The ribbon-cutting at the launch of the Canadian Jewish Experience exhibit. From left to right: Dr. Mark Kristmanson of the National Capital Commission; Supreme Court Justice Michael J. Moldaver; Ottawa Police Chief Charles Bordeleau; Rabbi Reuven Bulka of Machzikei Hadas Synagogue; Catherine Bélanger, widow of the late member of Parliament Mauril Bélanger; Tova Lynch of CJE; Linda Kerzner of Jewish Federation of Ottawa; and Cantor Daniel Benlolo of Congregation Kehilat Beth Israel. (photo from CJE)
A new exhibit opened in Ottawa on April 2, to mark the contribution of Jews to Canada and to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Confederation. The Canadian Jewish Experience: A Tribute to Canada 150 is on display in the lobby of 30 Metcalfe St., just two blocks from Parliament Hill, and is open to the public daily from 9 a.m.-6 p.m.
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 traveling version of the CJE exhibit will be available for display in other cities in Canada.
A parallel website has also been created to present more detailed information about the CJE exhibit topics and about many extraordinary Canadians. The website will provide information about venues for the lecture series and locations where the traveling 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 called 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.
At the exhibit opening, CJE committee head Tova Lynch thanked donors from across Canada for the financial assistance they provided. In particular, she acknowledged its major donors: the Asper Foundation and Bel-Fran Charitable Foundation (Samuel and Frances Belzberg) from Vancouver.
“The CJE is an example of the tremendous love which Canadians have for our country,” Lynch added, praising 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 also 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.”
She 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 100 years before Confederation,” noted 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 chief executive officer 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 Frum, former senator Jerry Grafstein and Rabbi Dr. Reuven Bulka. Sandra Morton Weizman of Calgary is the curator of the CJE exhibit and virtual exhibit.
The CJE website is cje2017.com.