Canada is a country in northern half of North America and a member of the British Commonwealth. At the beginning of the 21st century, its population of approximately 370,000 Jews made it the world's fourth largest Jewish community after the United States, Israel, and France. This Diaspora has been shaped by features that are distinctive to the Canadian nation: French-English duality, the relatively small immigration of German Jews, and proportionally much larger emigration from Eastern Europe. In addition, Canada's Jews have never been subject to a unified, overriding, and jealous Canadian nationalism, which has facilitated the maintenance of a strong sense of Canadian Jewish identity. While American Jewry yearned for integration into the mainstream of the great republic, Canadians expressed their Jewishness in a country that had no coherent self-definition – except perhaps the solitudes and tensions of duality, the limitations and challenges of northernness, and the colonial-mindedness of borrowed glory. While in the United States, Irving Berlin wrote "God Bless America," in Canada the quintessential Jewish literary figure, Abraham Moses *Klein, wrote poems of anguish expressing longing for the redemption of the Jewish soul lost in a sea of modernity. A distinctive geography, history, population, and development patterns dictated the formative context of Canadian Jewish history and the personality of its community.
When 15 Jews gathered to organize Canada's first congregation, Shearith Israel, in *Montreal on December 30, 1768, they were continuing a North American Jewish communal tradition that had begun in New Amsterdam 114 years earlier. The Montreal congregation took its name from New York City's major synagogue and, though oriented for many years to London for religious personnel and guidance, the Montreal congregation continued its strong connection to the Jewish communities in New York and Philadelphia. While most congregants were Ashkenazim, they followed the Sephardi order of prayer, which was an integral part of early American Jewish culture.
Montreal's Jews benefited from the legal and economic advantages of their British ties. Jews worked with the British merchants who quickly dominated Canadian economic life, and these Jews exploited their political and commercial connections to London. Among them was Aaron *Hart, the most successful of Canada's early Jewish settlers. In 1759 Hart arrived in *Quebec from New York, having served as a sutler to the British army, mainly at Trois-Rivières, where he would later trade in furs and buy real estate. He thereby founded a mercantile and political dynasty that would survive for decades to come.
The Harts were not the first Jews of historical note. Joseph de la Penha, a Dutch Jewish merchant, was granted the territory of Labrador by England's King William III in 1697, possibly because one of de le Penha's captains had discovered the area. In 1732 a young Jew named Ferdinande Jacobs was employed as an apprentice by the Hudson Bay Company. He became chief factor at Fort Prince of Wales and at York Factory before returning to England in 1775. Like many other white traders, he took an Indian "wife" and fathered a number of children. Aside from the stories of the famous stowaway to New France, Esther *Brandeau, in 1738, and the Dutch Jew who converted upon reaching Louisbourg, Jews traded to the French colonies in the Americas, including New France and Acadia. Between 1744 and 1759, Abraham Gradis of Bordeaux conducted a huge trade with New France, much of it in conjunction with the Intendant, François Bigot. There may also have been a few *Marranos among the French merchants living in Quebec and Louisbourg during the French regime. There were also Sephardi traders, with names like: Moresca, Fonseca, Cordova, and Miranda, who had come north with invading British troops in 1759 and 1760.
The Montreal congregation founded by these merchants at first struggled to survive because many of its founders were transient, looking for quick gains in this commercial frontier. These early Canadian Jews behaved as if they were part of the new British administrative and commercial elite. Their language was English, many had been born in the 13 colonies or in England, and virtually all of them were traders whose ultimate political allegiance during the American Revolution was to Britain. Many signed the petitions that were periodically produced by agitators among the "old subjects" for a representative political body and other "reforms." Thus, while loyal to Britain in ways common to the Anglophone community to which they belonged, they also favored the same level of self-government present in the former American colonies.
It fell to Ezekiel *Hart, the second son of Aaron Hart, to become a casualty in the developing clash between English and French. In 1804 he won election to a seat in the Assembly of Lower Canada. His opponents publicly asserted that Hart could not be sworn in on the grounds that he was a Jew. The Assembly formed a special committee to consider the matter and recommended that he be expelled. This resolution was passed by the Assembly and Hart was thereby banned. Elected again in the ensuing by-election, Hart was expelled a second time, and he gave up the fight. Officially Jews were now second-class citizens in Lower Canada. They were ineligible for membership in the Assembly and legally unfit to hold any civil, judicial, or military office. This ban was removed in March 1831 through legislation supported by eminent reformers Louis-Joseph Papineau and Denis-Benjamin Viger. It became law in 1832, and after a challenge was confirmed in 1834 by a special committee of the Assembly.
Early Growth of the Montreal Community
As Montreal, the hub of Canada's import-export trade, prospered, so did Montreal's Jews. In 1847 Abraham de *Sola arrived from London to become their spiritual leader. For the next 35 years, he served as the community's religious leader while enjoying considerable eminence in the wider community. He was appointed to the faculty at McGill College and participated in local scientific and numismatic societies. He wrote widely on questions of science and religion and on Jewish history. He maintained contacts with the Jewish intellectual and social environment that stretched from London to Philadelphia. He took, as well, an interest in the persecuted Jews in Persia, charities in Palestine, and the threats to traditional Judaism from reformers in Germany and especially America.
Though still tiny in size, during de Sola's ministry the Montreal Jewish community grew through immigration. It now encompassed increasing numbers of English, German, Alsatian, and Polish Jews following the Ashkenazi traditions common throughout Central and Eastern Europe. They formed an Ashkenazi congregation in 1846, and a Hebrew Benevolent Society was started in 1847 to assist new immigrants.
The Jews of both congregations were mostly petty merchants, and with few exceptions, they were involved in Montreal's burgeoning financial, transportation, and manufacturing sectors which dominated the national economy. The same was true of the smaller Jewish communities taking shape in *Toronto, *Hamilton, and *Victoria. Jews began as marginal men, engaged mostly in the petty commerce of jewelry and fancy goods, tobacco, dry goods, and cheap clothing, much of it sold to upcountry storekeepers. In Victoria, the Jews also conducted a lively trade with the interior, gold-mining camps. The sale of clothing, both wholesale and retail, provided a major springboard for later Jewish entry into what was by 1871 one of the leading industries in major Canadian cities – the manufacture of men's and boys' apparel. Tobacco merchandising gave Jews another major manufacturing opportunity in Canada.
In addition to these Jewish settlements, there was some Jewish contact with the British colonies in Newfoundland and Nova Scotia. The New York merchant Jacob *Franks dealt in tea, shipping some to Newfoundland and some through Cape Breton in the early 1740s. In 1748 the executive of London's Spanish and Portuguese synagogue, then searching for a refuge for the city's Jewish poor, considered founding a Jewish colony in Nova Scotia. Nothing ever came of it. Some Jewish traders arrived in *Halifax shortly after it was founded in 1749, as a British naval and military base. By the 1750s there were many Jews among the army and navy purveyors and the merchants who supplied the growing local civilian population. Land was acquired for a cemetery. The Jewish presence here continued into the 1760s, but gradually died out and the cemetery land was appropriated for a provincial workhouse. Jewish communities were established in Halifax and *Saint John in the late 19th century.
Until the late 1890s individual Jewish communities existed in isolation from each other. Organized assistance to immigrants arriving in Montreal in 1882 marked the beginning of coordinated philanthropic activity in Montreal, Toronto, and *Winnipeg. But pressures for coordination emerged in the late 19th century to respond to the rise in immigration of destitute and persecuted East European Jews. Between 1880 and 1900, Canada welcomed about 10,000 Jewish immigrants. Between 1881 and 1901, Canada's Jewish population exploded from less than 2,500 to more than 16,000. The Jewish population increased more than 14 times faster than the total national population in those two decades.
The resident Jewish community was overwhelmed by the challenge to assist the destitute or sick of the influx of the 1880s and 1890s. They appealed to West European and British Jewish organizations to stop sending more immigrants and help support those who had already arrived. While financial assistance came from agencies like London's Mansion House Committee and the *Jewish Colonization Association, it was never enough to meet local needs. The new arrivals brought other problems besides poverty. The vast majority of Russian, Austro-Hungarian, and Romanian Jews who came in the 1880s and 1890s did not possess the adaptive language or commercial skills of the previous British and German settlers.
What was the solution? With the vast open spaces of Canada's western plains, Jewish agricultural settlement was encouraged. Alexander Galt, a leading Canadian government official, was interested in promoting immigration to the Prairies; in 1882 he proposed the migration of "agricultural Jews to our North West." These efforts resulted in the establishment of 28 families in a colony of about 9,000 acres near Moosomin in 1884. London's Mansion House committee provided each family with loans to buy cattle, implements, and food. Two years later, five Jewish families had settled near Wapella, including Ekiel *Bronfman, the founder of what was to become a prominent family. There were many more Jewish farm colony experiments on the Prairies in subsequent years, some of them moderately successful and others of only fleeting duration. The lure of the open plains as a place for the rehabilitation of East European Jews continued to interest many, although the Jewish Colonization Association's Paris officials were less sanguine about Canada than they were about Argentina.
Most Jews, in short, did not move to rural areas. Montreal Jewry was nevertheless severely strained by its staggering rate of growth during these years. While the city's total metropolitan population grew by some 55 percent in the 1880s and by 25 percent in the 1890s, the city's Jewish population rose by an average of nearly 300 percent in the same period.
Rise of an Ethnic Economy
Some of these immigrants took to peddling, a form of penny capitalism pursued by their predecessors. In Montreal the Baron de Hirsch Institute provided small start-up loans for these peddlers. Other forms of small-scale commerce also abounded: clothing, confectionery, fish and grocery stores, kosher bakeries, and butcher shops. Some men were employed within the Jewish community as ritual slaughterers, teachers, or rabbis. These and others in the service sector, many of them self-employed, constituted as much as 30 percent of the Jewish gainfully employed, approximately the same level that was obtained in Russia in the 1890s.
Many Jews were drawn to the booming ready-made clothing industry. Protected by high tariffs and stimulated by rising demand in the St. Lawrence Valley and in the more distant hinterlands, the industry's output doubled in the 1870s and doubled again in the 1880s. By 1900 clothing production was the province's second-largest industry. Many Jews found easy entry into the clothing industry, responding to its low capital requirements and the constant demand for seasonal labor in factories or in home workshops. By the 1880s, a new class of Jewish clothing manufacturers also emerged.
Served by several railway systems that reached into the interior and all the way to *Vancouver, clothing production mushroomed in Montreal, Toronto, and Hamilton. The lesson of how most of their Jewish employers had become successful manufacturers or contractors was not lost on immigrants, and that role model was emulated time and again in subsequent years. Many Jews were willing to work in this industry, at least temporarily, and to endure the low wage rates, seasonal unemployment, and miserable conditions. The sweatshops where they worked attracted notoriety and public outrage during federal government investigations. Reports by provincial factory inspectors on the existence of sweatshops in the Montreal clothing industry received full exposure in the Jewish Times which revealed appalling conditions and called upon the "Baron de Hirsch" to start a program training Jewish immigrants in other trades.
By 1900 Canada's Jewish community had grown and changed considerably from its earliest days. With its sizeable numbers of Romanians, Russians, and Poles, it was more diverse, and a more decidedly East European flavor was present. A distinct class structure had emerged, tending to sharpen differences among Jews. Workers in tailoring shops and clothing factories, machinists in railroad yards, tradesmen, peddlers, and small storekeepers had different economic agendas than the newly moneyed owners of substantial real estate, clothing manufacturers and contractors, and proprietors of large businesses.
The Rise of Antisemitism
Public reaction to the increasing number of Jews in Montreal during the 1880s and 1890s was generally accepting, evoking no alarm or animosity from the major urban newspapers. An exception was Quebec's La Vérité, which published antisemitic articles in the early 1880s (most of them drawn from militant ultramontane publications in France) and screeds favorable to Edouard *Drumont's diatribe La France juive as well as to other French antisemitic publications. La Vérité's editor urged its readers "to be on guard against the Jews, to prevent them from establishing themselves here…. The Jews are a curse, a curse from God." These outbursts encouraged other French Canadian antisemites. Many antisemitic articles were published during the first stage of the *Dreyfus affair. But the major French newspapers in Quebec remained neutral. The most avowedly antisemitic of major Montreal newspapers of the 1890s was not a French publication but the daily serving the city's English-speaking Catholics. The True Witness and Daily Chronicle carried strongly partisan material during both Dreyfus trials, unabashedly in the camp of the French anti-Dreyfusards.
Meanwhile in Toronto, Goldwin Smith, a leading intellectual of his day, became Canada's best-known Jew-hater. Widely believed to be a liberal spirit, Smith was so virulent an antisemite that he gained notoriety for it throughout the English-speaking world. He claimed that the cause of the Boer War was Britain's demand that the franchise be extended to "the Jews and gamblers of Johannesburg"; that Jews were gaining greater control over the world's press and influencing public opinion; that "the Jews have one code of ethics for themselves, another for the Gentile"; that Disraeli was a "contemptible trickster and adventurer, who could not help himself because he was a Jew. Jews are no good anyhow"; that "the Jew is a Russophobe"; and so on.
Despite a growing atmosphere of Canadian racial prejudice, Jews sometimes fared better in the racial sweepstakes than other immigrant groups. Methodist minister and Social Gospeller J.S. Woodsworth, whose book about immigrants, Strangers within Our Gates, was suffused by the racism characteristic of some turn-of-the-century social commentators, in fact seems to have regarded Jews as more adaptable, assimilable, and culturally suitable to Canada than Ukrainians, Italians, Chinese, or blacks. The Winnipeg General Strike of 1919 witnessed more anti-Ukrainian than anti-Jewish sentiment, despite the fact that the strike probably had as much support among the Jewish working class as among Ukrainians, and the fact that Abraham Heaps – an English Jew – was among its major leaders.
Jews remained nevertheless prime targets of prejudice. In 1904 the Lord's Day Alliance, an organization devoted to protecting the sanctity of the Sabbath, viciously attacked Orthodox Jews who had complained about Sunday observance laws, stating that they "had sought out our land FOR THEIR OWN GOOD" and should conform to Canada's "civil customs." Reverend S.D. Chown, head of the Canadian Methodist Church in the early 1900s, called Jews parasites in the national bloodstream and another influential clergyman pointed out that "Jews have much to do with commercialized vice." As late as 1920, Dr. C.K. Clarke, Canada's leading psychiatrist, argued strenuously against allowing the immigration of refugee Jewish children from the Ukrainian famine on the grounds that they "belong to a very neurotic race."
University academics also were given to antisemitism. In 1919 Dr. R. Bruce Taylor, principal of Queen's University, rejoiced in the fact that there were only five Jews at Queen's, explaining: "The presence of many Jews tended to lower the tone of Canadian Universities." Dean Moyse of McGill reportedly resented the presence of Russian Jews in his English classes because they "were not even conversant with Shakespeare." At McGill, steps were taken to reduce the number of Jews. While they constituted 25 percent of arts students, 15 percent of medical students, and 40 percent of law students in 1920, university officials began to impose stiff quotas that would severely reduce those percentages during the interwar years.
Meanwhile, the early 20th century witnessesed a rise in French Canadian antisemitism as well. The Catholic Church, strongly ultramontane in spirit and drawing inspiration from Rome and France, perceived Jews as dangerous aliens. Accused of being allied with the anti-clericals, socialists, and freemasons, they were seen as threats to the preservation of a Catholic Quebec, while some young nationalists viewed them, along with the English, as an entirely foreign and dangerously disruptive element. As the "spearhead" of modern capitalism, the Jews were perceived as exploiters and destroyers of the purity and sacredness of Quebec's rural way of life. Leading intellectual and newspaper editor Henri Bourassa had only contempt for the poor ghetto-dwellers in Montreal's Jewish quarter. In his remarks to the House of Commons on the proposed Lord's Day legislation in 1906, he dismissed the effect on observant Jews, condemning provisions of the bill which would exempt Jews, as these were added, "pandering to the Jewish vote." To Bourassa Jews were "vampires on the community instead of being contributors to the general welfare of the people" and are "detrimental to the public welfare."
Jewish-Protestant relations fared only somewhat better. In Quebec education was divided along confessional lines. In 1894 the Protestant School Board of Montreal accepted responsibility for providing elementary schooling to the city's growing number of Jewish immigrant children. In return it received school taxes collected on Jewish-owned property. The Board also agreed to pay a salary of $800 annually to a teacher who would provide religious and Hebrew-language instruction to the Jewish pupils. But the Protestants felt aggrieved. Few Jews owned land, and the costs to the Board seemed to outweigh the benefits. In 1901 the Board denied a scholarship to a Jewish child. It should be noted, however, that Jewish children were never actually barred from Protestant schools. Nor were they forced to accept instruction in the Christian faith, or penalized for excusing themselves during religious instruction. While they were, in certain ways, made to feel unwelcome, and while Jewish teachers were not employed, all Jewish pupils seeking admission were accepted, received instruction, and enjoyed other facilities.
For all the ill-feeling over the school question, Jews reacted most assertively to the open support that at least some segments of the Quebec Catholic community gave to the most obscene medieval myths and superstitions about Jews. In the early 1900s a rising tide of antisemitic propaganda pervaded many of Quebec's nationalist and clerical newspapers. A major complaint was the increasing Jewish purchases of houses and businesses in the areas where both communities lived side by side. After 1910 much of this hate literature circulated in the clubs of the newly organized Association canadienne de la jeunesse catholique, an organization of French Canadian youth for nationalist and religious action.
On March 30, 1910, a Quebec City notary, Joseph Edouard Plamondon, delivered a lecture at the local club of Jeunesse catholique advancing some of the foulest lies about Judaism, including ritual murder. Jews did not believe that Russian-style pogroms would occur in Canada but feared that deep-seated Christian antisemitism could be reinvigorated by the repetition of such horrendous lies and might lead to highly unpleasant manifestations. One rabbi wired the federal minister of justice asking him to "direct [the] attorney general of Quebec to stop antisemitic agitation and [calls] for massacre against the Jews of Quebec." Continuing hysterically, the rabbi warned that "large meetings to plan riots against Jews [will] take place Wednesday night [in] Quebec city." The Jewish community sued Plamondon for libel.
On the whole, however, the Jews recognized that the existence of these and other manifestations of antisemitism – however nasty and frightening they might be – were only a pale shadow of what they experienced in Europe. Despite antisemitism, Jewish men (and a few women) attended universities, Jewish storekeepers and peddlers plied their trade, Jewish workers labored alongside non-Jews and walked the same picket lines, and Jewish householders shared neighborhoods with Christians. The Dominion of Canada allowed these and other possibilities for the blessings of peace, freedom, and opportunity.
In the late 19th century, off in the west, Victoria's population had already peaked in size, and Jews in *London, Ontario; Saint John, New Brunswick; and Halifax, Nova Scotia, were by the 1880s numerous enough to enjoy regular minyanim. Toronto's Jewish population grew by slightly more than 100 percent during the 1890s, Hamilton's by 50 percent, and Winnipeg's by about 90 percent. *Ottawa's Jewish population, on the other hand, rose by 800 percent during the 1890s, both *Windsor, Ontario and Saint John, New Brunswick grew by over 900 percent, and Quebec City by 600 percent. By 1900 all of these cities and towns, as well as Halifax, London, and Vancouver, possessed synagogues. In Winnipeg, the tiny Jewish community, which included only a handful of Jews in 1881, grew to more than a thousand Jews, with two active synagogues, by the turn of the century.
Toronto's first congregation, Holy Blossom, formed in 1856 and was housed in a modest new building as of 1875. But the new immigrants of the 1880s and 1890s were not easily absorbed into Holy Blossom, especially once the congregation opened its magnificent new building on Bond Street in 1898. The congregation incorporated elements of Reform into the services at the new synagogue, including prayers in English, mixed seating, organ music, and a choir. In Montreal, on the other hand, both major synagogues were decidedly Orthodox, and the Reform group was very small. Yet these distinctions in liturgy and ritual observance were of less importance in dividing Toronto's older and newer sub-communities than the social and cultural barriers between them. Sigmund *Samuel, the son of a well-to-do hardware merchant who had been the "moving spirit" in building the Richmond Street synagogue, completed his secular education at the elite Upper Canada College and the Toronto Model School, while his formal prebar mitzvah Jewish tutoring was limited to after-school hours. Although he experienced some anti-Jewish discrimination, Samuel became wealthy and circulated comfortably in Toronto's elite circles. Other Toronto Jews were so assimilated that the new Jewish immigrants regarded them as Gentiles. As a result, East European Jews established their own synagogues and organizational structures. The cleavages between uptown and downtown Jews widened.
Not only was the Jewish community divided, but it faced a divided Canada. The "sense of mission" among many Anglophone intellectuals was offset by the emergence in French Canada of a national ideology combining ultramontanism, messianism, and anti-statism. At the same time, many Canadian Jews understood that, while part of "Amerika," Canada was a unique society. It was not as secular, as democratic, as nationalistic, as liberal a nation – at least theoretically – as the real "Amerika," even though Canada held out the same promise of freedom from persecution, and of a better material life for them and their children. It must have seemed a paradox to the Jews settling in Canada that they had arrived in a country where a major province like Quebec should be reminiscent of Eastern Europe, with its masses of poor "peasants," its extensive system of Roman Catholic religious institutions, and a ubiquitous state-recognized clergy.
Continuing Immigration and Settlement
Jewish immigration rose between 1901 and 1922, to levels which have never since been equaled. Most of the Jewish immigrants were concentrated in the metropolitan centers. Between 1901 and 1911, Montreal's Jewish population grew by more than 400 percent, while Toronto's increased by nearly 600 percent, although the growth rates between 1911 and 1921 were a much more modest 60 and 70 percent, respectively. The Ottawa and Hamilton communities also grew dramatically during these decades, by about 400 percent from 1901 to 1911 and 70 and 50 percent, respectively.
The most noteworthy expansion between 1901 and 1911 occurred in the west, where Winnipeg's Jewish community experienced a staggering 800 percent increase and Vancouver's nearly 500 percent. Meanwhile, smaller centers in western Canada, such as *Calgary, *Edmonton, *Regina, and *Saskatoon, grew rapidly. Rare was the small town of booming western Canada that did not have one or two Jewish families by the early 1920s.
Small Town Jewries
The dispersion of the Jewish population outside metropolitan centers and secondary cities was also occurring in central Canada, especially in southwestern and northern Ontario and the Maritimes. By the outbreak of WWI many of these small communities boasted a synagogue. Jewish concentrations in the Maritime provinces also increased.
The importance of this sprinkling of small Jewish communities across Canada does not lie so much in the numbers involved. They were, after all, not large enough to indicate a significant demographic shift away from the metropolitan centers. The point about Jewish communities in Glace Bay, Brantford, and Moose Jaw, to take regional examples, is that they represent another dimension of the Canadian Jewish experience. Jewish life in these places differed in important ways from life in Montreal, Toronto, and Winnipeg, where Jews constituted a critical mass – a substantial minority in neighborhoods, schools, and workplaces. Small-town Jews had little such built-in community. There were too few Jews to form a distinctive neighborhood, and because they were almost entirely small-scale businessmen: storekeepers, peddlers, or junk collectors, they dealt daily with non-Jews. They lived among them, and their children were often the only non-Christians in the public schools they attended. On the cultural frontier between the Jewish and non-Jewish worlds, they were more directly exposed, on the one hand, to influences which drew them away from their identity as Jews, and on the other, to the need to explain and defend that identity on an almost daily basis.
The small-town Jew did not enjoy the luxuries of landsmanschaften, political clubs, and other forms of cultural expression that were emerging strongly in large centers. The forms of local association were often limited to the local synagogue, the B'nai B'rith lodge, and for women, *Hadassah and the synagogue Ladies' Auxiliary. For the youth, after 1917, there was usually a branch of Young Judaea. Jewish cultural life was also derived from Yiddish newspapers and magazines from New York, Toronto, and Montreal, or from an occasional speaker, frequently a Zionist fundraiser. Small-town Jews huddled close to each other for mutual support. Here, nothing could be taken for granted.
Unlike metropolitan centers, in small towns there was little or no Jewish working class. Most Jews were storekeepers, usually selling men's or women's clothing, furniture, or shoes. Others might operate a grocery, a theater, a flour mill, a candy store, or a dry cleaning shop. Some of these Jews began as peddlers selling merchandise from small carts or buggies from farm to farm in rural areas, or along the streets in towns and villages, securing the merchandise on credit from a Toronto, Montreal, or Winnipeg wholesaler. In a few years one might then open a small store. Instead of cash, some peddlers would take livestock or produce as payment, while still others accepted any scrap metal, hides, or furs that farmers had for barter. Thus, small-town Jewish commerce typically began on a partially rural basis, with the peddler providing an exchange, not simply selling merchandise in return for cash. Those seeking scrap metals, for example, often offered new kitchen utensils to farmers in exchange for cast-off implements. Such metals would be hauled back to the peddler's yard, knocked apart with sledgehammers, thrown into piles, and sold off to brokers who bought the lot to feed the steel mills in Hamilton, Sydney, and Sault Ste. Marie. Others collected rags, cleaned and shredded them, and sold off the product as "shoddy" to mills. Some dealt in hides and furs which they assembled, cleaned, sorted, and sold to brokers from the city.
The Western farm colonies, most of them in Saskatchewan, grew in the early 20th century. Mostly under the direct management of the Jewish Colonization Association, the settlement projects there were professionally managed and better financed. But their fortunes were in decline.
By 1931, of all Jews who had settled on the Prairies, more than 60 percent were no longer living on farms. In 1921 only one in four Jews living in rural areas was directly engaged in agriculture, forestry, or mining. There were 700 Jewish farm families in all of Canada in 1921, the peak year of the colonization movement, most of them in Western Canada. But that farm population dropped significantly over the next decade, and by 1931 the whole Jewish agrarian experiment was in serious trouble. Within ten years, the Depression all but wiped out the colonies, even though a few families held on for another generation.
There were some exceptions, but the farming movement had failed to generate a significant Jewish rural life in Canada. Like the settlement schemes fostered by the ICA in Argentina, the Canadian Jewish colonies suffered from confusing changes in management and perhaps from an overdependence on the ICA. Meanwhile, restrictions on immigration introduced in the mid-1920s severely curtailed recruitment of new settlers. While all of these factors were, no doubt, important in the ultimate failure of the colonies, it is clear that – in contrast to colonies established by Mennonites and Hutterites – most Jews showed a low commitment to the agricultural way of life and gravitated to the major urban centers. Certainly, none of these Jewish settlements demonstrated the strong social ideals that underpinned the kibbutz movement in Palestine.
Urban Social Problems and Adjustment
Poverty, sickness, and burial were the most serious problems in metropolitan centers. In Montreal, the Baron de Hirsch Institute and its associated charity were extremely busy after 1900 offering assistance to those in need. There were so many burials of Jewish indigents (including 139 children) in 1908, for example, that local cemeteries ran out of space. Because the Institute's doctors' caseload tripled between 1907 and 1913, the Herzl Health Clinic was established to cope with the sick, many afflicted with tuberculosis. Mount Sinai Sanatorium was established in the Laurentian highlands near Ste.-Agathe, while for the growing numbers of children needing care an orphanage was built in the city's western suburbs.
Mutual benefit societies flourished. In Toronto in the early 1900s, they helped to lessen the pain "of alienation, loneliness and rootlessness in a strange new country," as well as the economic problems of adjustment. The members were mostly those who could not afford synagogue membership or were secularists. Three types of mutual benefit societies existed in Toronto: the non-partisan and ethnically mixed, the left-wing, and the landsmanschafetn, whose members were all from the same area of Europe. Altogether, there were 30 mutual benefit organizations in the city by 1925: ten landsmanschaften, eight ethically mixed societies, and 12 branches of the left-wing Arbeiter Ring (Workmen's Circle), each of them with memberships ranging from 80 to 500.
There was also a decided working-class orientation to these associations, even those that were not labor-oriented Workmen's Circle lodges: the Pride of Israel and the Judaean Benevolent and Friendly Society "often gave assistance to striking workers." Member benefits usually included payments during illness (excluding those caused by "immoral actions") and family doctors' visits, and free burial in the society's cemetery. Many also provided small loans at low interest. The annual price of this protection cost each member as much as two weeks' wages.
Just as important were the social and psychological benefits provided by the landsmanschaften. Members could share nostalgic reminiscences about Czestochowa, Miedzyrzec, Ostrow, or other Polish towns and cities from which Jews came to Toronto. The Workmen's Circle lodges provided left-wing ideology that stressed Jewish cultural autonomism, a comfort both to working men in an exploitative economic climate and to Yiddish speakers.
To those without the protection of such associations, cash, coal, food, bedding, and cooking utensils were dispensed by the Toronto Hebrew Ladies Aid; similar organizations sprang up for specific congregations, along with charities offering maternity care and child care and other social assistance needs. And in 1909 the Jewish dispensary was established to supply the poor with medicines and medical advice. An orphanage was established in 1910 and an old-age home in 1913.
In Winnipeg, beginning in 1884 the Hebrew Benevolent Society provided relief for the needy, jobs for the unemployed, railroad tickets for those intending to resettle elsewhere, help for the farm colonies, and assistance for other communal efforts. In 1909 it was reorganized as the United Hebrew Charities. Differences of opinion over priorities between the poorer and more numerous Jews of the north end and those of the prosperous south side were resolved by an amalgamated organization called the United Relief of Winnipeg in 1914. Two orphanages were established by 1917, and in 1919 the Jewish Old Folks Home of Western Canada was founded. As in Toronto, landsmanschaften, fraternal orders, mutual benefit societies in Winnipeg provided material support and a "wraparound culture" of social and cultural activities that involved their members in regular, almost familial association.
In major Canadian cities, lending societies serving the entire community like the Montreal Association Hebrew Free Loan provided a boost to Jewish penny capitalism. In 1918, of the more than 1,000 applicants, 31 were classified as ritual slaughterers, Hebrew teachers, or Jewish booksellers; 24 as merchants or manufacturers; 46 as peddlers (jewelry, eyeglasses, dry goods, tea, coffee, etc.); 21 as shopowners (plumbing, blacksmith, tinsmith, upholstering, and cooperage); and 25 as agents for other businesses. Other occupations included 16 farmers; 11 contractors (building, electrical, painting, carpentry); 38 custom tailors, tailor shop owners, or contractors; and 44 milk, bread, fruit, or ginger-ale peddlers. There were 47 shoe-repair store owners; 77 country, junk, rag, second-hand clothing, furniture, and fur peddlers; 54 small proprietors; 345 working men; and 239 store owners (jewelry, drugs, clothing, dry goods, hardware, shoes, fruit, grocery, second-hand goods, butcher, bread, and barber shop). While most of these loans were for business purposes, 38 were for remittances to Europe and five "to marry off a daughter."
Sin was also of concern. Rumors of "white slave" trade into North and South America led Lillian *Freiman of Ottawa to voice deep concern in an address to Hadassah members over the fate of orphaned Jewish girls in Eastern Europe who were being lured to South America "into a future worse than death [by] … human vultures." While only a small part of this traffic appears to have extended into Canada, the "Baron de Hirsch" took notice of the danger and cooperated with international organizations and the National Council of Jewish Women in attempting to arrest its spread. From time to time, Montreal was alleged to be a site of some of this activity, and Vancouver a way-station on the Pacific. In 1908 Toronto newspapers reported the arrest and deportation to the United States of two local Jews, well known to the Chicago police as brothel keepers, and wanted on charges of white slavery. The 1915 Toronto Social Survey Commission noted that Jewish pimps were active in Jewish neighborhoods, probably servicing mainly a Jewish clientele, and there were allegations that many of the city's bootleggers were Jews. The fact that some prominent Montreal Jews – like Samuel Schwartz and Rabbi Nathan *Gordon – took part in campaigns to suppress corruption and vice, including rampant prostitution, reflected their progressive and reformist impulses, and, possibly, a sense of guilt over Jewish participation in such crimes.
In Canada the "world of our mothers" also began to change. The first generation of Jewish women immigrants from Central Europe were influenced by social reform ideas then current among their non-Jewish contemporaries, and looked to "deliver Jewish women from their second bondage of ignorance and misery." Some organized aid committees and, later, the National Council of Jewish Women. East European women who arrived later formed the Hadassah organization in 1917 for the welfare of women and children in Palestine. But the Jewish women of the third wave of immigration, during the years of mass immigration after 1900, often found work in factories. Because of their lack of familiarity with the English language, they avoided joining Hadassah. They gravitated towards socialist organizations, like the Labor Zionists, the Social Democratic Party, and the Workmen's Circle. Despite gender barriers set up against them by the Jewish unions, "Jewish women played an important part within the Jewish labour movement … [with] militancy and class consciousness …." North American social and economic conditions were inducing different segments of Jewish society to conform to new norms, which were changing the role of women within the community.
Emergence of Zionism
The experience of the Canadian Zionist movement is an example of the national variations that occurred in the Zionist camp. At the first and second Zionist Congresses, Theodor *Herzl interpreted political Zionism as a call to sympathizers in the West to organize local Jewish support for the movement, while remaining good citizens of the countries in which they lived. Canadian Zionists could afford to be more strident than their American cousins partly because of the absence of a countervailing pan-Canadian nationalism and the more Zionism-compatible religious traditionalism of Canadian Jews. Zionism in Canada also owed much to the organizational genius of Clarence de *Sola, for 20 years the head of the Federation of Canadian Zionist Societies (FCZS). Under de Sola the movement increased numerically and spread throughout widely dispersed Canadian Jewish communities.
Fundraising became both the Canadian Zionist raison d'être and the measure of its success. Zionism demanded financial help from Canadian Jews, and they responded. The habit of giving became a substitute for a deeper, more positive experience. Discussion and debate on first principles and development of Jewish culture within the Zionist movement did not attract many participants. By the end of World War I, Canadian Zionism had produced only a few intellectuals with the ability to culturally energize the movement, or challenge the Federation's leadership.
During World War I Canadian Zionists supported a recruitment campaign for the *Jewish Legion, a 5,000-man force – the first Jewish military formation in modern times – organized to fight under Britain's General *Allenby to liberate Palestine from the Ottoman Turks. The Canadian government agreed to allow Jews who were "not subject to conscription in Canada" to join up. An officer from the British army arrived in Canada in late 1917 to begin a country-wide recruiting drive. Hundreds of Jews already in the Canadian military – both volunteers and conscripts – transferred to the Legion.
World War I also created a context for Canadian Zionists that differed significantly from that of American Jewry. Loyalty to Britain's cause provided Zionists with opportunities to identify their purposes with Britain's imperial mission. As far back as 1903, when the *Uganda proposal was under consideration, de Sola had spoken eloquently on the subject of Zion's redemption under the British flag. Fourteen years later, when Allenby's armies were poised in Egypt for an assault against Turkish Palestine, de Sola saw the British liberation of Eretz Israel as the dawning of a new messianic age. Thus mesmerized, he even announced at the 14th convention of the Federation in 1917 that it was time for the re-establishment of the Sanhedrin as the supreme court of Jewish law and the governing council of the people of Israel. Canadian Zionists were therefore able to identify their cause within the context of British Canadian nationalism, and without raising the question of whether adherence to Zionism conflicted with their loyalty to Canada.
After 1917 most Zionist women's groups in the country came in under the umbrella of Canadian Hadassah, which spread to every community. It became the most active arm of Zionism in Canada, infusing the movement with a sense of immediate and pressing urgency. In large and small centers Hadassah worked fervently for Palestinian causes, first for the Helping Hand Fund, and later for a Girls' Domestic and Agricultural Science School at Nahalal, a Nurses' Training School in Jerusalem, and a convalescent home and hospital for tuberculars. Innumerable raffles, bazaars, teas, and tag sales found members successfully raising money under leaders like Lillian Freiman, Rose *Dunkleman, and Anna Raginsky, who personified the Zionist cause to the thousands of Jewish women across Canada who worked to help their sisters in Palestine. The more ideologically committed Pioneer Women and Mizrachi Women performed similar tasks for their communities.
Zionist women's organizations in Canada were an expression of the earliest impulse among Canadian Jewish women for an independent voice and an emphasis on priorities which they chose to identify and support. In this sense, it was a vehicle for their Canadianization; it provided a medium of accommodation to a number of the cultural and social values shared by their non-Jewish sisters. It also served as an entrée into society in both the Jewish and the non-Jewish Canadian world. It raised the profile of Jewish women as Jews, as Canadians, and, above all, as women. Within the Jewish community the moral influence, political power, and fundraising ability of these women were of great significance. By 1920 Hadassah was the strongest, most coherent, and best-led national organization on the Canadian Jewish scene.
Corner of Pain and Anguish
The clothing industry was vital to the economic life of Jews in the major cities. The 1931 census shows that in Montreal 16 percent of all gainfully employed Jews worked in the industry, while in Toronto it was more than 27 percent, Winnipeg just under 12 percent, and Vancouver almost 9 percent. In 1931 Jews composed approximately 31 percent of all Canadian workers engaged in the manufacture of ready-made women's wear, 41 percent of the workforce in ready-made men's clothing, almost 27 percent in other clothing items, and almost 35 percent in hats and caps. Absorbing such a high percentage of all Jews "gainfully employed," the needle industry, or the "rag trade" as it was sometimes called, was easily the outstanding fact of Jewish economic life in Toronto and Montreal.
In the preceding decades, the percentages were probably even higher. Piecework, contractors, crowded conditions, dirty garret shops, immigrant labor – the hated "sweating system" – marked the industry, despite the publicity of the royal commissions and the accelerating tempo of strikes and picket line violence. Factory workers, many of them mere children who worked for a pittance, depressed wages in the industry. Seasonality was another problem. In the periods between the major production runs of July to September for fall deliveries, and January to March for spring deliveries, there were long layoffs for cutters, and only part-time work for operators. These conditions made it easy for employers to dictate terms of employment. In May 1904 jobs were so scarce that a planned strike was called off. Firms forced employees to post a formidable deposit guaranteeing that they would not strike; some employers would then foment a strike and pocket the monies from the guarantee.
In Montreal women's clothing factories, Jewish pressers and cloakmakers battling for union recognition had to confront intra-ethnic animosity. One employer – himself a Jew – demanded that "foreign [Jewish] agitators be deported," claiming that "not one of our native born employees were affected." In March 1908 the workers at a leading menswear company – owned by a prominent community leader – struck for a reduction in their work week from 61 hours to 48. Other fierce confrontations such as these ensued in cities all across Canada.
The fact that Jewish workers were locked in a struggle with Jewish employers, Jewish strike-breakers, and, sometimes, even Jewish gangsters (some of them arrivals from New York) during these confrontations, which continued for another generation, created deep and lasting divisions within communities. Beneath the surface, Jewish communal solidarity did not exist. Jewish employers blacklisted striking Jewish clothing workers. Union leaders even alleged that, as heads of Montreal Jewish charities like the "Baron de Hirsch," employers denied help to strikers who applied for it. Bitterness spilled over into other sectors of the city's Jewish life. When leading menswear manufacturer and communal leader Lyon *Cohen officiated at the opening of a new synagogue, a crowd of clothing workers hooted, jeered, and threatened violence to force him off the bimah. Economic warfare had thus penetrated into the sanctuary of the Lord.
Labor activity also spilled over into politics. In the early 1900s, the Toronto local of the Socialist Party of Canada had a large number of Jewish members, including women, while in 1911 the Social Democratic Party's Toronto Jewish locals participated in efforts to organize a socialist Sunday School. In September 1918 police wanted to outlaw the Jewish Social Democratic Party and monitor select Yiddish newspapers as part of a general program of censorship and surveillance of ethnic workers and organizations which had been declared subversive under wartime regulations. During Canada's "Red Scare" of 1919, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police believed that Jews were leading the Russian Workers' Party and that Jewish radicals were particularly dangerous because, as a cultural minority, they were especially hostile towards Anglo Canadians. During anti-alien riots in Winnipeg in January and February 1919, a Jewish-owned business was wrecked. Military intelligence reports held that two members of the Jewish Social Democratic Party in Montreal were the city's "cleverest and most outspoken" radicals. Three Jews were included among the five "foreigners" rounded up under Section 41 of the Criminal Code outlawing sedition following the 1919 Winnipeg General Strike. Three Winnipeg Jewish socialists were classified as dangerous enemy aliens, subjected to weeks of police surveillance, and charged with seditious conspiracy. They were threatened with deportation and jailed.
Education and Culture
All the while, within the Jewish community education was given a high priority. Talmud Torahs, following Old World tradition, were open to all regardless of ability to pay, and employed curricula stressing traditional subjects including Bible, Hebrew, Yiddish, prayers, and often Talmud and Mishnah. While the religious influences were strong, especially at the United Talmud Torah of Montreal and the Toronto Hebrew Free School (later known as the Brunswick Street Talmud Torah), certain "modern" ideals made their appearance, including instruction in modern Hebrew. The Winnipeg Hebrew Free Schools, which began offering instruction in 1905, put especially strong emphasis on Hebrew, not only as a subject but as a living language in which most subjects were taught.
In the early 1900s, daily Yiddish newspapers made their appearance in all three major cities: Montreal's Kanader Adler, Toronto's Yiddisher Zhurnal, and Winnipeg's Dos Yiddishe Vort. Dailies from the United States and even from Europe had been available for many years previously, and continued to attract many readers in Canada. By the end of the 1910s, Lazar Rosenberg collected the work of Canadian Yiddish poets and essayists – which often first appeared in the Yiddish press – in the anthology, Kanada: A Zamelbuch. This was a modest effort, to be sure, but it represented an important benchmark of self-expression by Canadian Yiddish authors. Here, in poetry, short stories, and essays, appeared the anguish and hopes of the immigrant. Jacob Segal celebrated Canada in his poem entitled "Af fraye vegn" ("On Free Roads"). Of Toronto's Yiddish poets, Shimon Nepom was the most renowned; a streetcar conductor, he wrote prolifically, publishing slim volumes of poetry – the last was entitled Tramvai Lider ("Streetcar Poems"). Yiddish culture also thrived in the smaller centers. In London, Ontario, for example, Dr. Isidore Goldstick, a high school language teacher, published translations of Yiddish literature in English, while Melech Grafstein published various Yiddish works, and two major English anthologies devoted to the Yiddish writers Judah Leib *Peretz and *Shalom Aleichem.
Thus the East Europeans who arrived prior to 1920 introduced far-reaching changes in Canadian Jewish life, the impact of which lasted for at least another generation. Not only did they create a parallel set of cultural, religious, and welfare institutions, with their vereins, makeshift shuls, landsmanschaften, newspapers, unions, and clubs, they also revolutionized Jewish political life on several different levels. They pressed for a democratic Jewish voice to speak out on issues of Jewish concern.
As an expression of that democratic impulse, the East European Jews established the *Canadian Jewish Congress (CJC). When the CJC – which convened at Montreal's Monument National on March 15, 1919, to address Canadian Jewish concerns and the fate of Jews in Eastern Europe – adjourned late in the evening of March 19, it had established for itself a formidable agenda. The main orientation of the CJC was domestic. Strong anti-alien sentiment was on the rise during and after World War I. The Winnipeg General Strike of May and June 1919 (which was attributed to "foreigners," especially the Austrians, Galicians, and Jews), the emergence of the Social Democratic Party and, in 1921, the Communist Party of Canada inflamed nativist and anti-immigrant sentiments. In this atmosphere of anti-immigrant suspicion and hatred, Jews were the object of special resentment. What is more, Canadian regulations against the immigration of "enemy aliens" implemented in 1919 prohibited the landing of Austrian, German, Bulgarian, and Turkish Jews. While Jews were later exempted from the enemy alien provision, the CJC remained deeply concerned about other immigration regulations concerning proper papers, a minimum amount of money in hand upon arrival, and continuous voyages as well as revisions to the immigration act that granted admitting officers wide discretionary powers. In November 1920 a new directive greatly raised the amount of cash needed by each immigrant. In the face of growing restrictions, CJC officials attempted to convince Canadian authorities that Canada should offer itself as a haven for Jewish refugees from the war, many of whom already had relatives in Canada.
By 1921, however, Congress was hobbled by a lack of leadership and funding. It stumbled on for a year or two and then virtually disappeared as a force in Canadian Jewish life. Thus through the 1920s, Canadian Jewry was without a unifying voice, without a constituent forum for the expression of opinions from across the intellectual spectrum, and without a voice for its collective concerns, such as immigration.
Between 1921 and 1941, the Canadian Jewish population increased by approximately 26 percent to reach nearly 170,000. Compared with the total Canadian population between the world wars, Jews were more urbanized, more concentrated in lower-middle-class occupations, and better educated; divorce rates were higher, while fertility, death, and natural increase rates were lower. The Canadian Jewish population was also younger, and growing in major cities. This was especially so in Toronto, where the Jewish population rose by 35 percent during the 1920s, more than the growth rates of Montreal and Winnipeg. While the majority of Canadian Jews were concentrated in the downtown cores, suburbanization was under way as Toronto's Jews began moving into York township and Forest Hill; Montrealers into Outremont, Westmount, and Notre Dame de Grace; and Winnipegers north into newer areas.
And Jews outside the main cities were also urban. In nearly every city and town, as well as in many western villages, there was a Jewish presence, if only a general store. In some, there was also a Jewish district, a group of stores constituting an ethnic sub-economy of delicatessens, bakeries, groceries, clothing stores, pawnshops, and institutions, which catered largely to a predominantly Jewish residential district close by. Such places were not "ghettos" in any sense. They were neighborhoods like Montreal's The Main, Toronto's Kensington Market, and Winnipeg's North End, where there was a large Jewish community, and where there was an opportunity to buy Jewish food, books, and religious items and attend Jewish religious, social, and political gatherings.
Outside of these neighborhoods, Jewish-owned clothing stores, metal or upholstery workshops, and junkyards across the city served a larger clientele. Those businesses that were located in the "Jewish area," on the other hand, were specifically Jewish and were intended for a recognized and usually sizeable population. But even these neighborhoods were not exclusively Jewish. Even in those Montreal areas where Jews were in a majority, few streets or blocks were entirely Jewish; French Canadian neighbors, stores, and churches were never far away. The same was true in the other cities. In Toronto, for example, while Jewish high school students dominated Harbord Collegiate and Central Tech, the nearby Christie Pits baseball and football fields attracted a multi-ethnic presence. In Winnipeg's St. John's Collegiate, Jews, while numerous, rubbed shoulders with the non-Jewish majority, which included students drawn from Ukrainian, Polish, and German immigrant homes. They all shared the North End streets and parks. The lives of Jews and non-Jews, then, were interwoven in these gritty, colorful neighborhoods.
The Jews continued to adapt to their social and cultural surroundings. In late 1930s Montreal, one survey showed that English was the preferred language of Jewish newspaper and periodical readers, although in the downtown older areas of the city people preferred the Yiddish dailies by a considerable margin. But among children, even those in the old area, English publications far outsold Yiddish ones, while those in French and Hebrew ranked low. The transition to English culture was well under way. Without the antisemitism that barred even fuller Jewish integration into Montreal's Anglophone society, such transformation would probably have extended further and faster.
Antisemitism between the Wars
Antisemitism emerged in virulent forms in the interwar years. In French-speaking Quebec, the most serious antisemitic accusations held the Jews responsible for the Russian Revolution and the spread of international Communism. Articles stridently alleging these lies frequently appeared in La Semaine Commerciale, L'Action catholique, and L'Action française as well as in milder form in English dailies like the Montreal Star. Much of this antisemitism was generated by writings in L'Action catholique. Its wide clerical readership made it an especially influential newspaper in the province. Meanwhile, the "Achat Chez Nous" campaign urging French Canadians to buy only from their own and boycott Jews was a severe irritant. In English-speaking Canada, antisemitism may have been more genteel, but no less pernicious in intent. Whether rooted in canards of Jews as Christ-Killers, or Shylocks, or wrapping itself in the mantle of scientific racism and eugenics, antisemitism was equally corrosive to the opportunities for individual Jews.
The Canadian Jewish Congress, dormant since 1920, was revived in 1934, principally to battle the rise of domestic and foreign antisemitism. It sought to challenge the view among some contemporary opinion makers that "the Jew simply did not fit into their concept of Canada." As a result, Jews were denied professional, residential, and economic opportunities. Occasional antisemitic street violence – like the Toronto Christie Pits riot of August 1933 – erupted. Nazi-style uniformed "stormtroopers" also rallied and marched in several cities. In Quebec, dedicated antisemitic weeklies, such as Le Goglu, Le Mirroir, and Le Chameau, circulated by self-styled Nazi Adrien Arcand and his associates regularly featured cartoons caricaturing Jews as low, vile, and filthy. Arcand's Blue Shirts, modeled on Italian Fascist and German Nazi counterparts, marched and organized.
From his position at the Université de Montréal, the influential clerico-nationalist Abbé Lionel Groulx published denunciations of Jewish materialism, communism, and capitalism, while at the influential newspaper Le Devoir, editor Georges Pelletier regularly published antisemitic pieces, as did the editors of the monthly periodical L'Action française. Students at the Université de Montréal demonstrated against "Judeo-Bolshevism." The interns at four Montreal francophone hospitals went on strike in 1934 to protest the hiring of a Jewish intern at Notre Dame. As if these problems were not enough, Quebec Jews also had little help from the Anglo-Protestant community, which considered them, officially, second class citizens in elementary and secondary education. At the English-speaking McGill University of Montreal, Jews had serious problems gaining entry on the same basis as other Quebeckers. All of these unpleasant and menacing elements put the Jewish community on notice that, with respect to antisemitism, "la province de Québec n'est pas une province comme les autres."
In response the Congress mounted a vigorous educational campaign. In 1937 it distributed literature explaining the dangers of Nazism, the falsehood of the Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion, and the need for vigilance against antisemitism at home. In Quebec City the tiny Jewish community of about one hundred families encountered the first attempt made in Canada to pass municipal legislation specifically against Jews, while their attempts to erect a synagogue were stymied by local politicians. Ultimately successful in securing permission, their new synagogue was burned to the ground on the eve of its opening in 1944. In English-speaking Canada, the Ku Klux Klan surfaced briefly in the 1920s carrying powerful antisemitic messages warning of Jewish domination in industry, corruption, plots against Christianity, and vice.
Among the most tangible impact of rising antisemitism was the imposition of anti-Jewish immigration control. Canadian immigration policy was changing in ways that adversely affected Jews, particularly in its preference for British subjects, Anglo-Saxons, North Europeans, and farmers. In addition, the "continuous journey" regulation adversely affected East European Jews because the shipping companies serving Canadian ports did not operate out of countries like Poland and Romania, making immigration nearly impossible for migrants who did not possess a prepaid ticket to Canada. Immigration restrictions placed serious burdens on Jews who had come from war-ravaged lands of Eastern Europe and had taken refuge in other countries.
Regulations implemented in 1921 also required immigrants to have valid passports from their countries of origin. This complicated matters for many Polish and Russian Jews who escaped from the old Russian empire, now replaced by the U.S.S.R. It was impossible for them to get passports unless they returned to the U.S.S.R. to try to get one – a risk few would take. A further requirement, introduced in 1921, that all non-agricultural immigrants such as Jews possess $250 in landing money created more problems. This was replaced in 1922 by a stiff occupational test, accompanied by a stipulation that Canadian, not British, consular officials examine all passports. Since there were few Canadian consular officials posted anywhere near the East European Jewish migrants, this too constituted a stumbling block for the potential Jewish immigrant.
Canadian immigration laws were tightened even further in 1923, when regulations demanded that immigrants be ranked according to the old racial preferences into "preferred," "non-preferred," and "special permit" classes. The last category included all Jews, irrespective of countries of origin. They were subjected to the most severe restrictions by which Jews were situated almost on the very lowest level of priority, along with blacks and Asians.
One influential Jew who fought to liberalize immigration was Lillian Freiman. The wife of Ottawa department store tycoon A.J. "Archie" Freiman, she influenced Mrs. Arthur Meighen, wife of the most powerful minister in the Borden Cabinet, to lend her official support to a project to save some Jewish children who had been orphaned by the anti-Jewish persecutions in Ukraine following World War I. Meanwhile, Sam *Jacobs, a Jewish member of Parliament from Montreal, and others appealed for the admission of Jewish refugees from Ukrainian pogroms. At the same time the Jewish Immigrant Aid Society (JIAS), led by Lyon Cohen and Sam Jacobs, spear-headed the Jewish community's appeal to the government to forestall the application of even tighter restrictions.
After Lillian Freiman secured special approval to allow up to 200 of these orphans into Canada "on humanitarian grounds," she led a team to Europe to select the orphans. While waiting to take the children to Canada, she presided over a moving Sabbath celebration where, she "carried the [kiddush] cup to each child and through the tears we could see her great nachas [joy] … from this experience."
Despite increasingly severe restrictions, JIAS also successfully negotiated the entry of up to 5,000 Jews who were stranded in Eastern Europe, principally in Romania, by the Russian Revolution and ensuing civil war. By the end of the project in November 1924, only 3,400 of the 5,000 permits had been used. Lobbying to allow the rest of the permits to be taken by refugee Russian Jews stranded in Constantinople or by relatives of Canadian Jews from other parts of Europe was refused. A new restrictionist-minded bureaucracy further tightened the screws. Perhaps the extreme resistance by department officials to the petitions for allowing in Jewish refugees during the 1930s and 1940s stemmed from resentment at the heavy lobbying associated with those permits. Officials now stiffened their resolve against all non-British, especially Jewish immigrants. While not totally ended, Jewish immigration – except by those who could qualify for "special permits" as first degree family members – was effectively halted. Canada now became closed to Jews.
Bowing to restrictionist pressures from bureaucrats, nativists, racists, trade unions, and outright antisemites, Liberal Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King was firm. Despite his protestations of sympathy for the Jews in Germany in the 1930s, along with his willingness to receive Jewish delegations and meet with the Jewish MPs (Sam Jacobs, Abraham Heaps, and Samuel Spector), King was not prepared to overturn the restrictionist policy that closed Canada to the Jews.
Many Canadian intellectuals supported immigration restrictions. The distinguished historian of Canada, Arthur Lower, of Winnipeg's Wesley College severely criticized the government's previously generous immigration policies which, in his view, had attracted many unsuitable immigrants. Worse yet, it created, in Lower's eyes, a situation in which Canada's Anglo-Saxon character and institutions were jeopardized because "bad" immigrants drove "good" Canadians out of their own country.
Restrictionism, grounded in antisemitism and accorded wide public support in Canada, effectively reduced Jewish immigration into Canada. By 1931 it was less than one-fifth what it had been in 1930. Faced with immigration restrictions, the rising tide of domestic antisemitism, and the threat of Nazism abroad, the CJC sought an infusion of new leadership and money. In 1938 Montreal liquor baron and philanthropist Sam Bronfman became CJC president, and hired Saul *Hayes, a recent law graduate, as the CJC director. Buoyed by effective administration and Bronfman's financial support, the CJC made lobbying on behalf of Jewish refugee admissions a priority.
But there was no breaking Canada's wall of restrictions. Throughout the 1930s and beyond, despite desperate appeals from Jewish refugees and organizations, the government barred Jewish entry into Canada on the theory that, as one official later put it, "none is too many." When the Jewish refugee question emerged in acute form following Kristallnacht in November 1938, King told his Cabinet that "the time has come when, as a Government, we would have to perform acts which were expressive of what we believe to be the conscience of the nation, and not what might be, at the moment, politically the most expedient." But in the end, political expediency outweighed all else. Recognizing that there were few votes to be gained, and many to be lost, in admitting Jews, Canada's gates remained locked.
The Montreal School Question
Amidst deep concerns over limitations on immigration, the Jewish community of Montreal also faced special challenges because of the unique linguistic and cultural duality of the Province of Quebec. Throughout the 1920s, its leading problem was the Jewish school question, an issue which set the Montreal Jewish community apart from all others in North America. For many years, community spokesmen had demanded equal rights for Jewish pupils in the Protestant school system, which they could legally attend and were obliged to support through real-estate taxes. Eventually, some Jews even pressed for the right to establish an altogether separate Jewish school system.
Montreal Jewry was torn apart by this issue, which involved not only two major factions within the community, those who wanted a separate Jewish school system and those who wanted equal rights within the Protestant system, but also the Protestant Board of School Commissioners, the government of Quebec, the Roman Catholic hierarchy, French Canadian nationalists, and the general public of the province. The Jewish school question evoked strong opinions on all sides, and it dominated the community's agenda for the better part of a decade, leaving in its wake long-lasting division and acrimony. The controversy also accentuated the virulent antisemitism then current in Quebec. In the face of this threat, there were appeals for the establishment of a Jewish Vigilance Committee "to protect the good name of Jewry" in Montreal, where "we have been made the object of libellous attacks by certain vigilant tabloids." As a small minority, Jews had no choice but to keep a profile that made them apprehensive, defensive, and cynical. It was a bitter irony that, largely as a result of divisiveness in the Jewish community and the lopsided compromise with the Protestants in 1930, Jews were officially relegated to second-class status in the very province that, in 1832, had led the entire British Empire in extending them equal rights. Continuing attacks on Jews in the antisemitic Quebec press and the removal in 1936 of the Jewish exemption from the Quebec Sunday Observance Act (designed to protect workers against undue exploitation) increased their uncertainty.
Labor Militancy in the Clothing Industry
Profound philosophical differences over schools echoed even deeper divisions between Jewish employers and workers in the burgeoning, but fluctuating, clothing industry. Jews had become some of the largest manufacturers in the apparel trades. After World War I, there was an enormous increase in the manufacture of dresses and other women's ready-to-wear items, which became the dominant part of the womenswear sector. Known colloquially among its Jewish practitioners as the shmatta business, or the rag trade, it took on a personality of its own and attracted many daring (or foolish) entrepreneurs. The trade had rapidly increased during the war, when the market for inexpensive cotton smocks, housedresses, and shirtwaists increased, thus drawing large numbers into the factories. During the 1920s and 1930s, an even larger market emerged for inexpensive but stylish dresses for the growing numbers of women working in offices, banks, and stores.
For its workers, however, the dress industry created some of the worst labor conditions in Canada. In Montreal and Toronto, the Jewish-dominated trade unions emerged, including the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America (Amalgamated); the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union (ILGWU); the United Hat, Cap and Millinery Workers International Union; and the Industrial Union of Needle Trade Workers (IUNTW), affiliated with the Communist-affiliated Workers' Unity League. These unions were not concerned only with shop floor struggles. Their battles for better material conditions were linked to "a broader social vision." For many of their members, these unions and the struggles for improved conditions were based on socialistic ideals. But the struggle to make a living while working in such a volatile industry blunted much of the idealism and most union leaders concentrated on basic issues like the dispersion of the clothing factories (runaway shops), the improvement of wages and working conditions, and the establishment of union shops. Their goal was industrial stability.
The Jewish Left
While many young Jews were drawn to the radical and moderate left during the 1930s, it was not strictly from a desire to reform or overturn capitalism. Opposition to the growth of Fascism and Nazism were also important to the Young Communist League (YCL), which included many Jews. The RCMP even took note of the fact that at the almost all-Jewish Baron Byng High School in Montreal, the YCL's influence was "particularly strong…" and the RCMP maintained a sharp watch for Jews.
The RCMP was under no illusions that Jews dominated the Communist Party of Canada, recognizing that Jews made up less than 10 percent of the its membership. Two Jews, Fred *Rose (Rosenberg), a Polish-born Montreal electrician, and Joseph Baruch *Salsberg, a Toronto labor organizer, stood out. During the 1930s, Rose unsuccessfully ran for provincial and federal office in Montreal. However, in August 1943 he won Montreal-Cartier in a by-election, and successfully defended his seat in 1945. Nevertheless, in 1945, following revelations by defecting Soviet Embassy clerk Igor Gouzenko, Rose was arrested and charged with espionage. The court found Rose guilty of espionage and sentenced him to six years' imprisonment. He was released in 1951 and spent the remainder of his life in Poland.
Joseph Salsberg was an activist in the United Hat, Cap and Millinery Workers Union during the 1920s and 1930s and a member of the Toronto City Council in 1938. He entered provincial politics in 1943, and aided by the fact that the Soviet Union was by then an ally, was elected from Saint Andrew to the Ontario legislature, where he served until 1955.
The United Jewish People's Order (UJPO), with branches in major cities throughout Canada, was set up in 1945 by an amalgamation of the Labour League of Toronto, the Jewish Aid Society of Montreal, and the Jewish Fraternal Order of Winnipeg. While not Zionist, after World War II, UJPO, now an active component of Congress, strongly favored Jewish immigration to Palestine and the building of the Yishuv (settlement) there, until it was expelled in 1951. (It was readmitted to the CJC in 1995.) Education was also of great importance to UJPO. It supported afternoon schools, and summer camps, where programs on working-class struggles and the rising threat of Fascism were stressed.
The left *Po'alei Zion (sometimes known as Aḥdut Avodah – Po'alei Zion) thrived with educational and sick-benefit offshoots. Its main publications, Proletarishe Gedank ("Workers' Thought") and Undzr Veg ("Our Way"), included much working-class content.
In the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF), Canada's social democratic party, David *Lewis became National Secretary in 1936. He was well versed in British Labour Party thought. "My brand of socialism," remembered Lewis, a Rhodes scholar from the Bundist family background that stressed Yiddish culture and socialism, "was of the rather harsh medicine variety, the only cure for an increasingly sick system." A Polish-born agnostic, Lewis succeeded in modeling the CCF party of democratic socialism on the British Labour Party. He possessed the combined qualities of leadership, a penetrating mind, and a brilliant capacity to organize. Many of his efforts in these years focused on establishing links with the Canadian labor movement, which he recognized "was necessarily engaged on the economic front against the same forces which the party faced on the political front." Here he developed even stronger suspicions of, and antipathies towards, the Communists.
Zionism between the Wars
Zionism in Canada changed significantly in the interwar era as the Jewish community continued to diversify. In the Zionist Organization of Canada (ZOC) and the Hadassah-WIZO organization of Canada (Hadassah), both of them non-ideologically oriented groups affiliated with the World Zionist Organization, younger men and women had already assumed leadership roles. At the same time, Labor Zionism was gaining considerable strength among Jewish socialists, members of the working class, and others who supported the collectivist values and projects of the labor movement in Palestine.
With the decline of the Canadian Jewish Congress in 1920, the ZOC remained the only truly national Jewish body until 1934, when the Congress was revitalized. But the ZOC was clearly not representative of all segments of Jewish political opinion or social classes. While it remained stoutly independent of its American counterpart, strong links were forged between Canadian and U.S. members of Po'alei Zion and the Mizrachi, especially in their youth movements.
Canada was all the more fertile ground because, with the *Balfour Declaration, Zionism had received the imprimatur of Great Britain. Still legally and, for many, emotionally Canada's mother country, Great Britain was also the principal benefactor of the Jewish people because it was seen as the facilitator of its national homeland. Such circumstances created a near-perfect environment for Canadian Zionists because, as well, in sharp contrast to the cause in the United States, no problem of alleged dual loyalty arose here. Loyalty to Zionism, to the British Empire, and to Canada was an attractive "package deal" for Canadian Jews, with no apparent drawbacks.
Hadassah, meanwhile, remained in the vanguard of Zionism in Canada. Lillian Freiman emphasized that Hadassah was a women's movement. In the spirit of the "new womanhood" that was current among gender-conscious Canadian women, she always referred to its members as "sisters," to their efforts as "our hands joined in true sisterly love and endeavor," and to the collectivity as "our Jewish womanhood." In the late 1930s, reacting to the male leaders' hesitation in bringing Jewish children from Germany and Austria to Palestine, Canadian Hadassah women rallied behind *Youth Aliyah, asserting that "some infection must be drying up the channels of pity in Jewish life when Jewish fathers who could, with the stroke of a pen[,] lift a child from hopelessness to happiness have failed to do so." On their own and together with sister groups elsewhere, Hadassah members raised money to save tens of thousands of children who were otherwise doomed to die in Europe between 1939 and 1945.
Labor Zionist women also mobilized for their own causes. *Pioneer Women, a group formed in Toronto in 1925 as a branch of an American organization, had an explicitly feminist and socialist-Zionist agenda. It attracted mostly young, secularist, working-class Jewish women, often recent immigrants, who, because they were not well off and "green," felt uncomfortable with middle class, English-speaking Hadassah "ladies." Many were also attracted to the collectivist outlook of the movement and its social and educational opportunities. Often members of trade unions, or strongly sympathetic to the unionist cause, these women embraced Labor Zionism.
Propelled by Zionist and socialist zeal, *Ha-Shomer ha-Tza'ir also established groups in Toronto, Winnipeg, Hamilton, and Ottawa during the 1930s. In ensuing years, the movement sent dozens of shomerim from Canada to kibbutzim in Israel, the majority of them women. Their example stood as both a reminder and a reproach to checkbook Zionism, while their songs evoked a romantic declaration of their zeal to build the world anew. Some of them, however, defeated by the spartan conditions and extreme dangers, eventually returned home. Youth organizations committed to other ideologies also emerged, among them the Revisionist *Betar. *Habonim, a youth branch of Po'alei Zion, established groups in Montreal, Toronto, Winnipeg, and Vancouver, where it became a thriving and influential organization that stressed aliyah and ḥalutzi'ut (pioneering).
Whether as pioneers on the kibbutzim, small farmers, or urban dwellers, in the end there was only a trickle of Canadian immigrants to Palestine through the 1930s and early 1940s. Most were members of Zionist youth movements who underwent a year of agricultural instruction on hakhsharah (special training) farms in Canada and the United States. But the ZOC took little notice. As late as January 1936, the ZOC did not know how many Canadians were on these farms. Its own emphasis on fundraising was rarely questioned openly, although Congress veteran and Labor Zionist intellectual Hananiah *Caiserman shrewdly observed the discomfort felt by many Zionists. He warned that unless Zionists received substantial assistance for cultural programming, the movement would falter and the ZOC decline.
Canada's Jews at War
The Congress, from 1939 firmly presided over by Samuel Bronfman, monitored all aspects of the Canadian war effort. The Congress wanted Canadians to know that Jews were doing their full share for the country, contrary to the perception that their contribution during World War I was inadequate. Bronfman was strongly patriotic and insisted from the very beginning that Canada's Jews get fully behind the war effort. The Congress formed the National War Efforts Committee (WEC) in late 1940. Military recruitment centers were opened across the country and Bronfman paid particular attention to the figures of Jewish enlistments, directing WEC to do all it could to encourage Jews to sign up.
Until mid-summer of 1942, WEC concentrated on mobilizing the community while organizing programs for Jewish armed services personnel scattered in camps throughout Canada. It sent out field workers to organize hospitality, recreation, and entertainment for them, often through local communities and Jewish military chaplains.
Whether it is reasonable to expect Jews to have volunteered en masse for the war against Nazism remains a question that only the soldiers – and eligible Jewish men who, along with others, avoided military service altogether – can answer. Some Jewish veterans later reflected on their own reasons for volunteering. "As a Jew, you had to go," Aaron Palmer, a sergeant, recalled. Barney Danson, a junior officer in the infantry, remembered that "the evil of Nazism existed and we had to be in it, as Jews and as Canadians." Danson felt some anger at the thought of the Jewish boys who did not join up. "I don't know how they could live with themselves. How could any [such] Jew look himself in the mirror?" Edwin Goodman, a major commanding a tank unit, also believed that he had a special responsibility to fight Nazism.
According to the records of the War Efforts Committee, more than 16,000 Jewish men and almost 300 women served in the Canadian armed services during World War II. Jewish women constituted 0.55 percent of all Canadian women who joined navy, army, air force, and women's nursing units. Jewish enlistments were slightly less than the national average, but Jews were less likely to serve in combat units. As a result, Jewish casualties were substantially less than the national average. As Jews generally had a higher level of education than the national average, there may have been more who received non-combat postings.
But Jews served with distinction, and many with a sense of Jewish mission. When the Canadian Army advanced into Belgium and Holland, Jewish servicemen provided key roles in assisting Holocaust survivors. Beginning in December 1944, they distributed food, chocolate, and toys to surviving children, and later sent supplies to children still at Bergen-Belsen. Jewish communities in Amersfoort, Apeldoorn, Nijmegen, and Amsterdam were also given assistance, and Jewish service personnel were encouraged by chaplains such as Rabbi Captain Samuel Cass to be generous. Thirteen days after the town of Nijkerk was liberated by forces of Canada's 1st Division on April 17, 1945, Jewish soldiers were photographed standing by as armed members of the Dutch Resistance supervised the clean-up of a nearby synagogue by captured local Nazi collaborators.
Writing to Congress officials in January 1945, Rabbi Cass reported on the Hanukkah celebrations he had organized in several liberated Belgian and Dutch towns: "Parties were arranged for hundreds of children … and for adults too, for whom this was the first celebration in years." In what must have been a most moving reenactment of the first Hanukkah, which marked the rededication of the Jerusalem Temple defiled by the ancient Greeks, Cass and scores of Jewish soldiers and civilians "met in Synagogues which had been stripped and vandalized and rededicated them through the kindling of Hanukkah lights." Enthusiasm for these efforts ran high among Jewish soldiers.
"On the whole," Cass reflected, "relationships between Jew and non-Jew were of an excellent and wholesome character of comrades in arms." Most Jews made "splendid adjustments to their non-Jewish buddies, considering the fact that many of them, particularly the large numbers enlisted from … Montreal and Toronto, enjoyed only Jewish social relationships before enlistment." He went on to say, "Prejudices, very often melted away in the flames of battle and fast friendships were formed between Jew and non-Jew."
In a sense, then, the armed services constituted a school for a type of Canadianization that went far beyond what most Jews had previously experienced. The soldiers absorbed the Canadian "culture" of their military service. It might well be that the decline in antisemitism in Canada after 1945 was as much an outcome of enforced military togetherness and camaraderie as it was a reaction to the horrors of the Holocaust. At the same time, for many Jews, service in the armed forces during the Holocaust heightened their awareness of Judaism and deepened their identification with the Jewish people. The efforts of the Jewish chaplains, the soldiers' own war experiences, and a growing understanding of the evil intent of Nazism sharpened their identity.
Zionist Activity during World War II
Canadian Zionism in the 1940s and 1950s reached a new level of intensity. Vigorous political activity with a serious concern with ḥalutzi'ut was added to the long-established fundraising programs among members of Zionist youth groups. Political lobbying on behalf of a Jewish state probably had less effect on Canadian public opinion because of Canada's quasi-British identity than its United States counterpart. Nevertheless, some persons of influence were persuaded of the validity of Zionist claims. Thus, while not critical in the formation of Canada's policy on Palestine between 1945 and 1948, the publicity drives and lobbying efforts undertaken by Canadian Zionists advanced the Zionist cause in the Jewish community and served to further unite the Canadian Jewish community.
In the wake of the Holocaust, even non-Zionists lined up in support of the establishment of a Jewish refuge in Palestine. From 1945 on, Zionism moved slowly towards a position of legitimacy within the Jewish world. Following 1948, Zionism came as close to being the universal credo of Canadian Jewry as any belief could. To be sure, the battle for Canadian Jewish acceptance had never been as difficult as it was in the United States. There were some non-Zionists and a few anti-Zionists in the community, but apart from sporadic and ambivalent attacks by some Jewish Communists, no Canadian Jewish group set itself up in sustained opposition to Zionism.
Holocaust Survivors in Canada
In the years immediately following 1945, public attitudes remained strongly antisemitic, notwithstanding the newsreels showing horrific scenes from liberated concentration camps. In an October 1946 Gallup poll, Canadian respondents were asked to list the nationalities they would like to keep out of Canada. Only the Japanese fared worse than the Jews; Germans fared much better.
The attitude of some Canadian officials was as bad or worse. In a letter from the Canadian high commission in London, one official wrote of the "black marketing, dirty living habits and general slovenliness" of the Jewish survivors in the German DP camps. Nevertheless, Canada's virtually exclusionist immigration policy softened in 1946, when the government recognized the need for an increased labor supply in a more buoyant economy and also gave in to United Nations pressures. Substantial numbers of Jews began arriving, including the more than 1,000 sponsored by CJC. In Prien, Germany, a Winnipeg-born social worker, Ethel Ostry, organized the care of displaced children immigrating to Canada.
Samuel Bronfman took a special interest in this project. Reception centers were set up and foster homes arranged in communities across Caanda. At roughtly the same time, the first of more than 1,800 Jews arrived under the Tailor's Project, which looked to bring experienced clothing workers under the auspices of a committee representing CJC, industry, labor unions, and JIAS. In all, an estimated 35,000 survivors came to Canada from 1945 to 1956, forming a much greater proportion of the Canadian Jewish population than did survivors in the United States. They ranged from secular cosmopolitans to those immersed in a Yiddishist or devoutly Orthodox environment. These survivors helped invigorate educational and cultural life, and many found work as Jewish teachers and communal workers.
These new arrivals, offended by what they perceived to be "negative reactions and attitudes," often stood apart from the existing community. After a serious disagreement with a local union activist, one survivor realized "that this person knew nothing about the … Holocaust … [and I] pledged never to discuss my experiences again with a non-survivor." Other survivors developed a resentment towards the established Jewish community. One commented, "Maybe they were going around with the guilt they could not work out with themselves that they left us over there. They didn't put up here a big fuss."
A woman survivor who was crying at a Holocaust memorial service in 1949 was told by a Canadian-born Jew to stop. "Enough is enough … No more crying and no more talking about what happened. This is a new country and a new life." But among themselves, survivors felt free to reminisce: "Amongst our group, if we felt like talking about something, we could. We were listening to each other's stories, and it was just fine." These small groups, dedicated to mutual aid, support for Israel, and Holocaust commemoration, thrived, helping survivors to adapt. Many married, started businesses, had children, and established homes. Some lapsed into a lifelong depression that affected even their children and grandchildren. Most felt the significant distance between themselves and the established Jewish community open up again over the proper response to the reemergence of pro-Nazi organizations in the early 1960s.
Aiming for Equality
Meanwhile, Jews by the 1960s were accorded an unprecedented degree of recognition. In Quebec, a new spirit of urban and secular awakening was dominant, and the antisemitism of an earlier age was dismantled. Dr. Victor *Goldbloom was appointed to the cabinet in the Liberal government of Quebec premier Jean Lesage in the 1960s. At around the same time, Jewish parochial schools were accorded generous provincial financial assistance, and the semi-independence of the Jewish social-welfare network in Montreal was also upheld. Jews were even appointed to teaching posts in francophone universities. At the same time, however, Quebec's Jews still felt that they were walking a tightrope. The separatist upsurge in the 1960s, followed by the October Crisis of 1970, the language legislation of the 1970s, and ethnocentric nationalist statements by some sovereigntists, made Quebec Jews nervous and uncertain of their future. Many Jews, especially the young ones who were concerned that Québécois nationalist policies might hamper their career choices, began to leave the province. Many moved to Toronto or elsewhere in Canada.
In English Canada, antisemitism's long history also left strong vestiges. In one Ontario case, Bernard Wolfe of London agreed to purchase a summer cottage at nearby Beach O'Pines resort, but he was prevented from taking possession by a pre-existing covenant, which barred sales to persons of "Jewish, Hebrew, Semitic, Negro or colored race or blood." The Ontario Court of Appeal upheld a lower court decision declaring the covenant valid, but the Supreme Court of Canada overturned it in November 1950. Meanwhile, the Ontario legislature passed a bill voiding all covenants restricting the sale or ownership of land for reasons of race or creed. Although these actions lifted the prohibition on residence, the Congress and B'nai B'rith still battled against racial, ethnic, and gender discrimination in the work world and the schools. The Ontario government discouraged summer resorts from advertising that their clientele was "restricted" or "selected." It became increasingly difficult for haters to discriminate, and utterly impossible to restrict Jews from living in certain areas.
Ontario, which enacted the Racial Discrimination Act in 1944 and the Fair Employment Practices Act in 1951, led all levels of government in passing comprehensive bills to outlaw discrimination and the dissemination of hate literature. Joseph Salsberg, Rabbi Abraham Feinberg, various labor leaders, the Canadian Jewish Congress, Jewish activists in the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party, and the Canadian Jewish press were all leading advocates for human-rights legislation. Unfortunately, legislation could not prevent continuing antisemitism at the universities. The admission of Jews to some medical schools was still severely restricted. McGill, for example, limited Jewish admissions to a rigid 10 percent until the 1960s and the University of Toronto required Jews to have higher marks than other applicants. Most Jewish University of Toronto medical graduates had to leave the city for the necessary year of internship because, with a few exceptions, Toronto's hospitals barred their doors to them, regardless of their academic standing. Also, it was still difficult for qualified Jewish doctors to acquire admitting privileges at these hospitals. When Toronto's Mount Sinai Hospital was completed in the early 1950s, its status as a teaching hospital for the University of Toronto was delayed until 1962. Such discrimination forced the Toronto and Montreal Jewish communities to continue to support their own hospitals. Indeed, hospital building campaigns were the focus of their largest fundraising efforts; roughly 25 percent of all monies raised for capital projects in the 1950s and 1960s went to hospitals.
Women and Occupational Shifts
Depictions of women went unchanged. One widely circulated cookbook depicted the subservient and dependent role of the Jewish wife in the 1950s. Although poorly educated in religious traditions, she was, however, responsible for the domestic observances of the holidays, including the laborious preparation of special foods. Assumed to be solely a "housewife," her responsibilities outside the domestic realm included an active role in Canadian Hadassah-WIZO, the premier Jewish women's Zionist organization. Such volunteer groups were viewed by men as adjuncts to the main Jewish communal structure, which seldom allowed women into their inner councils.
Through the 1960s and 1970s, the situation for women began to change. In the later period nearly 21 percent of all Jewish working women were professionals, compared with less than 5 percent in 1931. During the same decades, the percentage of working Jewish women in blue-collar occupations fell dramatically. And increasing numbers of Jewish women entered the workforce, while still continuing to be homemakers. But the status of women in the workforce was far from equal to that of men, largely because, in the words of one scholar, "They enter later, often less prepared, and are often underpaid and overworked with their two jobs of paid work and homemaking." For most working women, therefore, entry into the workforce was not necessarily a liberating experience, and their responsibilities at home were not shared or reduced. A growing discontent raised the level of women's consciousness – including that of Canadian Jewish women – and led to the feminism that was to emerge in the 1970s and to flourish in the 1980s and 1990s. Some Canadian Jewish women assumed leadership roles in these feminist movements.
A Maturing Community
With prosperity growing across Canada between 1945 and 1952, investment in communal services expanded enormously. Money collected in the community built hospitals, synagogues, YMHAs, community centers, and schools. New and expanded health and recreation facilities consumed more than half of the community's financial expenditures, while religious and educational institutions accounted for more than one-third. Social-welfare programs and general community administration took up the remainder.
In the big cities, suburban synagogues replaced the old downtown shuls, while in smaller communities new synagogues often included community centers and athletic facilities. Typical of these multipurpose centers were the Jewish buildings in Halifax, Brantford, and Saskatoon. A plot of land was purchased near the house of the community's observant Jews, building and finance committees were set up, and a contractor was engaged. Once the new building was completed (often after stormy meetings where members, now "experts," hotly debated plans for the new structure), the congregation took its leave of the old shul with prayer and rejoicing.
These transformations were also reflected in shifting Canadian Jewish occupational patterns. The professional classes accounted for almost 6 percent of the gainfully employed in 1941 and almost 9 percent in 1951. The percentage of Jews in commerce held steady, but in manufacturing it dropped almost 10 percent. By 1961 the proportion of Jews in professional occupations had risen to almost 14 percent, while the number working in manufacturing had fallen dramatically. The Jewish community also had twice as many university-educated members as any other ethnic group.
According to the 1961 census, Jewish males had the highest average income in Canada. This, perhaps, had much to do with the fact that, in addition to being highly educated, Jews were the most highly urbanized of all Canadians. In addition, the Jews had a proclivity for self-employment, a preference explained party by job discrimination, which persisted on a fairly serious scale into the 1960s. Many Jews, anticipating anti-Jewish bias in fields like engineering and teaching, chose business or the other self-employed professions instead. Consequently, Jewish males were three times as likely to be self-employed as any other ethnic group in Canada. This meant that Jews were more likely to remain in the labor force after age 65, though they also entered it later because of a tendency to remain in school longer.
The face of Canadian Jewry was changing, and its numbers were also growing. The Jewish population rose from only 168,585 in 1941 to 204,836 in 1951 and 254,368 in 1961. It registered its strongest growth rate in Alberta and British Columbia, even though the vast majority of immigrants moved to Montreal and Toronto.
For all this growth, the face of Canadian Jewry was in many ways unchanged since its prewar days. A survey taken in 1960 showed that established synagogue affiliations had not fundamentally altered since 1935. For example, the vast majority of congregations were Orthodox in 1935 and modestly less so in 1960. The number of Conservative and Reform congregations grew, but did not challenge the numerical superiority of Orthodox congregations.
Where there was change was in the pulpit. Before WWII the majority of Orthodox rabbis serving Canadian congregations had been European-born and trained. By 1960 virtually all of them were graduates of seminaries located in the United States, with a few from the four small yeshivot in Montreal and Toronto. Conservative congregations continued to draw their rabbis from the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York and the Reform from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati.
Membership levels in Conservative and Reform congregations had grown enormously since 1945, and their new synagogues and temples usually were large structures accommodating several hundred people. In contrast, most Orthodox congregations were much smaller, some unable even to afford their own rabbis. In general, Louis Rosenberg noted, "The rise in synagogue building and membership appeared to be motivated by a desire to 'belong' rather than [by] strong religious conviction…. With the exception of the ultra-Orthodox, post-war active participation in Jewish religious life appeared to be limited to bar mitzvah and kaddish observance and synagogue attendance on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur…."
Traditional Judaism nevertheless experienced a revival in postwar Canada. Once drawn only from a portion of the immigrant population, the Orthodox community, with larger families, soon had growing numbers of synagogues.
Two Centuries in Retrospect
Over almost two hundred years Canada's Jews adjusted to a distinctive political, constitutional, and social environment of the northern half of the North American continent. Here the tensions between "two founding peoples," French and English, had led to laws which seriously disadvantaged the civil rights of Jews in Quebec, where ultramontane Roman Catholic and ultranationalist attitudes had encouraged virulent antisemitism. For its part, English Canada developed a quiet but effective form of social and economic discrimination. Immigration patterns – the lack of a German influx in the 19th century – and the absence of a significant Reform movement had left Judaism essentially in its traditional forms. Zionism, as a result, was stronger here than in the United States and thrived in a polity that stipulated no exclusivist national identity.
By the 1960s, Canadian Jewry was a mature and strong community. Gone were the severe economic struggles of the early immigrant, though significant pockets of poverty remained, and the intracommunal strife in the embattled clothing industry was safely in the past as workers' sons and daughters entered the professions, moved to the suburbs, and in many ways lived upscale lifestyles. The old radical left still survived, but had lost much of its feistiness and, increasingly, its members. The Yiddish press had declined and a new, toothless, and bland English-language weekly, the Canadian Jewish News, purported to speak for the community. The Zionist organizations, too, had faded as their relevancy seemed dubious in the context of a strong and secure Israel. In terms of relationships between Jews and non-Jews, toleration – warm acceptance even – had replaced antisemitism, even in Quebec, where, by 1960, secular nationalism seemed to pose few problems for the community which now included many and growing numbers of francophone Jews. It seemed that in this respect Canada's Jews had arrived, if only just, and were now in large measure confident and secure. What lay ahead, however, were deep complexities and far-reaching challenges that only the wisest had anticipated.
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Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.