By MYRON LOVE It is of utmost importance to know the past in order to understand your place in the grand scheme of things. From time immemorial, people the world over have venerated their past. Even in pre-literate societies, the stories and legends have been recounted orally from generation to generation.
In Judaism, we also continue to tell the stories and legends of our origins, our people, through the weekly readings of the Torah and the study of our sages through the centuries.
In our community, the Jewish Heritage Centre of Western Canada has been charged with collecting and preserving the history of Jewish settlement in western Canada. Over the course of its 50-plus years in existence, the JHCWC has amassed a collection of over 100,000 artifacts, including documents, photos, newspapers, manuscripts and audio and video recordings and Holocaust-era documents and artifacts dating back to the origins of our community.
Over time however, such artifacts tend to deteriorate without proper preservation techniques. Thus, to better safeguard the items in its collection for the long term, the JHCWC has established the Florence & Norman Vickar Archival Endowment Fund at the Jewish Foundation of Manitoba, whose aim is to support a full-time archivist who will ensure proper storage and archival treatment of the collection.
(Andrew Morrison, the JHCWC’s resident archivist, is currently employed on a part time basis.)
The endowment fund, she points out, would also enable the Centre to make improvements to upgraded storage facilities to protect from water damage and meet archival standards and continue the digitization of the collection.
“It is vital that we carry out these upgrades if we are to be able to protect our community’s records over the long term,” Belle Jarniewski, the JHCWC’S executive director notes.
Belle is also happy to report that the lead donors to the campaign are Larry and Tova Vickar. “We greatly appreciate their generosity and hope that that will inspire other community members to donate,” Jarniewski says.
The Vickar family has deep roots in Western Canada. The family’s record of community involvement and leadership in Canada began more than 100 years ago – in 1906 - when brothers Sam and Dave arrived on the Prairies from Lithuania via South Africa – to try their hand at farming in Saskatchewan. They were successful farmers and businessmen, operated both a general store and a farm implement dealership – and became involved in community service.
Sam and Dave set the template for the generation that followed. Between the two of them, they raised ten sons and one daughter, many of whom went on to successful business careers and leadership roles in the Jewish and general communities.
“My parents (Florence and Norman) had strong feelings about the importance of preserving the Jewish history in western Canada,” Larry Vickar notes.
He points out that his father was one of the founders of both the JHCWC and its earlier iteration, the Jewish Historical Society of Western Canada while the Vickars were still living in Saskatchewan, and that he served on the Centre’s board after moving to Winnipeg. As well, Norman’s older brother Ed, in 1997, endowed the Marion and Ed Vickar Jewish Museum of Western Canada, in the then-new Asper Jewish Community Campus.
“My extended family and I have been happy to work with Belle and her team on this worthwhile endeavour,” he says. “We greatly appreciate her leadership in the community.”