Our History

The Ontario Jewish Archives, Blankenstein Family Heritage Centre (OJA) was established in 1973. The OJA became a legal corporation on 24 February 1977 with authorization from the Federal Corporations Act and the Provincial Letters Patent.

In 1971, The Toronto Jewish Historical Society (TJHS) established an archives committee to preserve the records of Toronto’s Jewish community. This prompted the Canadian Jewish Congress (CJC) Central Region to work with the TJHS to establish an organization that would preserve records of Jewish communities across Ontario. At a CJC Central Region Officers’ meeting in 1973, TJHS president Victor Sefton proposed that the Historical Society’s Archives Committee become an official arm of the CJC. After approving the proposal, the CJC Central Region allocated a budget for operation of the Archives, forming one archival organization that operated under the umbrella of the CJC Central Region.

Since 1973, the OJA has undergone unofficial and official name changes. When first established the OJA was called the Canadian Jewish Congress Central Region Archives. After the Toronto Jewish Congress (TJC) formed in 1976, the OJA became accountable to the TJC but continued to report to the CJC Central Region. OJA letterhead and publicity material during this period occasionally bore the name Toronto Jewish Congress / Canadian Jewish Congress Central Region ArchivesWhen the Archives became a legal corporation in 1977, the corporation was named the Ontario Jewish Archives Foundation but the public name remained unchanged. 

In 1992, the TJC and CJC transferred responsibility for the archives to the United Jewish Appeal (UJA) Federation, and the archives’ public name officially became the Ontario Jewish Archives (OJA). The OJA remains a department of UJA Federation today. Thanks to a generous donation made by the Blankenstein family in 2014, the OJA's public name changed to the Ontario Jewish Archives, Blankenstein Family Heritage Centre (OJA).

The OJA’s administrative structure includes a board of directors, an executive director, a managing director, archivists, contract employees, and volunteers. Our founding director, Dr. Stephen Speisman, served from 1973 until 2000 and was responsible for establishing and building the bulk of our collection. Ellen Scheinberg served as director from October 2002 until January 2011. Our current executive director, Dara Solomon, began in May 2012.