Rare Jewish books and documents on view at the Canadian Museum of History

May 7, 2019


For immediate release

Gatineau, Quebec, May 7, 2019 — In partnership with Library and Archives Canada, the Canadian Museum of History invites you to a special lecture to mark the official opening of a new display that explores the development of Canada’s Jewish community from the 1800s to the present day, and its many contributions to life in this country.

On May 9, Michael Kent, curator of the Jacob M. Lowy Collection at Library and Archives Canada, will examine the Jewish immigrant experience in Canada, along with Jewish contributions to Canadian society. Starting at 6 p.m., the special presentation will include short videos and songs, offering visitors a fascinating look at the Jewish experience, and its impact on Canadian pop culture and Canada’s broader heritage and identity.

The display Jewish Journeys: Stories of Immigration, which will open the same evening, features a selection of rare printed material from the Jacob M. Lowy Collection, Canada’s national treasure of rare Judaica. The collection, amassed over some 40 years, was donated to Library and Archives Canada in 1977 and spans religious, scientific, historical and philological thought from presses in North America, Europe, Africa and Asia. It currently comprises approximately 3,000 volumes printed between the 1400s and the late 1800s.

“We are pleased to bring such a moving and thought-provoking display to our visitors,” said Mark O’Neill, President and CEO of the Canadian Museum of History. “Jewish immigrants have added immeasurably to this country in everything from the arts to business, and the Jacob M. Lowy Collection is an outstanding resource for the study of Jewish history and culture.”

“While focusing on one particular community, this exhibition covers a wide range of human experiences. Hopes for a new life in Canada, tragedy and suffering, adaptation in a new country, and celebration of one’s heritage are but some of the themes touched upon in Jewish Journeys, remarked Dr. Guy Berthiaume, Librarian and Archivist of Canada. It is my hope that this exhibition will allow visitors of all origins to think about their own family’s story and find meaningful connections to the stories revealed by these items.”

Rare documents highlighted in the display include a fragment from a Hebrew Bible published in Spain in 1490, a year before that country expelled all of its Jews. Another is the story of a Golem — a protective figure in Jewish folklore — written by Yehudah Yudl Rozenberg, Mordecai Richler’s grandfather. Also on view are reminders of the Holocaust, including a book inscribed with a bookplate indicating that it once belonged to a victim of the “Great Massacre.”

These documents, as well as archival photographs presented in the display, reveal the lives of their former owners and the development of the Canadian Jewish community. Their stories include accounts of fleeing persecution, adapting to Canada, and working towards preserving Jewish traditions in Canada. Reflecting challenges and triumphs alike, these stories explore the broader Jewish journey to Canada.

Presented in the Special Exhibitions Corridor at the Canadian Museum of History from May 9, 2019 to February 23, 2020, Jewish Journeys: Stories of Immigration celebrates the indomitable spirit and determination of one of Canada’s most prominent cultural communities. This special display is the third installation in a series of five exhibitions created in partnership with Library and Archives Canada.

Treasures from Library and Archives Canada is the result of a partnership between Library and Archives Canada and the Canadian Museum of History.

About the Canadian Museum of History

Located on the shores of the Ottawa River in Gatineau, Quebec, the Canadian Museum of History welcomes over 1.2 million visitors each year. The Museum’s principal role is to enhance Canadians’ knowledge, understanding and appreciation of the events, experiences, people and objects that have shaped Canada’s history and identity, as well as to enhance Canadians’ awareness of world history and culture. Work of the Canadian Museum of History is made possible in part through financial support of the Government of Canada.

About Library and Archives Canada

The mandate of Library and Archives Canada is to acquire and preserve the documentary heritage of Canada for the benefit of present and future generations, and to be a source of enduring knowledge accessible to all, thereby contributing to the cultural, social and economic advancement of Canada. Library and Archives Canada also facilitates co-operation among communities involved in the acquisition, processing, preservation and diffusion of knowledge, and serves as the continuing memory of the Government of Canada and its institutions. Stay connected with Library and Archives Canada on Twitter (@LibraryArchives), Facebook, Flickr and YouTube.

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Media contacts:

Stéphanie Verner
Media Relations Officer
Telephone: 819-776-7169