On a lazy Sunday afternoon in June, vibrant guests of all ages arrived at The Heatley to see East End Stories, the newest exhibition by the Jewish Museum and Archives of BC. Showcasing a profile of six early Jewish immigrants—rabbis, businessmen, advocates—who made their mark in the first century of building Vancouver’s Jewish Community, East End Stories is a collection of 6 short videos, a self-guided tour, and a study guide for high school students. You can view the full project here.
Exchanging smiles, handshakes, hugs, and chatter, guests settled in, and were welcomed by Michael Schwartz, the JMABC’s Director of Community Engagement, who introduced the project. It was the timing of Canada’s 150th Anniversary that provided the opportunity to realize East End Stories. With newly available funding, eager efforts by contributors, and archival material from 19 different archives, this integral project to present Jewish heritage in Vancouver has finally arrived.
An eclectic setting, cultural objects from various eras mildly decorate the restaurant, giving a vibe that The Heatley in its first days may have been a parlour or general store. This affect of heritage and location helped to connect guests to the Strathcona neighborhood, since The Heatley is only a hop, skip and a jump away from Vancouver’s first synagogue, B’nei Yehuda (built in 1911) which later became Schara Tzedeck (built in 1921) at the nearby corner of Heatley and East Pender streets.
The cornerstone of this project is its accessibility through online and offline avenues to engage various demographics with a similar interest in Jewish heritage in B.C. Along the route of the Strathcona self-guided tour are information panels with QR codes linking to the videos. The project is enriched by a free downloadable study guide, made available to support teachers in educating their students on local Jewish heritage, and sparking conversations to nurture empathy and connection to the histories and communities of migrants and indigenous peoples.
With intermittent sips while remaining attentive to the screening, guests expressed satisfaction at the end with one women yelling “I think what you’ve done is tremendous!” After the screening, some lingered to chat, while others strayed to follow the self-guided tour map. Throughout, the ambiance at The Heatley was filled with a strong link to community and cultural heritage. I wonder, in a hundred years from now what an East End Stories equivalent will look like for Vancouver’s Jewish Community.
Chelsea Yuill is Curatorial Assistant at the Jewish Museum and Archives of BC.