Museum of Jewish Montreal to leave Saint-Laurent Blvd. space by June 30
MONTREAL -- After four years in its Saint-Laurent Boulevard location, the Museum of Jewish Montreal must pack up and take its activities elsewhere.
The building – located at the Duluth Street intersection – has been sold to a new owner. They’ve asked for the space to be vacant as early as June 30.
“I think we were a little disappointed that there wasn't more time to figure things out and get out,” said Zev Moses, the museum’s director and founder. “Six weeks is a very brief time period. But we're also looking at the bright side of it. It's a hard year to operate any commercial space, so for us to take a step back from that for a few months while we take a wait and see approach is a silver lining.”
Like many Montreal businesses, the museum struggled with its April and May rents due to the forced closure of all non-essential businesses caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. But management knew there would be government support, and they wanted to work out a deal with the landlord.
“We turned around and he was selling the place,” Moses said.
“Everything had been quite good; I think there might have been some confusion. I don’t know,” he continued. “Our landlord was not against our work or anything like that – he was very kind to us over the years. I think he was in a rush to sell. This is just kind of a mixture of bad things that happened.”
Despite the setback, the team is hopeful that they’ll eventually be able to open a new space when the time is right. Moses said they’d like to stay in the same neighbourhood.
“It’s important to be in that area, whether it's right on that street or really nearby, but we're so built around the history of the neighbourhood,” he said.
While the museum’s physical space has been closed, management has been developing online, virtual experiences like tours for visitors to enjoy, and other future projects are also in the works.
“Even though we started as kind of a history museum, we've really expanded towards arts, culture, youth engagement…,” Moses said. “To inspire the next generation of Montreal's Jewish community. We use that term really broadly, really inclusively…”
Around 30 per cent of the organization’s funding comes from commercial revenues, a lot of which has disappeared this year. Their budget was cut accordingly. They had to let go of their café workers amid the pandemic, but were able to hang on to the rest of their staff, and even plan to hire fellows over the summer.
“It's the small businesses, museums, community hubs that really give this city its unique sense of life, and if we squeeze them out, then the city will not be as fun or as interesting or as meaningful as it's been for so long,” Moses said. “But that's been going on in general, and I think a lot of people might be worried that this pandemic might speed that up. But I remain hopeful, at least for my own organization. I think we'll come out of this.”