Third Solitude Series

The blog of the Museum of Jewish Montreal www.imjm.ca

5 Questions with Our Research Fellows

We sat down with Aaron Dishy, one of our research fellows, to get an update on her summer at the Museum of Jewish Montreal.

What are you working on right now?

 I’ve been working on tours and it’s been going well. We’ve had quite a few tours. We had one tour with 19 people this week and it went really well. I’m also working on quite a bit of uploading for the Museum. I’ve done upwards of six or seven exhibits and I’m just going over them now. One of them is for the YM-YWHA and another one is looking at early Chabad and Lubavitch movements in Montreal.

 What was something interesting you learned from this week’s seminar?

I loved the seminar this week. It was about Jewish food, which is one of the most fascinating topics to talk about. It’s really interesting when you realize how diverse and eclectic Jewish foods actually are, especially when you look at Mizrahi cuisine. People forget that Jewish food isn’t just kreplach and cholent and that there’s a diverse spectrum of Jewish experiences.

You’re one of the leaders of the Mile End walking tour, Rabbis, Writers and Radicals.What is your favorite stop on the tour? 

Probably B’nai Jacob. It’s now the Collège Français on Fairmount and it’s interesting because it’s so evident how grand the shul used to be and how Jewish the space was. They didn’t even cover up the mantel or the arch in the front of the building, they just kind of left it to be, so it looks like this Jewish building is just being kind of poorly covered over by a French high school.

So you’re from Toronto originally. Based on your experiences, what are some of the differences between the Toronto Jewish community and the Montreal Jewish community?

 From what I’ve noticed, the Montreal Jewish community is much more interested in secular Jewish culture. The Toronto Jewish community is much more straight Orthodox and not as interested in celebrating yiddishkeit and the fingerprint and history of Jews in the city. Both communities are very interesting in different ways.

Since the summer is coming to an end, what has been your favourite part of working for MJM?

Just learning about the history of Montreal. It’s such a rich, diverse history for so many different ethnic groups. It’s been really fascinating to study how all these people have interacted and shaped the city into what it is today, and I’m glad I had the opportunity to learn more about that.

 The Museum of Jewish Montreal Research Fellowship has been made possible by the generosity of Herschel Segal and Jane Silverstone-Segal, as well as Francine and Dr Leonard Schwartz. This project is funded in part by the Government of Canada through its Young Canada Works program.

You can read more about the tour Aaron leads in this article from the Gazette: http://www.montrealgazette.com/life/Montreal+Diary+Walking+tour+sheds+light+city+hidden+Jewish+history/10019343/story.html

Join us for a walking tour at http://imjm.ca/walkingtours

5 Questions with Our Research Fellows

We sat down with Laura Segal, one of our research fellows, to get an update on her summer at the Museum of Jewish Montreal.

What are you working on right now?

I’m going to interview the very popular artist Rita Briansky. She leads artist courses at the Bronfman Centre; she’s very cool, she was a part of an artist group with various other famous Montreal artists including Alexandre Bercovitch. I’m going to find out what it was like being a female Jewish artist in Montreal. 

What was something interesting you learned from this week’s seminar?

Yesterday we discussed contemporary Jewish issues in Quebec. We read two articles about it presenting different points of view and we watched a few videos about the Charter of Values. We were just exposed to so many different points of view and I thought that was really cool. The articles were on things like whether or not Montreal Jews are leaving again like they did in the 1970s, about how large the Jewish community is, kind of general statistics about the Jewish community that you might not otherwise find or learn about. I thought that was cool, learning about the basics of the Montreal Jewish community and its recent history, but also hearing new opinions. 

You’re one of the leaders of the Plateau walking tour, Making Their Mark.What is your favorite stop on the tour?

I like the Hebrew maternity ward stop. I’m an Art History major with a Women’s Studies minor, and what we learn on the stop is that this one woman, Taube Kaplan, saw that there were very high infant mortality rates in Montreal and especially in the Jewish community, and there wasn’t really a hospital that Jews could go to and feel completely secure because the hospital system was confession based. So [Taube Kaplan] decided to create a maternity hospital for the Jewish community. She took the initiative, went door to door, fundraised, and created a maternity hospital. It’s so great to learn about the results of her efforts; infant mortality rates went down drastically after the hospital was established. It’s great to see how the ideas and efforts of one woman contributed so much to the Jewish community. 

You said you study Art History. Who are your favourite artists? 

Maybe not my favorite artists aesthetically, but two artists I like to study are Artemisia Gentileschi and Frida Kahlo.

If you had to describe the Montreal Jewish community in one word, what would it be?

Persistent.

The Museum of Jewish Montreal Research Fellowship has been made possible by the generosity of Herschel Segal and Jane Silverstone-Segal, as well as Francine and Dr. Leonard Schwartz. This project is funded in part by the Government of Canada through its Young Canada Works program.

Join us for a walking tour at http://imjm.ca/walkingtours

5 Questions with Our Research Fellows


We sat down with Pascale Greenfield (left), one of our research fellows, to get an update on her 
summer at the Museum of Jewish Montreal.

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What are you working on right now?

I’m currently working on an exhibit about the Pavilion of Judaism, which was the Jewish pavilion at Expo ’67. 

What was something interesting you learned from this week’s seminar?

We did the [audio/oral history] walking tour of the Lachine Canal. There’s the old Steel Co.building right on the Lachine and not far from it there’s this random tower that we all thought was a watch tower, but really it was was where they would make bullets. They would shoot down molten lead and it would roll on mirrors, and by the time it reached the bottom it was a fully formed bullet. They were saying in the oral histories that the height of the tower was determined by the time it takes molten lead to harden into a bullet.

You’re one of the leaders of the Mile End walking tour, Rabbis, Writers and Radicals. What is your favourite stop on the tour?

I like Anshei Ukraina. It’s fun because it’s really interactive with the people. You can see aStar of David like hidden by a cross, and we also have this story of inside the building that names of the martyrs in Ukraine are written on the water pipes.

You said you like to travel a lot; what is the craziest place you’ve ever traveled to?

I was in Mali about a month ago visiting family.

If you had to describe the Montreal Jewish community in one word, what would it be?

Eclectic.

You can read more about the tour Pascale leads in this article from the Gazette.

Join us for a walking tour at: http://imjm.ca/walkingtours

The Museum of Jewish Montreal Research Fellowship has been made possible by the generosity of Herschel Segal and Jane Silverstone Segal, as well as Francine and Dr Leonard Schwartz. This project is funded in part by the Government of Canada through its Young Canada Works program.

Presenting Our Summer Team

The Museum of Jewish Montreal is proud to announce that we will be welcoming new additions to our organization for the summer. For the next three months, we will be hosting three Research Fellows and two interns from Concordia’s Public History program. They will be assisting the Museum with a number of ongoing initiatives and helping us inaugurate new programming, while also undertaking their own original research that will have a lasting impact on our organization. The Museum is excited to introduce these new additions to our team.

Aaron Dishy – 2014 MJM Research Fellow:

Aaron Dishy is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Religious Studies and Art History at McGill University. He is passionate about unearthing the cultural and theological footprint produced by Jewish immigrant groups upon the city of Montreal, as well as illuminating the marginalized voices of the Jewish mainstream through documentation and investigation. More particularly, Aaron is interested in exploring Mizrachi Jewish history and the contemporary developments made by LGBT Jews in revitalizing Yiddishkayt as a means to broaden Jewish practice in North America. Upon completion of his undergraduate degree, Aaron hopes to continue his studies on the transnational Jewish diaspora and the religious, ethnic, and cultural legacies Jewish populations leave on the societies they inhabit. 

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Pascale Greenfield – 2014 MJM Research Fellow:

Pascale Greenfield is a second-year MA student in Judaic Studies at Concordia University. She received her BA in history, also at Concordia, in December 2010. Her research focuses on Second Temple Hellenistic Jewish Diaspora, with a particular emphasis on conceptions of sacrality and negotiation of religious identity. Born in Ottawa, Pascale has been a proud Montrealer since 2008. Her favourite spots in the city include the Atwater Market, Beaver Lake in winter, and the Canada Malting silos. In her spare time she likes cooking, mediocre TV, and spending irresponsibly on travelling to far-flung locations. She has a grey tabby cat named Souq, and she WILL show you photos of him.

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Laura Segal – 2014 MJM Researcher:

Laura Segal is pursuing a degree in Art History with a minor in Women’s Studies at McGill University, and is entering the final year of her undergraduate studies. She is specializing in the representation of women in art in order to raise awareness about the social issues concerning the history of the canon of art. Laura has worked for student galleries, student art history journals, publishing companies such as Sternthal Books, and as a curator for festivals such as Art Souterrain. She is enthusiastic about working in the relatively new medium of interactive maps and specialized walking tours, and is excited about shining a spotlight on Montreal’s Jewish history. Her other hobbies include jogging, reading, cooking, going to concerts, learning languages, and traveling. 

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Rebecca de Sanctis – 2014 Concordia Public History Intern:

Rebecca De Sanctis is currently completing the last year of her BA in the Honours History program at Concordia University. She is a second generation Italian-Canadian who was born and raised in Montreal. As a Montréalaise, Rebecca is fascinated by her city’s culturally diverse and unique history. A feminist and self-proclaimed human rights advocate, she is passionate about history because she believes that an understanding of the past and how it has shaped the present is crucial for the construction of a just and egalitarian society. In addition to history, Rebecca enjoys drawing. One day she hopes to combine her historical knowledge and artistic talents to create a graphic novel that will help further the public’s interest in history. 

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Jeffrey Yakimchuk – 2014 Concordia Public History Intern:

Jeffrey has lived in the West Island since his family moved there when he was only one year old. After graduating from John Abbott College with a Liberal Arts DEC, he began his undergraduate career at Concordia University in the English Literature and History BA Specialization, and last year switched to the Honours program in Public History. Jeffrey is a sports enthusiast and a strong supporter of Montreal sports teams. He is currently rooting for the Montreal Canadiens and still lamenting the loss of the Expos. His other interests include cinema, literature, and cooking. He is currently working part time as a cook at McKibbins’ Irish Pub in the West Island.

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#familyphotofriday (on Monday) - More Passover Memories

What does Passover look like for different Jewish Montrealers? 

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Photo courtesy of Ruth Rappaport

Joyce and Ruth Rappaport (mother and aunt of Zev Moses, the Museum of Jewish Montreal's executive director) were born and grew up In New York, but drove up to Montreal every April to celebrate Passover with their grandparents, Wolf and Luba Chaitman. They discuss these seders below:

JOYCE: This photo was taken in 1969. I believe it was our next-to-last seder in Montreal, at 3955 Dupuis Avenue, apartment 12. By 1971 our grandfather was getting weaker and we began to have our seders in New York, where we lived. The picture is of Wolf (Velvel) Chaitman, teacher at the Jewish People’s School, and he was in his mid-eighties here. With him is Luba Chaitman, our grandmother. My sister Ruth, just about age 14, is standing next to them and probably bringing him a cloth napkin to dry his hands, since in our family he washed at the table (and was the only one who washed). I am sitting nearby, age 17, in my last year of high school.

Our seders were eclectic and recited in Yiddish, Hebrew, and English. We shared them with the Gold Family (Dr. Solomon and Edith), on the second night going to their house in Outremont, where the discussion was always focused on social injustice. We also shared them with Max and Rivka Pascal. Zaidy Velvel and Uncle Max, as radical and non-religious as they were, would insist on completing the whole Hagaddah, including the after-dinner prayers. We’d wait for the songs and sing them loudly. Zaidy would give us Canadian silver dollars as afikoman presents. 

RUTH: The first seders I recall were in the apartment that my grandparents had at 205 Mount Royal Avenue West.  They shared a flat with Dr. Solomon Gold’s medical practice that smelled like alcohol-based tinctures.  After the seder the kids—including Dr. Gold’s sons—would often play in the doctor’s office and I recall sitting on a big green examining table.

If I can recall correctly, we used the old Maxwell House coffee hagaddah and in it there was a picture of a guy who we thought looked like Alfred E. Newman.

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Lyrics of ”Partisan Song” handwritten by Wolf Chaitman, courtesy of Joyce Rappaport

We sang some remarkable songs whose melodies are uncommon.  We had especially great versions of “Had Gad Ya" and "Echad Mi Yodea.”  But the most chilling and memorable was the “Partisan Song” (Partizaner Lid, “Zug Nit Kaynmol”). Penned by Hirsh Glick after the Warsaw Uprising, it was the anthem for the Jewish men and women who fought the Nazis.  “Zug Nit Kaynmol" translates to "Never Say You Have Reached the Final Road."  My Zaydie Velvel wrote out the words in impeccable penmanship, a work of art.  We all stood and sang the song with conviction.  There has never been another song that touches me the same way and to this day I sing it every Pesach.

One year I came down with German Measles and I could not attend the second seder.  The family went off to celebrate with the Golds, and my Bobie Luba stayed back with me.  She permitted me to eat toast.

Share Your Montreal Passover Photos with us. Email them to info@imjm.ca or send us a note through our Facebook page.

#Familyphotofriday: Week 4, Pesach Edition

Share Your Montreal Passover Photos with us!

What does Passover look like for different Jewish Montrealers?

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The Museum of Jewish Montreal's research director Stephanie Schwartz gets ready to ask the Four Questions at a family seder in Côte Saint-Luc, ca. 1984. From left to right: (uncle) Fred Schwartz, (Bubi) Mary Toulch, (aunt) Bryna Rumstein, (mom) Francine Toulch-Schwartz. Courtesy of Bryna Rumstein. 

Stephanie writes: Seders at the Montreal Schwartz clan’s house were always the best. My older cousins passed on a tradition that they learned from our great-grandfather. When we sing Ehad me Yodeah, we bang on the table every time we get to the part about four mothers. Apparently Zayde George would *tap* the table to honour the women of the family. But in Côte Saint-Luc, we always had to clear away dishes and glasses to brace (our parents) for the banging that would ensue. Today, my siblings and I still get giddy when we get to that part of the seder. 

Do you have a Montreal Passover photo or story to share? Drop us a line at info@imjm.ca or send us a note through our Facebook page 

#Familyphotofriday - Week 3, Part 2

Today an expert in real estate law, C. Ralph Lipper got his early education at Montreal’s Talmud Torah. In 1946 the elementary school was located at 269 St-Joseph in today’s Mile End neighbourhood. The school was unique in that it provided students with a religious Jewish education, and taught Jewish studies in Hebrew, as opposed to Yiddish as did the Jewish People’s School on Fairmount Ave. Although the photo indicates “Montreal Hebrew Academy” this not to be confused with the contemporary Hebrew Academy  which was founded in 1967.

Ralph writes: “I am in the front row middle between all the lovely ladies. Others in the photo include Irwin Cotler, Jack Kivenko and Michael Rosenfeld.” As an adult, he would maintain his connection to United Talmud Torahs, participating in its management committee. He is also a past president of the Association of Jewish Day Schools.

Did you go to Talmud Torah? Do you recognize others in this photo? Tell us about it!

Stay tuned for the Museum of Jewish Montreal’s upcoming exhibit on Talmud Torah.

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Message us a photo and a Montreal Jewish story and we’ll post it here. #familyphotofridays

And wouldn’t it be cool if you could share your own photos and stories on our website? There are just 4 days left to help support the #storiesproject: http://bit.ly/1i93gk6

#familyphotofriday - week 3, part 1

"I sang for my father and everybody else"

This one comes from our friend Saul Friedman. It’s a portrait of him as a wearing a navy uniform in 1945. Here’s what Saul said about his photo:

"Uncle Joe and Aunt Fanny sent this American Navy uniform for me from Bronx, NY. I was a cute kid. I had a singing voice that my relatives all enjoyed. Often, I would give a recital in the kitchen of our Clark Street flat. I insisted my audience stand up during two Anthems, ‘O Canada’ and ‘God Save the King,’ which I sang, of course. I held a sheet in front of me and raised it as I sang the anthems and lowered it when I sang my songsI got the idea from seeing a curtain raised at The Monument National when a New York City Yiddish theater group visited. I sang a medley of English and Yiddish songs. "Cruising Down the River’ and ‘Loveliest Night of the Year’ were 2 favorites. My audience clapped in appreciation, I think.”

You can learn more of Saul Friedman’s stories at his Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/31055132075/

Message us a photo and a Montreal Jewish story and we’ll post it here. #familyphotofridays

And wouldn’t it be cool if you could share your own photos and stories on our website? There are just 4 days left to help support the #storiesproject: http://bit.ly/1i93gk6

#Familyphotofriday: Week 2

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An anonymous donor sent us this postcard of Camp Nitgedeiget, a Jewish summer camp formerly located in Shawbridge, Quebec (14 Island Lake). This photo depicts the main building of the camp, ca. 1940s.

Camp Nitgedeiget (meaning “Don’t Worry”in Yiddish ) was sponsored by the left wing organization the United Jewish People’s Order. While its campers and staff were primarily Jewish, it also welcomed non-Jewish French Canadian children, a rare example of cultural exchange at the time.

Do you have a family member who attended or worked at this camp? Stories or photos to share? Get in touch!

Help support the #storiesproject: http://bit.ly/1i93gk6

#familyphotofriday: Week 1

Anne Cooke Maurer shared this image with us from the top of Mount Royal. She writes: “I am the great-granddaughter of Fanny and Jacob-the couple in the picture. I was raised in Montreal and taught elementary school there for 6 years. I married an American in 1969 and moved to the States and have lived here since. Some of my extended family still live in Montreal some of them are in Toronto with many in the States too.”

Message us a photo and a Montreal Jewish story and we’ll post it here. #familyphotofridays

And wouldn’t it be cool if you could share your own photos and stories on our website? Help support the #storiesproject: http://bit.ly/1i93gk6


More details about the photo: From left to right: Unknown, Betty Gotliffe Fine, Jacob Mendelsohn, Selma Burwasser Belenky, Fanny Birnberg Mendelsohn, ca. 1918