The JEM Workshop Inc.

History of the JEM Workshop Inc.


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.


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.


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.


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.


In 1980, the Workshop joins the Conseil québecois des entreprises adaptées (CQEA), a provincial association representing over 43 Quebec workshops.

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.


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.

2000 + A New Beginning

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.

In 2016, with the ongoing support of Federation CJA, Emploi Québec and the Caisse de depot et deplacement du Québec, the JEM Workshop employs 87 workers and continues to grow its packaging services to the general Montreal business community.