October 2023 Curriculum Tips
By: Kim Quinn, FSWC Educator
Strand A. Heritage and Identity: Communities in Canada, Past and Present:
A3.7 Describe significant events or developments in the history of Jewish communities in Canada, including some of the ways they have contributed to Canada
The dawn of the 20th century heralded unprecedented change and unstoppable expansion. Immigration from the “Old World” to the “New” led to a population boom in Canada – by 1900, its population was 5.5 million, and growing fast. Communities formed as strangers found common ground and established roots in their new home; the neighbour became both a person of close physical proximity, and someone of kinship, connection, and cultural ties.
Despite the passage of laws and societal privileges that granted Jewish settlers legal equality and representation in Canada, the Jewish population remained tiny. In 1871, the official census showed only 1,115 Jews in the entire country, localized around their work in fur trading and business. As such, few places of worship were created for Jewish populations, and virtually no community centers, youth organizations, schools, or senior centers existed for Jewish Canadians. This would change by the mid-1800s, as a succession of violent pogroms in Russia forced millions of Jews to flee Europe in search of safety in other countries. By 1901, the Jewish population rose to nearly 7,000 permanent residents. By 1930, 15,000 Jews would eventually emigrate and settle in Canada.
The growth in population helped create a deeper sense of community for which cultural nurturing was needed. In particular, Jewish women and girls, experiencing both antisemitic discrimination, and gender-based violence, sought a place where they could both share kinship and find some level of refuge. In 1910, the Young Women’s Hebrew Association launched in Montreal, serving as a hub of social meeting and support, while also providing fashion advice and material, health services and connections, immigration and housing needs, correspondence, and spiritual and emotional guidance.
In 1950, the Association merged with an earlier-established organization, the Young Men’s Hebrew Association, combining resources and connections. Jewish women continued to promote and support female-led connection, deepening their bonds in Canada, and their community as a whole.
If you wish further information on Canadian Jewish women and culture, as well as other resources regarding Jewish history in Canada, the education team at FSWC is compiling an online database for educators, which will provide source materials and information to support the new Ontario grade 6 Social Studies curriculum. Keep an eye on FSWC updates for more.
Roskies, David G., “Yiddish in Montreal: The Utopian Experiment,” pp. 34-36. link
Solomon, David. “Young Men’s Hebrew Association of Montreal: A Study of the Role of the Formal and Informal in an Ethnic Institution,” pp. 2-7. link
Steer, Martina. “Nation, Religion, Gender: The Triple Challenge of Middle-Class German-Jewish Women in World War I.” Central European History, vol. 48, no. 2, 2015, pp. 176–98. link