About Our Site
Baron Byng High School, was the alma mater of generations of Jewish, Greek and other immigrant kids in Montreal, many of whom went on to excel in numerous fields.
The website baronbynghighschool.ca was created to preserve its history and capture “The Spirit of Byng” for generations to come.
This virtual museum is the culmination of a project that began in 2011 with a class of ’60 reunion. The original idea was a physical museum in the school’s former site on St. Urbain Street, home of the Sun Youth Organization. When that proved unfeasible, the committee headed by Ted Rotsztein, went virtual on the internet.
Initially launched on June 6, 2016, the web site showcases numerous artifacts, ephemera, as well as video histories, from numerous donors that span Byng’s existence from 1921 to 1980.
Originally curated by Helen Malkin (a non-Bynger), the site tells the history of Baron Byng High School through the schools teachers and students, with a section on over 70 of its most remarkable graduates.
Malkin, who was assistant director of the Canadian Centre for Architecture for 23 years, believes the site will be valued by all with an interest in Montreal history.
Up to the ’60s, almost all of Byng’s students were Jewish. They lived in the close-knit Jewish neighbourhood and generally came from working-class, immigrant families. There was a lot of pressure on these children to do well.
As renowned cancer researcher Dr. Phil Gold (’53) observed: “Our parents didn’t really care what we did as long as we got good marks. And we did well, we broke out of the ghetto.”
Some were immigrant themselves, like Polish-born Rotsztein, who immigrated to Montreal in 1956 from Uruguay, not knowing a word of English. Fortunately, a classmate translated everything into Yiddish for him.
Among the more than 120 former students who attended the launch, held at the University Club of Montreal – an elite private enclave they never would have dreamed entering in their youth – were retired Supreme Court justice Morris Fish, former MNA Harry Blank, artist Rita Briansky, former McGill University dean of medicine Abe Fuks, former Quebec Court of Appeal judge Joseph Nuss; and businessman and engineer Lorne Trottier (a major sponsor of the project).
Notable alumni also include writer Mordecai Richler; Sydney Shulemson, the highest-ranking Jewish officer during World War II; actress Marilyn Lightstone; NDP leader David Lewis; former Quebec justice minister Herbert Marx, and Rudolph Marcus who won the Nobel Prize for chemistry in 1992, attesting the breadth of achievement.