About the Society

Interest in creating a Jewish historical society started in 1966 when Dr. Abraham Slone began collecting short memoirs of local Jewish personalities. The Society held its first meeting in 1969 under the chairmanship of journalist Max Bookman. In 1970 an executive committee was formally created under the auspices of the Ottawa Vaad Ha'Ir (the present Jewish Federation of Ottawa), guided by Hy Hochberg. Michael Freedman was appointed first President and Celia Bookman, widow of Max Bookman, was appointed Secretary.


The primary purpose of the Society was the preservation of Ottawa Jewish history. In 1972, an agreement was pursued with the Public Archives of Canada for the preservation of the most valuable community records. The Society was assigned a collection space at the Jewish Community Centre at 151 Chapel Street. Here material was arranged and organized under the direction of Shirley Berman. In 1974 Sidney M. Green became the President of the Society, followed by Hugo Levendel in July 1980 and Ben Karp in August 1986. Lawrence Freedman served from 1992-2006 and John Holzman from 2006-2010. Ian Sadinsky is the current President. By the mid-1980s the Society's holdings included numerous documents, photographs and sound recordings. In 1984, with the move of Hillel Academy to the Broadview campus, space became available to the Society for storage and preservation. This was soon followed by the installation of environmental controls in the storage vault. Aided by volunteers, the facility took on the characteristics of a community archives.


Since its inception, the Society produced many exhibitions and hosted interpretive visits from the pupils of elementary and Jewish schools. Dawn Logan served as community archivist from 1999 until December 2008. Laurie Dougherty is the current archivist of the Ottawa Jewish Archives. The Society produced its first publication, Those Pesky Weeds in 1992. Another publication, A Common Thread: A History of the Jews of Ottawa, was launched on October 18, 2009. In September 2001 the Society organized a bus tour which explored the By Ward Market and much of the early Jewish settlement area of Lowertown Ottawa. When a new community centre was built further west, off Broadview, a modern climate controlled archival facility was included. The Society's holdings were moved there in 1999. In 2001 the Ottawa Vaad Ha'Ir assumed responsibility for the community archives. With its changing role, the Society redirected its mandate to that of promotion of Ottawa Jewish history as well as support of the Ottawa Jewish Archives.