There are many inspirational stories that we can share and on March 14, 2010, both Ottawa chapters, AMIT and Negev, had a joint meeting to hear our Guest Speaker Betsy Rigal, the granddaughter of Lillian Freiman (1885-1940), tell the fascinating story of her grandmother.
She captured our undivided attention as she did a wonderful job of describing the life of her late grandmother Lillian of blessed memory, a woman that not only accomplished so much in her lifetime but was also the founder of Canadian Hadassah.
The presentation was entitled My grandmother, Lillian Freiman, Founder of Canadian Hadassah. To view the presentation, click here.
Unquestionably the most prominent Jewish woman in Canada in the interwar period, philanthropist and Zionist Lillian Freiman served as head of Canadian Hadassah-WIZO for twenty-one years and was the first Canadian Jew to be awarded the Order of the British Empire.
Lillian Freiman was born in Mattawa, Ontario, one of the eleven children of Moses Bilsky (1829–1923) and his wife, Pauline (née Reich, b. Berlin, 1857, m. 1875). Freiman’s sister, Lucy, married Allan Bronfman (1895–1980), brother of Samuel, and with him a founder of Joseph E. Seagram and Sons, the liquor distiller and marketer.
Like many Canadian Jews, Moses Bilsky, who originated in Russian Lithuania, moved back and forth between Canada and the United States for a number of years. Arriving in Canada as a child in 1845, he became caught up in the western Canadian Gold Rush fever and then headed for California, Panama, and back to California. During the American Civil War, he was a Union soldier. His wife was a homemaker.
In Canada, the Bilsky’s were pioneers of the Jewish community of Ottawa, where they settled after Moses had achieved financial success in the lumber business in Mattawa. For many years, Moses was Ottawa’s most eminent Jewish citizen.
Did you know that the Canadian Army Officers’ Mess was once the home of Lillian Freiman? The Canadian Government published this article on the subject.