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Salsberg, Joseph B.


SALSBERG, JOSEPH B. (1903–1998), Canadian labor leader, politician, journalist. Born in Lagev, Poland, Salsberg was 11 years old when he arrived in Toronto with his parents in 1913. He had only a few years of elementary education before he left school to help support his family. As a youth, he was associated with the Po'alei Zion movement, but, angered at the working conditions in the clothing manufacturing industry in Toronto, he joined the Communist Party in 1926 and was active in the trade union movement as Canadian vice president of the Hatters' International Union. During the 1930s he was a labor organizer for the Communist-affiliated Workers' Unity League. A skilled orator in both English and Yiddish, in 1938 he was elected alderman in a heavily Jewish inner-city Toronto neighborhood and in 1943 to the Ontario legislature for the Communist Labor Progressive Party. Salsberg was outspoken in his support for human rights and helped pass breakthrough anti-discrimination legislation He was defeated by Conservative Alan *Grossman in the 1955 elections.

In 1956 Salsberg visited the Soviet Union to undertake an investigation of the condition of the Jews in the U.S.S.R. He interviewed major Soviet leaders, including Nikita Khrushchev, and became convinced that there was little hope of recognition of the cultural rights of Soviet Jewry, and that antisemitic views were deeply entrenched through all layers of Soviet leadership. On his return to Canada, he wrote a long series of articles on his Russian visit in the left-wing Canadian Jewish Weekly, Vokhenblat. In 1957 Salsberg left the Communist Party and the United Jewish People's Order, which was Communist-inspired, taking a block of former Jewish Communist supporters. He went on to help to set up the left-leaning New Fraternal Jewish Association. A reborn Zionist, Salsberg was active on behalf of Israel and in fostering the Yiddish language. For many years Salsberg wrote a popular column for the weekly Canadian Jewish News.

[Ben Kayfetz (2nd ed.)]

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