Empowering Abilities and Enriching our Community for over 70 years
For over seven decades, JEM has been a beacon of inclusion and empowerment in the Montreal Jewish and general community by providing meaningful employment opportunities to adults of different abilities. Beyond economic contributions, JEM has been a cherished community landmark. We’ve served as an educational cornerstone and an inspiration to leaders, donors, funders, and students. Join us as we recount the milestones that have shaped our impactful legacy through the decades.
1940: Founding and Formation
1945 – Based on a report commissioned by the Federation of Jewish Philanthropies in 1937 and delayed because of the outbreak of World War II in 1939, the Jewish Vocational Service (JVS) is established with Saul Hayes as its founding President and Dr. Jacob Tuckman as its first Executive Director. The mission is to provide vocational guidance and placement services to young adults. Returning veterans and displaced persons arriving after the war shift the emphasis to job placement for all.
1950: Shaping Opportunities
In 1950, Dr. Alfred Feintuch is named Executive Director. He oversees the creation of a Sheltered Workshop in the basement of the Herzl Health Centre at 4652 Jeanne-Mance. It is launched with 10 employees. The goal is to provide employment for those who because of age or physical or emotional disability, have difficulty finding or maintaining employment in competitive industry. By 1957, the Workshop seeks a larger space at 171 Van Horne in Outremont.
1960: Expanding Horizons
In 1961, with the help of the Federation of Jewish Philanthropies, the Workshop moves to larger premises at 1190 Ducharme. It introduces an innovative vocational rehabilitation project to young, handicapped persons deemed to have a reasonable chance of integrating into the regular job market. Ten people at a time are trained over a 12-month period with 85% of the graduates entering competitive industry.
By 1968, the Workshop moves again to even larger premises at 5000 Buchan Street, with the help of Allied Jewish Community Services.
1970: Inclusion and Innovation
In 1971, a pre-vocational training unit is created to respond to educable intellectually and/or emotionally challenged adolescents who are ineligible for other workshop programs. The program is supplemented by a planned program of recreation both during and after work hours to reinforce the program’s goals.
In 1979, the Workshop is amongst the first eleven workshops in Quebec to be accredited as an adapted work centre by the Office des personnes handicapées du Québec (OPHQ), which enables it to receive government funding and to pay its workers an indexed minimum wage salary and benefits.
JVS Staff – Chanukah Party (1976)
1980: Evolution and Expansion
In 1980, the Workshop joins the Conseil Québécois des Entreprises Adaptées (CQEA), a provincial association representing over 43 Quebec enterprises.
In 1981, with the support of AJCS and the Quebec government, the Workshop moves to larger premises at 8225 Royden Road, in Town of Mount Royal and employs over 80 challenged workers.
In 1986, David Mendelson succeeds Dr. Feintuch as Executive Director.
The Workshop offers each worker the opportunity to realize his or her potential in an environment that encourages interpersonal growth. Social skills courses and holiday celebrations highlight the ongoing programs and activities, especially the Jewish festivals.
The Workshop provides indefinite employment to most of its workers. However, it is guided by a philosophy that employees who are deemed ready for competitive employment be encouraged and supported to attain it. They are referred to the JVS Supported Employment Program and are followed by their job coaches.
JVS Chanukah Party (1988)
1990: Changing Approaches
Due to a change in philosophy of the OPHQ, the Workshop begins to accept individuals for short periods of time in a program designed to offer employment training.
In September 1997, with the help of Federation CJA, the Workshop moves to our current premises at 8400 Mountain Sights.
A significant restructuring allows the workers to enjoy an even wider choice and variety of work tasks. As a result, sales grow to record levels as a testimony to the unique abilities of the employees, the staff and the commitment of the Board and its committees.
JVS employees in the factory (1997)
2000: Celebrating Service and Transformation
In 2000, the Workshop celebrates 50 years of service with a gala evening attended by community leaders and government officials.
In 2001, Howard Berger succeeds David Mendelson as Executive Director. In 2003, he coordinates a merger of all employment services within the Jewish community into an integrated continuum of services known as Jewish Employment Montreal (JEM). In October 2004, the Workshop is re-branded as JEM Workshop Inc. to capitalize on the successful branding of JEM in the community.
In November 2005, a generous gift from The Leonard and Alice Cohen Family Foundation allows the JEM Workshop to finance the purchase of its rented facilities with the help of Federation CJA.
In 2006, the JEM Workshop embarks on a successful capital campaign that permits the renovation of the entire building and the development of a second floor adding 5,000 square feet for training facilities.
On April 12, 2007, Centre Leonard & Carol Berall is formally inaugurated at a special Hanukat HaBayit.
JEM employee, Yossi Aviel, in the JEM factory (2003)
2010: Sustaining Growth
In 2016, with the ongoing support of Federation CJA, Emploi Québec and the Caisse de dépot et placement du Québec, the JEM Workshop employs 89 employees and continues to grow its packaging services to the general Montreal business community.
2020: Navigating Change
In March of 2020, JEM Workshop shut down for 2 months due to the COVID-19 global pandemic, with 85 Workers and 12 staff sent home until the phased-in reintegration in May 2020. By then JEM had lost 26% of its Workers to retirement, illness, or inability to cope with COVID-related safety measures. Reopening came with significant changes and rigorous new protocols, requiring increases in staffing, purchasing PPE and additional cleaning supplies, reorganizing the space for social distancing and helping Workers to cope with the related stress.
In October 2020, Maia Cooper succeeded Howard Berger as Executive Director following his retirement, and that of Managing Director, Danny Kay.
In 2021, JEM Workshop launched a Strategic Planning Process involving input from its many stakeholders and partners, which will serve to inform the development of the “next chapter” and determine JEM Workshop’s medium and long-term strategy and action plan.
JEM Workshop now charts a new course, leveraging innovation and collaboration. Committed to their employees, customers, and stakeholders, JEM is building a brighter future, driven by resilience, leadership, and a bold vision for success.