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Photograph taken by Daniel Zackon


As we continue to sort through the Shaar’s vast and rich collections, this week we feature some fascinating Rosh Hashanah-related artifacts from the museum. 


This beautiful shofar (originally from Yemen) was presented to the Congregation by then-Israeli President Chaim Herzog on the occasion of his first State visit to Canada on June 28, 1989 (25 Sivan, 5749). Chaim Herzog—the father of the current President of Israel, Isaac Herzog—visited the synagogue on a Wednesday night to a well-attended evening of over 2,000 people. While some sources claim that this was the first official visit by an Israeli President to Canada, this is not entirely true—President Zalman Shazar visited Montreal in 1967 where he opened the Pavilion of Judaism at Expo 67. In any case, this shofar, while not just exquisite, also acts as a reminder of the honour Herzog bestowed on the Synagogue with his visit.


Going back a century, this silver kiddish cup (8 ½ inches tall) was made in Montreal in the 19th century and is used each year during Rosh Hashanah services by Cantor Gideon Zelermeyer. Engraved on the cup is the following: “Presented by Louis Lewis to the German and Polish Congregation, Montreal, September 22nd, 1892, Tishri 1st 5653.” Gifted back to the Congregation in 2007, the German, Polish, and English Congregation was the original name of Shaar Hashomayim before its present name was adopted. Louis Lewis was a prominent member of the Synagogue;  in the famous picture of the interior of the Congregation’s previous location on McGill College, he is seated towards the front near Lazarus Cohen (a past president, father of Lyon Cohen, and great-grandfather of Leonard). Lewis also served for some time as President of the Baron de Hirsh Institute. While the reasons for which he presented this kiddish cup to the Congregation on Rosh Hashanah in 1892 are unknown, it is a beautiful example of Montreal Judaica and a fascinating piece of the Shaar’s history.

Monday, June 17, 2024 11 Sivan 5784