Archives News

Summer 2023

We have a lot to report on since last summer!

New collection highlights:

  • In January of 2023 Dr. Yolande Cohen donated an important collection about Moroccan Jewish immigrants to Montreal consisting of audio and video interviews done between 1980 and 2014. The material includes interview transcripts and background information on Moroccan Jewish culture.
  • We received the Nathan Dlusy and Family collection which vividly documents the life of a fallen WWII soldier and his legacy.
  • We are in the process of inventorying a recent acquisition of pre and postwar documents from Helen Kern Scharf. As some of the material is also relevant to the mandate of the Montreal Holocaust Museum, we will be sharing scans of these documents with the Museum for their use in education and displays. 
  • Ten lifecycle register books have been acquired from the now-defunct Chevra Thilim Linas Hazedek / Pinsker Kinyan Torah synagogue. The registers had been in the possession of the congregation's last rabbi since it closed in 1993.
  • At the end of last summer we received additional boxes of photographs and documents from the Na'amat Pioneer Women national office and Montreal Daroma Chapter office.
  • We also added to the James Torczyner collection 6 boxes of sociologically relevant papers about Project Genesis, an ongoing initiative of which he was a founder.
  • Recently-received small collections of note include documents from/ about the Rawas and Schouela families, Izydore Mesner and Mila Sandberg Mesner, filmmaker Burton Rubenstein, activist and scholar Gabrielle Tyrnauer, and audio materials featuring Montreal labour leader Albert Eaton.
  • In total between July 1 2022 and the end of June 2023, the Archives received the equivalent of 75 bankers' size boxes of donated materials from various sources, including over 2000 photographs and upwards of 200 hours of audio / audiovisual recordings.

Collections processing and collaborative projects:

  • Last fall we helped the Shaare Zedek synagogue of western NDG get project funding from the Québec Anglophone Heritage Network, and from January to March we supervised a student from McGill's School of Information Sciences in cataloguing the historical documents kept at the synagogue. The project culminated in a public presentation by congregation member Norman Spatz drawing on the archival discoveries made in the course of the project.
  • In November, as part of the three-part "Archives Roadshow" series of virtual panels organized by the Jewish Public Library Archives, Archives director Janice Rosen spoke on "An Object Lesson: Opening the Door to the Joseph and Wolff Family Collection."
  • In the 2022 fall semester we partnered with the Concordia institute for Canadian Jewish studies by offering support to the new initiative,  Performing the Canadian Jewish Archive (PCJA), during which one student focused on Refusenik voices and another on Creative Women's voices.
  • The Canadian Jewish Archives contributed pertinent collection descriptions to the EHRI portal on Holocaust related resources. See:
  • Continuing in our initiative with the Ontario Jewish Archives to have the Canadian Jewish Congress archival fonds recognized in the UNESCO Memory of the World Register, we arranged for the inclusion of two other Canadian Jewish repositories in the proposal, the JHCWC in Winnipeg and the JHSBC in Vancouver. We have been informed that the now cross-country scope of our project makes approval for inclusion in this prestigious registry more likely.
  • Having completed the indexing of the hundreds of hours of audiovisual materials digitized for us by the Société d'histoire et de généalogie Maria-Chapdelaine under a federally-funded group project, Archives Assistant Helene Vallee attended the launch of the Virtual Exhibit website, where more than two dozen examples of films from the Canadian Jewish Archives are now exhibited. 
  • Archives Assistant Helene Vallee progressed in eliminating redundancies in the massive Canadian Jewish Congress archival records group with the help of a student paid by a McGill University internship in Quebec Studies program in Spring 2023. Earlier in the year, with the help of interns from two archival studies programs, she supervised the weeding of duplications and surplus documents from the large James Torczyner Canadian census analysis collection. These labour-intensive projects have resulted in an increase in available shelf space for future collecting.
  • Archives technician Melissa Castron reviewed and catalogued the extensive Samuel and Saidye Bronfman Family Foundation collection received in July 2022.
  • Archives staff worked on arranging the Yolande Cohen Moroccan Jewish interviews collection and the Na'amat Pioneer Women photograph collection with the help of student interns from the John Abbott College archival studies program and the Concordia Canadian Jewish Studies Internship program.

 Presentations and publications:

  • The 2022 edition of Canadian Jewish Studies, the journal of the Association for Canadian Jewish Studies, contained a "The Archives Matter" section edited by Janice Rosen. In addition to herself, archivists from the VHEC in Vancouver, the JHHSA in Calgary, and the Ottawa Jewish Archives contributed to the section, writing on the theme of poetry holdings in archives.
  • In July and August 2022 Janice Rosen presented two virtual overviews of the Canadian Jewish Archives, the first to a group of religious collection archivists within the Society of American Archivists and the second to a similar group in the Association of Canadian Archivists.
  • In September 2022 and in January 2023 Janice Rosen spoke to virtual groups about using the resources of the Canadian Jewish Archives, with presentations tailored to a university class in the History department of York University and the Quebec Studies department of McGill University.
  • On May 29 Janice Rosen organized and chaired a panel on digitization which was presented at the Association for Canadian Jewish Studies annual conference in Toronto, in the context of the Federation of Social Sciences and Humanities conference at York University. The panel, made up of archivists from Jewish repositories in Quebec and Ontario, consisted of Archives Technician Melissa Castron and representatives from the Jewish Public Library Archives and the Ontario Jewish Archives.
  • In March the Archives hosted an onsite class of Public History students from Concordia University which included the students doing a hands-on study of WWII refugee youth documents. This format became the model for a similarly hands-on group workshop for Museum of Jewish Montreal Research Fellows which we presented on our premises in May.
  • On June 19 2023 the staff of the Alex Dworkin Canadian Jewish Archives presented a three-hour workshop on what goes into setting up an archives. The 10 participants were representatives from five community groups in the Montreal area; the Quebec Board of Black Educators, the Park Extension Historical Society, the Union United Church, the Black Community Resource Centre, and the Greenwood Centre of Hudson, Quebec. This workshop was commissioned by the Quebec Anglophone Heritage Network in the context of a program called "Mentorat, aide et formation en patrimoine Communautaire 2023-2026"; in English "Mentorship Assistance and Training for Community Heritage (MATCH)", funded by the Government of Quebec's Secrétariat aux relations avec les Québécois d'expression anglaise (SRQEA).

 Onsite and remote research:

  • Usage of the Canadian Jewish Archives continues high, with 280 onsite researchers recorded in 2022, and over 700 instances of remote assistance.

Grants and donations:

  • At the beginning of this report period we received a three year bonus allocation from the  Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec (BAnQ), which has allowed us to add a now indispensable third person, Melissa Castron, to our full-time staff
  • In March we received a $5000 donation from the Labour Zionist Trust, which is being used for expenses related to our physical space; a much appreciated supplement due to the 2023 increase to our rent.
  • At the beginning of summer 2023 we received a $10,250 one-time grant from the BAnQ designated for the purchase of digitization equipment. This has been used to purchase a new high resolution flatbed scanner and its associated computer station.
  • At the end of the summer we received a generous personal donation from Peter Usher, which is being used to enhance the way we present our collections online.