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Lillian Bilsky Freiman

Best known in her native Canada for mobilizing aid for soldiers and veterans, Lillian Bilsky Freiman was also instrumental in raising funds for the new State of Israel. Freiman married department store founder Archibald Freiman at age eighteen and led a quiet life until spurred into action by WWI. She bought sewing machines and organized a Red Cross sewing circle to make blankets and clothing for soldiers, served as treasurer of the Ottowa Welfare Bureau and led local efforts to combat the 1918 influenza epidemic. She lobbied to place 150 Jewish war orphans from Europe with Jewish families in Canada and adopted one herself. She created job training programs for returning veterans and campaigned to remember the fallen. In the interwar years she helped lead numerous Jewish and secular organizations in Ottowa including the Girl Guides Association, the Ladies Hebrew Benevolent Association, and the Ladies Auxiliary of B’nai B’rith, but Zionism was her main focus and her passion. She raised $200,000 in her first fundraising drive for Palestine and served as Dominion president of Canadian Hadassah-WIZO from 1919 until her death in 1940. Because of Freiman’s longtime dedication to veterans, the Canadian Legion veterans’ organization granted her a lifetime honorary membership, and in 1934 she became the first Canadian Jew awarded the Order of the British Empire.

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Lillian Freiman
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Unquestionably the most prominent Jewish woman in Canada in the interwar period, philanthropist and Zionist Lillian Freiman (1885 – 1940) 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.

Photographer: Paul Horsdal.

Institution: Canadian Jewish Congress National Archives, Montreal.

Date of Birth
Place of Birth
Date of Death
November 2, 1940

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Lillian Freiman." (Viewed on November 14, 2018) <>.


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