On a beautiful Sunday afternoon, as thousands of people from across Canada were in Ottawa to celebrate the Junos, a smaller group of people gathered to celebrate the opening of an exhibit about Jews’ contribution to Canada since 1867.
“I am really grateful to all of you for coming early to the Junos. This is the Jew-yes,” joked event MC Rabbi Reuven Bulka of Ottawa’s Congregation Machzikei Hadas.
The culmination of a great deal of hard work by a small and dedicated committee led by Tova Lynch, the exhibit, entitled the Canadian Jewish Experience: A Tribute to Canada 150, was unveiled April 2 in the lobby of a building at 30 Metcalfe Street, not far from Parliament Hill, owned by the National Capital Commission (NCC.)
The specially created, bilingual exhibit consists of nine panels illustrating major areas in which Jewish Canadians have contributed to the fabric of the land in the 150 years since Confederation.
In addition, one panel dedicated to the late Louis Rasminsky, the first Jewish governor of the Bank of Canada, will be on display at the Bank of Canada headquarters in Ottawa. Members of the Rasminsky family attended the opening event.
Committee chair Tova Lynch thanked the many people and organizations who helped bring the project to fruition, including the NCC, which is providing space for the exhibit; the major sponsors (the Asper Foundation and the Bel-Fran Charitable Foundation) as well as the other smaller sponsors. The entire exhibit has been funded by donations, and additional donations are being solicited to enable a second set of panels to travel across the country to various venues throughout the year. A website has also been set up with more detailed information as well as information about dates and locations for upcoming lectures: www.cje2017.com.
Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson was enthusiastic in his support. “We have 37,000 people a week going through City Hall and we would love to have this exhibit at Ottawa City Hall,” Watson said. He noted that two of his predecessors as mayor were Jewish: the late Lorry Greenberg and Jackie Holzman.
Curated by Sandra Morton Weizman of Calgary, with contributions and assistance from Victor Rabinovitch, the former president and CEO of the Canadian Museum of Civilization (now the Canadian Museum of History), as well as leaders of Jewish Federations across Canada and the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, the exhibit is also supported by members of Parliament from all federal parties, as well as Senator Linda Frum, former senator Gerry Grafstein and Rabbi Bulka.
Mark Kristmanson, CEO of the NCC, congratulated the committee and the Jewish community for the success of the project and welcomed it to the premises.
In attendance were a number of local and federal politicians, including MPPs Lisa MacLeod and Natalie Desrosiers; MP Andrew Leslie, parliamentary secretary to the minister of foreign affairs, who brought greetings on behalf of the government; Ottawa Police Chief Charles Bordeleau; and Counc. Jean Cloutier. Rabbi Bulka also welcomed members of the clergy from several faiths.
The official ribbon cutting was presided over by Lynch, Kristmanson, Catherine Belanger, widow the late MPP Mauril Belanger, MPP); Linda Kerzner, chair of the Jewish Federation of Ottawa; and Cantor Daniel Benlolo, who concluded the ceremony with a rendition of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah.