Third Solitude Series

The blog of the Museum of Jewish Montreal

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. 


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.


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. 


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. 


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.


#familyphotofriday (on Monday) - More Passover Memories

What does Passover look like for different Jewish Montrealers? 


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.


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 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?


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 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.


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:

#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:

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:

#Familyphotofriday: Week 2


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:

#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:

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

Parkley Clothes: 1937 at Nuit blanche à Montréal


The Museum of Jewish Montreal presents pop-up exhibit Vêtements Parkley : 1937 / Parkley Clothes: 1937 at Nuit blanche à Montréal in collaboration with Urban Shtetl and the Wandering Chew.


What’s behind these doors? It started with a scavenging mission to map the location of Norman Massey. 


Norman Massey and his first wife Sema Stutman, ca. 1930s. Courtesy of Marilyn Vasilkioti and the Museum of Jewish Montreal.

Norman Massey was among tens of thousands of Jews who immigrated to Montreal between 1900 and 1920, fleeing antisemitism, political upheaval and economic hardship in Eastern Europe. Many of these immigrants found work in the city’s thriving garment (or shmata) trade and by 1931, approximately one-third of Montreal’s Jewish workers were employed in this field, comprising around 35% of the industry’s workers. Pocket-maker, writer and self-described “political dynamite in the needle trades,” Massey is one of dozens of interviewees featured in Seemah C. Berson’s I Have and Story to Tell You (WLU Press 2010), a book about Eastern European Jewish immigrants living in Montreal, Toronto, and Winnipeg in the early twentieth century. Berson’s book is one of the inspirations behind the Museum of Jewish Montreal’s recently launched digital walking tour Work Upon Arrival. We were conducting detective work to find relevant city addresses to geo-locate Massey’s story.

But Massey’s information was particularly hard to track down. We caught a hint of why this was the case from another interviewee – Ena Ship:

"You know that up until then I was the manager of the Vochenblatt and Outlook and a lot of people changed their names. First of all, the Red Squad used to come to homes and make a mess of things and take away books and take away belongings. And people couldn’t get into the United States. So people used to change their names. They were known as So-and-so in the [progressive] movement. Up until now, I still have people that have their old names in my little book with the names of the readers. We had built a beautiful centre in Montreal, a cultural centre. A lot of people donated money, big sums of money, and this centre was padlocked! (Berson 2010: 210-211).”

Check out Third Solitude Series post on this cultural centre: 

With a little help from our friends at the Jewish Public Library Archives and the Jewish Genealogical Society, we discovered that Norman Massey was actually a nom de plume and we were able to find Massey’s birth name – Noach Putterman. By doing an alphabetical search in Lovell’s address directory, we found a “Nathan Putterman” listed with a notation next to his name “[machine] opr[erator] Parkley Clothes”. So where was Parkley Clothes? It wasn’t listed in the alphabetical directory, but on a hunch, I scanned all the businesses listed in the street directory, the big factories of the garment trade located along Ste-Catherine near Bleury, and along the Main. Amazingly, there was Parkley Clothes, on the fourth floor of the Belgo Building!

Today the Belgo Building is an epicentre of Montreal’s art scene with five floors of galleries, dance studios, and retail stores on the street level.  In 1937 however, it was almost floor-to-ceiling garment-making workshops. These listings give you a sense: (note the Freedman Company on the fifth floor!)


Photo from Lovell’s Directory

Because of all the galleries, the Belgo is one of the locations I most closely associate with my favourite night of the year, Nuit blanche à Montréal.  Nuit blanche is a night of magic and discovery, an all-night art festival that highlights Montreal’s incredible galleries, museums, libraries, artists, and culture. This quixotic association with the massive building at 372 Ste-Catherine O. was in the back of my mind when Zev and I went on a scouting mission to check out what the former location of Parkley Clothes looked like today.  After chatting with the building manager, and the folks at Centre d’exposition Circa, we determined that Parkley Clothes was likely located in the space of that gallery, room 442/444, though the inside wall had been renovated decades ago.

Such was born the idea for the Museum of Jewish Montreal’s first pop-up exhibit - Vêtements Parkley : 1937 / Parkley Clothes: 1937



Our exhibit featured at the Nuit blanche à Montréal press conference, courtesy of the Museum of Jewish Montreal. Photo of garment workers courtesy of Canadian Jewish Congress Charities Committee National Archives.

This exhibit brings to life the history of Eastern European Jewish immigrant, garment workers, and union activists in the 1930s. The event takes place on Saturday March 1st at Galerie POPOP in room 442 of the Belgo Building, 372 Ste-Catherine O. from 7pm until 2am. We’ll be joined by our friends Urban Shtetl, a collective of young adults dedicated to the preservation of Yiddish through song, and The Wandering Chew, who educate about the diversity of Jewish food through pop-up dinners. Come join a live tailor performance, learn some Yiddish labour songs, and sample Jewish street food. Our team is hard at work preparing a magical, immersive experience for our visitors. We hope you’ll join us to discover the Belgo’s Jewish past!

Stephanie Schwartz

Parkley Clothes: 1937 is curated by Stephanie Tara Schwartz (Research Director of the Museum of Jewish Montreal) and Jessica Pearson (Assistant Curator) in collaboration with Galerie POPOP, Urban Shtetl, and The Wandering Chew. For more information about the Museum of Jewish Montreal please contact

A Missing Source

During the summer of 2010, I sat on many occasions in a conference room of the former Canadian Jewish Congress on Dr. Penfield and looked at pictures. Thousands of them.


Sitting next to me was Joe King, one of Canada’s great community historians and perhaps the greatest of Montreal’s Jewish community. Joe was in his late 80s, but made the trek by bus to meet me, all the way from deep in Cote St. Luc. We spent hours going through the photos, deciphering the people posing, from left to right, top row to bottom, and with a story and context for each person. Joe was a walking encyclopedia of Montreal’s Jewish history.

Throughout the past three years, whenever our research team reached a dead-end, we could always turn to Joe and more often than not, he knew the answer or would tell us where to look. He was a key piece of Jewish Montreal’s slowly disappearing collective and institutional memory that will now be lost forever. Luckily he has left us a trilogy of books about Montreal’s Jewish history: From the Ghetto to the Main, Bagels to Baron Byng, and Fabled City, along with numerous others on other topics relating to Jews, Canada and the Middle East. 

Joe was not an academic, though he collaborated with many scholars. Instead he was hands-on, working closely with many of the community’s leaders, chronicling their stories while also connecting them to the leaders of past generations, stretching back to the beginning of this community in 1760. He is part of rich tradition of historians of Montreal’s unique past including B.G. Sack, Israel Medresh and David Rome. 

Joe was my mentor, as well as a mentor for many of the other researchers who have worked for our museum. Though we didn’t spend as much time together after that summer, often when I was at the Jewish Public Library or perhaps the Congress Archives, I would run into him and receive his advice. “Have you updated your funders?” he would gently suggest. “Are you speaking to this expert?” He always seemed to know what my next step should be, well before it would ever dawn on me.


In April 2011, Joe took a few of our researchers on a trip to the Maimonides Geriatric Centre. Along the walls of the seventh floor of the hospital lie one of Joe’s many small legacies to the community. Dozens of images, some of which he showed me in the Congress conference room a year earlier, line the hallways and tell the stories of Montreal’s most influential Jews. For over two hours Joe led us, slightly hunched over, through the halls of Maimonides, as we recorded him sharing strange anecdotes and asides about the community’s history. We were transfixed. It didn’t matter that we were in a brightly lit hospital wing. His stories made the pictures on the wall come to life. 


Every morning, I check my email in bed from my phone, a bad habit I have gained over the past few years. Without fail, there are two or three messages from Joe, sent around 6am. They usually feature an article about the political situation in the Middle East (Joe was once a journalist and was often stationed there) and also an update on Joe’s research from the past few days. Sometimes they announce upcoming speaking engagements. I received my last email update from Joe on Wednesday. And then on Saturday he passed away. His nearly daily presence in my life had come to an end. 

Zev Moses

Interactive Museum of Jewish Montreal

Photos were taken by Howard King.



We’re crowdsourcing our museum at reCOLLECTION, a photo scavenger hunt of Montreal’s Jewish history this coming Sunday. 

Take photos, win prizes and save history! 

Register with your friends here (it takes 20 seconds) to get a leg up on the competition.

The Interactive Museum of Jewish Montreal is co-presenting this event with the Jewish Public Library Archives, which provided the rare photos for these memes. Discover WAY more on Sunday!