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Our History

The Murray Street shul shown in A Tribute to an Age - Machzikei Hadas (detail) watercolour by Morton Baslaw - Reproduced with permission of the artist.

Congregation Machzikei Hadas is a synagogue with a proud history. The congregation first began services in a Murray Street apartment in 1907. In 1923 it moved to the corner of Murray and King Edward Avenue, and in 1973, relocated to Virginia Drive in the Alta Vista area of Ottawa. 

Machzikei Hadas has provided for the community in so many ways. In its new location, it extends services to 500 families. These include a host of youth, seniors, educational, and public awareness programs. The synagogue has hosted or co-hosted some noteworthy events, including human rights day gatherings, an information evening for potential bone marrow transplant donors, and All-Candidates meetings. The synagogue supplied the resources to launch the community Eruv, and continues to maintain it. In the period leading up to the referendum, Congregation Machzikei Hadas served as the base for Clergy for a United Canada, which amassed 6,000 signatures from clergy across Canada calling on our great country to remain together. The great achievements of this Congregation have been made possible by the selfless dedication of so many men and women who have worked, on behalf of the synagogue, to enhance the community.

Congregation Machzikei Hadas is the first synagogue in the history of the Commonwealth to be granted a Coat of Arms.

Excerpt from the book "An Unforgettable Hour - Congregation Machzikei Hadas Receives A Coat of Arms" by Rabbi Bulka

Coat of Arms

In the history of the Commonwealth, the first synagogue to be granted a coat of arms was Congregation Machzikei Hadas, Ottawa, in 1994. Why us? Why not some fancy old shul in England?

The story starts at a dinner party hosted by members of our shul, Linda and Arthur Cogan. In attendance was the Chief Herald of Canada, Robert Watt. When the Cogans found out what Mr. Watt did for a living, they were intrigued. They asked innocently if synagogues could be granted a coat of arms. Mr. Watt replied that there was nothing against doing so. The next day, the Cogans approached Rabbi Bulka and asked for his help in getting an application going. Mr. Watt met with Rabbi Bulka in October 1992 and the project began.

Before deciding on a design, Mr. Watt wanted to be familiar with Jewish practices and traditions and so attended services and met numerous times with Rabbi Bulka.

The final product combined symbols of Judaism with symbols of our synagogue. In the words of Rabbi Bulka, "Machzikei Hadas" literally means "upholders of the faith". The Torah scroll contains the laws of the faith, and the Ten Commandments are the foundation of that law. These symbols are in the crest of the coat of Arms. And there are five scrolls to symbolize the Five Books of Moses. In our Sanctuary, the Ark containing these scrolls is fronted by beautiful bronze doors designed with a Tree of Life motif by Ottawa sculptor Bruce Garner. Proverbs 3:18 refers to the Torah as a "tree of life to they who uphold it". This passage from Scripture is bronzed on the Ark doors. Since it also is reminiscent of the name of the Congregation, "Upholders of the faith", it is fitting that this verse be the foundation of the Coat of Arms. As well, the tree forms the top of the Coat of Arms, and on it are attached intermingled maple leaves and Stars of David - Canadian and Jewish symbols. This artistic integration projects the beautiful fusion between Canada and its Jewish community. It expresses the commitment of our synagogue to Canada, and our gratitude to Canada for all it has done for the Jewish community. The Coat of Arms was officially granted in a wonderful ceremony at our shul on November 8, 1994.

Sat, July 20 2024 14 Tammuz 5784