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Social Science Jewish Studies

Who Gets In

An Immigration Story

by (author) Norman Ravvin

University of Regina Press
Initial publish date
May 2023
Jewish Studies, Post-Confederation (1867-), Emigration & Immigration, Jewish
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    May 2023
    List Price
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    May 2023
    List Price
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    May 2023
    List Price

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An eye-opening account of the Jewish immigration experience in the 1930s, and one man’s battle against anti-Semitic immigration policies.

In 1930, a young Jewish man, Yehuda Yosef Eisenstein, arrived in Canada from Poland to escape persecution and the rise of Nazism in the hopes of starting a new life for himself and his family. Like countless others who made this journey from “non-preferred” countries, Eisenstein was only granted entry because he claimed to be single, starting his new life with a lie. He trusted that his wife and children would be able to follow after he had gained legal entry and found work. For years, he was given two choices: remain in North America alone, or return home to Poland to be with his family.

Born from years of archival research, Who Gets In is author Norman Ravvin’s deeply personal family memoir, telling the story of his grandfather’s resolute struggle against xenophobic and anti-Semitic government policies. Ravvin also provides a shocking exposé of the true character of nation-building in Canada and directly challenges its reputation as a benevolent, tolerant, and multicultural country.

About the author

Norman Ravvin is a fiction writer, critic and teacher. His published work includes the novel, Lola by Night, and the story collection, Sex, Skyscrapers and Standard Yiddish. His essays on Canadian and American literature are collected in A House of Words: Jewish Writing, Identity, and Memory. He is the editor of Not Quite Mainstream: Canadian Jewish Short Stories and co-editor of The Canadian Jewish Studies Reader. He is chair of the Concordia Institute for Canadian Jewish Studies at Concordia University.

Norman Ravvin's profile page


  • Short-listed, The Hill Times Best Books of the Year

Editorial Reviews

“(A) masterful archival-based account.”—Alberta Views

"[Ravvin] uncovers the roots of systemic and institutionalized racism in Canada and spotlights the wreckage of Canada’s nation-building ambitions. At the same time, he shows the power of human will to chip away at this prejudice, against all odds." —Montreal Review of Books

“Well researched and quite engaging” —Winnipeg Free Press

"Moving and riveting” —Miramichi Reader

"A sobering historical investigation." —Foreword Reviews

“An engaging memoir” —Jewish Independent

"Who Gets In celebrates a grandfather’s determination to reunite with his family and a grandson’s desire to pay him tribute. Readers will lose themselves in this story of detail and anecdote made compelling by Ravvin’s narrative flair.” —Ruth Panofsky, editor of The New Spice Box: Contemporary Jewish Writing

"...A masterwork of contrasts. Who Gets In is a thrilling tale of archival research and analysis, a page-turner about bureaucratic processes, and a personal family history that examines national and universal themes, including colonialism, Jewish erasure, and the shifting concept of what it means to be Canadian. This atypical story challenges what we thought we knew about Jewish immigration to Canada at a crucial moment in time.” —Harry Sanders, Calgary Historian

“In recounting his grandfather's quest to bring over his wife and children from 1930s Poland, Norman Ravvin uncovers an untold aspect of Canadian immigration history. Rich in archival reconstruction, this engaging, highly readable book is a welcome addition to Canadian Jewish history, narrating the rarely acknowledged story of Jewish Saskatchewan in the early twentieth century." —Aaron Kreuter, author of Shifting Baseline Syndrome, 2022 Governor General's Literary Awards Finalist

"A carefully researched, elegantly told tale that pulls us emotionally into the struggles of the protagonist." —Richard Menkis, Associate Professor of Modern Jewish History, University of British Columbia

“A writer of tremendous reach.” —Canadian Literature Quarterly