The committee spearheading a year-long exhibit that would pay tribute to Jewish life in Canada said it is hoping to raise almost $2 million in private donations to build and operate the project by 2017, Canada’s 150th anniversary of Confederation.
The commemorative exhibit, Canadian Jewish Experience: A Tribute to Canada 150, will feature key aspects of Jewish life in Canada since the mid-1700s. There are plans for nine distinct displays, showcasing migration, the military, industry and entrepreneurship, sports, media and entertainment, anti-Semitism, politics, architecture, and a Hall of Fame of 150 Canadian Jews.
“We really want to showcase it to the many people who come to Ottawa,” said Canadian Jewish Experience (CJE) founder, Tova Lynch. “I learned a lot doing this, I found it fascinating, and I think it’s an important story to tell.”
Former senator Jerry S. Grafstein, a CJE committee member, agreed.
“This is really important in my view,” he said. “When I got to Ottawa in 1961 … I was simply amazed to discover that there was little or no reference to the Jewish contribution of the making of Canada.”
Lynch said that, while the plan has only been a few months in the making, much progress has already been made.
Historical items to be displayed, including the NHL’s Hart Memorial Trophy, will be predominantly on loan from private and public collections, galleries and museums from across Canada. The CJE is not meant to become permanent or create rivalry with existing Jewish museums, Lynch said. Instead, the group hopes to complement the existing collections and to highlight major Jewish contributions to Canadian society.
The CJE’s major goal is to educate non-Jews specifically about the community’s contributions, increase tolerance and reduce discrimination, while celebrating its “deep pride” for its accomplishments. The committee anticipates about 350,000 Canadians will visit the exhibit in 2017. About one-third, they estimate, will be students on field trips.
Board member Victor Rabinovitch, who served as president and CEO of the Canadian Museum of Civilization and the Canadian War Museum for 11 years, said the exhibit “fits so well” in celebrating the big picture in Canada’s 150-year evolution.
“It is important for people like ourselves to share our own stories in Canada, show how we’ve overcome barriers, made major contributions and become integral parts of Canada’s diversity and unity as both anglophones and francophones,” said Rabinovitch. “We learn from our past, and we can help shape the future, as Canadians and as Jews.”
The CJE partnered with the National Capital Commission (NCC) to find a suitable location for the exhibit. It will be installed at 30 Metcalfe Street in the downtown core.
Despite the measures to keep costs low, the total anticipated cost of the exhibit is expected to be $2.9 million. While Lynch said the minimum cost to get the CJE up and running is just under $1 million, there would be a noticeable difference in production values. The committee is hoping to raise $1.8 million in donations from the Canadian Jewish community and $1.1 million in funding from private and government sources.
Lynch said she hopes to incorporate interactive programming for students on field trips so that the next generation will understand the depth of the Jewish community’s contributions to Canadian society.
“It’s a story that should be told,” Lynch said. “We should be very proud of our heritage and what we contributed to Canada.”
For more information about the CJE, contact Lynch at firstname.lastname@example.org or 613-680-8820.