views updated May 14 2018


OTTAWA , city in the province of Ontario and capital of Canada, situated at the junction of the Ottawa and Rideau rivers. Settled in the early 1800s, Ottawa was originally called Bytown (1826) after Colonel John By, who supervised the building of the Rideau Canal. In 1855 it was incorporated as the city of Ottawa, and in 1857 Queen Victoria chose Ottawa as the capital of Canada. The current city of Ottawa, population 774,072 (2001 census), was created in 2001 out of the amalgamation of Ottawa with 11 surrounding local municipalities.

The development of a Jewish community in Ottawa began in the latter half of the 19th century. According to census records, there were no Jews in Bytown in 1851. Moses Bilsky first went to Ottawa in 1857 or 1858, though he did not permanently settle there until some years later. In 1861 the census showed six Jews residing in Ottawa; for 1871 none is shown and in 1881 there were 20 Jews, more than half of whom were members of the families of John Dover, a dry goods merchant, and Aaron Rosenthal, a jeweler and silversmith. By 1891 the number of Jews had more than doubled to 46. There has been growth in Ottawa's Jewish population in every decade since. In 1901 there were almost 400 Jews in Ottawa. The number increased more than tenfold to approximately 5,000 at the end of World War ii. In 2001 Ottawa had almost 13,500 Jews, making it home to the fifth largest Jewish population in Canada. Between 1881 and 1921 Jews arriving from the pogroms and restrictions in Russia and Eastern Europe contributed to the rapid rise in the size of Ottawa's Jewish community. A second period of rapid growth occurred between the 1960s and 1980s when the rise of French-Canadian nationalism in Quebec and election of the separatist Parti Québécois government led many Jews to leave Montreal for Toronto, Ottawa, and other Canadian cities.

Organized congregational life in Ottawa began in 1892 when Moses Bilsky and John Dover helped found Adath Jeshurun. In 1895, the congregation's first synagogue was completed and within a decade it moved to a new building. Adath Jeshurun's first religious functionary was the Rev. Jacob Mirsky and local businessman A.J. *Freiman served as the congregation's president from 1904 to 1930. In 1902 a second Ottawa congregation, Agudath Achim, was founded. Its services were held in a congregant's house until a synagogue was erected in 1912. The Machzikei Hadas congregation was founded in 1906 by newly arrived immigrants who desired their own Orthodox synagogue. The congregation has changed location several times, and its rabbi at the outset of the 21st century, Reuven Bulka, has served as spiritual leader since 1967.

B'nai Jacob synagogue was founded in 1911 for Jews living in Ottawa's west end. Services were first held in a public hall or in a private home, but in 1914 the congregation bought a house which they turned into a synagogue. In 1936 the Agudath Israel Congregation, also in the city's expanding west end, was organized and two years later converted a former Anglican church into its synagogue. In 1948, Agudath Israel bought a new property on which it built a synagogue. Agudath Israel affiliated with the Conservative movement in 1951. Its current home was dedicated in 1960, and a new 400-seat sanctuary added in 1966. In 2005 Agudath Israel was the largest congregation in Ottawa, with a membership of approximately 850 families. In 1956 Ottawa's first two congregations, Adath Jeshurun and Agudath Achim, both Orthodox and both located near one another, merged to form Beth Shalom. Faced with declining membership, the B'nai Jacob amalgamated into Beth Shalom in 1971.

Since the 1960s, Ottawa's Jewish religious life has demonstrated both growth and increasing pluralism of expression. In 1966, the Young Israel Congregation was founded to serve the needs of Orthodox worshipers living in Ottawa's west end. A new sanctuary was dedicated in 1980. In 1966 Ottawa's Reform congregation, Temple Israel, was organized and, after first holding services in a public school, acquired its own home in 1971. After a destructive fire less than a year later, a new synagogue was built and dedicated in 1975. Adath Shalom, an egalitarian Conservative havurah, was established in 1978 and Beth Shalom West, a modern Orthodox congregation, was created as a west end satellite of Beth Shalom. Its new synagogue was completed in suburban Nepean in 1985. The Ottawa Reconstructionist Havurah and the Sephardi Association both organized in 1987, and the Ottawa Torah Center Chabad was established in Barrhaven in 1997. Ottawa's newest congregation, the Orthodox Community Ohev Yisroel, held its first service in 2004 near the University of Ottawa.

The Ottawa Jewish community's first cemetery was established in 1893 but by the early 1970s a new cemetery was needed. In 1976 the New Jewish Community Cemetery of Ottawa was consecrated. Originally each synagogue had its own burial society, but in 1918 all the burial societies amalgamated to form the Ottawa Chevra Kadisha. In 1953 the Chevra Kadisha purchased a vacant synagogue building and in 1957 dedicated the building as the Jewish Community Memorial Chapel. In 1997 it relocated to newer facilities.

In 1934 the city's Orthodox synagogues formed a kehillah, a unified Jewish community organization called the Jewish Community Council of Ottawa / Vaad Ha'Ir. A.J. Freiman served as its president until his death on June 4, 1944. The day-to-day operations of the Vaad Ha'Ir were directed by Hy Hochberg from 1946 until his death in 1985. The Jewish Community Council continues to serve as the central planning, coordinating, community relations, and fundraising body for the Ottawa community.

Jewish education is served by several day and afternoon schools. Hillel Academy, established in 1949, is the largest of three community Hebrew day schools, offering study from junior kindergarten to grade eight. Cheder Rambam School and the Torah Academy offer a more Orthodox early childhood education. Jewish schools offering afternoon programs include the Ottawa Talmud Torah, Star of David, Temple Israel, and Ottawa Modern Jewish School. The Ottawa Torah Institute is the community yeshivah high school for boys. Founded in 1982, it was Ottawa's first full-time Jewish high school. A sister institution, Machon Sarah High School for Girls, was founded in 1990 and shares the Ottawa Torah Institute's teaching staff, albeit at a different campus. Two other Jewish high schools are Yitzhak Rabin, a day school, and Akiva Evening High School. The Kollel of Ottawa, located adjacent to the Soloway Jewish Community Centre, is a center for advanced study of Torah, talmudic law, and Judaic studies by committed adult learners.

Ottawa has contributed a number of national Jewish community leaders including A.J. Freiman, national president of the Zionist Organization of Canada from 1920 to his death in 1944; his wife, Lillian Freiman, a leader of Canadian Hadassah; their son Lawrence Freiman, president of the Zionist Organization of Canada for several terms, and Hyman Bessin, head of the Canadian Mizrachi movement and from 1970 president of the Federated Zionist Organization of Canada. Ottawa Jews have also played an active role in Ottawa municipal affairs. In 1902 Samuel Rosenthal was the first of several Jewish aldermen in Ottawa and in 1975 Lorry Greenberg was the first Jew elected mayor of Ottawa, a position he held until he retired in 1978. Jews have also served on the Ottawa Board of Control and on the Ottawa Public School Board and a Jew was elected mayor of South Hull, a Quebec municipality across the Ottawa River from Ottawa.

Ottawa's Jewish community supports a wide array of programs and services. The Ottawa Jewish Bulletin, founded in 1938, is the community's official newspaper. The Jewish Community Centre was established in 1951. By 1960 the jcc complex included Beth Shalom Synagogue, the Talmud Torah, and a gymnasium. Founded in 1953, the Ottawa Home for the Aged opened its Hillel Lodge in 1965. With the growth and westward shift of the Jewish community, a new Jewish community campus was developed in the city's west end. In 1983 a 7.8 acre site and high school building was purchased and is today home to the Hillel Academy, Talmud Torah Afternoon School, Ottawa Modern Jewish School, and Akiva Evening High School. In 1998, the Jewish Community Centre moved to more modern facilities and now houses a library, archives, athletic facilities, social halls and meeting rooms, a mikveh, kosher restaurant, and offices of many Jewish communal organizations, including those of the Vaad Ha'Ir. Hillel Lodge also relocated in 2000 to a new long-term care facility built across from the jcc, and the Tamir Foundation operates a nearby home for Jewish adults with developmental disabilities.

As Canada's capital, Ottawa is home to the Parliament Buildings, Supreme Court, Royal Mint, Bank of Canada, National Research Council, National Gallery, Canadian Museum of Civilization, War Museum, National Arts Centre, and many other administrative and cultural institutions. One of these, the Library and Archives of Canada, houses numerous publications, documents, and archival collections of significance to the study of Canadian Jewry, as well as the Jacob M. Lowy Collection of rare incunabula, Hebraica, and Judaica. Ottawa's Jewish community continues to grow, spurred on by Ottawa's economic development as an important center of high-tech industry and the administrative seat of the federal government.


M.H. Arnoni, in: V. Grossman, Canadian Jewish Year Book, vol. 2 (1940–1941): 115–20; S. Berman in: Pathways to the Present: Canadian Jewry and Canadian Jewish Congress (1986), 50–56; M. Bookman, in: E. Gottesman (ed.), Canadian Jewish Reference Book and Directory, 1963 (1963), 387–405; H.S. Roodman, The Ottawa Jewish Community: Looking Back, an Historical Chronicle of Our Community for the Years 18571987, 56175747 (1989).

[Gerald Stone (2nd ed.)]


views updated May 21 2018


ETHNONYMS: Courtes Oreilles, Odawa

The Ottawa, who speak a southeastern dialect of Ojibwa, an Algonkian language, at the time of first European contact about 1615 were located on Manitoulin Island in Lake Huron and on adjacent areas of the Ontario mainland. In about 1650 some of the group moved westward, away from the Iroquois, and many eventually settled in the coastal areas of the lower peninsula of Michigan and neighboring areas of Ontario, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio, with Michigan being the central area for the next three hundred years. In the early 1830s, several groups of Ottawa living in Ohio moved to a reservation in northeastern Kansas. In 1857, this group moved again to a reservation near Miami, Oklahoma, where they are now known as the Ottawa Tribe of Oklahoma. A large number of Ottawa (particularly the Roman Catholic Ottawa) have moved back again to Manitoulin Island in Ontario, their original homeland. The great mobility of the Ottawa during early contact times makes it difficult to locate village sites from that period. After 1650, however, their settlements are fairly well documented. There are probably close to ten thousand descendants of the aboriginal Ottawa now living in the United States and Canada, with most located in northern Michigan, about two thousand enrolled in Oklahoma, and three thousand in Canada.

Like most Indian groups in the Great Lakes area, the Ottawa had a mixed, seasonal economy based on hunting, fishing (which was of primary importance), horticulture, and the gathering of wild vegetable foods. In the warmer seasons, women grew the basic maize, beans, and squash and collected wild foods. The men fished in streams and lakes, generally with nets. They also hunted and trapped deer, bear, beaver, and other game. In the winter smaller groups settled in smaller camps for the hunting of large game, usually deer. A family hunting territory system was developed in the late seventeenth century.

They had large, permanent, sometimes palisaded villages located near river banks and lake shores. They used rectangular houses with half-barrel shaped roofs covered with sheets of fir or cedar bark. On extended hunting trips, matcovered conical tents were used. The villages often had people of other, non-Ottawa groups, such as the Huron, Ojibwa, and Potawatomi, living with them.

In the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, the Ottawa had four main subgroups (Kiskakon, Sinago, Sable, and Nassauakueton) with other minor groups also existing. In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, sources indicate that the tribe had a number of local units that were autonomous and acted independently of each other. In the modern period, these distinctions have largely disappeared, although adopted tribal organizations still function in Oklahoma and Canada.

The Ottawa believed in a supreme being (the "Master of Life"), as well as many good and evil spirits. Among them were the Underwater Panther, a being of the waters, and the Great Hare, believed to have created the world. Individuals tried to acquire guardian spirits through dreams or the vision quest. Shamans existed generally for curing purposes. Early efforts at Christianization by the Jesuits and Recollects were not successful. But in the early nineteenth century, Roman Catholic, Church of England, Presbyterian, and Baptist missionaries enjoyed great success. A large proportion of Canadian Ottawa today are Roman Catholic.

In modern times, most Ottawa have depended upon farming and wage labor, with the men in Canada also working in the lumber industry. There has also been a significant movement of the population away from rural to urban areas. The Ottawa language has largely been forgotten in Oklahoma, but large numbers still speak the language in Michigan and Ontario.


Feest, Johanna E., and Christian F. Feest (1978). "Ottawa." In Handbook of North American Indians. Vol. 15, Northeast, edited by Bruce G. Trigger, 772-786. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution.

Kurath, Gertrude P. (1966). Michigan Indian Festivals. Ann Arbor, Mich.: Ann Arbor Publishers.


views updated May 08 2018


OTTAWA. The Ottawa are an Algonquin tribe closely related to the Ojibway (Chippewa) and the Potawatomi, which together form the Three Fires Confederacy. Their name, by most accounts, means "traders," which reflects their role as the intermediaries between the Ojibway to the north and the Potawatomi to the south. Their involvement in the European fur trade was a natural extension of their tribal role within the confederacy.

At the time of contact, the Ottawa resided on Manitoulin Island and on the Bruce Peninsula along the eastern shore of Lake Huron. During the early post-contact era, they took up residence in northern Michigan, notably along the eastern shore of Lake Michigan. As did most area tribes, the Ottawa vigorously fought to maintain their grip on their homeland and way of life, most notably through the actions of Pontiac, who lead an uprising against the British in 1763.

While most Ottawa still live in Michigan, others were removed to Kansas and Oklahoma during the early nineteenth century. Still others have returned to the islands of the North Channel of Lake Huron and the Georgian Bay. Also, because of early French trade policies and later U.S. Removal efforts, many Ottawa now live on Walpole Island on the north end of Lake St. Clair. While early estimates of their numbers are clouded by their often being counted as Ojibway, estimates in the early twenty-first century put their numbers at about 15,000, with two-thirds of those resident in what is now the United States (mostly in Michigan) with the rest living in Canada.


McClurken, James M. Gah-baeh-Jhagwah-buk: The Way It Happened, a Visual Cultural History of the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa. East Lansing: Michigan State University Museum, 1991.

White, Richard. The Middle Ground: Indians, Empires, and Republics in the Great Lakes Region, 1650–1815. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1991.


See alsoGreat Lakes ; Indian Trade and Traders ; Tribes: Northeastern .


views updated May 29 2018

Ottawa Group of Algonquian-speaking Native North Americans. Hunter-farmers, they originally lived north of the Great Lakes. They allied with the French and Hurons, but were broken into five groups by the Iroquois and Anglo-Americans and now live in the Great Lakes area, Kansas, and Oklahoma.


views updated May 18 2018

Ottawa Capital of Canada, in se Ontario, on the Ottawa River and the Rideau Canal. Founded in 1826 as Bytown, it acquired its present name in 1854. Queen Victoria chose it as capital of the United Provinces in 1858, and in 1867 it became the national capital of the Dominion of Canada. Industries: glass-making, printing, publishing, sawmilling, pulp-making, clocks and watches. Pop. (2001) 774,072.