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History of the Jews in Canada

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Title: History of the Jews in Canada  
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Subject: Israeli Canadian, Multiculturalism in Canada, Canada 1996 Census, Demographics of Quebec, Demographics of Ontario
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History of the Jews in Canada

Canadian Jews
Juifs canadiens (French)
יהדות קנדה (Hebrew)
Total population
 Canada ~375,000-500,000[1]
1.1% of the Canadian population[2][3][4]
Regions with significant populations
 Ontario 212,000
 Quebec 95,000
 British Columbia 21,230
 Manitoba 19,000
 Alberta 14,000
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
Judaism, Secularism

Canadian Jews or, alternatively, Jewish Canadians are Canadian citizens of the Jewish faith or Jewish ethnicity. Jewish Canadians are a part of the greater Jewish diaspora and form the fourth largest Jewish community in the world, exceeded only by those in Israel, the United States, and France.[5][6] As of 2011, Statistics Canada listed 329,500 adherents to the Jewish religion in Canada[7] and 309,650 who claimed Jewish as an ethnicity.[8] One does not necessarily include the other and studies which have attempted to combine the two streams have arrived at figures in excess of 375,000 Jews in Canada.[2][3][4] This total would account for approximately 1.1% of the Canadian population.

The Jewish community in Canada is composed predominantly of Ashkenazi Jews, who emigrated from Europe, and their descendants. Other Jewish ethnic divisions are also represented, including Sephardi Jews, Mizrahi Jews, and a number of converts. The Jewish Canadian 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) 1
  • Growth of the Canadian Jewish community (1850–1939) 2
    • Jewish settlement in the West 2.1
    • Growth and community organization 2.2
  • World War II (1939–1945) 3
  • Post war (1945–1999) 4
  • Canadian Jews today 5
  • Demographics 6
    • Jewish Canadians by province or territory 6.1
  • Jewish culture in Canada 7
    • Languages 7.1
      • Hebrew 7.1.1
      • Yiddish 7.1.2
  • Socioeconomics 8
    • Education 8.1
    • Employment 8.2
    • Economics 8.3
  • Antisemitism 9
  • Notable Canadian Jews 10
  • See also 11
  • References 12
  • External links 13

Early history (1759–1850)

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.[9] 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.[10]

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.[11] 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.[12] Remaining in Canada, he afterwards became the dominant merchant of the Richelieu valley and Seigneur of Saint-Denis-sur-Richelieu.[13] 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.[12]

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, 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. Ezekiel was expelled from the legislature with his religion a major factor.[14] 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.

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. Some sources date the actual establishment of synagogue to 1777 on Notre Dame Street.[15]

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, twenty-seven years before anywhere else in the British Empire. 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.[16] By 1850, there were still only 450 Jews living in Canada, mostly concentrated in Montreal.

Abraham Jacob Franks settled at

External links


  • Abella, Irving. A Coat of Many Colours. Toronto: Key Porter Books, 1990.
  • Godfrey, Sheldon and Godfrey, Judith. Search Out the Land. Montreal: McGill University Press, 1995.
  • Jedwab, Jack. Canadian Jews in the 21st Century: Identity and Demography (2010)
  • Leonoff, Cyril. Pioneers, Pedlars and Prayer Shawls: the Jewish Communities in BC and the Yukon. 1978.
  • Smith, Cameron (1989). Unfinished Journey: the Lewis Family. Toronto: Summerhill Press.  
  • Schreiber. Canada. The Shengold Jewish Encyclopedia Rockland, Md.: 2001. ISBN 1-887563-66-0.
  • Tulchinsky, Gerald. Taking Root. Toronto: Key Porter Books, 1992.
  • Jewish Agency Report on Canada
Further reading
  • Jacques J. Lyons and Abraham de Sola, Jewish Calendar with Introductory Essay, Montreal, 1854
  • Le Bas Canada, Quebec, 1857
  • People of Lower Canada, 1860
  • The Star (Montreal), December 30, 1893.
Primary sources
  • Brown, Michael. Jew or Juif? Jews, French Canadians, and Anglo-Canadians, 1759-1914 Jewish Publication Society, 1987
  • Brym, Robert J., William Shaffir, and Morton Weinfeld. The Jews in Canada (1993)
  • Davies, Alan T. Antisemitism in Canada : history and interpretation, Wilfrid Laurier University Press, (1992)
  • Goldberg, David Howard. Foreign Policy and Ethnic Interest Groups: American and Canadian Jews Lobby for Israel (1990)
  • Greenstein, Michael ed. Contemporary Jewish Writing in Canada: An Anthology (2004). 233 pp. Primary sources
  • Greenstein, Michael. "How They Write Us: Accepting and Excepting 'the Jew' in Canadian Fiction," Shofar: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Jewish Studies, Volume 20, Number 2, Winter 2002, pp. 5–27 looks at non-Jewish authors.
  • Jedwab, Jack. Canadian Jews in the 21st Century: Identity and Demography (2010)
  • Lipinsky, Jack. Imposing Their Will: An Organizational History of Jewish Toronto, 1933-1948 (McGill-Queen's University Press; 2011) 352 pages
  • Martz, Fraidi. Open Your Hearts: The Story of the Jewish War Orphans in Canada (Montreal: Véhicule Press, 1996. 189 pp.)
  • Rosenberg, Louis, and Morton Weinfeld. Canada's Jews: A Social and Economic Study of Jews in Canada in the 1930s (1939; reprinted 1993)
  • Singer, Isidore; Cyrus Adler (1907). The Jewish Encyclopedia: A Descriptive Record of the History, Religion, Literature, and Customs of the Jewish People from the Earliest Times to the Present Day. Funk & Wagnalls. 
  • Srebrnik, Henry. Creating the Chupah: The Zionist Movement and the Drive for Jewish Communal Unity in Canada, 1898-1921 (2011)
  • Srebrnik, Henry. Jerusalem on the Amur: Birobidzhan and the Canadian Jewish Communist Movement, 1924-1951 (2008)
  • Troper, Harold. The Defining Decade: Identity, Politics, and the Canadian Jewish Community in the 1960s (2010)
  • Tulchinsky, Gerald J. J. Canada's Jews: A People's Journey (2008), the standard scholarly history
  • Weinfeld, Morton. "Jews" in Paul Robert Magocsi, ed. Encyclopedia of Canada's Peoples (1991), pp 860–81, the basic starting point.
  • Weinfeld, Morton. W. Shaffir, and I. Cotler, eds. The Canadian Jewish Mosaic (1981), sociological studies
  1. ^ Data based on a study by Jewish People Policy Institute (JPPI).
  2. ^ Data based on a study by Jewish People Policy Institute (JPPI).
  1. ^  
  2. ^ a b Shahar, Charles (2011). "The Jewish Population of Canada - 2011 National Household Survey". Berman Jewish Databank. Retrieved September 9, 2014. 
  3. ^ a b "Basic Demographics of the Canadian Jewish Community". The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs. 2011. Retrieved September 9, 2014. 
  4. ^ a b "Jewish Population of the World". Jewish Virtual Library. 2012. Retrieved September 9, 2014. 
  5. ^ "JEWISH POPULATION IN THE WORLD AND IN ISRAEL" (PDF). CBS. Retrieved 2011-11-22. 
  6. ^ "The Canadian Jewish Experience". 1975-10-16. Retrieved 2011-11-22. 
  7. ^ "2011 National Household Survey: Data tables: Religion". Statistics Canada. 2011. Retrieved September 9, 2014. 
  8. ^ "2011 National Household Survey: Data tables: Ethnic Origin". Statistics Canada. 2011. Retrieved September 9, 2014. 
  9. ^ Brandeau, Esther Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online
  10. ^ Canada's Jews: A Social and Economic Study of Jews in Canada in the 1930s. Louis Rosenberg, Morton Weinfeld. 1993.
  11. ^ , April 21, 2013The Canadian Jewish News
  12. ^ a b Canada's Entrepreneurs: From The Fur Trade to the 1929 Stock Market Crash: Portraits from the Dictionary of Canadian Biography. By Andrew Ross and Andrew Smith, 2012
  13. ^ Search Out the Land: The Jews and the Growth of Equality in British Colonial America, 1740-1867. Sheldon Godfrey, 1995
  14. ^ Denis Vaugeois , "Hart, Ezekiel", in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 7, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003, accessed June 9, 2013, online
  15. ^ Hinshelwood, N.M. (1903). Montreal and Vicinity: being a history of the old town, a pictorial record of the modern city, its sports and pastimes, and an illustrated description of many charming summer resorts around. Canada: Desbarats & co. by commission of the City of Montreal and the Department of Agriculture. p. 55. Retrieved January 1, 2012. 
  16. ^ [11] Kitchener Public Library
  17. ^ Isidore Singer; Cyrus Adler (1907). The Jewish Encyclopedia: A Descriptive Record of the History, Religion, Literature, and Customs of the Jewish People from the Earliest Times to the Present Day. Funk & Wagnalls. p. 286. 
  18. ^ Singer and Adler (1907). The Jewish Encyclopedia: A Descriptive Record of the History, Religion, Literature, and Customs of the Jewish People from the Earliest Times to the Present Day. Funk & Wagnalls. p. 286. 
  19. ^ Hinshelwood, N.M. (1903). Montreal and Vicinity: being a history of the old town, a pictorial record of the modern city, its sports and pastimes, and an illustrated description of many charming summer resorts around. Canada: Desbarats & co. p. 53.  
  20. ^ "Canada's first Jewish mayor dies suddenly". The Ottawa Citizen. 121st Year (403): 15. 1 February 1964. 
  21. ^ "Ida Siegel with Edmund Scheuer at the Canadian Jewish Farm School, Georgetown". Ontario Jewish Archives. Retrieved July 2014. 
  22. ^ [12]
  23. ^ a b c "1: Yiddish culture in Western Canada" (PDF). Retrieved 2011-05-18. 
  24. ^ Manitoba Historical Society "The Contribution of the Jews to the Opening and Development of the West" [13]
  25. ^ Smith, p.123
  26. ^ Ester Reiter and Roz Usiskin, "Jewish Dissent in Canada: The United Jewish People's Order", paper presented on May 30, 2004 at a forum on "Jewish Dissent in Canada", at a conference of the Association of Canadian Jewish Studies (ACJS) in Winnipeg.
  27. ^ Benazon, Michael (2004-05-30). "Forum on Jewish Dissent". Retrieved 2011-05-18. 
  28. ^ Franklin Bialystok, Delayed Impact: The Holocaust and the Canadian Jewish Community (Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 2000) pp 7-8
  29. ^ Smith, p. 215
  30. ^ Smith, p. 216
  31. ^ Smith, p. 218
  32. ^ "Jewish Life in Greater Montreal Study". Retrieved 2011-05-18. 
  33. ^ "Statistics canada: 2001 Community Profiles". 2002-03-12. Retrieved 2011-05-18. 
  34. ^ "Microsoft Word - Canada_Part1General Demographics_Report.doc" (PDF). Retrieved 2011-05-18. 
  35. ^ "CanadianParliamentaryCoalitiontoCombatAntisemitism". Retrieved 2011-05-18. 
  36. ^ "Report on the Demographic Situation in Canada (Catalogue no. 91-209-XIE)" (PDF). Statistics Canada. 2005. Retrieved 2010-08-25. 
  37. ^ [14]
  38. ^ [15]
  39. ^ [16]
  40. ^ National Post. "The new Jewish exodus: Canada seen as safe haven for French Jews in wake of anti-Semitic attacks". Retrieved 7 June 2015. 
  41. ^ The  
  42. ^ a b The Jewish Agency for Israel. "The Jewish Community of Canada: A History of the Canadian Jewish Community". Retrieved 7 June 2015. 
  43. ^ CHRISTOPHER DEWOLF, "A peek inside Yiddish Montreal", Spacing Montreal, February 23, 2008.[17]
  44. ^ Carol Roach, "Yiddish Theater in Montreal", Examiner, May 14, 2012.; "The emergence of Yiddish theater in Montreal", "Examiner", May 14, 2012
  45. ^ a b Spolsky, Bernard. The Languages of the Jews: A Sociolinguistic History. Cambridge University Press, March 27, 2014. ISBN 1139917145, 9781139917148. p. 227.
  46. ^ Spolsky, Bernard. The Languages of the Jews: A Sociolinguistic History. Cambridge University Press, March 27, 2014. ISBN 1139917145, 9781139917148. p. 226.
  47. ^ a b "Carleton University - Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life". Hillel. 2008-01-08. Retrieved 2011-12-09. 
  48. ^ "Jews of Canada". 2008-12-02. Retrieved 2011-11-22. 
  49. ^ a b c "From Immigration To Integration - Chapter Sixteen". Retrieved 2011-11-20. 
  50. ^ a b c d "The Institute for International Affairs Page". Retrieved 2011-11-20. 
  51. ^ [18]
  52. ^ Hillel's Top 10 Jewish Schools
  53. ^ a b c d e "Economic Life | Multicultural Canada". Retrieved 2011-11-22. 
  54. ^ a b Continuity, commitment, and survival ... - Sol Encel, Leslie Stein. Google Books. Retrieved 2011-11-25. 
  55. ^ Journal of Small Business and ... Google Books. Retrieved 2011-12-09. 
  56. ^ Wallace Clement. "Elites". The Canadian Encyclopedia. Retrieved 2011-11-25. 
  57. ^ "2006 Income by Age of Head of Household". Tetrad. Sociology. 2006. Retrieved 18 May 2012. 
  58. ^ Veenstra, Gerry (2010). Culture and Class in Canada. University of Alberta: Canadian Journal of Sociology. 
  59. ^ Continuity, commitment, and survival ... - Sol Encel, Leslie Stein. Google Books. Retrieved 2011-12-09. 
  60. ^ Leo: a life - Leo Kolber, L. Ian MacDonald. Google Books. Retrieved 2011-12-09. 
  61. ^ Encyclopedia of the Jewish diaspora ... - Mark Avrum Ehrlich. Google Books. Retrieved 2011-12-02. 
  62. ^ La Griffe du Lion. "Some Thoughts about Jews, IQ and Nobel Laureates". Retrieved 2011-12-02. 
  63. ^ a b income Canadian Jews&f=false. Retrieved 2011-11-20. 
  64. ^ "6 Canadian Jews on Forbes' Rich List". Shalom Life. Retrieved 2011-11-20. 


See also

Notable Canadian Jews


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).[63][64] 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.[54]

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.[61][62] 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.[63]

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.[53] 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.[56] 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.[53] 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.[57][58] 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.[59][60]

By any criterion, Canadian Jews have achieved an amount of socioeconomic success that is generally higher compared to the rest of the Canadian population.

Samuel Bronfman is a member of the Bronfman Canadian Jewish family dynasty.


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.[55] 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.[53]

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 bachelor's 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.[54]

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.[53]

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.[53]


Rank University Enrollment for Jewish Students (est.) % of Student body Undergraduate Enrollment
1 University of Toronto 3,000 5% 60,500
2 McGill University 3,500 10% 35,000
3 Queen's University 700 7% 10,350
4 University of British Columbia 800 3% 27,276
5 University of Victoria
Ryerson University
University of Ottawa
Carleton University
6 University of Waterloo
McMaster University
Concordia University
8 Simon Fraser University 400 2% 16,800
9 University of Western Ontario 3,000 10% 30,000
10 York University 4,600 10% 47,000

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.[47]

According to Multicultural Canada, 43 percent of Jewish Canadians have a bachelor's 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.[49][50]

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.[49][50]

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.[50][51]

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.[49][50]

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%.[48]

Canadian Jews make up a significant percentage of student body of Canada's leading higher education institutions. For instance at the University of Toronto, Canadian Jews account for 5% of the undergraduate student body, over 5 times the proportion of Jews in Canada.[47]



Montreal had and to some extent still has one of the most thriving Yiddish communities in North America. Yiddish was Montreal's third language (after French and English) for the entire first half of the 20th century. Der Kanader Adler ("The Canadian Eagle", founded by Hirsch Wolofsky), Montreal’s daily Yiddish newspaper, appeared from 1907 to 1988.[43] The Monument National was the centre of Yiddish theatre from 1896 until the construction of the Saidye Bronfman Centre for the Arts, inaugurated on September 24, 1967, where the established resident theatre, the Dora Wasserman Yiddish Theatre, remains the only permanent Yiddish theatre in North America. The theatre group also tours Canada, US, Israel, and Europe.[44] Bernard Spolsky, author of The Languages of the Jews: A Sociolinguistic History, stated that Yiddish "Yiddish was the dominant language of the Jewish community of Montreal".[45] In 1931 99% of Montreal Jews stated that Yiddish was their mother language. In the 1930s there was a Yiddish language education system and a Yiddish newspaper in Montreal.[45] In 1938, most Jewish households in Montreal primarily used English and often used French and Yiddish. 9% of the Jewish households only used French and 6% only used Yiddish.[46]

Yiddish (יידיש) is the historical and cultural language of Ashkenazi Jews, who make up the majority of the Canadian Jewry.


Hebrew (עברית) is the liturgical and historical language of the Jews and Judaism.



Jewish culture in Canada

Province or territory Jews Percentage
 Canada 309,650
 Ontario 173,780
 Quebec 67,115
 British Columbia 31,865
 Alberta 15,815
 Manitoba 13,150
 Nova Scotia 3,665
 Saskatchewan 2,325
 New Brunswick 1,190
 Newfoundland and Labrador 310
 Prince Edward Island 210 0.14%
 Yukon 175 0.51%
 Northwest Territories 40 0.09%
 Nunavut 15 0.04%

Jewish Canadian population by province and territory in Canada in 2011 according to Statistics Canada:

Percentage of Jewish population in Canada, 2001 (without Nunavut).

Jewish Canadians by province or territory


Also, there is a vibrant population of Israeli Jews who emigrate to Canada to study and work. The Israeli Canadian community is growing and it is one of the largest Israeli diaspora groups with an estimate of 30,000 people.[42] A small proportion of Israeli Jews who come to Canada are Ethiopian Jews.

Since the beginning of the 21st century Jewish immigration to Canada has continued, increasing in numbers with the passing of the years. With the rise of antisemitism in France most of the Jewish newcomers are French Jews who choose to leave France in search of a better quality of life, either in Israel or elsewhere with Canada being one of the top destinations chosen by French Jews to live in, particularly in Quebec.[40] Besides the French Jews, another influx of Jewish immigration from Europe comes from neighbouring Belgium. Several members of the Belgian-Jewish community choose Canada as their new home to escape anti-Semitism. There are efforts by the Jewish community of Montreal to attract these immigrants and make them feel safe and at home, not only from Belgium and France but from other parts of Europe and the world.[41] There is also some immigration of Argentine Jews and from other parts of Latin America with Argentina being home to the largest Jewish community in Latin America and the third one in the Americas after the United States and Canada itself.[42]

Israeli Canadians and Jewish Canadians celebrating Yom Ha'atzmaut in Toronto.

On February 26th, 2014, and for the first time in Canadian history, B'nai Brith Canada led an official delegation of Sephardi community leaders, activists, philanthropists and spiritual leaders from across the country visiting Parliament Hill and meeting with the prime minister, ambassadors and other dignitaries.[39]

In the 21st century there was an increase of the scope of anti-Semitic incidents in Canada with number of cases of anti-Semitic vandalism and spraying Nazi symbols in August 2013 in Winnipeg and in the greater Toronto area.[37][38]

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.[36] 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).

Politically, the major Jewish Canadian organizations are the membership-based 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 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.[34] 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 Zündel. 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.[35] 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 B'rith monitors the incidents and prepares an annual audit of these events.

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.[33]

Recent surveys of the national Jewish population are unavailable. According to population studies of Toronto and Montreal, 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.[32] 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.

Today the Jewish culture in Canada is maintained by both practising Jews and those who choose not to practise the religion (Secular Jews). 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.

Canadian Jews today

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 refugees to Montreal in the needle trades, called the Tailors Project.[29] 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.[30] 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.[31]

Post war (1945–1999)

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.[28]

[27][26] In 1945, several organizations merged to form the

Almost 20,000 Jewish Canadians volunteered to fight for Canada during World War II.

Jewish soldiers fought in the Canadian military during World War II.

World War II (1939–1945)

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.

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.

The Jewish General Hospital opened in Montreal in 1934.

Growth and community organization

[25] 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

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;[23] 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.,[23][24] The Jewish farming settlement did not last to a second generation, however.[23] 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.

Graves in Jewish cemetery at Lipton Colony, Saskatchewan, 1916

Jewish settlement in the West

On August 6, 1933 one of the most famous anti-Semitic incidents in Canada took place, known as "the Christie Pits Riot". On that day after a baseball game in Toronto a group of young men using Nazi symbols started a massive melee, arguably the largest in Toronto’s history, on the ground of racial hatred, involving hundreds of men.[22]

By 1911, there were Jewish communities in all of Canada's major cities.

A community of about 100 settled in 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.

[20] 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

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.

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.[19]

Congregation Emmanu-El Synagogue (1863) in Victoria, British Columbia, the oldest Synagogue in Canada still in use, and the oldest on the West Coast of North America

Growth of the Canadian Jewish community (1850–1939)


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