A new museum about Montreal’s Jewish culture goes far beyond focusing on the past – also creating a cultural space for today and tomorrow.

Though the Museum of Jewish Montreal has been online for six years, a fitting space has recently opened to the public at 4040 St. Laurent Blvd. near Duluth Ave.

“We're actually inside an old clothing factory where many in the Jewish community would work, and then you'd live just a block away,” explained its founder and director Zev Moses. “This location was the centre of Montreal’s immigrant Jewish population for the first half of the 20th century, so there are a lot of stories connected to here.”

There are photos and relics of the past on display, but the idea goes beyond that, said Moses.

“Also it’s a really exciting creative and cultural hub today… We want this space to be a place for workshops and shows and installations and a meeting ground,” he said.

“It’s a connection to history, but we’re really thinking in a contemporary way about what this space could be. We don’t just want to think about history with what we’re doing here. We’d love to draw from it, but really, this is a place for younger generations and older too, to start creating new types of culture and to keep contributing to Montreal’s experience.”

Food is at the heart of the new museum – and the heart of Jewish culture, said Kit Romanow, director of food programming.

“I'm a Jewish food historian, so whenever I think about Jewish culture, I obviously think about food,” she said.

Called Fletcher’s Food Space in a nod to the former name for Jeanne-Mance Park – Fletcher’s Field –there will be a café open on weekends.

“It won’t just be an eating experience, you'll get to learn at the same time,” said Romanow. “So whenever you order a dish, you'll get some history and stories along with that dish,” including where the recipes came from and what significance they might hold.

The creators of the Museum of Jewish Montreal say they want the space to be about learning, and about where the Montreal experience connects to the Jewish one.

“The Jewish community had a huge role in Montreal, but what we're trying to show here is that it's not just the story of the Jewish community, it's the story of the city itself and that story is super varied, and this is just one part of it,” said Anna Rotman, director of operations.

Moses said they also hope to see the Jewish story grow and evolve in a changing cultural landscape.

“We want to teach people how the two things come together, how Montreal and Jewish connect – and then we want people to actually help us connect the dots even further and create closer ties,” he said.


With a report from Tarah Schwartz