This Week in JPL History: The Treasures of the Archives

This letter from Richard Dobie is the oldest object in our collection

During this week in 1991 JPL Archivist Carol Katz gave a presentation to the Montreal Jewish Historical Society at the YM-YWHA Snowdon Branch on the treasures held within the JPL Archives. The talk was very well received; one person commenting “Your fascinating address opened a new vista, a new world for me.” The Archives mission is to do just this! We preserve and make accessible the social, economic and cultural history of Montreal’s Jewish community. Below are just a few of our treasures:

The oldest object held by the Archives is a letter written by Richard Dobie, a fur trader and dry goods merchant, in 1775. In it he mentions not being able to do business with an “Israelite“ during Passover, evidence of the Jewish presence in Montreal`s burgeoning economy.

A second treasure of the library is correspondence between Sam Maltin, a Montreal sports writer and Jackie Robinson and his wife, Rae. A jack of all trades, Sam Maltin maintained multiple careers as journalist, actor and insurance salesman. During this time writing for the Montreal Star he sparked a friendship with legendary baseball player Jackie Robinson and his wife Rae, recently moved to Montréal to play for the Montréal Royals. It was in this period that Robinson played a pivotal role in breaking the colour barrier long maintained in professional sports. After Robinson left Montreal, the friendship continued with letters exchanged about daily life and remembering the warm reception of this Canadian city.

One letter from part of exchange between Max Seigler and Albert Einstein

The Archives is proud to hold this third set of especially impressive letters – those between Albert Einstein and Montreal City Councillor Max Seigler. This correspondence is found within the collection of Ariel Bension, a Zohar scholar and Zionist campaigner in international Sephardic communities. The letter themselves discuss sponsoring a particular citizenship application where Einstein expresses his alarm at Canada’s then-restrictive immigration policies towards Jews.

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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