June 2011

Canadian Jewish Heritage Network Launches

CJHNlaunch-overviewOn June 6, 2011, Canadian Jewish Congress Charities Committee National Archives (CJCCCNA) and the Jewish Public Library Archives (JPL-A) formally launched the The Canadian Jewish Heritage Network (www.cjhn.ca)website.

The launch was an opportunity to give recognition to the project's funders and to introduce the site to local community leaders, library and archives professionals and academics from related disciplines. The principal funding for the development of the CJHN came to the Canadian Jewish Congress Charities Committee from the Samuel and Saidye Bronfman Family Foundation. Speaking at the official launch of the site on June 6, Stephen Bronfman, Chair of the SSBFF, noted that the new website allows users to "share the wonderful rich history of Jews in Canada" so that these stories are now "open to be explored by Jews and non-Jews alike."

As noted by Benjamin Shinewald, CJC and CJCCC National Executive Director and Acting CEO; "The CJHN is a model for honouring and preserving our history and traditions - not by locking it away in a dusty archive - but by celebrating, cultivating and sustaining our history for a stronger Canadian Jewish future. The core message of building directly on our communal memory to shape and improve our communal future is a truism that we all should keep in mind."

The CJHN website is a seamless blend of two repositories' holdings; actually a virtual 'mind-meld' of two institutions into a single functional entity helping researchers. Our repositories are in two locations: the CJCCCNA in the centre of a University Triangle of Concordia- University/ Université de Montréal, McGill University and UQAM, while JPL-A is in the heart of the Jewish community campus, close to Jewish Day schools and Federation agencies. Through designing the web site together we have a new awareness of the specifics of each others' collections and how they relate to each other. It has also become natural for us to consult each other in areas of archival acquisition, both when we speak to potential donors of documents, and through educating the interested public via the website.

Now users can visit our collections from the comfort of their desks, searching the online catalogue for archival collections dating from the 18th century onwards. Using the site's selection cart, one can select, e-mail, print or order archival material directly from the web.

At this time, more than 25,000 database records from the archival collections are currently online, as well as over 1,500 digitized historic photographs and archival documents. Many complete multi-page documents are available in PDF format. The digitized documents currently online include minutes, annual reports, anniversary publications, sermons, and ephemeral material.

Users of the site can also delve into the CJHN's genealogical research database, which already contains close to 50,000 genealogical records and over 5,000 associated images. This section of the site was funded by a special donation from Penny Rubinoff of Toronto. Speaking at the launch, Rubinoff noted: "Genealogy is a fanatical pursuit for many of us and  on-line non-census historical Canadian data on Jewish families have been lacking,  especially compared to many other countries.  It will not only be Canadians who benefit from this database but genealogists around the world whose families have had Canadian roots."

Notes Shannon Hodge, JPL Archivist: "Archives are not really about the past, rather we must constantly plan for the future: how will we preserve this for another five hundred years; who is going to use this archive fifty years from now; what will they need and why and so on. With this in mind we know that we will continue to push the limits of the CJHN site. "


Read more about the CJHN in this June 23, 2011 article from the Canadian Jewish News.

The CJHN was also featured on Andornot Consulting Inc.'s June 13, 2011 blog post.