Project Description


Like citizens from all of Canada’s religious and ethnic groups, many Jews have contributed in exceptional ways to the arts, sciences, commerce and government. The CJE has selected these 36 exceptional persons as examples of Jewish recipients of Canada’s highest civilian award – they are either Companions or Officers in the Order of Canada.

We celebrate them for what they have done. They are examples of the quality of contributions that so many people continue to make for the benefit of all Canadians.


Bluma Appel, philanthropist and arts patron, was born and raised in Montreal. She founded CANFAR, the Canadian Foundation for AIDS Research. She was a major supporter of the St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts in Toronto, which later named one of its theatres in her honour. She donated the funds to help renovate the 876-seat theatre for the Canadian Stage Company performances and was a significant force behind Opera Atelier.

Bluma Appel (far right), being honoured at a National Council of Jewish Women luncheon, Montreal
Source: Alex Dworkin Canadian Jewish Archives | Archives juives canadiennes Alex Dworkin, #PC03.1-5G.6


Louis Applebaum composed at least 250 film scores for the National Film Board (NFB) between 1942 and 1960, and served as their music director. He established the Stratford Music Festival in 1955, was a music consultant for CBC Television and a music advisor to the National Arts Centre. He was co-author with Jacques Hebert, of the influential Applebaum-Hebert Report, a review of national cultural institutions and policies.

Source: Ontario Jewish Archives, Blankenstein Family Heritage Centre, fonds 17, series 2, file 1323. Photo by Henry Fox


Ellen Bialystok is a research psychologist who specializes in language learning in children and cognition in those affected with Alzheimer’s. She has a keen interest in language acquisition in children and how bilingualism affects these processes. Dr. Bialystok is a Distinguished Research Professor of Psychology at York University. She is also Associate Scientist at the Rotman Research Institute of the Baycrest Centre for Geriatric Care.

Photo by Hudson Taylor


Alan Borovoy was a lawyer and human rights activist who served as the long- time general counsel of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA). Raised in Hamilton and Toronto during the Depression at a time of rampant anti-Semitism, he served on the Community Relations Committee of Canadian Jewish Congress from 1951 to 2011. Actively fighting racism in Toronto, Borovoy also wrote a biweekly column for the Toronto Star in the 1990s.

Source: Ontario Jewish Archives, Blankenstein Family Heritage Centre, acc. 2013-8-2


Charles Bronfman, businessman and philanthropist, is a member of the Bronfman dynasty. Besides holding various positions in his family’s businesses, his extensive philanthropic work has included co-founding Historica Canada for promoting history and citizenship, and co-founding Taglit Birthright, a program which provides a free, educational travel experience to Israel for young Jewish adults.

Source: Alex Dworkin Canadian Jewish Archives | Archives juives canadiennes Alex Dworkin


Boris Brott is one of Canada’s most internationally recognized conductors, having conducted from Carnegie Hall to Covent Garden. He is strongly dedicated to the musical education of young people and innovative methods of introducing classical music to new audiences. Throughout his career, he has been devoted to the promulgation of Canadian musical talent and has commissioned, performed and recorded countless Canadian works.

Source: Ontario Jewish Archives, Blankenstein Family Heritage Centre, accession 2007-12-18. Photo by Al Gilbert, C.M.


Born in Moncton, Reuben Cohen was a Canadian businessman, lawyer, and the third Chancellor of Dalhousie University. He founded the financial trust company, Central Guaranty Trust Corporation, and is most known for his devotion to charitable community endeavours. He was president of various fund raising campaigns for hospitals and their neuro-surgical equipment, and was a renowned patron of the arts.

Source: Dalhousie University Archives


George Cohon is the founder and senior chairman of McDonald’s of Canada and McDonald’s of Russia. He is the founder of Ronald McDonald House Charities, which provides accommodation for families whose children are receiving medical treatment, in Canada and in Russia. In 1982, Cohon and 20 corporate sponsors helped save the Toronto Santa Claus Parade.

Source: Ontario Jewish Archives, Blankenstein Family Heritage Centre, accession 2007-12-17. Photo by Al Gilbert, C.M.


David Cronenberg, filmmaker, actor and author, is one of the principal originators of what is known as the “body horror” or visceral horror genre. This style of filmmaking explores people’s psychological and physical fears. He is renowned internationally and is winner of numerous awards for his films. In 2014, he published his first novel, Consumed.

Source: Ontario Jewish Archives, Blankenstein Family Heritage Centre, acc. 2013-8-2. Photo by Ben Lechtman


Natalie Zemon Davis is a Canadian and American historian of the early modern period. A professor of history at University of Toronto, her work at first focused on France, but later broadened to other parts of the world. Her most famous book is The Return of Martin Guerre, which has been translated into 22 languages. Davis is known as “one of the greatest living historians” in the world.

Photographer: Michael Graydon


Jack Diamond was a Vancouver businessman and philanthropist. He created British Columbia’s largest meat packing firm and later formed West Coast Reduction, a tallow and feed company. He was known as a community leader, mentoring people from all walks of life, and earning numerous honours. Characterized as ‘a brilliant businessman with a heart of gold’, he co-founded the BC Heart Foundation and served as Chancellor of Simon Fraser University.

Jewish Museum and Archives of BC, #L.22823


Celia Franca, a formidable ballerina, founded the Canadian classical company, the National Ballet of Canada while still supporting herself as a file clerk at Eaton’s department store in the 1950s. In 1979, she became Co-Artistic Director to the School of Dance in Ottawa, and later served on the Board of Directors for the Canada Dance Festival Society.

Source: Ontario Jewish Archives, Blankenstein Family Heritage Centre, acc. 2013-8-2


Ruth Hartman Frankel founded the Toronto chapter of the Canadian Cancer Society in 1950, later working to create a lodge at the Princess Margaret Hospital for cancer treatment. In 1954, she became the first woman on the Board of Governors for the Ontario Cancer Treatment and Research Foundation. The Ruth Hartman Frankel Humanitarian Award was established by the society to support research into cancer.

Ruth Hartman Frankel (second from right) aboard a ship, 1930s.
Source: Ontario Jewish Archives, Blankenstein Family Heritage Centre, fonds 104, file 2, item 26.


Reva Appleby Gerstein is a Canadian psychologist and educator. A pioneer in Canadian mental health, she helped establish the Hincks Treatment Centre for adolescents, the Gerstein Crisis Centre for psychiatric patients and initiated Mental Health Week. She was also the first woman Chancellor of the University of Western Ontario, from 1992 to 1996.

Reva Gerstein (R) with Sharon Drache (L) at a National Council of Jewish Women Banff workshop, June 1956.
Source: Ontario Jewish Archives, Blankenstein Family Heritage centre, fonds 38, series 8, file 1, item 1.


Alan Bernard Gold was the chief justice of the Quebec Superior Court from 1983 to 1992. He was particularly known as a labour relations arbitrator, and, later, as the chief negotiator between the Quebec government and the Mohawk people in the Oka standoff of 1990. In 1993, after retiring, he joined a Montreal law firm, where he represented the government of Saskatchewan in negotiating a settlement in the wrongful conviction of David Milgaard.

Source: Alex Dworkin Canadian Jewish Archives | Archives juives canadiennes Alex Dworkin


Dr. Phil Gold, Montreal-born physician, scientist and professor, co-discovered with Samuel O. Freedman the carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA), for a blood test used in the diagnosis and management of cancer. He is the Cameron Professor of Medicine, and Professor of Physiology and Oncology, at McGill University. In 1978, he was awarded the Gairdner Foundation International Award, for outstanding contributions to medical science.

Source: Jewish Public Library Archives, Montreal, #PR021441


A medical doctor and paediatrician, Dr. Goldbloom was elected in 1966 as a Member of the National Assembly (MNA), where he served as Minister of Municipal Affairs and as Quebec’s first Minister of the Environment. He was the first Jew to become a cabinet minister in a Quebec government. He later became CEO of the Canadian Council of Christians and Jews and served as Canada’s Commissioner of Official Languages.

Source: Alex Dworkin Canadian Jewish Archives | Archives juives canadiennes Alex Dworkin


Born in Berlin, Germany, Klaus Goldschlag was a Jewish orphan living in Nazi Germany adopted by Alan Coatsworth, a Toronto fire-insurance broker. After earning his Master’s degree in Arabic at the University of Toronto, Goldschlag joined Canada’s diplomatic service. He was ambassador to Turkey (1967-1971), Italy (1973-1976) and the Federal Republic of Germany. In 1981, he received the Outstanding Achievement Award for public service of Canada..

Credit: Government of Canada


Originally from Winnipeg, Allan Gotlieb had a distinguished career as the federal  deputy minister of the Department of Communications, then deputy minister of Manpower and Immigration, and then Undersecretary at External Affairs. Gotlieb was Canadian ambassador to the United States from 1981 to 1989, where he was known as a skilful and respected representative. After his return to Canada, he was chairman of the Canada Council and a director on many corporate boards.

Source: Allan Gotlieb


Saul Hayes was a Canadian lawyer and a public servant in the Canadian Jewish community. He practiced law until being appointed national Executive Director of the Canadian Jewish Congress in 1940. Later, he became national executive vice-president until 1974. He served on multiple committees, notably those devoted to human rights. Hayes was for years a leading voice of the Canadian Jewish community, both nationally and internationally.

Source: Alex Dworkin Canadian Jewish Archives | Archives juives canadiennes Alex Dworkin


John Hirsch was a Hungarian-born theatre director. He came to Canada through the War Orphans Project of the Canadian Jewish Congress. He co-founded Theatre 77, and later the Manitoba Theatre Centre (MTC) in Winnipeg, where he became the artistic director. He later directed plays at Toronto’s Crest Theatre, the National Arts Centre, Young People’s Theatre, the Shaw and Stratford Festivals, in Los Angeles, and Israel’s Habimah Theatre.

Source: Jewish Heritage Centre of Western Canada, JM 472


Mel Hurtig was a publisher, political candidate, president of the Edmonton Art Gallery, and a noted political activist who wrote several books critical of  Canadian government policies from a nationalist perspective. He created the Canadian Encyclopedia, which was first published in 1985. Hurtig also established the Council for Canadians to lobby for a more nationalist approach in public affairs.

Source: 1995-101-137, Mel Hurtig Fonds, University of Alberta Archives


Leon Katz was a pioneer in biomedical engineering, inventing and modifying important medical equipment such as the original heart-lung bypass machine used for the first open-heart surgery in Canada. He developed specialized tools such as a fetal heart monitor, an infant incubator, and a scanner and printer to record thyroid cancer. He later worked at Health Canada on standards and regulations for medical devices and instruments.

Leon Katz, 2010
Courtesy of Floralove Katz


Leo Kolber was a lawyer, Senator, and businessman, who was also President of Cemp Investments, a holding company for the Bronfman family. Kolber is credited with helping to elevate Toronto’s status with the key role he played in the construction of the Toronto-Dominion Centre. He was also the chief fundraiser for the Liberal Party, several Montreal-based philanthropic causes, and served on the boards of many companies.

Source: Jewish Public Library Archives Montreal, #PR070


Raymond Klibansky was a German-Canadian historian of philosophy and art. In 1946, he became the Frothingham Professor of Logic and Metaphysics at McGill University and also lectured at Université de Montreal. The Raymond Klibansky Prizes (now known as the Canada Prize/Prix du Canada) were formerly awarded each year for the best books in the humanities as part of the Canadian Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences.

Courtesy of McGill University Library, Rare Books and Special Collections


Journalist, author, feminist and social activist, Michele Landsberg is known for her  bestselling books, including Women and Children First, and Michele Landberg’s Guide to Children’s Books. She has written columns for the Toronto Star, The Globe and Mail, and Chatelaine magazine, and is one of the first journalists to address sexual harassment in the workplace, racial discrimination, and lack of gender equality in divorce and custodial legal proceedings.

Source: Ontario Jewish Archives, Blankenstein Family Heritage Centre, acc. 2013-8-2


Louis Muhlstock was a painter best known for his depictions of the Great Depression. He immigrated to Montreal from his native Poland as a young boy. He took art lessons at night and later studied in Paris, returning to Montreal in 1931 to become a full-time painter. In 2010, his work was exhibited as part of the McCord Museum’s Jewish Painters of Montreal: Witnesses of Their Time, 1930 – 1948.

Louis Muhlstock (L) with artist Ghitta Caiserman
Alex Dworkin Canadian Jewish Archives | Archives juives canadiennes Alex Dworkin


Peter Munk, businessman and philanthropist, has been an investment executive and  founder of the mining company Barrick Gold, the world’s largest gold-mining corporation. In 1992, the Peter Munk Charitable Foundation was founded and has since disbursed approximately $100 million to a variety of organizations that work to improve the health, learning and international reputation of Canadians. The Munk Centre at the University of Toronto bears his name.

Source: Ontario Jewish Archives, Blankenstein Family Heritage Centre, acc. 2013-8-2


Arnold Naimark, physician and academic, joined the faculty of the University of Manitoba in 1963, as an assistant Professor of Medicine and Physiology. He was Dean of the Faculty of Medicine from 1971 to 1981, and from 1981 to 1996 he was the President and Vice-Chancellor. The Naimark Fellow Award recognizes professional excellence among Canada’s health services leaders, and is awarded by the Canadian Foundation for Healthcare Improvement.

Asper Jewish Community Campus, Winnipeg, 2016
Jewish Heritage Centre of Western Canada, #DSCN1278(2)


Born in Winnipeg, Nathan Nemetz moved to Vancouver as a child. He was made a Justice of the Supreme Court of British Columbia in 1963 and a Justice of the Court of Appeal in 1968. In 1973, he became Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of British Columbia and was appointed Chief Justice of British Columbia in 1979. He was also Chancellor of the University of British Columbia from 1972 to 1975.

Nathan Nemetz, receiving an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Tel Aviv
Source: Jewish Museum and Archives of BC, #L.01764


Fleeing Nazi Germany in 1935, Rabbi Plaut received his ordination as a Rabbi from Hebrew Union College and became pulpit rabbi of Toronto’s Holy Blossom Temple in 1961. His commentary on the Torah and Haftarah (Book of Prophets), has become the standard Chumash (Five Books of Moses) used by Reform Judaism. He was a long-time newspaper columnist, served as President of Canadian Jewish Congress,, and as Vice-Chair of the Ontario Human Rights Commission.

Source: Ontario Jewish Archives, Blankenstein Family Heritage Centre, item 6154


Jack Rabinovitch joined Trizec Corporation in 1972 and was appointed Executive Vice-President in 1986, responsible for the eastern North American region. He was later instrumental in the construction of the Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto. He founded the Giller Prize in 1994 to honour his late wife Doris Giller, an eminent literary journalist. It is now the Scotiabank Giller Prize – Canada’s richest literary award for fiction.

Credit: Tom Sandler Photography


Ivan Reitman, a film producer and director, is best known for his comedy productions, such as National Lampoon’s Animal House (1978), Meatballs (1979), Twins (1988), Ghostbusters (1984), and Junior (1994). Reitman has increased his role as an executive producer through his company, Northern Lights Entertainment. He is founder of the McMaster Film Board at McMaster University in Hamilton.

On the set of the film “Twins”
Courtesy of TIFF Film Reference Library
Copyright 1988 Universal City Studios Inc. All rights reserved.


Dr. Morton Shulman was a politician, broadcaster, columnist, coroner, and physician. As Ontario’s Chief Coroner in the mid-1960s, he campaigned for better provincial health and safety laws. He was elected a Member of Provincial Parliament (MPP) in the 1970s, and later hosted a TV show, called The Shulman File. After being diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease, he became a pharmaceutical entrepreneur promoting treatments for that disease.

Source: Ontario Jewish Archives, Blankenstein Family Heritage Centre, acc. 2011-1-5


Morris Shumiatcher was a Canadian lawyer best known for his contribution to the field of human rights and civil liberties. Born in Calgary, he later moved to Regina at the invitation of Tommy Douglas to work with the Attorney General. In 1948, he was appointed the youngest King’s Counsel in the Commonwealth. Most significantly, he was the author of the Saskatchewan Bill of Rights, the model for the Canadian Bill of Rights.

Photo by Anne J. Grieve, from the back cover of Morris Shumiatcher, Man of Law: A Model, Western Producer Prairie Books, Saskatoon


Eleanor Wachtel is a writer and broadcaster, host of the flagship literary show Writers & Company on CBC Radio One, and “Wachtel on the Arts”. She has also worked as adjunct professor of Women’s Studies at Simon Fraser University. She is a contributor to the best-selling Dropped Threads (2001) and Lost Classics (2000), has co-edited The Expo Story (1986), and is co-author of A Feminist Guide to the Canadian Constitution (1992).

Source: Jewish Public Library Archives, Montreal, #PR019418

Explore Other Themes