Sylvia Ary, 1923-2015

The Jewish Public Library Archives was saddened to hear of the passing of artist Sylvia Ary on November 8th, 2015.  Ms. Ary was an accomplished and prolific artist; her paintings are featured in galleries, museums, and other organizations across Canada and abroad.

Ms. Ary was born in 1923 in Russia to artist Alexander Bercovitch and journalist and activist Bryna Avrutick.  The family, which now included Sylvia’s sister Ninel, moved to Montreal in 1926 where Alexander continued as an artist and Bryna worked in Jewish education and continued to be involved in the left-wing political activism of the Jewish community.  Ms. Ary’s first art training came through an art school established by Norman Bethune for the children of poor families.  Later she studied with Ann Savage at Baron Byng High School and then at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.  More details of Ms. Ary’s life can be found through her artists’ website:

The Jewish Public Library is extremely fortunate to be one of many organizations to feature the artwork of Ms. Ary.  The Library’s study room features a series of water colours based on traditional Jewish folk tales, donated by the Roskies family, and portraits of Itsik Manger and Moishe Shaffir hang in the Greenberg meeting room.  These works have graced the Library’s walls for decades and illustrate Ms. Ary’s beautiful portraits as well as her interpretation of the Yiddish culture she was surrounded by in her childhood.

In addition to this artwork, the Archives of the JPL hold the research collection of Robert Adams’ work on Ms. Ary’s father, Alexander Bercovitch, as well as recorded interviews with Ms. Ary in our Oral History collection.

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