Moses Bilsky

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Moses Bilsky
Born (1829-12-10)10 December 1829
Kovno (Kaunas, Lithuania)
Died 4 January 1923(1923-01-04) (aged 93)
Ottawa, Ontario
Known for merchant and communal leader

Moses Bilsky (10 December 1829 – 4 January 1923)[1] was a Canadian merchant and community leader who was believed to be the first Jewish settler in Ottawa.[2]

Life & Career[edit]

Born in Kuvno, Lithuania, Moses was fourteen years old when he, along with his father Ely Bilsky, immigrated to Canada in 1845.[3] Their first moved to Montreal, before settling in Kemptville, Ontario. Eventually his father decided to move to Palestine to spend his remaining days, leaving his son in the care of relatives living in Brooklyn, New York.[4] In either 1856 or 1857, Moses decided to move back to Canada, and was attracted to the city of Ottawa. He would become the first Jewish settler in the city.[5]

In the 1860s, Moses head west to make a fortune in the Gold Rush. Eventually he returned to the east coast, meeting his wife and starting a family. Eventually, he returned to Ottawa with his family and opened a pawnshop in 1877. He later created a second business, a jewelry store, with his son Alexander in 1901 to form M. Bilsky and Son Limited.[5] Both stores, located on Rideau Street, were successful.[2] When Moses retired from the business in 1915, his business became known as Bilsky Limited.[5]

Involvement in the Jewish Community[edit]

As Ottawa transformed from Bytown to the capital of Canada, Moses helped establish the Jewish community in the city. He established the first place of worship within his own residence. Once the Adath Jeshurun congregation outgrew his home in 1895, he helped found the first synagogue next to his shop on Murray Street, and later a more extravagant synagogue on King Edward Avenue in 1902.[6] Not only was his home used as a place of worship for a period of time, but it was also used to refuge recently arrived Jewish immigrants. He and his wife welcomed many strangers into their home, and them find work and establish new lives in Ottawa.[7] He travel to New York in order to acquire a Torah for his congregation, and would help transform the deceased to the closet Jewish community.[8]

Personal[edit]

In 1874, 43-year-old Moses met 17-year-old Pauline Reich, and they married within the year.[9] In 1876, their first child, a son named Alexander, was born in New York. They would eventually have eleven more children.[5] Soon after the birth of his first son, he moved his young family back to Ottawa where he started his business.[10] Moses would spend most of the rest of his life in Ottawa, except for a period when he and his family lived in Mattawa (1882 to 1885) and Montreal (1885 to 1891).[5]

One of his daughters, Lillian Freiman (1885–1940), followed in her father's involvement in philanthropy. She served as head of the Canadian branch of WIZO and was recognized for her services for war veterans when she was awarded with the Order of the British Empire.[11]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Speisman, Stephen A., "Moses Bilsky", in English, John, Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online 15, Toronto: University of Toronto Press 
  2. ^ a b Lo, Laurelle (2001), "The Path from Peddling: Jewish Economic Activity in Ottawa prior to 1939", in Keshen, Jeff; St-Onge, Nicole, Ottawa: Making a Capital, Ottawa: University of Ottawa Press, p. 240  Missing |last2= in Editors list (help)
  3. ^ Figler, Bernard (1962), Lillian and Archie Freiman Biographies, Montreal: The Northern Printing and Lithographing Co, p. 11 
  4. ^ Figler, Bernard (1962), Lillian and Archie Freiman Biographies, Montreal: The Northern Printing and Lithographing Co, p. 12 
  5. ^ a b c d e Speisman, Stephen A., "Moses Bilsky", in English, John, Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online 15, Toronto: University of Toronto Press 
  6. ^ Wolff, Martin (1925–1926), "The Jews of Canada", American Jewish Year Book 27: 183 
  7. ^ Figler, Bernard (1962), Lillian and Archie Freiman Biographies, Montreal: The Northern Printing and Lithographing Co, pp. 15–16 
  8. ^ Figler, Bernard (1962), Lillian and Archie Freiman Biographies, Montreal: The Northern Printing and Lithographing Co, p. 17 
  9. ^ Figler, Bernard (1962), Lillian and Archie Freiman Biographies, Montreal: The Northern Printing and Lithographing Co, pp. 14–15 
  10. ^ Figler, Bernard (1962), Lillian and Archie Freiman Biographies, Montreal: The Northern Printing and Lithographing Co, p. 15 
  11. ^ Comay, Joan (2002), Who's Who in Jewish History: After the Period of the Old Testament, New York City: Routledge, pp. 133–4 

References[edit]

  • Comay, Joan (2002), Who's Who in Jewish History: After the Period of the Old Testament (3rd ed.), New York City: Routledge 
  • Figler, Barnard (1962), Lillian and Archie Freiman Biographies, Montreal: The Northern Printing and Lithographing Co. 
  • Lo, Laurelle (2001), "The Path from Peddling: Jewish Economic Activity in Ottawa prior to 1939", in Keshen, Jeff; St-Onge, Nicole, Ottawa: Making a Capital, Ottawa: University of Ottawa Press  Missing |last2= in Editors list (help)
  • Speisman, Stephen A. (1966–2005), "Moses Bilsky", Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online 15, Toronto: University of Toronto Press 
  • Wolff, Martin (1925–1926), "The Jews of Canada", American Jewish Year Book 27: 154–229 

External links[edit]