Folks like me from the West End drive through or past the Hudson-Vaudreuil-Soulanges Region whenever we are en route or returning from the Ontario border. But who ever knew that there was a fascinating Jewish history here?
The JewishGenealogical Society of Montreal will present a lecture meeting with Elaine Steinberg on Monday, March 10 (7:30 p.m.) at the Jewish Public Library (5151 Côte Ste-Catherine Road). There is no charge, but donations are requested.
Steinberg is a historian who has done extensive research and will share her findings. Forty years ago she moved her family across the Ile aux Torte Bridge and never looked back. “She invited me to hear a talk she gave to of all things a Hudson Canadian Hadassah-WIZO group a few months ago,” said Merle Kastner of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Montreal. “She is so well informed.”
There are 24 municipalities in the Hudson-Vaudreuil-Soulanges Region. Looking back four decades, Steinberg says she moved her family off-island to accommodate her lifestyle. “The Hudson area was well known for its horsey activities,” she says. “I was a young mom with a stable of horses, a menagerie of dogs, a passion for gardens and was teaching half days at Jewish People's and Perez Schools in Montreal.”
Given that Steinberg was the first Jewish member of certain clubs associated with Hudson, people assumed that the Steinbergs were one of the firstJewish families throughout all of Vaudreuil-Soulanges. That was until two years ago when Jean Luc Brazan, archivist at Centre d' histoire de la Presqu'ile in Vaudreuil, chanced upon an early nineteenth century notarial will of a Jew living in the region. It was the sign she needed to begin doing some research.
Descendants shared photos and family lore while village storekeepers had stories to tell as well. Stephan the butcher turned out to be the guardian of the oral story, maintaining a tradition of handing down stories from one generation to another. “Villagers showed me photos, opened their homes and told stories of a Jewish pedlar,”
For reasons unknown, Vaudreuil -Soulanges Jewish history was left unattended, says Steinberg. “When I returned to reclaim it, our history was in a strange state,” she noted. “Sometimes other cultures had claimed it, or it was edited out; or it became a myth by virtue of unresolved facts.”
Despite living in various villages on different dates, the pioneer families shared certain tendencies.They affiliated with a synagogue, stimulated the village economy, were figuratively embraced by their rural community and educated their children to the benefit of Montreal at large and the Jewish community therein.
Steinberg still lives in Vaudreuil West, on the doorstep of Hudson where her children grew up “Although Jewish homes are dotted throughout the region, I think the St. Lazare municipality is the new Jewish frontier,” she says. “It has the highest density and a Chabad rabbi since 2010. Rabbi Nechum Labkowski. It is not far from Dollard des Ormeaux, about 20 minutes, where a lot of Jews live.”
In fact, there are some 200 Jewish families who affiliate with the St.Lazare Chabad
For more information about Steinberg’s talk visit www.jgs-montreal.org or call the JGS of Montreal 24-hour Hotline at (514) 484-0969(514) 484-0969.