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Jewish Congress makes a handsome donation

CJC president Moshe Ronen and Concordia Rector Frederick Lowy, in front of Samuel Bronfman House.

The Canadian Jewish Congress (CJC) has given its former headquarters, Samuel Bronfman House, to Concordia University.

The turnover of the property was celebrated at a well-attended mid-day reception on September 15 at the distinctive four-storey building, which is on the corner of Côte-des-Neiges Road and Docteur-Penfield Ave.

CJC president Moshe Ronen said, "We are pleased to be donating Samuel Bronfman House to Concordia University, a distinguished institution of higher learning with a strong commitment to Jewish Studies. We believe that these new arrangements, which retain our national presence in Montreal, enhance our capabilities in Quebec and consolidate our Ottawa operations, will benefit the Canadian Jewish Congress and the entire Jewish community."

Samuel Bronfman House has served as CJC national headquarters and the home of the Jewish community's archives since it was built in 1970 with subscriptions from across Canada, particularly from the family of Samuel Bronfman, of Seagram distillers.

The building's original purpose has changed in recent years. While it will continue to house the national head office, much of the CJC's resources and personnel have moved to Ottawa, and the offices for the Quebec region of the CJC will soon be housed in the new Jewish Community Campus of Montreal.

However, Samuel Bronfman House will remain the repository of the Congress's large national archives collection. The archives will remain accessible to scholars, researchers, the general public and, more than ever, to Concordia professors and students.

A number of Concordia's academic units centred on research and archives are scheduled to move into the building early next year.

They are the Institute for Quebec and Canadian Jewish Studies, the Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies, the Canadian Journal of Political and Social Theory, the Centre for Community and

Ethnic Studies, the Centre for Broadcast Studies, the Canadian Anthropology Society, the Canadian Sociology and Anthropology Association, the Archives for the Canadian Rural Restructuring Foundation/New Rural Economy, the Centre for Research on Citizenship and Social Transformation, the Karl Polanyi Institute, and the Canadian Association of Literary Translators.

The architect chosen to build Samuel Bronfman House was one of Canada's finest, Fred Lebensold, and he took full advantage of its commanding site at the top of a steep hill.

The building has also been well endowed with striking works of art. Outside the main entrance are four distinctive fibreglass sculptures. Called Totems, by Walter Redinger (1972), they represent the past and the present, and were part of a presentation made for the Venice Biennial.

Inside the entrance is a floor-to-ceiling stained-glass panel titled Memorial, by Marcelle Ferron (1970), commemorating the six million Jewish victims of the Holocaust. The abstract multi-coloured design portrays the destruction of each of the Hebrew letters of the word shalom.

The Canadian Jewish Congress began collecting archival material immediately after its founding in 1919 to preserve documentation of the Jewish presence in Canada. The focus of the collection developed under the direction of the late archivist and historian David Rome.

All aspects of the concerns of the Jewish community are reflected in the collection: immigration, integration into Canadian society, community organization, discrimination, Zionism, oppressed Jewry in other countries, education, literature, genealogy and much more.

It is a large collection, and would fill more than 3,800 banker's boxes. Automated cataloguing started in the early 1980s, and most of the collection is accessible via computer search.

Since 1992, the National Archives of the Canadian Jewish Congress has benefited from the status of service agréé d'archives privées, a partnership assistance program of the Archives nationales du Québec.

Rector Frederick Lowy warmly welcomed the addition of this fine four-storey building to Concordia's growing downtown presence.

"This generous gift underlines the close ties between the University and Montreal's ethnic communities, including the Jewish community, and will allow us to further develop these important areas of teaching and research," he said.

- BB

Copyright 1999 Concordia's Thursday Report.