Sadie Stren

Sadie Stren served as the Brantford Jewish community’s citizen archivist, historian and author for much of her life. She began collecting historic materials on Brantford’s Jewish history in the 1970s while researching a book on the topic. Over the next several decades, Sadie assembled a collection of records dating back to the late 1800s including the earliest years of the Brantford Hebrew Association.

Born in 1915 in Detroit, Michigan, Sadie’s father Samuel had first arrived in Brantford in 1910. He moved to Detroit, Michigan in 1912 where he worked for the Ford Motor Company and later owned a confectionary store. Emma, Sadie’s mother, arrived in Detroit from Russia where the couple married and started a family.

Sadie first met her husband, Maurice “Maurie” Strenkovsky (1910-1995) while visiting relatives in Brantford. The two married in 1947, five years after meeting. When Sadie first moved to Brantford, she joined several Jewish organizations and remained active in communal work and volunteerism for the remainder of her life.

Recognizing the importance of preserving Brantford’s Jewish history, Sadie began donating her archival collection to the OJA in 1976, during the very early stages of her pursuit and of the OJA’s existence. The Brantford records were some of the OJA’s first acquisitions documenting small-town Jewish life, received during a period of rapid population decline of many Jewish communities around the province. Her donations would continue until 2006 following the closure of the Beth David Synagogue, forming an important body of evidence related to small town Jewish life in the 20th century. Sadie’s collection is rich in documentation about Brantford families and community members, religious life, local businesses and communal organizations like Hadassah.

Sadie Stren passed away on December 9, 2014, living to almost 100 years of age. Her lifelong commitment to collecting the Brantford Jewish community’s records continues to provide evidence of Jewish life in Brantford and the surrounding region. Without Sadie’s efforts, much of this evidence would undoubtedly have been lost.

Archivist Notes

The work of Sadie Stren has left a lasting documentary legacy for others to learn from and enjoy. Citizen archivists and historians like Sadie contribute valuable information to our understanding of the Jewish experience. This knowledge and expertise stems from first-hand experience of the communities in which they live and work. Sadie’s collection of photographs and documents provides us with a glimpse of the many historic differences and commonalities between small-town Jewish life and that of larger cities. Her dedication to ensuring that Brantford’s Jewish history was preserved has benefited numerous OJA researchers, including a recent exhibition mounted by Christina Han of Wilfred Laurier University, Brantford. When asked about the collection, she said: “The OJA’s Sadie Stren collection was vital for the success of our Memories of Brantford’s Jewish Community project. The documents and photographs collected by Stren remind us of the vibrant Jewish community that Brantford once had.”

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