WHAT? Makom: Seeking Sacred Space, a photo exhibition of former synagogues in Montreal and North Africa
WHEN? Until March 18, 2008; open Tuesday, 12pm-8pm, Wednesday and Thursday, 12pm-5pm, second Sundays, 1pm-5pm
WHERE? Emet Gallery, Congregation Dorshei Emet, 18 Cleve Road, Hampstead
Anyone interested in Montreal history should check out a new exhibition at the Emet Gallery in Hampstead. In the setting of a recently-built synagogue, Makom: Seeking Sacred Space “looks at how sacred space is created, experienced, preserved, and transformed over time,” with photos by David Kaufman of former synagogues in Mile End and the Plateau and a series by David Cowles on former synagogues in North Africa.
The history of Mile End’s former synagogues has been well-documented, but what I’m interested are the vanished synagogues of even older Jewish neighbourhoods. Around the turn of the twentieth century, Montreal’s Jewish community was centered downtown, below the Sherbrooke St. hill. Wealthier Jewish families lived near McGill while less affluent Jews lived and worked around present-day Chinatown, on streets like Craig (now Viger) and Dorchester (now René Lévesque) and Cadieux (now De Bullion).
Look through the McCord Museum’s Notman archives and you’ll find photos of beautiful synagogues that have long since been demolished. While many of the former places of worship that remain in Mile End are imposing, like the synagogues that now house the Ukrainian Federation on Hutchison or the Collège Français on Fairmount, they’ve got nothing on the more elegant synagogues that once stood downtown.