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CJEBy BERNIE BELLAN
A new exhibit currently on display at the Asper Campus in the Jewish Heritage Centre of Western Canada glass panels adjacent to the Berney Theatre tells some aspects of the history of Canadian Jewry over the past 150 years in pictures and words.

The exhibit, titled “Canadian Jewish Experience – A Tribute to Canada 150 – Challenges, Achievements, Contributions”, is the idea of a Toronto committee and was curated by former Winnipegger Sandra Morton Weizman.
Two of the major financial supporters of the exhibit include the Asper Foundation and the family of the late Sydney and Pearl Morantz (who lived in Winnipeg).

In a series of nine panels, the exhibit focuses on different themes, including: “patterns of Jewish migration; building a strong and prosperous country; Jewish Canadians in the Canadian armed forces; elected officials and public servants; architects and developers building Canadian cities; Jewish Canadians in hockey, football, and the sporting world; writers, actors, musicians and media leaders; fighting discrimination and developing human rights laws.”

Here are some excerpts from some of the panels:
From “Justice for All”: “During the 1940s and 50s, the Canadian Jewish Congress and the Jewish Labour Committee led the fight against discrimination in housing, jobs and recreation. All minority groups, including Jews, benefitted from new human rights laws and the creation of Human Rights Commissions…
“A major initiative on human rights was led by Israel Asper, Gail Asper and Moses (Moe) Levy through the creation of Canada’s fifth National Museum, based in Winnipeg, the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.”

From “Arts and Popular Culture”: “Literature, music and performing arts have been deeply influenced by Canadian Jews. Montreal was home to a cluster of literary giants, such as poet A.M. Klein, novelist Mordecai Richler, poets Leonard Cohen and Irving Layton, Naim Kattan, the writer and French cultural leader, and playwright Ted Allan. Western Canada spawned distinctive Jewish contributions to Canadian literature with figures such as Adele Wiseman, Eli Mandel and Miriam Waddington.”
From “Serving Democracy”: “When Ezekiel Hart was elected in 1807 to the legislature of Western Canada, he was barred from office because of his Jewish religion. In 1832, Jews were permitted to swear their own religious oath of office. Since then, Jews have made enormous contributions to every level of Canadian politics.”
(Interestingly, the same panel goes on to mention that “Israel Asper was elected leader of the Manitoba Liberal Party in 1970”, but fails to mention that Sidney Spivak was elected leader of the Manitoba Progressive Conservative party in 1971.)
The same exhibit is being shown in cities across Canada simultaneously. It will be on until the middle of August in Winnipeg.

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