A cultural history comes together with Shalom Montreal

David Bier, Sephardic refugees arriving at Dorval Airport, 1974. Alex Dworkin Canadian Jewish Archives

The McCord Museum’s Shalom Montreal exhibition presents a comprehensive view of “Stories and Contributions of the Jewish Community,” from the famous to the obscure. Artists and institutions like Leonard Cohen and Moshe Safdie, Schwartz’s and Steinberg’s share space with lesser known figures and endeavours from fields such as heritage preservation and human rights.

Anonymous, Moe Wilensky and customers, Montreal, 1965. Courtesy of the Wilensky family

Two years in the making, the exhibition is divided into five “thematic zones,” with photos, videos and a range of artifacts grouped under the headings Living Together, Caring Together, Struggling Together, Doing Business Together and Creating Together.

The problems faced by the city’s Jewish community are not glossed over — anti-Semitic WWII-era signage is on display, as are posters and photos relating to the Jewish General Hospital, developed for Jewish patients as well as doctors who weren’t welcome at other hospitals. Alongside artistic, entrepreneurial and scientific achievements, this inclusion of the dark side of the community’s history helps to paint a complete picture of the Jewish experience in Montreal.

St-Viateur Bagel

“The Jewish community has made numerous significant contributions to Montreal, and we would like to raise the awareness of these many achievements among Montrealers of all backgrounds,” says Suzanne Sauvage, president and chief executive officer of the McCord Museum. “Although there are many examples to choose from, we have selected the events and projects that have most affected Montrealers and shaped the city we live in today.”

Shalom, a Hebrew greeting that translates to peace or harmony, seems a fitting name for a history of a culture that has always sought inclusion, and a collection that invites viewers with its multifaceted appeal. 

Shalom Montreal continues at the McCord Museum (690 Sherbrooke W.) through Nov. 11.

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