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Who Gets In - An Immigration Story

Who Gets In

An Immigration Story

Paperback : 9780889779228, 320 pages, May 2023
Hardcover : 9780889779259, 320 pages, May 2023
Print to order. Please allow 4-6 weeks for delivery.

Table of contents

Another Ship, Another Time
“Pure Russian, Jew, German”
Oh, Ottawa
Go West, Slowly West, Knowing Nothing at All
Coming Forward, from Radzan
Dysart, Saskatchewan, Capital of the Forgotten West
The Bennett Years
The Immigration Files: The Heart of the Matter
At Hirsch on the Southeastern Borderlands
How to Become a Character in a Canadian Novel
The Immigration Path, Dark and Twisted
Enter the Great Lady
The Train I Ride
Going to the Archives
You Come from Far Away: The Danzig Story
Last Thoughts Upon Leaving
Sources Cited and Consulted
Illustration Credits


  • Short-listed, The Hill Times Best Books of the Year 2023


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.



“(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