About the Ottawa Jewish Archives

We are a small community archive, first established in 1969, working to preserve the rich history of the Jewish community of Ottawa and surrounding areas. We are dedicated to the objectives of gathering, sorting and recording the collective memory of the community and of making the holdings of historical records, memorabilia and artifacts accessible to all persons for their use and enjoyment.

What our Collection Contains

•    Birth and death records  
•    Marriage records •    Organizational records
•    Individual and family biographies •    Business records
•    Newspapers •    Synagogue records
•    Naturalization certificates •    Audio and video interviews
•    Over 8000 photographs •    WWII material
•    Clothing and textiles •    Eulogies and more

The Archives also holds a print copy of every issue of The Ottawa Jewish Bulletin from its first edition on October 22, 1937, to the present.

Donating to the Archives

Please consider donating your items to the Archives! Every story is important; every family is part of our collective history.

Our vault is temperature and humidity controlled and items are archivally housed ensuring the safest storage of our collection.

Not ready to part with your family treasures?

The Archives will happily work to create high-resolution scans and photographs of items, returning the originals to you until perhaps a later date. Simply to have the information available and part of the story of Jewish heritage in Ottawa is precious to us.


Contact Us

Please do not hesitate to contact us with any questions or comments.

The Archives are open to the public:

Monday – Thursday
10 am - 4 pm

The Ottawa Jewish Archives
21 Nadolny Sachs Private
Ottawa, ON  K2A 1R9

Phone: 613-798-4696 ext. 260
Archivist: Saara Mortensen

Visit our popular Facebook page - learn interesting facts about Ottawa's Jewish history and meet like-minded community members!


FAQ about Ottawa's Jewish History

When did the first Jewish settlers come to Ottawa?

This is a bit of a difficult question to answer because we’re not entirely sure. We do have oral family histories that place some settlers in Ottawa in the 1860s, but unfortunately there are no historical records to back this up.

Who was the first Jewish settler in Ottawa?

Since there were a number of Jewish settlers that came and went in the earlier history of Ottawa, we are not entirely certain of who should receive this label. One name that is a strong contender though is that of Moses Bilsky.

Where did the Jewish immigrants of Ottawa come from?

The early Jewish community of Ottawa is mostly Ashkenazi in origin, with the large majority of them having come from Eastern Europe. Specifically, many families seem to have come from Lithuania and its surrounding areas.


Where did the first Jewish immigrants settle within the city?

Lowertown is the traditional area of Jewish settlement within the city. When Colonel By started construction on the canal here in 1829, he laid out the city according to a military barracks he had built on Barrack's Hill (later to be Parliament Hill).

What was the first congregation in Ottawa?

Adath Jeshurun was the first congregation in Ottawa, formed in 1892. The worshipers' first synagogue was a small wooden building that was acquired in 1895, three years after their creation. It was located at 264 Murray Street in the Market. Unfortunately, the building was situated right next to a food processing plant whose staple product was pork and beans.

Who was Ottawa’s first Rabbi?

Ottawa’s first Rabbi was brought here by invitation from a three man delegation which left from Ottawa in 1894 and headed to New York City. The delegation consisted of John Dover, Moses Bilsky and a third, unknown individual. They were seeking a person to not only serve as Rabbi, but as cantor, shoichet (ritual slaughterer) and moyel as well.

What was the Vaad Ha’Ir?

In the 1930s, a man named Caspar Caplan envisioned an umbrella organization to supervise and direct all of the key Jewish institutions for the whole community, including the Vaad HaKashrut, the Ottawa Talmud Torah, the synagogues of Ottawa, the Hebrew Benevolent Society, the Hebrew Free Loan Association, B'nai B'rith, Hadassah, Young Judea, etc...

When was the Jewish Community Centre Built?
During the Second World War, Ottawa had a ban on new constructions, but planning and fundraising began for a new community centre to be built at the war’s end. The Vaad Ha’Ir was looking to create a central building that would become the heart of the community. They envisioned a complex containing a school, synagogue, kosher kitchen, gym and auditorium.