Most of the historic synagogues of Montreal were converted to other purposes as the community moved to post-war neighbourhoods. Built in 1918, the B’nai Jacob was sold to the College Français in the 1950s.
Much of the original exterior remains as it was, except for the façade, which has been layered over by a modern extension housing the stairwell of this Catholic high school. Strangely, a segment of the Hebrew script can still be discerned in the arch. An impressive mosaic mural covers the frontal wall. Is the prominent image of a sunburst in the mural inspired by the large Star of David that was once inscribed in a circular stained glass window, identifying this building as a synagogue? The same feature once marked the rear elevation.
A walk around the corner of the building, into the alleyway reveals a circular tracing in the brick on the rear elevation. Such “traces of the past” on many buildings that once served as synagogues in the old Jewish neighborhoods of Montreal silently recall the windows that illuminated the space above the Torah Ark.
Today only historic photos reveal former synagogues under layers of contemporary transformations. Discover these traces by taking yourself on the two walking tours found at the back of the book, Traces of the Past.
April 4, 2012