Ometz, the modern-day successor of the Baron de Hirsch Institute, has launched an interactive website to showcase its 150 years of social services to the Montreal Jewish community.
Ometz, a Federation CJA agency, was created in 2008 from the merger of Jewish Family Services with Jewish Immigrant Aid Services and Jewish Employment Montreal.
The website traces the evolution of the delivery of social services to the community through an interactive timeline and a virtual tour. Those whose lives have been touched by Ometz are encouraged to share their stories online.
“Continuity, collective memory and the upholding of tradition are important values to the Jewish people,” said Ometz president Howard Lohner. “We can't think of a better way to commemorate our 150th anniversary than by collecting the stories of those individuals who have contributed to our past, present and future.
“Given the possibilities of current technology, we want to reach out via our website to anyone who ever was, or is currently, involved with us – as a client, a staff member, a board member, a volunteer, or a donor – to share your stories with us online.”
The site was created in partnership with the Interactive Museum of Jewish Montreal (IMJM) and the company Summit Tech.
In July 1863, four years before Canadian Confederation, 30 Jewish men gathered in a room over a store on Great St. James Street and established the Young Men's Hebrew Benevolent Society, an organization dedicated to the social welfare of the Jewish community.
“Their action took incredible foresight, considering that at the time there were fewer than 1,000 Jews in Montreal and that the community was not experiencing any unusual economic hardship,” said Lohner. “Little did they realize the key role their organization would play in shaping the Jewish community in the years to follow.”
A continuing influx of immigration meant that by 1890, the demand for services had exceeded the capacity of the small community. The Young Men's Hebrew Benevolent Society sought help from world Jewry's greatest philanthropist of the 19th century – the Austrian railway magnate, Baron Maurice de Hirsch. To acknowledge the Baron's gift of $20,000, the Society renamed itself the Baron de Hirsch Institute.
Today, Ometz is a not-for-profit human services agency providing a range of employment, immigration, school and social services to more than 13,000 people annually.
“Whether supporting a student who is struggling at school, a family in crisis, an individual coping with mental illness, a person looking for a new career or starting a new life in Montreal,” Lohner said, “Ometz is responsive to the ever-changing needs of our clientele.”
The community-based IMJM collects and maps the history and experiences of the Montreal Jewish community through online and mobile technology. It combines professionally curated virtual exhibits with user-generated stories and images.