New Archives' podcast focuses on history of Federation

Photo: Archivist Teigan Goldsmith recording Episode 6 of 613Archives at Hot Shoe Productions recording studio, 2023.

The Ottawa Jewish Archives launches Episode 6 of their podcast 613Archives in time for Jewish Heritage Month, sharing the history of one of Ottawa’s oldest Jewish organizations: The Jewish Federation of Ottawa.  

“Many people don’t realize that Federation wasn’t established in 2003, that it’s actually almost 90 years old,” said Teigan Goldsmith, Archivist at the Ottawa Jewish Archives. “Federation is only the most recent iteration of what was originally the Vaad Ha’Ir or the Jewish Community Council of Ottawa.” 

Established in 1934, the Vaad Ha’Ir was an organization formed by early community leaders out of necessity. In the early 1930s congregations were struggling to maintain Rabbinic services, thanks to the difficulties brought on by the Great Depression, so in 1933 the search began for Ottawa’s first community Rabbi who would serve all four original congregations. This group was called the Associated Synagogues of Ottawa and they eventually evolved into the Vaad Ha’Ir. 

(Photo at right: Abe Palmer, Tom Sachs, David Loeb, Norman Zagerman, Alex Betcherman, Hy Gould at a ceremony marking the Annual Meeting of the Ottawa Vaad Ha'Ir, 1975.)

“There are a lot of records from the early years when this group was just starting out and it’s fascinating to go through the meeting minutes and see this group form knowing what it will become,” said Goldsmith. 

Research for this episode began in November of last year and, of course, started with the records in the Archives. The Ottawa Jewish Archives, which is comprised of hundreds of thousands of files and holds nearly 100 boxes worth of records on the history of the Vaad/Jewish Federation of Ottawa, many of which Goldsmith needed to sift through to gather information for the episode. 

“Going through the files definitely felt a little daunting, considering the sheer volume of what we have on the subject, but I really wanted to focus on the early years, so I stared at the beginning.” 

Goldsmith spent nearly four months compiling research on the subject including interviewing community leaders, like past Federation CEO Mitchell Bellman and past, but recent, Board member Jessica Greenberg, before beginning the writing process. Goldsmith says she picked this topic because of the heavy influence the Vaad/Federation has had on the community, and as a lead-up to its upcoming 90th anniversary.  

“You know, 90 years is a long time. The Vaad/Federation has been supporting this community for almost a century and in some cases people don’t even understand how. It’s incredible to see how this one organization has helped our community grow and thrive both, in the past and into the present day.” 

This is the sixth podcast episode created by the Ottawa Jewish Archives since they started the project in 2019 under the direction of past archivist Zoe Thrumston. Goldsmith took over podcast production in 2021 and has since released three episodes on the history of the Ottawa Jewish Community Foundation, Ottawa’s Jewish Cemeteries, and now the Vaad/Federation. Goldsmith has plans for more episodes to come on a variety of subjects and looks forward to seeing what else she can uncover about our community’s history. 

Episode 6 of 613Archives is now out and available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, YouTube, and anywhere else you listen to podcasts. For more information check out the Archives website.

To listen to the latest episode, click here.