Caring for History

by Josh Kerr | Sep 29, 2022

The Jewish Heritage Centre of Western Canada's (JHCWC) expansive archival catalogue contains over seventy-thousand photographs, 4,000 artifacts, and 1,300 sound and moving image recordings. The pieces of history housed there are truly fascinating, from religious paraphernalia to medical and pharmaceutical items and everything in between. 

This vast collection tells a story of decades of Jewish history and acts as a memory of our past and an educational tool for those next generations who will be our future. 

Due to the size, scope, and constant growth of the archive, JHCWC has been presented with a few challenges over the past few years. The two main hurdles are the necessity of having an archivist employed full-time and the second, being the state and preservation of the archives.

Belle Jarniewski, JHCWC's Executive Director, understands and prioritizes the importance of these pieces of history. 

"Caring for these pieces of history is expensive, yes, but also necessary to ensure that the archive is preserved for generations to come," says Jarniewski. "We knew we needed to have funds each year that we could depend on, which led us to explore the idea of a third endowment fund at the Jewish Foundation, which would be entirely focused on the archive."

Belle and committed volunteers on the Archival Committee worked closely with the Jewish Foundation of Manitoba from very early on in the process, drawing up a case for support and mobilizing their board and community for support. 

With this new plan in mind, JHCWC engaged Norm Velnes as an outside consultant, who then led a feasibility study, looking at whether or not this idea was something that community members and donors would support. When the positive feedback from the study came in, JHCWC started its campaign. 

Within less than a year, their initial goal of $1 million had been surpassed. 

As lead donors, Larry Vickar and his family initiated the fund, with The Asper Foundation generously matching their donation. From there, The Jewish Heritage Centre Florence and Norman Vickar Archival Endowment Fund came to be.

The campaign's success has allowed the JHCWC to promote their archivist, Andrew Morrison, from part-time to full-time.

The JHCWC's Archival Endowment Fund is an excellent example of the flexibility and benefit of Organizational Endowment Funds. They provide sustainable and reliable funding both for projects and ongoing operational needs.

JHCWC has also found success growing their endowment by participating in FundMatch. An initiative at the JFM, FundMatch encourages organizations to expand their endowment funds at the JFM. As an organization reaches specific benchmarks, FundMatch provides matching capital dollars, generating more income for the organization and, therefore, more distribution to play with each year. 

"A lot of it starts with educating your supporters about your endowment, what it does, and reminding them that it is an option when looking to support your organization," says Stephanie Casar, JFM's Director of Development & Gift Planning. "In this case, for someone who wants to support education about Jewish history. It's as simple as seeing this archival fund listed on their website and contributing."

Our community can take comfort in knowing that this invaluable archive will be maintained and professionally stewarded for future generations.