Salle de presse 2017-08-23T04:16:25+00:00

Salle de presse

L’EJC dans les médias

Ottawa exhibit illustrates the Canadian Jewish experience

Alberta’s Curly Gurevitch, right, the “Cowboy from the Colony »

On a sunny Ottawa afternoon in a very sunny year – as our nation celebrates its 150th anniversary – I happened on a special exhibit. The Canadian Jewish Experience is small but packed with information, covering 250 years of Jewish history in Canada, from pedlars to politicians to stars of stage and screen.

Tucked away at 30 Metcalfe St. in the heart of downtown Ottawa, this free exhibit treats visitors to nine panels illustrated by illuminating archival photographs that tell of both the familiar (Herb Gray, Lorne Greene) and the less familiar (Ezekiel Hart, Drake).

A drawing of the Toronto Jewish artist Drake

Of course, familiarity may depend on your generation. Whereas our son knew all about singer Drake and his Jewish roots – although perhaps not his two bar mitzvahs – we, his parents, were only vaguely familiar with the multiple-award winner’s family and career. And though I was intrigued to learn about Alberta’s Curly Gurevitch, the “Cowboy from the Colony,” shown in a 1930 photo wearing chaps, cowboy boots, Magen David emblazoned on his shirt, Curly’s existence was not news to my Winnipeg-bred husband.


The Jewish experience in Canada has not always been easy, of course. Prejudice prevailed until the 1960s, the exhibit explains, when that changed – although not completely, as evidenced by a rash of recent hate crimes. In 1914, there were 100,000 Jews in Canada; today there are roughly 400,000. Besides traditional early occupations – pedlars, shopkeepers, fur traders, garment workers – 11 Jewish farm colonies once existed on the Prairies.

The Depression years halted immigration, a situation compounded during the war years by the odious None is Too Many government policy applied to Jews fleeing Nazi Europe. Canada’s borders opened after the war, welcoming 40,000 Holocaust survivors, many of them orphans. In recent years, Jewish immigrants from North Africa and Russia have arrived in greater numbers.

In a panel entitled “War and Peace,” visitors are reminded that Jews have fought for Canada in every war, and that 38 per cent of male Jews volunteered to fight in the Second World War, amounting to 16,880 men. Nearly 2,000 of these soldiers won military awards; 420 died and were buried with both the Maple Leaf and the Star of David on their graves.

While many remember that Barney Danson, minister of defence in the Pierre Trudeau government, had lost an eye during the D-Day invasion, he was far from Canada’s only Jewish war hero. Sgt. David Hart was decorated by King George VI for his gallantry at Dieppe. In 1944, the Canadian Jewish Congress published comic books highlighting the exploits of Jewish war heroes as a morale booster and recruitment tool.

There is, naturally, a collection of “firsts,” like Ezekiel Hart becoming the first Jew elected to serve in the lower house in 1807. However, Hart was banned from taking office due to his religion. This would change in 1832, when Jews could take their own religious oath of office, allowing them to legally occupy political office.

The Hart Affair paved the way for more Jewish political firsts. In 1871, Henry Nathan was elected to serve in the new Canadian House of Commons; in 1955, David Croll became the first Jewish senator; in 1969, Herb Gray, first federal cabinet minister; in 1971, David Lewis, first to lead a national political party; in 1972, David Barrett, first provincial premier.

The National Gallery of Canada at night. NATIONAL GALLERY PHOTO

There are almost too many world-famous Canadian Jewish architects and builders to mention. Here are just a few superstars: at 29 years old, McGill graduate Moshe Safdie, designed his strikingly original modular housing unit, Habitat 67; Ottawa’s National Gallery is another Safdie design. World-renowned  architect Frank Gehry hails from Toronto. The esteemed Cornelia Oberlander, now based in Vancouver, began her career as a landscape architect.

This wide-ranging exhibit, touching as it does on every aspect of Canadian life, paints a portrait of the diversity typical of the country in which Jews, native or foreign-born, made their mark.

In the sports world, among names like David Hart, who donated hockey’s Hart Trophy in the 1920s, and whose son Cecil was a longtime Montreal Canadiens coach and general manager, there also appears 1928 Olympic running champion Fanny (Bobbie) Rosenfeld, as well as the lesser-known saga of Montrealer Louis Rubenstein.

Rubenstein won the gold medal at what is considered the first world figure skating championship in 1890 (the event was not official, as there was not yet an international federation). First, the Russian hosts tried to prevent him from competing, then they tried to deny him his victory. Undeterred, the lifetime athlete referred to as the “father of Canadian figure skating” later became known as the “father of bowling in Canada.” Similar tenacity was shown by Canadian Jewish boxers Sammy Luftspring and Norman (Baby) Yack when they protested Nazi policies by boycotting the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin.

These are inspirational stories, like so many in this exhibit. As a result, this collection should intrigue visitors from every region and demographic. Visitors may indeed find the exhibit’s inspiration contagious.

Once you’re in Ottawa, make sure to drop by Moshe Safdie’s National Gallery, an imposing, soaring structure that contains a wealth of Canadian and international art. Both the current Photography in Canada 1960-2000 and Indigenous Art 1968-to Present exhibits are fascinating, but this time I found my gaze wandering upward, dazzled by Safdie’s vision, as I toured the gallery as if for the very first time. n

If you go: The Canadian Jewish Experience, 30 Metcalfe St., until Dec. 31, 2017.  Information on the exhibit’s origins and many stunning archival photographs are available at

Calgarian helped spearhead national project
Calgary Herald, 8 Jul 2017, CHRIS NELSON


Sam Raskin, left, with Curly Gurevitch, the “Jewish Cowboy” from the
Ramsey-Trochu Farming Colony in central Alberta, 1930.

The Jewish contribution to Canada during 150 years of this country’s history is being celebrated this weekend at Calgary City Hall.

A series of nine panels, covering all facets of Jewish involvement through those many decades, is part of a nationwide exhibit coinciding with the country’s 150th birthday celebrations.

And it is a Calgarian, Sandra Morton Weizman, who has helped spearhead the national project by assembling and curating the entire bilingual display, highlighting how Jewish Canadians have contributed to the fabric of the land since Confederation.

The large panels, measuring almost seven feet tall, each feature themes ranging from original Jewish immigration, through to involvement in business, the arts, culture, architecture and military service.

Deciding what to include and what to leave out was a very difficult task for Weizman, although the process itself became a labour of love for the Calgary woman, who has worked as a successful museum curator for many years.

“There is only so much you can say in nine panels; there are so many stories about so many people,” she says.

The original exhibit opened in Ottawa in early April and, rather than transporting the panels across the country and limiting their accessibility, replicas were produced so that a total of 10 major cities will be able to display the works, entitled The Canadian Jewish Experience: A Tribute to Canada 150. In each city, one separate panel will feature a particularly local story inspired by a Jewish success in that locale. In Calgary it is the story of Morris Schumiatcher that is being featured.

Schumiatcher arrived with his family from Russia in 1910 and later, after changing the family name to Smith, he borrowed $300 to buy Calgary Hat Works. He changed the company name to Smithbilt Hats, eventually making the white hat synonymous with our city.

Many such stories became part of Weizman’s work since she began curating the project last fall. Among the many remarkable Jewish individuals, she came across in her research, she says one of her favourites is the story of boxer Sammy Luftspring, once the welterweight championship of Canada.

“He and another boxer boycotted the Berlin Olympics in 1936 because of what was going on with Nazism in Germany at the time and they always wore a Star of David on their boxing shorts. Even at a time when there was so much anti-Semitism, prior to World War Two beginning, they were very proud of their Jewish identity,” she says.

Such anti- Semitism in Canada has waned down over the years and Weizman was pleased to track its gradual decline as she worked on the project.

In Calgary, the exhibit opened first at the Jewish Community Centre on June 25 before being moved to the atrium of City Hall Friday, where it will remain on display for five days. Next, it will be taken to Heritage Park for display from July 14 to 20. It is expected that a more permanent home will be found afterwards.

Weizman’s work as a curator and consultant has included a stint as senior curator of cultural history at the Glenbow Museum. Although Jewish history has not been her exclusive area of expertise. it is one for which she has become nationally well-known.

In addition to work on the nine-panel display, Weizman was also heavily involved in putting together a complementary website, which allowed her to include more detail on the Jewish history in this country.

Those interested can check it out at


The Canadian Jewish Experience: A Tribute to Canada 150 will be installed at 30 Metcalfe Street just two blocks from Parliament Hill. The exhibition will be open to the public daily 9-6PM, starting April 4th 2017.

A new exhibit will open in Ottawa on April 2, 2017 to mark the contribution of Jews to Canada and to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Confederation.

The Canadian Jewish Experience is composed of specially created, bilingual exhibit panels illustrating nine major themes, such as: contributions in war and diplomacy, public service, human rights, business growth, arts, culture and sport. A travelling version of the CJE exhibit will be available for display in other cities in Canada.

A parallel web site has also been created to present more detailed information about the CJE exhibit topics and about many extraordinary Canadians. The web site will also provide information about venues for the lecture series and locations where the travelling exhibit can be viewed.

The Canadian Jewish Experience will also present a speaker series to highlight the contributions of Jewish Canadians to the development of Canada.

CJE has produced a special exhibit panel “Remembering Louis Rasminsky” which describes the work of Rasminsky, who was the first ever Jewish person to be Governor of the Bank of Canada. This will be on display at the Bank of Canada headquarters in Ottawa.

CJE Committee head Tova Lynch thanked donors from across Canada for the financial assistance they provided. In particular, CJE acknowledges the generosity of its major donors: The Asper Foundation and Bel-Fran Charitable Foundation (Samuel and Frances Belzberg) from Vancouver. Tova Lynch added, “The CJE is an example of the tremendous love which Canadians have for our country.” She praised the National Capital Commission for its cooperation. “Through our partnership with the National Capital Commission CJE has an excellent downtown facility at the centre of events celebrating Canada’s 150th birthday.”

Lynch noted, “Excitement is building as we approach Canada Day 2017. CJE will tell Canada’s Jewish story to many thousands of visitors to Ottawa in 2017.” Lynch pointed out that “Jewish Canadians have played a key role in all facets of life in Canada. Their accomplishments reflect the challenges and successes experienced by Canada in its first 150 years.”

The Jewish connection to Canada dates back to the mid-1700s. “The first Jewish Canadians arrived more than one hundred years before Confederation,” notes Senator Linda Frum. “We’ve been here for a quarter of a millennium, but many Canadians don’t know the role we’ve played to make our country strong and vibrant. The Canadian Jewish Experience will help to change that.”

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson said that the national capital is the appropriate home for the Canadian Jewish Experience. “In 2017, Ottawa will be at the centre of celebrating Canada’s 150th birthday and Jewish people have played a key role in all facets of life in the city. In fact, their accomplishments here reflect all the themes of the Canadian Jewish Experience, including being elected Mayor.”

Other Jewish leaders and organizations who have assisted the Canadian Jewish Experience project include: Victor Rabinovitch, former President and CEO of the Canadian Museum of Civilization (now the Canadian Museum of History); the leaders of Jewish Federations across Canada and the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs. CJE is also supported by: Members of Parliament from all federal parties; Senator Linda Frum, former Senator Gerry Grafstein; and, Rabbi Dr. Reuven Bulka, O.C.. Sandra Morton Weizman of Calgary is the curator of the CJE exhibit and virtual exhibit.

The following dignitaries have confirmed their participation at the CJE opening: Rabbi Reuven Bulka (Master of Ceremonies); Mayor Jim Watson; Dr. Mark Kristmanson, CEO of the National Capital Commission; Supreme Court Judge Hon. Michael J Moldaver Linda Kerzner, Chair of the Ottawa Jewish Federation, representative of other faiths have been invited.

The CJE needs local volunteers to staff the Ottawa exhibit and provide information to visitors. If you would like to volunteer at the exhibit, or contribute to funding the project, please contact us at, 613 680-8820.

For additional information on the CJE please contact or by phone 613-680-8820.

For your information, the time of the CJE opening is April 2nd, 1-3 PM.


Montreal, QC, June 30, 2017, p.12.

The Canadian Jewish Experience recently held a panel discussion in Montreal composed of Jewish veterans of the Canadian armed Forces who discussed their military experience as Jews. Pictured above, left to right, are rick Garber, Dr. Markus martin, David Hart and Edward Fitch. Readers can go to to learn more about this event and the exhibit in Ottawa.

Ribbon-cutting of the launch of the Canadian Jewish Experience (CJE) located at 30 Metcalfe street.The exhibit marks the contributions of Jews to Canada and is composed of specially created exhibit panels illustrating nine major themes, including Jewish contributions in war and diplomacy, public service, human rights, economic growth, arts, culture and sports. a travelling version of the exhibit is being displayed in other cities across canada.the exhibition is open daily 9 a.m. – 6 p.m.. from left to right: Dr. Mark Kristmanson, CEO of the national capital commission; supreme court Justice Michael J.
Moldaver; ottawa police chief charles bordeleau; Rabbi Reuven bulka, Rabbi emeritus of
Machzikei hadas synagogue; Mrs. catherine bélanger; tova lynch, chair of cJe; linda
Kerzner, chair, Jewish federation of ottawa; cantor daniel benlolo of congregation Kehilat
beth israel,

Mounting A Case For Canada

February 7, 2017, 1:14 pm