Past Events

All in the Family

In honour of Family Day this February, we are inviting people to share cherished family stories, family photo or family tree with our community. JHSSA staff will be in the JCC lobby from 9am to noon on both days to collect and scan material relating to local Jewish history.

We are especially interested in family trees, family anecdotes, photographs and original documents relating to your family history. Material can be donated to the JHSSA or scanned and returned. Please contact us for more information.

Date Correction: The Fairmont Palliser Hotel and its Jewish History

Please note, contrary to our article in Discovery, this illustrated talk will be on February 22, not January 22.

Local historian Harry Sanders will share stories about the Jewish community’s connections to the Palliser Hotel, gleaned from his research for his forthcoming book, The Castle by the Tracks: Calgary’s Historic Fairmont Palliser Hotel.

AGM: Sacred Service

100 years of Calgary’s Chevra Kadisha

Jewish Historical Society of Southern Alberta invites everyone to join us for our AGM, Monday, October 27 at 7:30 p.m., at the Calgary JCC.  The evening will start with a short business meeting: please note that all members should have received proposed bylaw amendments by mail or email. The meeting will be followed by our feature  program highlighting the stories of the many volunteers, past and present, who have quietly served our community through their commitment to the Chevra Kadisha. As always, we will honour our community’s 80 year olds.

The evening will conclude with dessert and a chance to visit.

For more information, please contact us.

Poster AGM 2014



On the Trail for Treasure:Sheldon Smithens shares stories from Canadian Pickers

Admission: $10 at the door; Free for 2015 JHSSA members

The Jewish Historical Society of Southern Alberta is pleased to host a special fall program featuring Sheldon Smithens, the co-star of the popular TV show Canadian Pickers. Sheldon is also a well-known antiques dealer, appraiser and auctioneer – and past JHSSA president.

Sheldon will present an illustrated talk about his family background in the world of antiques and about his adventures on the trail for the Canadian Pickers TV show. He will also auction off a collection of promotional items from the show.

In conjunction with this talk, JHSSA is hosting a small silent auction of items relating to local family history, Judaica and Western Canadiana. The silent auction items will available for viewing at 6:30 p.m. prior to Sheldon’s presentation.

Contact us for further details.

Cemetery Plaque Dedication: Updated

Thank you to everyone who attended on Sunday! We have received a lot of positive feedback. There are some photos from the event below.

In honour of the 2014 centenary of the Chevra Kadisha of Calgary, the Jewish Historical Society of Southern Alberta invites the public to the dedication of an interpretive historic plaque on the main gate of Erlton Jewish Cemetery on Sunday afternoon, August 17, 2014. This cemetery has served the community since 1904 and is now fully reserved. The plaque will highlight the significance of this site as to our community’s history.

The plaque dedication will be followed by a communal burial of sacred texts (shamot/shames) such as worn out Hebrew prayer books and bibles in the communal book depository (genizah) on the cemetery grounds. The books or loose pages can be brought to the event for burial. This will be followed at around 2:45 pm by a tour of the cemetery led by historian Harry Sanders who will stop at some gravesites of particular interest – including the earliest 1904 grave of infant Goldie Bell.

This interpretive plaque is the third to be dedicated by JHSSA. In 2011 an interpretive plaque was dedicated at the original site of the Congregation House of Jacob synagogue (now Bow Valley College). A plaque marking the original site of Smithbilt Hats (now Hotel Arts) was dedicated in 2012.

Event Poster

unveiling best plaque dedication-127 Harry & crowd1 Bill Aizanman and crowd genizah box roberta 1

Cemetery Tour with Harry Sanders

2014 marks the centenary of the Chevra Kadisha – and 110 years since the first burial in the Erlton Jewish cemetery. Join historian Harry Sanders for a tour of the cemetery and for some insights about its history and about some of the Calgarians buried there. This popular tour is part of Chinook Country Historical Society’s Historic Calgary Week. For more details of the numerous interesting programs offered July 25 – August 4, consult the  2014 Historic Calgary Week Brochure.

JHSSA office closed for Pesach

The JHSSA office will be closed for Passover, Monday, April 14th through Tuesday, April 22th. We will resume normal office hours on Wednesday April 23rd.

Please leave us a message or send us a note; our contact information is here.


Bubbies and Zaidas blogging

The Bubbies and Zaidas blogging project is the coordinated effort of the Calgary Jewish Community Centre, New Horizons for Seniors, the Jewish Academy, Jewish Family Services, The Jewish Historical Society of Southern Alberta and The Foundation Lab.

The Blogging group is inviting the community to join them on Wednesday April 30, 2014 for the debut of their blog, and the premier of films that the seniors have made in partnership with CJA students. There will be a dessert reception.

Bubbies and Zaidas Blog launch

Sneak a peak for one of the videos here.

Getting to the Land of Promise: Using Canadian Immigration and Census Records

Genealogist David Obee’s one hour presentation will be followed by an opportunity to consult with local experts on locating ancestral towns, translating European documents, deciphering Hebrew dates and names and creating family trees. Light Refreshments. Admission: $5 at the door. Contact us  for more information.

David Obee Workshop

David Obee will be back in Calgary on April 5th to present an extended workshop for the Alberta Family Histories Society. More information can be found on their website.

Creating Our Community Album

Make your family story a part of the Community Album: bring up to 3 of your important family photos or family documents to the JCC and we will add them to the JHSSA collections. Items can be donated to JHSSA or scanned on site and returned. If you are unable to drop by on January 22, please contact us to make an appointment.


Poster for all Exhibit related Events

None Is Too Many: The Untold Story

A free talk by author Dr. Irving Abella, author of None is too Many. Presented by the JHSSA and Calgary Jewish Federation in conjunction with the visiting exhibit: Jews: A Canadian Story in Pictures.

Poster for Abella Talk

Poster for all Exhibit related Events


Book Festival Presentation

Reel Time: The Jewish Community and
Movie Exhibitors in Calgary

A Presentation by Robert and Tamara Seiler

Sunday November 24, 2013 2:00 pm
at the Calgary JCC

JHSSA is pleased to be able to participate in Jewish Book Fair. Drawing on their recently published book, REEL TIME: Movie Exhibitors and Movie Audiences in Prairie Canada 1896 to 1986, Robert and Tamara Seiler will discuss the history of movie exhibition in Calgary, focusing in particular on the central role played by members of Calgary’s Jewish community in turning theatrical movie exhibition into a major commercial enterprise, thereby shaping the leisure time activities of generations of moviegoers, in Calgary and well beyond.

Southern Alberta Jewish Veterans of World War I and II: Database Launch

JHSSA is pleased to announce the launch of our Southern Alberta Jewish Veterans of World War I & II Database. This project grew out of our 2011 AGM program honouring our living veterans. The database is dedicated to Val Rimer with the support of the Ghert Family Foundation.. Both Mr. Rimer and Mr. Ghert will be part of the November launch. Keith Hann, JHSSA’s main researcher for the project, will introduce the main features of the Database and will explain how to conduct searches about individual veterans and about general information about our Jewish servicemen. This Database aims to include those Jewish veterans of the two World Wars who spent a part of their lives in Southern Alberta.

Small Town Snap Shots: Jewish Life in Small Towns of Southern Alberta


From Alliance to Wetaskiwin, from Aisenstat to Zack, Jewish settlers played diverse roles in the early days of many of southern Alberta’s small towns. We will share stories and photos chronicling some of the amazing and amusing incidents they experienced.

We will also recognize community members who have turned 80 this year.

AGM poster

Finding My Prairie Roots: A presentation by Harriet Goodman Hoffman

Please join the JHSSA for a summer talk by Harriet Goodman Hoffman. The presentation will draw on Harriet’s experience editing Collected Writings by her grandfather Joseph J. Goodman who lived in Alberta for a while in the early 20th century. The book translates J. Goodman’s Yiddish poetry, essays and stories, presenting them with a chronology and a biography based on Harriet’s genealogical research, along with information about people and places in his text.

The event will be free of charge, but we do ask that people RSVP if possible, so we can ensure there are sufficient refreshments after the talk.


Historic Calgary Week 2013: Walking tour


Historic Calgary Week 2013 promises to be an engaging and educational week for history buffs of all levels and interests. The JHSSA is participating by hosting a walking tour of historic Jewish Calgary led by JHSSA director and local historian Harry Sanders. The route will follow existing and vanished sites (as well as contemporary public art installations) in the downtown core that have connections to Jews and Jewish organizations.

The tour is free and open to the public. Please invite your friends and wear your walking shoes.

For more information about other Historic Calgary Week events, visit their website.

Insurance Plan of Calgary, Alberta, Volume I. Toronto: Chas. E. Goad, Oct. 1911, sheet 19.

Insurance Plan of Calgary, Alberta, Volume I. Toronto: Chas. E. Goad, Oct. 1911, sheet 19.

Tribute to Jack Switzer- Thank you! and Bibliography

Thank you to everyone who worked on the Tribute to Jack Switzer. We had a wonderful turn out of guests; over 100 people attended. Sheldon Smithens, Mitch Wise, Agi Romer Segal, Lindsay Moir, Norm Yanofsky, Trudy Cowan and Ted Switzer all spoke eloquently, and thanks to an old video, Jack even got to crack a few jokes himself. Laura Shuler and Saundra Lipton led a wonderful group of volunteers in preparing the evening. Thank you to Shauna Switzer and the Switzer family for all of their help.

We are planning to post a video of the event in the next few weeks.

Bibliography Jack Switzer






Veterans Database Project: Call for information

On October 24, 2011 the JHSSA AGM program honoured living veterans of the first and second world wars who had a connection to southern Alberta. This event inspired a project to create a database with information on southern Albertan veterans .

We decided to focus initially on World War veterans who lived a significant portion of their lives in Southern Alberta. Our goal is to develop a comprehensive database providing information on city of birth, conflict served, branch of service, service location, rank, unit, medals, etc. as well as stories, diaries, letters and photographs.” In fact the number of research fields has now grown to over forty.

We have engaged a researcher, Keith Hann, to spearhead this project. Often the best material is volunteered by our members. Do you have information on any veterans of the world wars that had a significant connection to southern Alberta? If so, please contact us.

If these walls could tell tales… Smithbilt Plaque installation

On June 30, 2012, the JHSSA hosted an event unveiling a plaque for the site of the old Smithbilt Hat Factory, now the home of Hotel Arts. The event, part of Historic Calgary Week, highlighted the early history of Smithbilt hats, and company founder Morris

We are delighted to announce that this plaque is now installed on an exterior wall of Hotel Arts, beside their door on 1st Street SW by it’s intersection with 12th Ave. The plaque went up on April 29th, 2013. Our thanks to Nexus Exhibits, Hotel Arts, Harry Sanders and our staff and volunteers for their assistance with this project.

Smithbilt plaque unveiling flyer

Smithbilt plaque text

Smithbilt Plaque Photo 1 Smithbilt Plaque Photo 2


Calgary’s Palestine Exhibition of 1913- A talk by Harry Sanders

Join the Jewish Historical Society of Southern Alberta for Harry’s entertaining presentation on the Calgary Palestine Exhibition of 1913, a unique event that saw models of ancient and modern Jerusalem displayed in Victoria Park. For further information, please contact us.

Tribute to Jack Switzer z”l

The Jewish Historical Society of Southern Alberta invites everyone to an evening remembering Jack Switzer. Through the years, Jack served as a JHSSA board member, president, editor and researcher. He was also a founding member of Temple B’nai Tikvah and the Little Synagogue on the Prairie Project Society. The tribute will include illustrated presentations highlighting Jack’s many contributions to our community. For further information, please contact us.

Jack Switzer Memorial Research Workshops- The Review

Doug Cass, Director of Library and Archives at the Glenbow, hosted two informative sessions for the JHSSA. On January 8, 2013, we were given a tour behind the scenes of the archives. This climate controlled area consists of rolling shelves allowing the archives to fill over 5 km of shelf space. The resources at the Glenbow are divided into two categories: the Archives house papers and photos donated by over 3000 businesses and individuals, and the Library is home to thousands of books, maps and newspapers relating to southern Alberta. We had an opportunity to look at archival materials from the collections of Jewish individuals and organizations, including records from the Calgary Jewish Community Council, the Jewish Historical Committee, the Calgary Jewish Academy and its predecessors (1920s to 1980s), the Jewish Star, the Beth Israel Players, and the Shaarey Tzedec. The Abraham Shumiatcher papers contain much valuable information. As the legal representative of many Jewish organisations, Shumiatcher held important documents. We also looked at the finding aids which outline the contents of the various collections.

Glenbow Archive’s website:
“Search the Collections” towards the bottom of the page allows people to select different catalogues, databases and finding aids.

A second session on January 22 focussed on resources for genealogical research. The Glenbow has a collection of school yearbooks and school records, including attendance records for 7 school districts from the 1890s through the Second World War. These contain valuable registration information about each student’s family. The Glenbow is also the repository for the Canadian Pacific land sale records. Most homestead land in Western Canada was bought from three major sources; the federal government (National Archives), the Hudson’s Bay Company (whose archives are in Winnipeg), and the Canadian Pacific Railway (Glenbow Archives). The Glenbow has extensive records from companies in the coal industry including employment records which often contain useful personal information. Records from over 300 local clubs and organizations contain membership lists which often include information on registration forms such as a member’s profession and hobbies.

The Glenbow Library has Henderson Directories from the 1880s to the 1990s. These provide basic information about residents for every local street address. Another book in their collection: “The Western Canadians” indexes the Henderson Directories from different locations in western Canada. Cummins Homestead Maps from 1913, 1923 and 1927, and microfilm of the Canadian Census from the 1870s to 1911 are popular research tools. Other resources include newspaper clipping files arranged by subject, as well as microfilm for many small town newspapers in southern Alberta.

The session also touched on resources that can be found at other archives in Calgary and online. The City of Calgary Corporate records and archives include voter lists, tax records and building permits.

Henderson’s directories are also online.

The federal government’s land Grant records are at the National Archives, and can be searched online.

On February 5, archivist Agi Romer Segal led a workshop on resources available in the JHSSA collections. Agi introduced the archives with a short explanation of our history and mandate, and explained its gift agreement and Accession forms. She presented several methods of researching at the JHSSA: searching archival material through our Inventory, our list of Organizational Fonds, or our finding aids. Other important resources discussed included subject reference files (individuals, organizations and businesses), cemetery files, oral histories, photo files, Discovery back issues, newspaper clippings and copies of local Jewish papers from 1962 to the present. The workshop included a tour of our lending library, which is currently an underused resource, featuring books on genealogy and on Jewish history in Canada and Western Canada. We examined one of our finding aids, which continue to be a work in progress. This led to a discussion of opportunities for volunteers to help at the JHSSA. Volunteers are welcome to help organize archival accessions and create finding aids, or to do research and write articles or book reviews for Discovery.

More information on our archives can be found on our website:

The workshops were all well attended and positively received. Many thanks to Doug, Agi, and all who attended.





The Lost Colony of Pine Lake

Come hear Michael Dawe, curator of History at the Red Deer Museum and Archives, give a presentation about “The Lost Jewish Colony of Pine Lake.” From 1892-1895 a small Jewish Colony sat on the shores of Blank’s Lake, near Pine Lake. Their leader was Rabbi Abraham Blank, and beyond that, much remains a mystery. Mr. Dawe gave this talk to much acclaim in Edmonton for the November AGM of the Jewish Archives and Historical Society of  Edmonton and Northern Alberta.

Archive Workshops

Jack Switzer Memorial Research Workshops: Glenbow and JHSSA Archives

We will be holding a series of 3 workshops this winter in partnership with the Glenbow Archives. The workshops are free, but have limited enrolment, so we will be registering participants on a first come, first serve basis. If necessary, we will keep a waiting list in case of cancellations. People can register for any or all of the workshops; they each cover a separate topic and can stand alone.

All workshops run from 10:30 am to 12:00 pm. For Part One and Two, people are invited to stay for the afternoon to make use of the Glenbow Archives, which will remain open after the programs.

Part One: Glenbow Archives: January 8, 2013

This workshop will focus on Jewish Glenbow resources such as archives donated by various Jewish institutions and individuals such as Sheldon Chumir and A.I. Shumiatcher.

Part Two: Glenbow Archives: January 22, 2013

This workshop will look at Glenbow sources for family history and genealogy research, such as directories, maps, yearbooks and clipping files.

Part Three: JHSSA Archives (Temple Office, Calgary JCC): February 5, 2013

Led by our archivist, Agi Romer Segal, This workshop will explore the resources available through the JHSSA.

Please contact the JHSSA office for more information, or to register.

Cliff Bungalow-Mission History

There is going to be a book!

It isn’t by us, but it still looks interesting. Judith Theroux is spearheading a book on the history of the Cliff-Bungalow Mission area, and has asked if anyone in the Jewish Community has any information or photos from the area. They are planning to do a chapter on Ethnic and Cultural Groups in the area, as well as on businesses, notable residents, etc.

If you have information, photos, or time to volunteer on the project, please contact the JHSSA office for Judith’s information.

Jay Joffe Memorial Program 2012

Dressing America: Tales from the Garment Center

The Jay Joffe Memorial Program was launched by the Jewish Historical Society of Southern Alberta (JHSSA) in 2009 to honour the memory of its long-serving founding president, Jay Joffe (1931-2007).

This program is dedicated to promoting and featuring Jewish culture and history through activities such as lectures, exhibits, films or performances.

The directors of JHSSA are pleased to once again be part of the Beth Tzedec Jewish Film Festival by co-sponsoring Dressing America: Tales from the Garment Center. Jay Joffe z’’l had a passion for bringing the love of Jewish history to the widest possible audience. This film reflects on a century and a half of Jewish presence and contribution in a creative and competitive industry.


Memories of the Shaarey Tzedec- 2012 AGM

JHSSA invites the general public to its 22nd Annual General Meeting which will feature a multimedia presentation on the history of the Shaarey Tzedec.
We are currently gathering the names of those who have turned 80 in the past year to present them with certificates at the AGM for their contributions to our community, we will also be acknowledging 90, 95 and 100 year-old community members. Please contact the office at 403-444-3171 or with names.