It depend on those who pass
Whether I am tomb or treasure
Whether I speak or am silent
The choice is yours alone.
Friend, do not enter without desire.
It depends on those who pass
The first annual Jewish Montreal Heritage Week (JMHW) was created as an opportunity to celebrate the work and collections of this community’s heritage organizations. Within our walls and in our hands, we preserve some of the most precious memories and legacies of a strong and diverse community. Archives and museums do not exist to stand silent. Our collections are meant to be shared and communicated with future generations. Each of the institutions participating in JMHW plan and carry out outreach and education programmes to bring history and memories alive for diverse audiences. Read on and discover ways to learn about the past.
Canadian Jewish Congress Charities Committee National Archives
The CJCCCNA specializes in offering outreach to older students and university classes. Well-known for conducting workshops with these students, the CJCCCNA provides detailed instruction on archival research and bibliographies for topics in Canadian Jewish topics. In the past, the CJCCCNA published a serial entitled Canadian Jewish Archives. These publications covered a wide-range of topics including Canadian Jewish education, the Yiddish press, Jews and Canadian labour, Canadian Jewish immigration and much more. This serial is still widely used today as a valuable research tool.
More recently, the CJCCCNA has become a leader in mining genealogical information from archival sources; translating and making available thousands of obituaries from the pages of the Keneder Adler, collecting and sharing Canadian Jewish casualites from both World Wars, and making accessible thousands of records from Jewish Immigrant Aid Services, the Hebrew Sick Benefit Association, and the Jewish Colonization Association. Also a founding member of the Canadian Jewish Heritage Network, all of this information can be found at www.cjhn.ca.
The JPL-A specializes in working with younger students, grades five through high school, and introducing historical literacy through primary sources like original photographs, documents and objects. For several years, the JPL-A used archival activities tested during school visits to create a series of educational resources entitled Experience Heritage. These classroom activities and resources are now available free-of-charge to teachers off of the Canadian Jewish Heritage Network Education pages.
A particular programme of note is the M’dor le dor project, developed in partnership with Akiva School. The vision for M’Dor le Dor is to create a tangible experience for students to understand the complexity and diversity of their different social groups (family unit, class and peer unit and community unit). By exploring the heritage of their family as it relates to the development of the Montreal Jewish community, students should be able to extrapolate the role of family and individuals’ history in building societies.
Students begin their project with lectures and activities from the JPL-A on identifying, using and analyzing different types of archival materials. Led by their teachers after this initial exploration, students then choose materials from their own families and conduct oral history interviews with family members on why their chosen material is so important in telling the history of their family. The final projects are presented by the student, their parents, and grandparents (and in some cases great-grandparents) in front of a large audience of their peers and families. M’dor le dor has a significant impact on everyone involved and the JPL-A is looking to expand the programme for 2014-2015.
Also a founding member of the Canadian Jewish Heritage Network, the collections of the JPL-A can be searched at www.cjhn.ca.
The inspiration for the IMJM was borne out of one person’s desire to discover the history and often little-known stories attached to the physical spaces of Jewish Montreal, past and present. The IMJM has grown into a virtual force, mapping and making use of new technologies to bring heritage to a new generation. In their own words, “The Interactive Museum of Jewish Montreal is being created at a crucial point for the Jewish community, which turned 250 years old in 2010. Young people are returning to the neighborhoods of their immigrant grandparents and great-grandparents. Many members of older generations seek to share their memories and stories with their children and grandchildren. The Jewish community looks to tell its unique story to its neighbors in Montreal and visitors from around the world.”
In 2012, the IMJM also added walking tours, both physical and virtual, to their portfolio – check out their Hazzanut walking tour on our video page! With no shortage of history to explore, 2013 promises to be an even bigger year for the IMJM staff as they participate with the community’s youth in bringing the past to a new life.
The MHMC Museum was first opened in 1979 and has been our greatest tool for outreach and education ever since. Visitors can discover original objects, documents, photographs as well as a selection of videos of Holocaust survivors’ testimonies.
We also use collection items in educational tools and programs. Working with primary source documents (original documents created by an actor or a witness of the events recounted) enables students to analyze and contextualise their learning. For example in the MHMC activity “Draw-me the story... of Jews in the Netherlands during the Holocaust”, students learn about the impact of antisemitism and anti-Jewish measures on the lives of three Montreal Holocaust survivors of Dutch origin by examining historical documents. Students then create a graphic novel based on the historical experiences of Jews in the Netherlands during the Holocaust.
In “Exploring the Evidence: The Holocaust, Cambodian Genocide, and Canadian Intervention”, students learn about the immigration of Jews to Canada prior to and during the Second World War through the video testimonies of three Holocaust survivors interviewed by the MHMC. They also learn about the political and socio-economical context of the 1920s in Germany by reading an original 1919 letter from our collection.
Our collection has also been the focus of programs inside the museum. The activity “17 letters: For the Last Time and Forever” was originally performed as a public reading inside our exhibition on the occasion of the International Holocaust Remembrance Day (it is now available for download from our Website). 17 letters, written between 1941 and 1944, were selected from the Centre’s collection. They were written by people caught in the storm of Nazism and the genocide of European Jews during the Second World War. These letters were a call for help, they were letters of farewell or hope, and these words are often the last traces of life that relatives of Holocaust victims received.
In 2011, we invited visitors to take part in a special “Behind the scene” tour of our museum. Artefacts were brought from storage into the museum for our visitors to see. Participants could even touch the objects, on the condition that they wear gloves. This gave them not only the chance to discover new artefacts from our collection, but it also gave them an idea of our efforts for preservation and research.
Using original documents can lead to extraordinary learning experiences for people of all ages. Historical documents bring us closer to the events and people from faraway places and times.