History of the Jews in Canada
1.1% of the Canadian population
|Regions with significant populations|
English (among Ashkenazis) · French (among Sephardis) · Hebrew (as liturgical language, some as mother tongue) · Yiddish (by some as mother tongue and as part of a language revival) · and other languages like Russian
Canadian Jews or also known as Jewish Canadians are Canadian citizens of the Jewish faith or Jewish ethnicity. Jewish Canadians are a part of the greater Jewish diaspora and is one of the largest Jewish communities in the world. Canada is home to the fourth largest Jewish community, exceeded by the Jewish communities in the United States, France, and Israel itself. Overall demographic research tends to include Ashkenazi Jews who immigrated from diaspora communities in Europe into the broadly defined Canadian Jewish category as StatsCan refers Israeli-Canadians as a distinct group of origin separate from Canadian Jews. Canadians of Jewish origin number 358,000 and make up about 1.1 percent of the total Canadian population as of 2006.
The Jewish community in Canada is composed predominantly of Ashkenazi Jews and their descendants. Other Jewish ethnic divisions are also represented, including Sephardi Jews, Mizrahi Jews, and a number of converts. The Canadian Jewish community manifests a wide range of Jewish cultural traditions, as well as encompassing the full spectrum of Jewish religious observance. Though a small minority, Canadian Jews have had an open presence in the country since the arrival of the first Jewish immigrants after the British took possession of nearly all of New France after the 1763 Treaty of Paris ending the Seven Years' War.
Early history (1759–1850) 
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Prior to the British Conquest of New France there were officially no Jews in Canada because when King Louis XIV made Canada officially a province of the Kingdom of France in 1663, he decreed that only Roman Catholics could enter the colony. One exception was Esther Brandeau, a Jewish girl who arrived in 1738 disguised as a boy and remained for a year before being sent back to France after refusing to convert. The earliest subsequent documentation of Jews in Canada are British Army records from the French and Indian War, the North American part of the Seven Years' War. In 1760, General Jeffrey Amherst, 1st Baron Amherst attacked and seized Montreal, winning Canada for the British. Several Jews were members of his regiments, and among his officer corps were five Jews: Samuel Jacobs, Emmanuel de Cordova, Aaron Hart, Hananiel Garcia, and Isaac Miramer.
The most prominent of these five were the business associates Samuel Jacobs and Aaron Hart. In 1759, in his capacity as Commissariat to the British Army on the staff of General Sir Frederick Haldimand, Jacobs was recorded as the first Jewish resident of Quebec, and thus the first Canadian Jew. From 1749, Jacobs had been supplying British army officers at Halifax, Nova Scotia. In 1758, he was at Fort Cumberland and the following year he was with Wolfe's army at Quebec. Remaining in Canada, he afterwards became the dominant merchant of the Richelieu valley and Seigneur of Saint-Denis-sur-Richelieu. However, as Jacobs married a French Canadian girl and brought his children up as Catholics, he is often overlooked as the first permanent Jewish settler in Canada in favour of Aaron Hart, who married a Jew and brought up his children, or at least his sons, in the Jewish tradition.
Lieutenant Hart first arrived in Canada from New York City as Commissariat to Jeffery Amherst's forces at Montreal in 1760. After his service in the army had ended, he settled at Trois-Rivières. Eventually he became a very wealthy landowner and a respected community member. He had four sons, Moses, Benjamin, Ezekiel and Alexander, all of whom would become prominent in Montreal and help build the Jewish Community. One of his sons, Ezekiel Hart, was elected to the legislature of Lower Canada in the by-election of April 11, 1807, becoming the first Jew in an official opposition in the British Empire. When he was sworn into office, he took the oath on the Hebrew Bible instead of on the Christian Bible. The Catholic population of Upper and Lower Canada was outraged and Ezekiel was expelled from the legislature. Sir James Henry Craig, Governor-General of Lower Canada at the time, tried to protect Hart, but the legislature dismissed him in both 1808 and 1809. French Canadians later saw this as an attempt of the British to undermine their role in Canada. Ezekiel was re-elected to the legislature, but Jews were not allowed to hold elected office in Canada until a generation later.
Revolts and protests soon began calling for responsible government in Canada. The law requiring the oath "on my faith as a Christian" was amended in 1829 to provide for Jews to not take the oath. In 1831, prominent French-Canadian politician Louis-Joseph Papineau sponsored a law which granted full equivalent political rights to Jews, 27 years before anywhere else in the British Empire.
Most of the early Jewish Canadians were either fur traders or served in the British Army troops. A few were merchants or landowners. Although Montreal's Jewish community was small, numbering only around 200, they built the Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue of Montreal, Shearith Israel, the oldest synagogue in Canada in 1768. In 1832, partly because of the work of Ezekiel Hart, a law was passed that guaranteed Jews the same political rights and freedoms as Christians. In the early 1830s, German Jew Samuel Liebshitz founded Jewsburg (now incorporated as German Mills into Kitchener, Ontario), a village in Upper Canada. By 1850, there were still only 450 Jews living in Canada, mostly concentrated in Montreal.
According to a historical source, the first synagogue in Montreal was founded in 1777 on Notre Dame Street.
Abraham Jacob Franks settled at Quebec City in 1767. His son, David Salesby (or Salisbury) Franks, who afterward became head of the Montreal Jewish community and an officer in the Continental Army, also lived in Quebec prior to 1774. Abraham Joseph, who was long a prominent figure in public affairs in Quebec City, took up his residence there shortly after his father's death in 1832. Quebec City's Jewish population for many years remained very small, and early efforts at organization were fitful and short-lived. A cemetery was acquired in 1853, and a place of worship was opened in a hall in the same year, in which services were held intermittently; but it was not until 1892 that the Jewish population of Quebec City had sufficiently augmented to permit of the permanent establishment of the present synagogue, Beth Israel. The congregation was granted the right of keeping a register in 1897. Other communal institutions were the Quebec Hebrew Sick Benefit Association, the Quebec Hebrew Relief Association for Immigrants, and the Quebec Zionist Society. By 1805, the Jewish population was about 350, in a total population of 68,834.
Growth of the Canadian Jewish community (1850–1939) 
With the beginning of the pogroms of Russia in the 1880s, and continuing through the growing anti-Semitism of the early 20th century, millions of Jews began to flee the Pale of Settlement and other areas of Eastern Europe for the West. Although the United States received the overwhelming majority of these immigrants, Canada was also a destination of choice due to Government of Canada and Canadian Pacific Railway efforts to develop Canada after Confederation. Between 1880 and 1930, the Jewish population of Canada grew to over 155,000. At the time, according to the 1901 census of Montreal, only 6861 Jews were residents.
Jewish immigrants brought a tradition of establishing a communal body, called a kehilla to look after the social and welfare needs of their less fortunate. Virtually all of these Jewish refugees were very poor. Wealthy Jewish philanthropists, who had come to Canada much earlier, felt it was their social responsibility to help their fellow Jews get established in this new country. One such man was Abraham de Sola, who founded the Hebrew Philanthropic Society. In Montreal and Toronto, there developed a wide range of communal organizations and groups. Recently arrived immigrant Jews also founded landsmenschaften, guilds of people who came originally from the same village.
Most of these immigrants established communities in the larger cities. Canada’s first ever census, recorded that in 1871 there were 1,115 Jews in Canada; 409 in Montreal, 157 in Toronto, 131 in Hamilton and the rest were dispersed in small communities along the St. Lawrence River. There was also a community of about 100 that settled in Victoria, British Columbia to open shops to supply prospectors during the Cariboo Gold Rush (and later the Klondike Gold Rush in the Yukon). This led to the opening of a synagogue in Victoria, British Columbia in 1862. In 1875, B'nai Brith Canada was formed as a Jewish fraternal organization. When British Columbia sent their delegation to Ottawa to agree on the colony’s entry into Confederation, a Jew, Henry Nathan, Jr., was among them. Nathan eventually became the first Canadian Jewish Member of Parliament. By 1911, there were Jewish communities in all of Canada's major cities.
Benjamin Hart, businessman, militia officer, and justice of the peace, in 1855.
The Ward, Toronto, a predominantly Jewish neighbourhood, in 1910.
Jewish settlement in the West 
In the late 1800s and early 1900s, through such utopian movements as the Jewish Colonization Association, fifteen Jewish farm colonies were established on the Canadian prairies; However, few of the colonies did very well. This was partly because, the Jews of East European origin were not allowed to own farms in the old country, and thus had little experience in farming. One settlement that did do well was Yid'n Bridge, Saskatchewan, started by South African farmers. Eventually the community grew larger as the South African Jews, who had gone to South Africa from Lithuania invited Jewish families directly from Europe to join them, and the settlement eventually became a town, whose name was later changed to the Anglicized name of Edenbridge., The Jewish farming settlement did not last to a second generation, however. Beth Israel Synagogue at Edenbridge is now a designated heritage site. In Alberta, the Little Synagogue on the Prairie is now in the collection of a museum.
At this time, most of the Jewish Canadians in the west were either storekeepers or tradesmen. Many set up shops on the new rail lines, selling goods and supplies to the construction workers, many of whom were also Jewish. Later, because of the railway, some of these homesteads grew into prosperous towns. At this time, Canadian Jews also had important roles in developing the west coast fishing industry, while others worked on building telegraph lines. Some, descended from the earliest Canadian Jews, stayed true to their ancestors as fur trappers. The first major Jewish organization to appear was B'nai Brith. Till today B'nai Brith Canada is the community's independent advocacy and social service organization. Also at this time, the Montreal branch of the Workmen's Circle was founded in 1907. This group was an off-shoot of the Jewish Labour Bund, an outlawed party in Russia's Pale of Settlement. It was an organization for The Main's radical, non-Communist, non-religious, working class.
Growth and community organization 
By the outbreak of World War I, there were approximately 100,000 Canadian Jews, of whom three-quarters lived in either Montreal or Toronto. Many of the children of the European refugees started out as peddlers, eventually working their way up to established businesses, such as retailers and wholesalers. Jewish Canadians played an essential role in the development of the Canadian clothing and textile industry. Most worked as labourers in sweatshops; while some owned the manufacturing facilities. Jewish merchants and labourers spread out from the cities to small towns, building synagogues, community centres and schools as they went.
As the population grew, Canadian Jews began to organize themselves as a community despite the presence of dozens of competing sects. The Canadian Jewish Congress (CJC) was founded in 1919 as the result of the merger of several smaller organizations. The purpose of the CJC was to speak on behalf of the common interests of Jewish Canadians and assist immigrant Jews.
World War II (1939–1945) 
Almost twenty thousand Jewish Canadians volunteered to fight for Canada during the Second World War.
As in the United States, the community's response to news of the Holocaust was muted for decades. Bialystok (2000) argues that in the 1950s the community was "virtually devoid" of discussion. Although one in seven Canadian Jews were survivors and their children, most Canadian Jews "did not want to know what happened, and few survivors had the courage to tell them.' He argues that the main obstacle to discussion was "an inability to comprehend the event. Awareness emerged in the 1960s, however, as the community realized that antisemitism had not disappeared.
Post war (1945–1999) 
After the war, Canada liberalized its immigration policy. Roughly 40,000 Holocaust survivors came during the late 1940s, hoping to rebuild their shattered lives. In 1947, the Workmen's Circle and Jewish Labour Committee started a project, spearheaded by Kalmen Kaplansky and Moshe Lewis, to bring Jewish refuges to Montreal in the needle trades, called the Tailors Project. They were able to do this through the federal government's "bulk-labour" program that allowed labour intensive industries to bring European displaced persons to Canada, in order to fill those jobs. For Lewis' work on this and other projects during this period, the Montreal branch was renamed the Moshe Lewis Branch, after his death in 1950. The Canadian arm of the Jewish Labor Committee also honored him when they established the Moshe Lewis Foundation in 1975.
Canadian Jews today 
Today the Jewish culture in Canada is maintained by both practising Jews and those who choose not to practise the religion. Nearly all Jews in Canada speak one of the two official languages, although most speak English over French. However, there seems to be a sharp division between the Ashkenazi and the Sephardi community in Quebec. The Ashkenazi overwhelmingly speak English while the Sephardi mostly speak French. There is also an increasing large number who speak Hebrew, other than for religious ceremonies, while a few keep the Yiddish language alive.
Recent surveys of the national Jewish population are unavailable. According to population studies of Montreal and Vancouver, 14% and 22% are Orthodox, 37% and 30% are Conservative and 19% and 5% are Reform. The Reform movement is weaker in Canada, especially in Quebec, compared to the United States. This may explain the higher proportion of Canadian Jews who identify as unaffiliated - 30% in Montreal and 28% in Vancouver - than is the case in the United States. As in the United States, regular synagogue attendance is rather low - with less than one-quarter attending synagogue once a month or more. However, Canadian Jews also seem to have lower intermarriage rates than the American Jewish community. Canadian census data should be reviewed with care, because it contains separate categories for religion and for ethnicity. Some Canadians identify themselves as ethnically but not religiously Jewish.
Most of Canada's Jews live in Ontario and Quebec, followed by British Columbia, Manitoba and Alberta. While Toronto is the largest Jewish population centre, Montreal played this role until many English-speaking Jewish Canadians left for Toronto, fearing that Quebec might leave the federation following the rise during the 1970s of nationalist political parties in Quebec, as well as a result of Quebec's Language Law. According to the 2001 census, 164,510 Jews lived in Toronto, 88,765 in Montreal, 17,270 in Vancouver, 12,760 in Winnipeg, 11,325 in Ottawa, 6,530 in Calgary, 3,980 in Edmonton, and 3,855 in Hamilton.
Ben's Deli was a Montreal icon during the 20th century
The Jewish population is growing rather slowly due to aging and low birth rates. The population of Canadian Jews increased by just 3.5% between 1991 and 2001, despite much immigration from the Former Soviet Union, Israel and other countries. Recently, anti-Semitism has become a growing concern, with reports of anti-semitic incidents increasing sharply over the past two years. This includes the well publicized anti-Semitic comments by David Ahenakew and Ernst Zundel. In 2009, the Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Antisemitism was established by all four major federal political parties to investigate and combat antisemitism, namely new antisemitism. However, anti-semitism is less of a concern in Canada than it is in most countries with significant Jewish populations. The League for Human Rights of B'nai Brith monitors the incidents and prepares an annual audit of these events.
Politically, the major Jewish Canadian organizations are the membership-based B'nai Brith Canada and the Canadian Jewish Congress (funded through the United Jewish Appeal, the largest Jewish charity campaign in Canada) which both claim to be the voice of the Jewish community. A small anti-Zionist outfit with no connection to the organized Jewish community known as Independent Jewish Voices (Canada) argues that the CJC and B'nai Brith do not speak for most Canadian Jews. Also, many Canadian Jews simply have no connections to any of these organizations.Differing views in the Jewish community are reflected in the periodicals Jewish Tribune, the largest weekly Jewish newspaper published by B'nai Brith Canada, Canadian Jewish News, a moderate weekly generally reflective of the views of the Canadian Jewish Congress, and the left-leaning Outlook, published six times a year. Western Canadian Jewish views are reflected in the Winnipeg-based weekly The Jewish Post & News.
The birth rate for Jews in Canada is much higher than that in the United States, with a TFR of 1.91 according to the 2001 Census. This is due to the presence of large numbers of orthodox Jews in Canada. According to the census, the Jewish birth rate and TFR is higher than that of the Protestant, Catholic, Orthodox (1.35), Buddhist (1.34), Non-Religious (1.41), and Sikhs (1.9). populations, but slightly lower than that of Hindus (2.05), and Muslims (2.01).
There are about a dozen day schools in Toronto and Montreal, as well as a number of Yeshivot. In Toronto, around 40% of Jewish children attend Jewish elementary schools and 12% go to Jewish high schools. The figures for Montreal are higher: 60% and 30%, respectively. There are also a few Jewish day schools in the smaller communities. The national average for attendance at Jewish elementary schools (at least) is 55%.
The Jewish community in Canada is amongst the country's most educated groups. As a group, Canadian Jews tend to be better educated and earn more than most Canadians as a whole. Jews have attained high levels of education, increasingly work in higher class managerial and professional occupations and derive higher incomes than the general Canadian population. 
Three in ten Jews held managerial and professional positions in 1991, compared to one in five Canadians. In Toronto, four out of ten doctors and dentists were Jewish in 1991 and, nationally, four times as many Jews completed graduate degrees as Canadians generally. The levels of educational attainment among Canadian Jews is dramatically higher than for the overall Canadian population. One out of every two Jews in Canada age fifteen and over was either enrolled in university or had completed a BA in 1991. This is in contrast to Canadians as a whole, among whom one in five was attending university or had completed an undergraduate degree. At the graduate level, these differential rates of education are even higher. About one in six Jews (16 per cent) had obtained an MA, M.D., or PhD in 1991. Among Canadians in general, only one in twenty-five (4 per cent) had attained comparable educational levels.
Higher rates of educational achievement are particularly pronounced with Canadian Jews in the thirty-five to forty-four age cohort. Nearly one in four Canadians was enrolled in university or had completed a bachelor’s degree in 1991 but among Canadian Jews in this age range, two out of three had comparable levels of education.
According to Multicultural Canada, 43 percent of Jewish Canadians have a bachelors degree or higher; the comparable figure for persons of British origin is 19 percent and compared with just 16 percent of the general Canadian population as a whole.
Despite comprising a mere one percent of the Canadian population, Jewish Canadians make up a significant percentage of graduates of some of the most prestigious universities in Canada.
Before the mass Jewish immigration of the 1880s, the Canadian Jewish community was relatively affluent compared to other ethnic groups in Canada, a distinguishable feature that still continues on to this day. Arguably, Canadian Jews have made a disproportionate contribution to the economic development of Canada throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. During the 18th and the 19th centuries, upper class Jews tended to be fur traders, merchants, and entrepreneurs. In addition, upper middle class white collar occupations also included bankers, lawyers, and doctors as there was an overwhelmingly definable British economic or corporate elite in Canada, Jews remained well represented.
Building a distinctive occupational profile and an affinity for entrepreneurship and business, Jews were heavily involved in the Canadian garment industry as it was the only business for which they had any training. Furthermore, cultural factors that made the industry somewhat lucrative as Jews could be certain that they would not have to work on the Sabbath or on major holidays if they had Jewish employers as opposed to non Jewish employers and were certain that they were also unlikely to encounter anti-Semitism from co-workers. Jews generally did not exhibit any loyalty and sympathy toward the working class through successive generations. Even within the working class, Canadian Jews tended to be concentrated in the ranks of highly skilled, as opposed to unskilled labor. But ties to the working class and union solidarity were not part of an eternal ideology as Jewish parents desired their children to attend University and achieve higher ranked jobs as it served as the primary gateway for a higher income. By the end of World War II, Jews in Canada began to disperse the working class in large numbers and attained a disproportionate amount success in a variety of white collar jobs as well as starting their businesses. Median household incomes in the Jewish community exceeded the national average.
Sol Encel and Leslie Stein, authors of Continuity, Commitment, and Survival: Jewish communities in the diaspora cite that Jews over the age of the 15 who are in University or completed a bachelors degree is roughly 40% in Montreal, 50% in Toronto and 57% in Vancouver. Stein also cites that Canadian Jews are statiscally overrepresented in many fields such as medicine, law, finance careers such as banking and accounting, and human service occupations such as social work and academia.
The Winter 1986 - Winter 1987 Issue of Journal of Small Business and Entrepreneurship cited that despite Jews comprise roughly 1 percent of the Canadian population, they comprised 35% of all entrepreneurs in Quebec and 10% of all technical entrepreneurs in Canada. According to the 1986 census data, about 56 percent of Jewish males, compared to 43 percent among those of British origin, are in select white-collar occupations, such as managerial and administrative positions, the natural sciences, engineering,mathematics, the social sciences, education,medicine and health, the arts, and recreational occupations.
By any criterion, Canadian Jews have achieved an amount of socioeconomic success that is generally higher compared to the rest of the Canadian population.
Immigrant Jewish males earn $7,000 a year above the Canadian average, higher than any other ethnic and religious group in Canada. Among females, 47 percent are in select white-collar occupations. Immigrant Jewish women earn $3,200 above the national average for women, also the highest for any ethnic group. In modern times, Jews can be numbered among the wealthiest Canadians as they comprise 4% of the Canadian upper class elite despite constituting 1% of the population. Canadian Jews have begun slowly to penetrate those economic sectors that have hitherto been closed to them, concurrently as they are building up wealth in family-owned firms and creating their own family foundations. Prominent Canadian Jewish families such as the Bronfmans, the Belzbergs, and the Reichmanns represent the summit of the extremely affluent segment of high class Jewish society in Canada. Sol Encel and Leslie Stein, authors of Continuity, Commitment, and Survival: Jewish communities in the diaspora write that 22% of Canadian Jews lived in households with an income over $100,000 CAD or more, which was equivalent to the percentage of households in the general population according to StatsCan but was 7.3% higher than Canadian national average according to a University of Alberta study. Professional occupations translate into higher incomes for Jews and 38% of Jewish families live in households with an annual income of $75,000 CAD or more.
Mark Avrum Ehrlich of The Encyclopedia of the Jewish diaspora: origins, experiences, and culture writes that as Jews find themselves in Canada's contemporary wealthy elite, as 20 percent of the wealthiest Canadians were listed as Jewish. La Griffe du Lion cites the 23% of the top 100 wealthiest Canadians are Jewish. In 2004, Nadav ʻAner, author of The Jewish People Policy Planning Institute cited that Canadian Jews are better educated and more financially off than the general population and have high political influences in the Canadian parliament. Jews are twice as likely as non-Jews to get a bachelor's degree and are three times as likely in the aged 25–34 cohort. This translates into a higher standard of living and they are financially better off than overall Canadian population. Canadian Jews are also three times as likely to earn over $75,000 compared to their non-Jewish counterparts.
The 2011 Forbes' list of billionaires in the world listed 24 Canadian billionaires. Among the billionaires listed, 6 out of the 24 or 25% of the Canadian billionaires listed are Jewish (25 times the percentage of Jews in the Canadian population). Sol Encel and Leslie Stein, authors of Continuity, Commitment, and Survival: Jewish communities in the diaspora cite 14% of the top 50 richest Canadians are Jewish (14 times the percentage) as have been 31% of Canada's thirty wealthiest families (31 times the percentage), and while constituting only 1.0 percent of the Canadian population, they comprise 8% of the top executives of Canada's most largest and profitable companies.
Notable Canadian Jews 
See also