Halifax philanthropist to be honoured with a monument at Pier 21

Karen and Howard Conter have spearheaded a campaign to have a statue of Pier 21 founder Ruth Goldbloom placed at the museum.

A decade after her death, there’s a plan to bring Ruth Goldbloom back to Pier 21, the Halifax immigration museum she founded.

The project to erect a bronze statue of the philanthropist outside of her beloved museum is the brainchild of local community leaders Howard and Karen Conter.

The Conters’ statue project, entitled Honouring Ruth, aims to teach visitors to the museum about Goldbloom and her contributions to the Halifax community.

“Without her drive, there would be no museum of immigration in Canada,” said Howard.

A daughter of Russian Jewish immigrants herself, Goldbloom was influenced by the experience her entire life and she raised $16 million to launch and maintain the museum.

“To be honest, if Ruthie was sitting here today and we said ‘We’re going to do a sculpture about you’, she would not be pleased,” Karen said. “But she would be thrilled to know that we are contributing a huge sum of money in her name, because Ruthie was all about education, about educating people and about learning other people’s stories and educating herself.”

Ruth Goldbloom
Ruth Goldbloom

Affectionately referred to as “Ruthie’s house” by the Conters, Pier 21 is built on the former Halifax immigration warehouse that welcomed nearly 1 million immigrants to Canada between 1928 and 1971, including tens of thousands of Jewish immigrants.

Newfoundland artist Morgan MacDonald has been commissioned to make the sculpture. The Conters chose MacDonald after they saw his memorial sculpture for the three Mounties killed in Moncton, N.B., in 2014.

“It was absolutely fabulous the way that this particular artist personalized everything,” Howard said. “Ruth was all about personality. I mean, she was small in stature, but big in heart. Huge in personality.”

The sculpture will show Goldbloom, who died in 2012 at the age of 88, seated on a bench with enough room for passersby to sit beside her. According to Howard, it will give visitors the chance to learn about her, and to “chat” with Goldbloom.

“If anybody’s really smart, they’ll ask her for some fundraising tips,” he said.

A member of the Order of Canada and the Order of Nova Scotia, Goldbloom was the first female chair of Halifax United Way, and was the first Jewish chair of the board of Mount St. Vincent University, a Catholic women’s university at the time.

There are existing tributes to Goldbloom at Pier 21, including a boardroom named in her honour and an educational bursary. For the statue project, the Conters appealed for donations to raise $250,000, plus a little more for a research scholarship.

Within a matter of two or three months, the Conters had already met their goal.

“It’s not a hard project because of what you’re selling. You’re selling a tribute to Ruth Goldbloom,” said Howard, who was a cousin to Goldbloom. Both families came from New Waterford, N.S.

Of the $250,000 raised, $100,000 will go into an education bursary, to allow high school students to study immigration at Pier 21.

 A portion of the funds will also be put towards immigration research. As the president of the board of the Atlantic Jewish Council, Howard intends to focus the research on Jewish immigration to Canada, especially through Pier 21.

The sculpture will be unveiled on Oct. 3 at the Halifax port, outside of Pier 21.

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