Wherever you go, there might be something Jewish
It’s officially Summer! Planning to travel in Canada this summer? Wouldn’t it be cool if there were a website that told you all the places, large and small, of Jewish significance in Canada? That way, while you travel, if you were so inclined, you could just nip over for a bit of Jewish history.
Well, there’s not. Or if there is, it’s well-hidden. Or if it’s not well-hidden, I just couldn’t find it.
What there are, though, are some very cool websites that will direct you to interesting Jewish places.
This will be the first of a series of blogs about interesting Jewish places to see in Canada. Full disclaimer – I haven’t actually visited most of these, but I’ve done the virtual poking around, so you don’t have to! Feel free to print and tuck into your JewJu Bag!
This week: Plaques and Markers in Western Canada
One really good way to see some Jewish heritage sites, wherever you are, is to find those historical plaques and markers that give you a little snippet of history. Not all plaques are documented, but there are some searchable databases out there. Some are official, and some are labours of love.
** Go to the end of this blog for the urls for the databases I found, in case you are interested in other historical markers as well**
Congregation Emanu-el Temple, in Victoria
This is the oldest surviving Synagogue in Canada, and it’s a National Historic Site.
It was established during the Gold Rush, and you can find it at 1461 Blanshard Street, Victoria, British Columbia. It’s a Conservative, egalitarian synagogue, so you can worship there, but they also offer tours Tuesdays through Thursdays in the summer, in addition to a Jewish historical walking tour of Victoria on Wednesdays. https://www.congregationemanuel.ca/
In Vancouver, there is a statue (bust) of David Oppenheimer, Vancouver’s mayor from 1887-1891. You can find it at 100 Powell Street, near the former Oppenheimer Building. There’s no plaque, but one is recommended, and here’s what it will probably say: “A dynamic entrepreneur and astute municipal politician (mayor, 1887 1891), David Oppenheimer exerted an important influence on the expansion of the young city of Vancouver, combining his business and civic responsibilities in a manner that was typical of urban promoters of the time. He pioneered a general trading company with his brothers and was instrumental in land development and several transportation initiatives in the region. Oppenheimer's work epitomizes the notable impact of a small but significant and well-integrated Jewish community upon the early development of British Columbia.”
Also in, Vancouver, at 335 Burrard Street, on the Marine Building, there is a plaque recognizing Leon Joseph Koerner, who fled Nazi occupation and in Vancouver, was responsible for innovations in the forestry industry, and a charitable foundation for arts, education, and social programs.
A plaque marking the original Jewish community centre, can be found by the front door at 2675 Oak St. in Fairview Vancouver. The building was originally called Construction House.
In Calgary, there’s a plaque at the Erlton Jewish Cemetery, on Erlston Street SW, about the Chevra Kadisha of Calgary, established in 1904. The plaque tells the sad story of how and why the cemetery was established.
West of Rocanville, near Barish Lake, there is a cairn to honour Jewish farmers of Barish Lake, who settled there between 1886 and 1907. There is a list of these Jewish pioneers of the area. It was the first successful Jewish farm settlement in Canada.
In Winnipeg, The Asper Jewish Community Campus is the home of a National Historical Person portrait for Israel Isaac Kahanovitch, who “Transcended religious and secular Jewish factions to become a community leader throughout the Prairies,” according to Parks Canada. There is no plaque, but there seems to be a portrait, and a plaque is in the offing.
Find more information about the campus at https://ajcc.ca/
Also in Winnipeg, at Bannatyne Avenue and King Street, there is a plaque dedicated to Abraham Albert Heaps, who “Played a key parliamentary role in the introduction of social welfare legislation that supported core Canadian values.”
I found these sites by using the search terms “Jewish”, “Jew”, and “synagogue” in these sites. They’re all great and interesting websites if you want to poke around to find your own landmarks as well.
Parks Canada Directory of Federal Heritage Designation https://www.pc.gc.ca/apps/dfhd/default_eng.aspx
Places that Matter Community History Resource: https://www.vancouverheritagefoundation.org/places-that-matter/