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By STAN CARBONE Jewish Heritage Centre Exhibit Curator
In 2012 the Jewish Heritage Centre received a collection of documents, memorabilia and photographs from the estate of Canadian-born actress Frances Bay (nee Goffman).

Born in Mannville, Alberta in 1919 to Russian Jewish immigrants, Frances Bay lived in Dauphin and Winnipeg and moved to the United States in the late 1940s, where she established an acting career on the stage,  in television and motion pictures, and where she died in 2011. She appeared in several television series, including Seinfeld and Happy Days.
The collection stretches from the late 1920s to her death. It offers insights into her life in Dauphin and Winnipeg as well as her development as an actress. One senses from the collection that Frances possessed an inquisitive mind and boundless energy. She pursued acting with great intensity and dedication. The Dauphin material relates to her family life, friendships made and cultivated, her interest in acting and provides some valuable information on the small but vibrant Jewish community. I have supplemented this section with photographs donated by Marly Zaslov (nee Buckwold), who also resided in Dauphin. Through the course of the research and exhibit development Marly was a key source of information. Also, Marly’s daughter, Anrea, introduced me to Frances Bay when she was spearheading what was to be a successful campaign aimed at inducting Frances into Canada’s Walk of Fame. Anrea became the unwitting catalyst for the creation of this exhibit.
This exhibit consists of two sections. The first is a brief account of the origins and development of the Dauphin Jewish community. The second focuses on Frances, including her involvement with the Winnipeg New Theatre, a leftist, progressive organization that staged plays and skits that addressed important themes such as unemployment, social justice and the struggle against Fascism and Nazism. For this component, I have drawn on the Saul Cherniack collection. Cherniack, a Manitoba NDP cabinet minister during the Schreyer administration (1970s), played a fundamental role in the formation of the Winnipeg New Theatre.
Frances Bay led a varied and interesting life. This exhibit touches on the various aspects and dimensions that created and nurtured her personal development and artistic sensibilities. Her experiences in Dauphin and Win-nipeg were pivotal in forging her identity and worldview and proved to be fertile training grounds for an acting career that spanned over six decades.

The Jews of Dauphin

Much of the research on the history of Manitoba Jewry has focused on the city of Winnipeg. Less attention has been paid to the lives and legacies of Jews in smaller cities, towns, villages and other rural settings. There are exceptions, namely Arthur Chiel, Harry Gutkin, Abe Arnold, Chana Thau, John Lehr, and Allan Levine, who dedicates considerable space to this phenomenon in his book, Coming of Age (2009).
Arthur Chiel has pointed out that, in the 1920s, at the height of the rural Jewish population, Jewish country merchants had settled in no less than 118 towns and villages in Manitoba, including Dauphin.
The impetus for Dauphin’s development sprang from the convergence of the creation of a railway line with a burgeoning wheat economy. In the early 1900s there were five grain elevators. By the 1920s, Dauphin had a vibrant commercial district, cultural and recreational venues, two newspapers and counted a population of 4,000.
In Dogtown to Dauphin, local historian Adam Little makes reference to the arrival in 1898 of a certain Jake Buckwold, who began his career as a clerk in Tevel Finkelstein’s general store. Little offers no indication as to when Finkelstein had settled in Dauphin. In 1902, Buckwold married Bessie Silverstein in what was the first Jewish wedding. According to Little, the ceremony took place under a canopy in the fire hall. Max and Anne Goffman and their children, Frances and Erving, settled in Dauphin in 1926, where Max Goffman opened a department store. At its peak, the Jewish population grew to around 15 – 20 families. Census data for 1940 records 15 families: Bay, Boroditsky, Breslaw, Buckwold, Cohen, Cooper, Feingold, Goffman, Isaacovitch, Katz, Koffman, Nippon (sic), Shnoor, Smordin and Solomon.
Sherri Cavan, who has researched and written on the history of the Dauphin Jewish community, informs us that Dauphin had a stratified class system with political power and privilege resting in the hands of a predominantly Anglo business and professional elite. Cavan’s research also shows that Dauphin was not oblivious to the anti-Semitism that was manifested in Canada through the discriminatory practices and musings of government officials, business elites and the press. Canadian immigration policy designated a category of “non-preferred immigrants”, which included Jews. A former resident, Ely Bay, referred to anti-Semitism on the part of Ukrainian farmers who referred to the old Jewish families (the Bays and Buckwolds) as “white Jews” and the new families (Cohens, Neepans) as the “black Jews.” When asked if there was anti-Semitism in Dauphin, Frances Bay answered: “Absolutely. I didn’t realize it, or I might have realized it because some kids could play with me and others couldn’t…I don’t know how to put it, but of course there was anti-Semitism.”
Over the course of the years Jews left Dauphin in pursuit of professional and business careers in larger industrialized urban centres such as Winnipeg, where there was a strong, dynamic Jewish community and institutional life replete with cultural organizations, synagogues, social service agencies and schools. Frances Bay and Erving Goffman left Dauphin for Winnipeg and subsequently the United States, the former pursuing an acting career and the latter becoming an eminent and influential sociologist.

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#1 Feedback from a former Dauphiniteharvey feingold 2020-03-26 20:02
I just re-read this article and saw the chance to comment. Nearly all the Dauphin Jewish names are familiar to me. My dad, Yechiel (they also called him Max for some reason) had a general store across the street from the Buchwalds farm machinery store. Goffman's, Bay's, Nepom's 9where did you get that terrible spelling?) were up the street. If possible, I'dlove to hearmore! Harvey