Please be advised that as December 4th, 2012, I Howard Gontovnick have removed myself completely from the Ste Sophie/ New Glasgow project. As part of this, I will terminate the Facebook group, the newsletter, and the Jewish Farmers web site as it is now. In the future, I will redesign the web site to reflect the history and development of the Jewish farmers of Canada and their role in the community’s development – including a detailed section on Ste Sophie / New Glasgow.
It is with great sadness and extreme frustration that I have made the following decision regarding the Ste Sophie / New Glasgow project. Effective immediately, I will no longer remain an active participant in the planning or organization of this event for a number of reasons. Perhaps after reading this, there will be some people that may grasp this explanation and appreciate my frustrations that have been frequently ignored. On the other side of the coin, I expect there will be others will now feel liberated and relieved to pursue their goals and perception. Having said this, I wish to emphasize that from the very beginning my desire was to present an organized and detailed historical presentation of the Jewish community of Ste Sophie / New Glasgow – something that was not happening.
For those who are not familiar with my background, I wish to point out, that I have spent considerable time conducting research, lecturing and publishing with regard to the early Jewish farming settlements across Canada from the late 18th into 19th century. As part of this, my association with Ste Sophie had resulted in a special interest and detailed study of this region in my quest to document what was mostly absent in the history books. Since then, my years of research have provided considerable insight and clarity into this important part of Canadian Jewish history and the people that lived and thrived in this region. In light of this, the birth of the 100+ year anniversary exhibition was created and began to take shape this past summer.
At the onset of what was called a “Celebration”, I repeatedly emphasized to all those interested that this MUST be organized and presented as a “historical exhibition”. In my mind this meant, that our task was to document and then present a comprehensive review of who these people were, where came from, what they did, and how this region flourished. Working from this conceptualization, the event was not intended to be a reunion or some kind of a party – the task was educational. The main goal was to create a professional and historic narrative – in the form of an exhibition that would remain as a testimony to the Jewish community of Ste Sophie New Glasgow. As I worked in vain to achieve this, it seemed no one was listening. What began as a narrative of cooperation suddenly transformed into a completely different event unlike what was originally intended to achieve. Over time, it was a trend that distracted all efforts and any chance of completing our goal.
Up until this date, I have worked extremely hard, spending long hours to convey our message and perception of what this event should be about. From the development of a web site, Facebook and our greatly appreciated newsletter, YouTube videos, this project could have been a great success. Over the past six months, I have spoken with and met many wonderful people in my attempt to collect as much historical data as possible. The greater Jewish community was excited and welcomed the project while looking forward to its realization. Throughout my efforts, I believed that there was an unfortunate undercurrent opposed to the original theme as personal agendas began to proliferate.
After about six months of going in circles and meetings that revealed alternating agendas, I believe the time has come to resign and withdraw my efforts from this project. I have expressed my concerns on two previous occasions with little recognition of the serious nature of what was happening. Since this continues to be the case, I no longer have the desire to argue or to aimlessly explain over and over why this effort originally began. Consequently, I have decided to step aside since no consensus can be achieved nor any priority decided upon. It is with extreme sadness that I have decided to take this action mostly for what has happened and what will not happen this summer. Regrettably, the greatest loss will be is to the Jewish community.
Howard Gontovnick, Ph.D.