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Brick by Brick

Brick by brick, dollar by dollar, each individual contribution added up to a beautiful monument to books at 4499 avenue d’Esplanade. (1952)

The Library’s first locations were rented cold-water flats near the Main (Boulevard St-Laurent), the centre of Montreal’s Jewish community.  Supported solely by the fundraising efforts of its members, the Library’s quarters slowly improved from flats to rented and then purchased homes.

The dedication of its members ultimately led to the construction of the Library’s own building in 1952.  Designed by local artist and architect Harry Mayerovitch, the JPL building took 8 years to complete from the first fundraiser held in 1945 to the grand opening in 1953.  The role of the Library as cultural centre was reflected in the inclusion of an auditorium, gallery and meeting spaces, a music room, and an art room. That the Montreal Jewish community could erect a public building on this scale showed the stature and vitality of the community.

Located on the corner of Mont-Royal and avenue de l’Esplanade, the new library was within metres of the Young Men’s Hebrew Association and the Young Women’s Hebrew Association, Fletcher’s Field (Parc Jeanne Mance), the Hebrew Old People’s and Sheltering Home, as well as synagogues and other communal organizations.  At the heart of the new building, two stones symbolizing the community’s past and future were encased in places of prominence.  The first, a section of pillar from the Tlomackie synagogue in Warsaw, destroyed during the Holocaust, was presented to the Library by Polish authorities.  Today this pillar is housed on long-term loan at the Montreal Holocaust Memorial Centre.  The second stone, a piece from Mount Zion, was sent to Montreal by the government of Israel.

By mid-century, the community began to move from the Main to the western suburbs of the city. Anxious to stay close to its members, the Library sold its building in 1966 moving first to a rented property on boulevard Décarie and then to its current location on chemin de la Côte Ste-Catherine.