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Friday, August 1, 2014

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NB Jewish museum seeks $100,000 to survive

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Andrew Burns

HALIFAX — A major fundraising event in Saint John, N.B., is expected to raise more than $100,000 for the long-range survival of the community’s Jewish Historical Museum.

Andrew Burns, the United Kingdom’s first envoy for post-Holocaust issues, will be guest speaker at a $100-a-plate luncheon Oct. 11 the Delta Brunswick Hotel. The former British high commissioner to Canada and Britain’s ambassador to Israel will talk about the relevance of the Holocaust around the world, 70 years after World War II, in a speech titled “Still Coping with the Consequences of the Holocaust.” 

Proceeds from the event will go the Saint John Jewish Historical Museum Fund, administered by the Greater Saint John Community Foundation, which gives annual grants to the museum to ensure that it continues in perpetuity. The fund operates independently from the museum itself.

Retired university professor Gary Davis chairs the museum’s board. Along with former Canadian senator Erminie Cohen and community philanthropist Jaqueline Oland of the Moosehead Brewery family, he helped bring Burns to Saint John for the occasion.

“Jackie knew Burns from other activities, suggested him as a speaker for us a couple of years ago, and we were finally able to co-ordinate his schedule with our event,” Davis said. “He’s attending an International Holocaust Alliance Conference in Toronto that week and has made time to be with us for a day.”

More than 300 tickets have been sold to the luncheon, the majority to non-Jewish members of the Saint John community, which only has about 30 Jewish families remaining from a vibrant group of more than 260 families in the mid-1950s. The community was established in the 19th century.

“It was risky at the start [as we planned this], but we’ve had some enthusiastic support from corporations and individuals,” Davis said. “We set goals, budgets and the desire to find a great speaker, and we’ve done it. We’re hoping to sell 450 tickets by Oct. 11.”

The museum, in its 27th year, was a dream of primary founder Marcia Coven for years prior to its opening in 1986. It preserves the history and heritage of the city’s Jewish community through its collection and displays. It collects and preserves books, oral and video interviews, manuscripts, records, biographies, photographs and other documents that relate to the history of Jews in Saint John.

Davis said up to 7,000 visitors a year have entered the museum, which has a membership of 200, about 60 per cent of whom are Jewish, and many Saint John ex-pats now living in Toronto and the United States.

“We’re encouraging those who can’t be here from away to attend the luncheon to support us with a donation to ensure the museum’s survival.”

The museum is directed by a volunteer 10-person board, of whom three are non-Jewish: a university history professor, a Presbyterian minister and another interested community member.

“They’re very interested in the preservation of the Jewish community and religion and have a great overall interest in history,” Davis said.

For more information, to buy tickets or to make a donation, contact the museum’s curator, Katherine Biggs-Craft, at sjjhm@nbnet.nb.ca or 506-633-1833. The museum’s website is personal.nbnet.nb.ca/sjjhm.

 

 

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