This Week in JPL History: The People of the Book set up a Temple of the Book… Twice

Allan Bronfman (holding the trowel) stands next to the freshly laid cornerstone

On October 19th, 1952 the cornerstone of what was to be the Library’s new home on 4499 Esplanade was laid. In front of a crowd of over a thousand Allan Bronfman delivered a moving speech on behalf of his brother Samuel. He spoke about the enduring Jewish spirit and traditions and the centrality of books. The speech ended with the line “Today as we dedicate this Library for its people, let us also dedicate its people for the Library.”

Also within the walls of the new building were two stones. One was a “grim memorial of the past” and the other a “bright augury for the future.” The first was a part of a pillar from the Tlomatzky Synagogue in Warsaw which was donated by the Polish government and the other was from Mount Zion and was made available by the Government of Israel

One year after the laying of the cornerstone a dedication ceremony for this new home of the Library took place. Samuel Bronfman formally opened the Library with a speech praising the dedication of Montreal Jewry and the administration of the Library. He also reflected on the role of the Library in the Montreal Jewish community as well as its past. Through the efforts of the Yiddish Book Centre you can listen to the entire Dedication ceremony.  The recording includes a  mix of Yiddish and English.

A crowd gathered at the outdoor dedication ceremony for the new library building at 4499 Esplanade

Over its long life the library has lived in a number of places from its original rented space at 669 St. Urbain, to all of its later homes and branches. In large part, the Library followed the community as it shifted, grew, and moved. Its current location at 5151 Chemin Côte-Ste-Catherine was officially opened on October 14th, 1973. Here the library would be a part of the Jewish Community Campus.

This year marks our 40th anniversary at this location, the longest time the library has occupied any building. The physical space of the library is continuing to grow and change, you may have noticed the construction already taking place in our Young Adult section, which has been made possible through a generous grant from TD Bank.

The This Week in Jewish Public Library History blog series was made possible through the generous support of the Peter and Ellen Jacobs Virtual Archives Fund.

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