jews with Quebec second and Ontario third. Yet the poll shows Manitoba more tolerant than the other two. There is a low density of Jews in both the Maritimes and B. C. —one half of one per cent or less—but those areas hold opposite views on discrimination.

A study of the 1941 census indicates that Jews have a better chance of

getting certain jobs in Manitoba (department stores, nursing, teaching, etc.) than they have in Ontario and Quebec. Generally speaking, there seems to be less anti-Semitism in the West than there is in the East.

Perhaps the most disturbing factor in the anti-Semitism picture in Canada is the Social Credit Party, particularly its right wing which calls itself the Douglas Social Credit Council in the West and the Union of Electors in Ontario and Quebec. This wing, which split away from the party proper last spring (anti-Semitism was said to be a factor), hews strictly to the line laid down by the founder of the Social

Credit movement, Major C. H. Douglas.

Douglas’ writings, which a .1

distributed by the Social Cree t v proper, are violently anti-Se' In

the 1933 edition of his bo' >cial

Credit” he attacks the and

quotes from the infamous Aemitic

forgery “The Protocols of Elders of Zion”—a spurious docu -nt alleged to show a Jewish plot % conquer the world. In a more recent pamphlet, published in 1943 and entitled “Program for the Third World War,” Douglas announces that Columbus’ discovery of America was a Jewish plot, that Hitler was really a Jew, that the depression was caused by the Jews and that the Nazi pogroms against the Jews were actually started by the Jews themselves so they’d have an excuse not to fight in the war (which Douglas says they started).

The Douglasites’ main line seems to be to blame the world’s troubles on a set of international Jewish bankers which they are somehow able to identify with Soviet Communism. One of the leading subscribers to this 1 int» is Norman Jaques, M.P. for Wetaskiwin, Alta.

The official organ of Quebec’s Union des Electeurs (which gained 113,258 votes in the July election to become that province’s third most important political party) is Vers Demain, which recently published “The Protocols of Zion” in serial form. The Ontario paper is called Voice of the Electors, it runs articles with titles such as “AntiSemitic Whining.” Last April this paper published an article by John Patrick Cillese who told his readers: “When you hear of ordinary politicians smeared as Fascist, anti-Semitic, etc., you may generally believe that those men are your friends.”

Although the Social Credit Government in Alberta has soft-pedalled vocal anti-Semitism, in 1947 it. banned in its schools two motion pictures dealing with the racial question. One was the U. S. army film, “Don’t Be a Sucker,” a warning against racial and religious prejudices, and the other a British Ministry of Information film, “Man One Family,” a plea for racial understanding.

There is every indication then, that despite all the recent talk about antiSemitism, despite the general lip service paid to the principle that it is vicious, there is still a lot of it around.

The society that kept Norman Lyons, the accountant, pounding the pavements vainly looking for a job to do in the midst of a war designed to wipe out the very attitudes that drove members of his race into a Belsen isn’t any kinder to his younger brother three years after the war is ended.

The wall of segregation which today keeps the Greenbergs estranged from the Peabodys is as high as ever. And like all walls, it can cripple the freedom of men on both sides of it. Until it comes down, it stands in the way of both Jew and Gentile—a stubborn and ugly barrier blocking the pathway to the good life. ★