In 2018 the Canadian Parliament declared May to be Jewish Heritage Month in Canada (via CBC)

May is Jewish Heritage Month

Many may not know it but the Jewish-Canadian community is the fourth largest in the world after Israel, the U.S, and France.

The history of Canada itself is also the history of a Jewish presence. The first known settler of Jewish faith is believed to have arrived in 1732 as an employee of the Hudson’s Bay company. Others followed as soldiers in the creation of Halifax shortly thereafter. and after the British defeated the French in what would eventually become Canada,  a Jewish community grew in Montreal with the first Synagogue created in 1768.

As the decades advanced, so too did Jewish immigration as various crises and conflict throughout the world prompted many to seek a better life in Canada where they would become proud citizens.

When war was declared in 1939, Jewish Canadians as loyal citizens also answered the call. (Alex Dworkin, Alex Dworkin Canadian Jewish Archives via Veterans affairs Canada)

In 2018 the Canadian Parliament officially declared May as Jewish Heritage Month, the Act in part declaring: ” by designating the month of May as Canadian Jewish Heritage Month, the Parliament of Canada recognizes the important contributions that Jewish Canadians have made to Canada’s social, economic, political and cultural fabric;  Canadian Jewish Heritage Month would provide an opportunity to remember, celebrate and educate future generations about the inspirational role that Jewish Canadians have played and continue to play in communities across the country”.

The huge Reitman’s clothing and fashion chain of several hundred stores in Canada started from a single store in Montreal in the 1920’s.  It is just one example of the success of Jewish immigrants into all aspects of Canadian life and society. The Reitman family, along with many other successful Jewish-Canadians, are major philanthropic donators to medical, academic and cultural institutions in Canada (Reitman’s )

Michael Mostyn, CEO of B’nai Brith Canada  says the month presents an opportunity “to speak to the many positive Jewish contributions to Canada in all sectors of society.  By telling the stories of achievement of exceptional Jewish Canadians, both current and historical, it allows all of us to better appreciate the multicultural mosaic of our shared history while focusing on inspirational role models for the next generation”.

Michael Mostyn, CEO B’nai Brith Canada ( supplied)

During the month B’nai Brith will be highlighting an array of fascinating and extraordinary stories, focusing on Canadian Jewish luminaries Starting with the famous & beloved comedy team, Wayne & Shuster!”

Indeed the Jewish community in this country has perhaps contributed disproportionally more to Canadian, and international, society than its numbers would suggest. This contribution is in virtually every field of human endeavour, from medicine to theatre, engineering, to music, architecture to academia, politics. law, the arts and more.

Among the very many notable names are those such as John C. Polyani, Nobel winning chemist; Dorothy Dworkin, nurse and founder of Toronto’s Mount Sinai Hospital; Frank Gehry, internationally renowned architect; Barry Blitt, illustrator for Vanity Fair, the NY Times, Rolling Stone; Joe Shuster, artist creator of Superman; Andy Nulman, creator of Just for Laughs; Jack Warner of Warner Bros films; Rosalie Abellla, Supreme Court of Canada Justice; Morris ‘two-gun’ Cohen, the Aide de Camp to Sun Yat-sen; Maureen Forrester, opera; Lorne Green, stage TV actor (Bonanza); Mort Sahl, comedian; Eugene Levy, actor comedian; David Cronenburg, director; Percy Faith, bandleader: Moe Koffman, jazz musician; Leonard Cohen, poet singer; Corey Hart, pop/rock.; William Shatner, Actor (Star Trek);  Zach Hyman, hockey-Toronto Maple Leafs; and so many many more.

Speaking of the  importance of the heritage month, Mostyn says, “We would like Canadians to fully understand our love and loyalty to this great country. As well, we would like people to know that our community has made so many positive contributions to Canada- that Jewish Canadians are an important piece of the historical puzzle that makes up Canada, and that in this great nation of immigrants – we too belong”.

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Categories: Immigration & Refugees, International, Society

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