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T-Shirt Pays Homage to Toronto Market’s Jewish History

Spotted in one of the hippest design stores in Toronto’s Kensington Market: A teal-green T-shirt emblazoned with the word “Kosher” in Hebrew, along with a Hebrew transliteration of the neighborhood’s name.

It’s the newest addition to the lineup of homemade tees at Model Citizen, but the first to pay homage to Kensington Market’s rich Jewish history. In the 19th century, the neighborhood known as “the Jewish market” teemed with bakers, tailors and kosher butchers.

“It was no window in particular that inspired it, just some historical pictures of the neighborhood,” said Julian Finkel, Model Citizen’s owner and the T-shirt’s creator. “I have a few pictures of shops in the Market back in the 20s and 30s and even later displaying the Kosher symbol. Butcher shops and dairies, mostly, but there are loads of pictures of shops with Yiddish writing out front over several decades. It’s an interesting history, and I just wanted to pay homage to it.”

The shirts, which debuted in June, are produced on an antique screen-print machine inside the store; Marcel Ames, a salesperson, said the shop can’t make them fast enough —even at $34 CDN a pop. Kensington Market’s Jewish windows made headlines last summer when the last Yiddish storefront was threatened with extinction by a new tenant. The Yiddish-emblazoned window, which once advertised Mandel’s Creamery, was rescued by the Ontario Jewish Archives, a local preservation group.

Michael Kaminer is a contributing editor at the Forward. Read more of his posts here.

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