Past meets Present during Jewish Montreal Heritage Week

By Tikun Olam

The past holds the key to our future. 

This was the underlying theme behind last month’s inaugural Jewish Montreal Heritage Week.  Sponsored by the Peter and Ellen Jacobs Virtual Archives Fund of the Jewish Public Library, along with Federation CJA’s GEN J and A Bit Off the Top, the project featured participation from a large contingent of Montreal Jewish organizations including:

  • Jewish Public Library Archives
  • Montreal Holocaust Memorial Centre
  • Interactive Museum of Jewish Montreal
  • Canadian Jewish Congress Charities Committee
  • Jewish General Hospital Library and Archives
  • Dora Wasserman Yiddish Theatre Archives
  • Cummings Centre for Seniors Archive Project

Taking place over the week of May 5th, this collaborative initiative employed a varied approach, making use of blog posts, multimedia archives, and both physical and virtual exhibits to help preserve and promote our rich heritage, while sharing it with a broader audience.

According to the organizers, the importance of sharing knowledge of our past cannot be overstated. “The transmission of our history is essential for retention, immersion, and ultimately, the continuity of our culture,” explained Shannon Hodge, Director of Archives at the Jewish Public Library.

Not only do the archives, collections, and tours seek to educate Jews about their own culture, but in a broader sense, they provide insight into how Jews have helped shape the city of Montreal both culturally and geopolitically.

“When students and visitors learn how to use archives, they’re essentially learning how to think critically about their past, relying less on subjective data, and more on the narratives surrounding the museum’s collections,” continued Hodge.

The Jewish Montreal Heritage Week was highlighted by two cornerstone events, the first being a Living Exhibit in the Federation CJA lobby on May 9th, which saw visitors treated to extraordinary showcases and collections from each of the participating institutions.

Later in the week, the Jewish Montreal Heritage Week culminated with (re)Collection, an innovative, photo scavenger hunt orchestrated by Zev Moses and Stephanie Schwartz of the Interactive Museum of Jewish Montreal.  This hands-on event saw members of the community racing around the city, following clues, and snapping pictures of historically-significant Jewish landmarks.

“I think (re)Collection is an exciting new project in the community. The scavenger hunt is an interactive and engaging format for learning and it was a great way to meet new people. Great initiative!” said Gabriel, one of the event’s participants.

In all, the initiative has taken a great step in breathing new life into the history of Jews in Montreal, and has succeeded in finding innovative ways to bring our community’s treasures to a whole new generation.

For more information about this initiative, or to view some of the online galleries, visit http://www.jewishmontrealheritageweek.org/index.html

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