The Early Jewish Community in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada and area
November 18, 2002:
This material is a summary of "The Jews: An Influential Minority, 1882-1979" in Shirley E. Woods Jr.'s
book Ottawa, The Capital of Canada, pages 181-185.
The first Jewish resident of Ottawa was Moses Bilsky who arrived in Ottawa in 1857 from Kemptville.
He was born in Lithuania in 1830, and spent some time in British Columbia in 1861 during the Cariboo
Gold Rush and later fought in the American Civil War. In 1874 he married Pauline Reich from New York.
In the mid-1880's they bought a house on Daly Avenue. By 1888 there were enough Jewish people in Ottawa
to form joint religious services. (see below, dated January 25, 2004)
Jacob Mirsky from New York was the first Rabbi. A synagogue was built on King Edward Avenue in
Lowertown and this area was the early center of the Jewish community.
In the late 1890's, a new phenomenon was arriving on the scene in North America - the department store.
The first one was the Piggly Wiggly in the United States. In 1903, Archibald Jacob Frieman opened the first
department store in Ottawa - the A.J. Frieman Store on Rideau Street. His son, Lawrence Frieman, received
the Order of Canada in 1967.
David Mirsky created the Pure Spring Company at a stream which flowed down Nanny Goat Hill to Lebreton
Flats. This was beside the old Bradings Brewery which, if I remember correctly, was at the north
end of Preston Street. Pure Spring became the largest seller of Ginger Ale in Canada.
Moses Loeb arrived in Ottawa from Russia in 1912 and opened a store on Lebreton Flats at Wellington
and Broad Streets across from the CP Railway Station.
In 1969 J. Harold Shenkman (whose father came from Russia in 1905) donated $500,000 to build the
Young Men's Christian Association building on O'Connor Street at Catherine - where the old
Ottawa Auditorium (professional and Junior "A" hockey) had been.
December 6, 2002:
Roger Greenberg immigrated from Russia in 1913. His sons established a towel company and later,
the Independent Bag Company which recycled burlap material. Eventually the family created Minto
Construction Limited which is one of Ottawa's largest development companies. Lorry Greenberg
was mayor of Ottawa from 1975 to 1978.
January 29, 2004:
Here's Moses Bilsky in the 1881 Census for Renfrew North. Note that this
area is still called "Unorganized Territory" in 1881. The area was on the
frontier and had not yet been divided into Townships.
1881 Census Place: Unorganized Territory, Renfrew North, Ontario, Canada
Source: FHL Film 1375871 NAC C-13235 Dist 114 SubDist M Div 5 Page 41 Family 202+
Sex Marr Age Origin Birthplace
Moses BILSKY M M 38 Polish Poland
Occ: Watch Maker & Jeweller Religion: Hebrew
Paulina BILSKY F M 24 German Germany
Alexander BILSKY M 6 Polish USA
Samuel BILSKY M 3 Polish Ontario
Rebecca BILSKY F 1 Polish Ontario
December 27, 2004:
New Link: Jewish Community Council of Ottawa has more history of the Jewish Community.
January 12, 2005:
And thanks to Robert Sample for another link to Jewish genealogy.
October 18, 2009:
The Ottawa Jewish Historical Society has just published a new book A Common Thread: A History of the Jews of Ottawa.
The book is available from the Ottawa Jewish Historical Society and General Store Publishing House. It is also being released
at 2:00 P.M. at Ben Franklin Place at Centrepointe today.
September 12, 2011:
Brad Adlerstein is researching his ancestors, Abraham Lazarus FLORENCE and Lena PULLAN who came from Lithuania
to Ottawa, Canada before 1900.
July 3, 2012:
Here is a comment from Marc Aubin:
The Jewish presence in Ottawa was an interesting one and we are actually trying to get a small portion of the
neighbourhood designated a Jewish Heritage Conservation District.
Hope this is helpful!
July 6, 2012:
Here is the grave marker for Abraham Lazarus Florence (see link, above). Can someone volunteer to translate from Hebrew to English?
We have a larger and clearer photo.
September 26, 2012:
Here is another very good book regarding Jewish history in the Ottawa area. It is an autobiography of Harold Rubin who came from
Russia in 1912 and the book is called Those Pesky Weeds, edited by Shirley Berman of the Ottawa Jewish Historical Society in 1992, ISBN 0-9696-259-0-1.
This book is in the Library of the Ottawa Branch of the Ontario Genealogical Society.
March 20, 2013:
Archival Sources for the Study of Canadian Jewry, National Archives of Canada (Now Library and Archives Canada),
by Lawrence F. Tapper, 1987, ISBN 0-662-55320-9
October 5, 2013:
The Jewish Memorial Gardens Cemetery in Osgoode Township, Ontario, Canada
E-mail Marc Aubin and Al Lewis
Back to Bytown or Bust - History and Genealogy in the Ottawa area