Ottawa Jewish Archives
The Jewish Community of Lowertown, Ottawa
Initially, Ottawa was a very small Jewish community that grew at a tremendous rate in the first decade of the twentieth century. The Jewish population of Ottawa doubled its size approximately five times between 1901 and 1911. During that time, Moses Bilsky took care of many Jewish immigrants when they arrived in Ottawa without family to support them. He made sure that they had employment somewhere and billeted them with other Jewish families or let them stay in his own home.
Records show many other acts of kindness. Pulling together in a time of tragedy, Mrs. Sadinsky, Mrs. Bilsky and Mrs. Milly Zagerman cared for the Mirsky children when Mrs. Mirsky died shortly after the birth of her son Sam. The community cared for and supported each other despite different countries of origin with the Yiddish language serving as the binding agent. As time went on, organizations rather than individuals were there to provide support for immigrant families.
Around 1912, the Ottawa Sick Hebrew Sick Benefit Society was formed. It provided some measure of insurance for people who were not able to work. Doctors were paid from the funds collected from subscribed members. The Society, modelled after the organization in Montreal, provided a more formal safety net for the Jewish community of Ottawa. In 1921, an Ottawa office of JIAS (Jewish Immigrant Aid Society) opened to help those who needed assistance to integrate into Canadian society. In 1933, the Ottawa Hebrew Free Loan Association was established by Reverend Louis Doctor. It helped Jewish immigrants by providing loans at zero or little interest and helped people find jobs within the community.
By 1934, the community had established a Vaad Ha'ir (Community Council) led by Casper Caplan and Thomas Sachs. A. J. Freiman became president of the Vaad Ha'ir and remained its leader until his death in 1944. It was the umbrella organization for almost all of the city's religious, Zionist and social organizations with the exception of the Ottawa Chevra Kadisha. Max Steinberg remarked in an interview with Mac Lipson in 1987 that "Jewish communal life in Ottawa is far better organized than that in his town of Soroki (Besabaria), Ottawa is much richer".
Mrs. Freda Lipson described how disappointed she was in Canada's Capital when she arrived here from Kiev in 1927. The train station, shops and homes appeared shabby in comparison with the modern city which was her home. She came to Ottawa because she had relatives here, travelling with her husband and first son. Despite the Russian revolution granting certain freedom to Jews, she was afraid of future chaos and pogroms. She wanted to leave and make a new life for her family. Years later, she felt that Canada was a wonderful and that Ottawa was "the most beautiful place".
This Storyline profiles the Petigorsky, Rivers, Shinder and Lazear families. It also includes stories told in Yiddish by Rachel Black of how she managed when she first came to Canada. The final segment belongs to British war bride Fay (Moskovitch) Shulman who met her husband Joseph during World War II and made her way to Ottawa to start a new life in the family fruit business in the Byward Market.
Postcard written in Yiddish, addressed to a Mr. Greenberg, Byward Market, Ottawa
20th Century, Circa 1928
Oscar Petigorsky (center) in Russian army uniform
20th Century, Circa 1901
Nina and Oscar Petigorsky of Petigorsky Shoe Findings Ltd.
20th Century; Circa 1910
253 Rideau Street, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Oscar Petigorsky in front of his shoe repair shop
20th Century, Circa 1930
289 Dalhousie Street, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
20th Century, Circa 1925
25 Stewart Street, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Oscar Petigorsky ran for Public School Trustee in 1916
20th Century, Circa 1916
Cadet Sam Petigorsky
20th Century, Circa 1943
Russian passport showing Ribers family; (back) Jacob, Elenor, Leah, (front) Albert, Eileen, Thelma
20th Century, Circa 1921
Jacob and Leah Rivers with daughter Thelma at River's Fruit and Vegetables
20th Century, Circa 1924
16 Byward Market Street, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
20th Century, Circa 1945
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Shinder family post card showing passengers aboard the President Wilson
12 November 1924
Shinder family passport
17 October 1924
Detail of Shinder family from Passport
17 October 1924
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