Archives News

Highlights of 2020

Amid March 2021 announcements of the one-year anniversary of the present global pandemic, we have suddenly realized that we are tardy in posting our year-end Archives report. 2020 started off with days when numerous people were gathered in the Archives work area - for classes, for research, and as student interns - and ended with many, many days of experiencing working onsite alone. However, we rarely lacked for contact with our researchers; through email, scheduled phone conversations and, of course, Zoom.

We answered 462 remote research requests in 2020, and despite recurrent lockdowns were able to receive 86 researchers onsite during the periods when we were open to the public. Being located in a spacious and quiet building we were able to continue to make regular visits to monitor conditions and could access the collections in order to carry out research and scanning tasks for researchers who were otherwise prevented from working with original archival documents.

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Prior to the pandemic we hosted two large classes onsite in our premises in January, including for the first time a group of Grade 6 students from Hebrew Academy Elementary School, who came to learn about Jewish immigration to Canada and how to trace their family history. 

As the year progressed, we pivoted from our regular hosting of history student groups from local universities in order to introduce them to using archival resources, instead hosting two of these classes on Zoom. In this way for the first time we were able to reach a class located in another city, as we presented to a history course titled "Worry & Wonder: Jewish Politics, Religion and Culture in Canada" at York University in Toronto. The discussion was focused on resources available in digital format.

We were assisted at various points during the year and were able to offer training to 7 student interns; 4 from history classes at Concordia and McGill and 3 from archival studies programs - McGill University, John Abbott College, and College Maisonneuve. Our student interns helped catalogue collections and produced 4 historically-themed videos which have been uploaded to our Canadian Jewish Heritage Network channel on Youtube. (https://youtu.be/sxQDAPN4wRw, https://youtu.be/p2LC53h40_4, https://youtu.be/748BN4TG76A, and https://youtu.be/VFyK4ycvses.)

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We increased our social media presence, with a new Facebook initiative called "The Canadian Jewish Time Machine". Started in mid-April 2020, over the course of the year we posted 124 illustrated Fact of The Day vignettes, attracting many new followers to our page at https://www.facebook.com/CanadianJewishArchives/.

In June 2020 we were happy to see and speak with our colleagues across Canada during the first virtual "Jewish Archives and Museums Cross Country Check-in", which was held via Zoom. Among the 9 Jewish heritage curators who participated were several of our partners from the Canadian Jewish Heritage Network (http://cjhn.ca). 

For Federation CJA's first virtual Remembrance Day ceremony on Nov 11, 2020 we created a Powerpoint dedicated to the memory of the 578 Canadian Jewish military casualties in the Canadian Armed Forces.

Despite the restrictions on interactions we managed to acquire a dozen new collections over the course of the year, including rare 19th century photographs of members of the earliest Quebec Jewish families donated by the estate of Anne Joseph, fascinating documents tracing a Jewish family's immigration from Latvia to Quebec City in the early 1900s from Shawn Rosengarten, and a wealth of informative interviews done with Montreal Jews of Iraqi descent from Dr. Norma Joseph.

Furthermore, we were pleased and honoured to receive monetary donations of between $120 and $5000 from three grateful users of the Archives. These contributions will be used to finance special technical equipment purchases and indexing initiatives which will help us move the Archives' operations in new directions in 2021.