TANENBAUM, family of three generations of Canadian entrepreneurs and philanthropists. According to family lore, the family's patriarch, ABRAHAM TANEBAUM (1877–1957) left Parczew, Poland, north of Lublin, for New York in 1911. Instead of going to New York, two Toronto-bound acquaintances from Parczew convinced Abraham to join them. Soon after arriving in Toronto, Abraham was driving a horse and cart through residential and industrial areas of the city in search of scrap metal. By 1914, on the eve of war in Europe, Abraham had saved enough to bring his wife, Chippa Sura, and two young sons, JOSEPH TANENBAUM (1906–1992) and MAX TANENBAUM (1909–1983), to join him in Toronto. Two daughters were born there.
Industrious and hard-working, Abraham progressed from peddling for scrap metal to recycling of scrap metal from demolition sites and eventually building his Runnymede Iron and Steel Company into a major steel fabrication firm and real estate empire. An observant Jew, Abraham Tanenbaum also remained close to his roots. He was a founder of Knesset Israel Synagogue, house of prayer to many in the small working-class Jewish community in the junction area of then northwest Toronto, and was an active supporter of Toronto's Eitz Chaim Talmud Torah.
While his two sons were still only boys, Abraham brought them into the family business, Joseph just twelve and with only a six-grade education and Max after finishing eighth grade and only two days beyond his bar mitzvah. They learned the business from the ground up, and as Runnymede Steel expanded rapidly though the war years and into the postwar era, the two brothers assumed control of the firm from their father. In 1951 the two brothers parted company. Joseph, or JT as he was popularly known, stayed on as head of Runnymede while Max established his own company, York Steel. Each was soon a major and successful industrialist in his own right and involved in major public construction projects that underpinned the rapid economic expansion of Toronto and southern Ontario in the 1950s and 1960s. Joseph's firm, Runnymede, was especially prominent in high-level bridge building including the mammoth Burlington Skyway Bridge project completed in 1958. Max also profited from the stream of public and private infrastructure projects. For example, Max landed the contract to supply fabricated steel for an upgrading and expansion of the Toronto Airport, at that time the largest contract of its kind let out by the Canadian government.
As their separate business holdings grew larger and more diverse, the brothers were also influential in Jewish community affairs, giving generously to Jewish and non-Jewish causes. In Toronto, which both men called home, their altruism helped ensure the growth of Jewish parochial education, comprehensive care for the Jewish elderly, and expanded funding for university-based health care research. Their generosity was also directed to a number of Jewish religious institutions. Although the brothers often demonstrated different funding priorities, their generosity left its marks on Jewish institutions in the United States and Israel as well. This tradition of community engagement continued to the next generation.
Max had seven children, among them JOEY TANENBAUM (1932– ), LARRY TANENBAUM (1945– ), and HAROLD TANENBAUM (1930-1978). Joey was born in Toronto. A graduate in engineering from the University of Toronto, as president and CEO of Jay-M Holdings, he had a successful career in real estate development and construction. Joey and his wife, Toby, have also been prominent in the Jewish and non-Jewish communities. In addition to their generous support of health care research, they are highly regarded and influential patrons of arts and culture in Canada. Their financial contribution was critical to the construction of a new opera house in Toronto named in their honor. Avid art collectors, they have donated major art collections to the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Royal Ontario Museum, and the Art Gallery of Hamilton. Interested in his family's history, Joey also funded the restoration of his grandparents' Knesseth Israel Synagogue in Toronto. It is now Ontario's oldest purpose-built synagogue still in use.
Joey's brother, Larry, who earned a B.Sc. in economics from Cornell University, had a successful career as chairman and CEO of Keler Van Nostrand, a private investment holding company with diversified interests in construction and infrastructure, electronics and technology and sports and entertainment, including a controlling interest in several major league sports franchises. Larry was also deeply involved with the United Jewish Appeal of Greater Toronto, Toronto Mount Sinai Hospital, the Canadian Council of Christians and Jews, and the Baycrest Centre for Geriatric Care. In 2004 he helped organize the Canadian Council for Israel and Jewish Advocacy to conduct and direct a wide range of non-partisan public advocacy initiatives on behalf of the Canadian Jewish Community.