History of the JHSBC

Early in 1970, Historian Cyril Leonoff convened with a small group of people to discuss the possibility of starting a Jewish historical society in British Columbia. With assistance from the National Council of Jewish Women and the Canadian Jewish Congress – Pacific Region, this small group of interested individuals founded the Jewish Historical Society of British Columbia (JHSBC).

Over the years the Society’s work has included publishing a regular journal, The Scribe, authoring several books, recording oral histories of community members throughout the province, and preserving and making accessible the important photographs and records of the Jewish community.

However, in 2002 the JHSBC’s collection was becoming so large and important, that the idea to create a carefully planned integrated museum and archives took hold.
Under the presidency of Bill Gruenthal, the JHSBC Board of Directors gathered a Museum Steering Committee, which included Gary Averbach, Shirley Barnett, Bill Gruenthal, Richard Henriquez, Cyril Leonoff, Irv Nitkin, Rosa Sevy, Ronnie Tessler, Steve Turnbull, Yosef Wosk, and Catherine Youngren.

In early 2006 the Board completed the team by hiring museum consultant, Donna Bryman to bring the project to completion. Combined with the dedication and skills of JHSBC Office Manager Marcy Babins, the Jewish Museum and Archives of British Columbia met its deadline and officially opened on the evening of March 25th, 2007.

The JMABC included an exhibition space which featured photographs, stories and artefacts chronicling over 150 years of Jewish life in BC. The JMABC also included an archival research centre and genealogy reference library. The JMABC educated the general public and regularly hosted school groups in order to build and maintain strong identity and pride in the Jewish community of British Columbia. 
 
In December 2010, due to a number of factors both financial and practical, the JMABC exhibition space was closed and the offices of the JHSBC moved to the Peretz Centre for Secular Jewish Culture in March 2011.
 

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First Executive meeting, Jewish Historical Society of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC. November 26, 1970. l-r: Sam Promislow, Muren Schachter, Eudelle Wall, Lilly Hamer, Cyril Leonoff . Jewish Museum & Archives of BC; L.13397

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Jewish Historical Society exhibit "Journey into our Jewish Heritage," 1970. Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver. Jewish Museum & Archives of BC; L.00468.

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Jewish Museum visioning workshop held in L'Chaim Lounge, Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver, 2005. l-r: David Berson, Catherine Youngren, Richard Henriquez.  Jewish Museum & Archives of BC; L.08809
 

Museum under construction

Museum under construction, Fall 2006.

Yosef Wosk affixing mezzuzah

Rabbi Yosef Wosk affixing mezzuzah at the opening of the Jewish Museum and Archives of British Columbia. March 25, 2007.

Cyril Leonoff and Irene Dodek
Cyril Leonoff and Irene Dodek cutting the ribbon at the Jewish Museum and Archives of British Columbia. March 25, 2007.

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Cyril Leonoff and Gary Averbach affixing the JHSBC mezuzah at the new offices of the Jewish Museum and Archives of British Columbia, March 2011.