Photo by: Irena Karshenbaum
The Little Synagogue on the Prairie Project
In 2005, Irena Karshenbaum began writing a proposal to include a synagogue at Calgary’s Heritage Park Historical Village. As founder and president of The Little Synagogue on the Prairie Project Society, she developed a relationship with a major Calgary institution, engaged and worked with almost 60 volunteers and oversaw an extremely successful initiative that found, bought, moved, restored, developed programming for and gifted one of the last surviving prairie synagogues — the 1916 Montefiore Institute — to Heritage Park. She was the driving force behind raising the $1.1 million needed to complete the project and organizing the 2009 grand opening celebration attended by over 2,000 people, the biggest gathering in the history of Calgary’s Jewish and heritage communities.
The Montefiore Institute is the first synagogue to be included in the permanent collection of any historic park in Canada and has become one of Heritage Park’s most visited exhibits helping to tell a more diverse story of settlement on the Canadian prairies.
In 2010, the Project received the Calgary Heritage Authority Lion Award (Advocacy & Awareness), the highest civic honour in heritage.
Heritage Advocacy Through Writing & Public Talks
Irena has been a strong advocate, through writing and public talks, for the protection and restoration of important heritage resources: Barron Building and Uptown Theatre, Calgary Brewing and Malting Company, Penny Lane Mall and Shaarey Tzedec Synagogue.