Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies is pleased to provide support for you in your efforts to recognize Jewish Heritage Month. This Jewish Heritage Month Resource Guidebook includes a wealth of information and resources to assist you in presenting authentic, meaningful learning opportunities for your audience.

Click here to download the English Guidebook et ici en français.

About this National Resource Guidebook

Thank you for your interest in recognizing and celebrating Jewish Heritage Month in May. This Resource Guidebook includes a wealth of information and resources to assist you in presenting authentic and meaningful learning opportunities for your audience. The overall objectives of the Jewish Heritage Month Resource Guidebook are to:

•    educate your audience about Jewish history within a Canadian context;

•  highlight the many important contributions members of the Jewish community have made to Canadian society;and

•    foster a greater understanding and acceptance in pursuit of respectful, inclusive communities.

All activities in this Resource Guidebook are guided by provincial Ministry of Education curriculum expectations, learning goals and competencies,along with the equity and diversity directorates that are infused into Ministries of Education across Canada. All activities are adaptable to multiple grade levels and we encourage you to share with us the ways in which these activities are utilized in classrooms across Canada. Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies supports the belief that the building of equitable and inclusive learning opportunities, whether in a classroom of an elementary school, or a corporate boardroom in the heart of a city, creates a climate for success.

 About Jewish Heritage Month

Designation of the month of May as Canadian Jewish Heritage Month was first introduced in the Senate by Senator Linda Frum as Bill S-232 where it was passed in May 2017, and was then introduced for consideration to the House of Commons by MP Michael Levitt, where it was passed unanimously by Parliament in 2018. (See Appendix IV for further information.)

 About the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies

 “Inspiring and empowering Canadians to raise their voices for freedom, democracy and humanity.”

Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies (FSWC) is a Canadian non-profit human rights organization committed to countering racism and antisemitism and to promoting the principles of tolerance, justice and Canadian democratic values through advocacy and education.

 FSWC is actively engaged in fostering the values of respect and acceptance, and in teaching the responsibility of participating in a democratic society. We are guided by the words of Holocaust survivor Simon Wiesenthal:“Freedom is not a gift from heaven. One must fight for it every day.”

 To learn more about our educational programming and resources, visit:, and

Frequently Asked Questions

 What is Canadian Jewish Heritage Month?

Canadian Jewish Heritage Month was first introduced in the Senate of Canada in 2017. This legislation designates the month of May each year as a time “to recognize the important contributions that Jewish Canadians have made to Canada’s social, economic, political and cultural fabric” and “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.”

In 2012, the province of Ontario designated May as Ontario Jewish Heritage Month, a time to appreciate and learn about the history and culture of Ontarians of Jewish heritage and the important impact they have made, and continue to make, in communities across the province.

Why the month of May?

 A number of significant events usually occur in May such as Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day), Israel’s Independence Day, the Toronto Jewish Film Festival, Jewish Music Week, Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies’ Spirit of Hope Benefit, and the Walk for Israel.

 Jewish Heritage Month is also an annually recognized event in countries around the world. For example, May is Jewish American Heritage Month in the USA, and the European Association for the Preservation and Promotion of Jewish Culture and Heritage hosts Jewish Heritage Week throughout Europe in May each year.

 Are there other designated heritage months?

Yes. Other creed-based or ethnic heritage months designated in Canada include the Indigenous, Black, Asian, Islamic and Hindu communities. Provinces also have other creed-based or ethnic heritage months. For example, Ontario has passed legislation to recognize Dutch Heritage Month, Hispanic Heritage Month,Italian Heritage Month, Sikh Heritage Month, Tamil Heritage Month, Asian Heritage Month and South Asian Heritage Month.

Should my school do something for Jewish Heritage Month?

 Many schools have a core commitment to improve well-being and achievement for all our students through engaging, equitable learning environments, inclusive curriculum and culturally rich learning opportunities.Schools are also committed to ensuring that all students and staff gain knowledge and appreciation of the heritages, histories and achievements of the many diverse Canadian communities. Therefore, by including Jewish Heritage Month activities in your classroom, school or community, you are enriching the equity programming you offer and building on your commitment to inclusivity.

 Does the number of Jewish students in the school or group affect the activity chosen?

Absolutely not. The activities and resources on this site reflect on and educate about the themes behind Jewish Heritage Month. This Resource  is intended to enrich the multicultural, inclusive fabric of Canadian society.

 Will I have to teach or learn about the religion of Judaism?

 No. Jewish Heritage Month encourages learning about the rich cultural contribution by the Jewish community to Canada. This website is designed as one of many resources to build insight and a deeper understanding of the Jewish community in Canada as well as a way to foster stronger inter-community relations and appreciation for cultural diversity.

How can you mark Jewish Heritage Month?

 In addition to lessons included on this website, you may wish to consider the following activities to mark Jewish Heritage Month:

1. Visit Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center in Toronto or invite the Tour for Humanity to your school or organization.

2. Visit a local Jewish community centre where you will find a host of activities, resources and displays to deepen your understanding about the contributions the Canadian Jewish community continues to make today.

3. Learn more about Canadian Jewish history. Speak with Jewish community members to learn about their family experiences.

4.Read about the Jewish Canadian experience. Whether you choose a book about religion or history, or just something written by a Jewish Canadian,there is much to choose from (see Suggested Reading List in Resources).

5.Research your family’s history. If you are not Indigenous, try to determine when the first member(s) of your family immigrated to Canada and compare the timelines provided in this Resource Guidebook to see how your own story relates to the Jewish experience.

6.Watch a film with a Jewish theme, like the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s award winning Moriah Films.

7.Access music composed by Canadian Jewish musicians.

8.Learn about the many foods that are part of Jewish tradition such as challah, chicken soup, gefilte fish, and the history behind them. Try to make them with your family.

9.Invite a speaker to your group or school - such as a Holocaust survivor or the Rabbi of a local synagogue - and have them share their experience in Canada.

10.Visit a local synagogue to learn more about Jewish customs and practices.

Fast Facts

  • Jewish people represent 1.2% of the total population of Canada according to the 2011 National Household Survey of Statistics Canada.
  • There are 17,300 Holocaust survivors living in Canada today, comprising 28.2% of this country’s Jewish population of seniors who are 66 years or older.
  • Jewish people have lived in Canada for more than 250 years, with the first recorded Jewish new-comer settling in Trois-Rivières,Quebec, in 1760.
  • The earliest record of Jewish settlement in Ontario (York) is an 1817 communication between colonial of-fices which referred to a Jewish wedding. The first permanent Jewish presence in Toronto began in 1832 with the arrival of Arthur Wellington Hart.
  • The first Jewish Canadian to be elected to a Legislature in Canada was Ezekiel Hart who, in 1807, was elected in Lower Canada. He was responsible for securing full rights and freedoms for Jews and other minority communities in Canada in 1832.
  • By 1851, there were approximately 451 Jewish people in Canada. The majority lived in present day Quebec, and approximately 100 Jews lived in present day Ontario.
  • It was not until the beginning of the 20th century that Jewish people began to arrive in this country in significant numbers with some 120,000 Jews arriving from Eastern Europe between 1900 and 1920. At that time most Jews spoke Yiddish, a language that evolved from Hebrew and German.They subsequently adapted to the English/French language culture in Canada.
  • Jewish immigration to Canada slowed down significantly when the Canadian government imposed very strict immigration restrictions as a result of the Stock Market crash in 1929. These restrictions continued until the end of World War II just as Jews, facing genocide in Europe, desperately sought asylum outside of Europe.
  • Canada accepted 40,000 Holocaust survivors in the aftermath of World War II.
  • During the Second World War,Canadian Jews fought in numbers that far exceeded their proportion of the population. 17,000 – that is 20% of Canadian Jews of military age – fought on and under the sea, in the air and on the ground. Among those, nearly 2,000 were awarded citations and medals. Over 420 Jewish soldiers died and were buried with the Maple Leaf and Star of David on their graves during World War II.
  • Today - Canada is home to the fourth largest Jewish population when ranked by country coming after Israel, United States and France. The size of the Canadian Jewish community is estimated to be about 400,000 with the largest populations in Toronto and Montreal

Contributions of Jewish Canadians

Even though Jewish Canadians comprise only 1.2% of the population, their dedication to making Canada a better place has had an impact in various arenas.

 Consider that in the legal community, there have been five Jewish Supreme Court Justices, including current Justice Rosalie Silberman Abella,whose family immigrated to Canada after having faced persecution during the Holocaust.

Dedication and commitment to the betterment of society as a whole also comes from Jewish contributions to civil service. Over 41 Canadian Jews have participated as Members of Parliament (MP), Members of Provincial Parliament (MPP),Senators, Mayors and Premiers. Consider Stephen Lewis who was the former leader of the Opposition in Ontario, Leader of the Ontario NDP and Canada’s Ambassador to the United Nations. Both Nathan Philips and Mel Lastman served as Mayors of Toronto while Stephen Mandel was Mayor of Edmonton and Danny Nathanson was Mayor of New Waterford, Nova Scotia. Dave Barrett was the first Jewish Canadian to serve as Premier of British Columbia while Tom Marshall of Newfoundland and Labrador and Myra Freeman both served as Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia.

Jewish Canadians have also lifted their country through music and the arts including contributions by: Leonard Cohen, Drake, Geddy Lee, William Shatner, Rick Moranis, Eugene Levy, Steven Page, Amy Sky, David Usher and Nikki Yanofsky. Jewish Canadian authors include David Bezmogis and Mordecai Richler, while well-known journalists include Barbara Frum and Peter C. Newman.

Many Jewish Canadian athletes have also made a name for their country in sports. Consider Michael Cammalleri (New Jersey Devils), Cecil Hart (MontrealCanadiens), Lew Hayman and Noah Cantor (CFL Players), Goody Rosen (baseball),Maxie Berger (boxer) and Adam Braz (soccer)

Jewish business and philanthropic leaders continue to make Canada a thriving diverse and inclusive place to live. Consider Graham Scher who has headed the Canadian Blood Services and Ronnie Gavsie who, as head of Trillium Gift of Life Network, have both made major contributions in the health sector. There are countless Jewish organizations that strive to help the homeless; assist immigrants fleeing war ravaged nations and promote inclusion and diversity through programs like the Tour for Humanity. Jewish Canadians contribute widely to hospitals, universities and to diversity organizations like Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies, the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg and the National Holocaust Monument in Ottawa.

Jewish Canadians are also among those appointed to the distinguished Order of Canada. Sheila Golden Kussner, invested as an officer of the Order of Canada in 1996, founded a support program for cancer patients. Abraham J.Arnold, who was appointed to the Order of Canada in 2003, was a respected author who greatly contributed to documenting the history of Canada and the Jewish community and also played a crucial role in advocating for human rights and intercultural understanding.

Shining the Spotlight On Renowned Canadians of Jewish Heritage

Known for much loved favourites such as The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz and the Jacob Two-Two children’s fantasy series, Mordechai Richler was a renowned Jewish Canadian author. This Montreal-born writer was the recipient of numerous awards including the Giller Prize, two-time winner of the Governor General’s Award and A Companion of the Order of Canada

Barbara Frum z”l, nee Rosenberg, was born to Jewish parents originally from Poland. Her father owned and operated a small store in Niagara Falls, Ontario. Through hard work and dedication to her profession, she became one of the most recognized journalists of her time and a
leading voice on CBC radio and television.

Sidney Altman, born in Montreal to parents from Poland and the Ukraine, studied molecular biology. In 1989, he was the co-winner of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his work that held answers to questions about the creation of the world.

Leonard Cohen z”l was born in Montreal. Through his work as a Canadian singer, songwriter, author, poet and artist, he examined a wide range of subjects from politics to religion, often exploring his Jewish heritage. He won many awards including the Companion of the Order of Canada and the Glenn Gould Prize.

Drake or (Aubrey Drake Graham), singer, songwriter, record producer, actor, and entrepreneur, is one of Canada’s best known contemporary Jewish stars. He was born in Toronto where he went to Jewish days chool. He was first recognized when he played a role in the teen television drama Degrassi.

Honey Sherman z”l, daughter of Holocaust survivors, was an active community member and volunteer who served in leadership positions for numerous hospitals,schools and charitable organizations. Honey and her husband, Dr. Barry Sherman z”l, established the Apotex Foundation in 1984 to support a wide range of causes in both Canada and the United States.

Seth Aaron Rogen was born in Vancouver. His parents met on a kibbutz (communal farm) in Israel. He started his career as a stand-up comedian going on to star in many major motion films.

Myra Ava Freeman, nee Holtzman, grew up in Saint John,New Brunswick. She taught with the Halifax Regional School Board until appointed as the first female and first Jewish Lieutenant Governor of the province.

Toronto-born Zach Hyman plays left wing for the Toronto Maple Leafs and is an award-winning children’s picture book author. His hockey career has included a gold medal performance at the 2013 Maccabiah Games in Israel as well as an MVP title at the 2010 World Junior A Challenge.

Molly Shoichet is Ontario’s first Chief Scientist. Known for her work in tissue engineering, she is an award-winning biomedical engineer. The University of Toronto recognized her as“Inventor of the Year” in 2013 and she was made an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2017.

An Introduction to Judaism


What is Judaism?

 Judaism is the oldest of the monotheistic faiths, which affirms the existence of one God who entered into a covenant with the descendants of Abraham. Judaism encompasses the religion, philosophy and culture of the Jewish people.

 Where does the word ‘Jew’ come from?

The name “Jew” is an anglicized version of the Hebrew word yehudi,meaning “Hebrew, the language of the kingdom of Judah,” and originally referred to the members of the tribe of Judah, one of twelve tribes of Israel about four thousand years ago. These tribes settled and lived in what is today the State of Israel. Thus, Jewish people share a common religion (Judaism), a common land (Israel) and a common history(dating back to Abraham).

 What is the Torah?

Judaism’s holy writings include the Torah,which contains the five books of Moses (also called the Old Testament by Christians), as well as the compilation of oral tradition known as the Talmud. The Torah, along with the Talmud and other writings are identified as the Tanach. The Torah is where the Ten Commandments are set out which include many fundamental concepts, such as honouring your parents and treating neighbours as you would want to be treated.

 What are the principal beliefs of Judaism?

Jewish people believe that the prophet Moses passed down the Torah orally in an unbroken chain from generation to generation for 1,400 years, eventually being compiled into written text. A famous Rabbi named Hillel, when asked to teach a man the whole Torah while he stood on one leg,replied: “That which is hateful unto you do not do to your neighbour. This is the whole of the Torah. The rest is commentary. Go forth and study.”

 Where do Jewish people pray and do all Jewish people pray the same way?

Jewish people worship at synagogues. Any educated member of the congregation can conduct the service although a Rabbi (the spiritual leader) or the Cantor (the prayer leader who will chant the ritual songs) usually take the lead. Given centuries of migration, Jewish people come from many different backgrounds and countries and therefore follow many different practices identified generally as Ashkenazi, Sephardic and Mizrachi traditions. The main denominations of Judaism are Orthodox, Conservative and Reform. The unifying language of prayer is Hebrew which dates back to the very origins of Judaism.

 What is the Jewish Shabbat?

Shabbat (Sabbath),Saturday, is the most important day of the week for Jews because it is the day to remember that God created the world and everything in it. According to the Torah, God created the world in six days, but on the seventh day, Shabbat, He rested, and, like Him, Jews also rest on Shabbat.

Do men and women have different roles in Judaism?

 God is not seen as exclusively male or female but has both masculine and feminine qualities. In traditional Judaism, women have different obligations and responsibilities in religious practices from men. Practices vary from Orthodox, Conservative and Reform congregations and among Jewish from Sephardic, Ashkenazi or Mizrahi traditions. Inclusivity, however, is a common element in Jewish practice as more and more women are becoming spiritual leaders of congregations.

 What does the term Kosher mean?

 Observant Jews keep kosher,following dietary laws that prohibit the eating of certain foods such as shellfish and pork. Kosher laws prohibit meals that contain a mixture of meat and dairy and requiring meat to be butchered according to set rules.

 What are some of the most important Jewish festivals?

 Jewish religious days begin at sundown and end after sunset. Rosh Hashanah marks the start of the Jewish New Year, usually in September or October. The holiest day in Judaism is Yom Kippur when Jewish people fast and ask for forgiveness. The Three Pilgrimage Festivals - Pesach (Passover), Shavuot (Weeks or Pentecost), and Sukkot (Tabernacles,Tents or Booths) recognize and commemorate when the ancient Israelites living in the Kingdom of Judah made a pilgrimage to the Temple in Jerusalem, as commanded in the Torah.

 What does the term Zionism mean?

The return to the land of Zion, which refers to the hills of Jerusalem,is a central hope of the Jewish faith dating back to Biblical times. Zionism is also a reference to the political movement founded by Theodor Herzl in 1896 which renewed the dream of a national homeland for the Jews in their ancient homeland of Israel.

 What is the Jewish calendar?

The Jewish calendar, sometimes called the Hebrew calendar, is structured according to the ancient laws found in Jewish writings. It is based on lunar cycles of twelve months within a solar year. Each month begins with a new moon.Because the lunar months are about 11 days shorter than the solar year, a leap month is added every two or three years. The Jewish calendar determines the dates for Jewish holidays and annual commemorations as well as ritual readings which means that Jewish holidays will vary from year to year according to the Gregorian calendar used in Canada. In Israel, the Jewish calendar is the official one used for civil purposes. Many Jewish people will celebrate their birthday and anniversaries according to both calendars.

World Jewish History

It is important to note that in any document that discusses the history of a people, it is only capturing a snapshot of that history. This Resource Website is no exception. We are only highlighting a few historical events. If you have an idea about something that you feel should be included, please consider sending in your idea.

 Jewish history dates back more than 5,770 years to the beginning of the Old Testament. Events such as the building of the first and second temples in Jerusalem in 960 BCE and 516 BCE and the destruction of these temples which forced the Jewish people to flee and settle in numerous countries throughout the world are important periods in ancient Jewish history. As the Jewish people put down roots in these new lands, they contributed to the culture of each respective country while maintaining their own traditions. However, they were often not welcome in the new countries they tried to call home, facing antisemitic persecution and fearing for their lives. Acts of destruction from the first Crusade in 1096 where thousands of Jewish people throughout Europe and the Middle East were killed to the Spanish Inquisition in 1478 where Jewish people were forced to convert to Christianity or be expelled from Spain and surrounding areas are also a part of this history. Thousands of Jewish people were tortured and murdered during the Inquisition and other organized massacres called pogroms, particularly in Eastern Europe in the 19th and 20th centuries.

 In response to years of persecution, a young man by the name of Theodor Herzl along with delegates from 16 countries gathered in Basel, Switzerland on August 29, 1897 for the First Jewish Congress. The significance of this meeting was the topic of discussion:the establishment of the modern State of Israel. In 1917, progress was made when the British government issued a statement, the Balfour Declaration, which declared support for the establishment of a “national home for the Jewish people.”

However,there was a rising tide of hatred against the Jewish people growing in Germany, led by Adolf Hitler. On January 30, 1933 Adolf Hitler became Chancellor of Germany as leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party (Nazi Party). By April 1, Hitler had already destroyed the fragile German democratic government, assuming sole possession of power and implementing a boycott of Jewish businesses across Germany. From 1935 to 1938, a series of nearly 400 Nuremberg Laws were released, restricting the rights and freedoms of the German Jewish population, later expanding into Austria and Czechoslovakia. With the invasion of Poland and the start of World War II, Hitler was able to mask his genocidal actions against the Jewish people under the guise of war. In January 1942, 15 high-ranking Nazi Party officials gathered at a villa in the Berlin suburb of Wannsee to discuss and coordinate the implementation of what they called the “Final Solution to the Jewish Question,” which led to the murder of 6 million Jewish men, women and children. On January 27, 1945, the Soviet army liberated more than 7,000 remaining prisoners from the infamous Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp – a day that is now commemorated as International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

 On May 14, 1948, the dream of many – including Theodor Herzl came true.A flag was raised declaring the creation of the State of Israel. As the Jewish community has worked to come to terms with the aftermath of the Holocaust, they have also embraced a new sense of self-determination while contributing to every facet of society. The Jewish people, worldwide, continue to thrive while upholding their traditional beliefs.

Critical Moments in Canadian Jewish History

•   1627 – Under Cardinal Richelieu in New France, settlements other than Catholic are denied.

•   1760 – During the French &Indian War, the first group of Jewish citizens come to Canada as soldiers in the British army – the first Jewish settlement is established.

•   1763 – Small numbers of Jewish citizens begin to arrive in New France from the Thirteen Colonies, England, the Netherlands and Germany.

•   1768 - First synagogue in Canada is established in Montreal, named Shearith Israel, with the help of the Hart family.

•   1807 - Ezekiel Hart is elected to the Legislature of Lower Canada although he is unable to hold his seat because law requires an oath to be taken on the “true faith of a Christian,” an obstacle removed only in 1832.

•   1831 - Prominent French-Canadian politician Louis-Joseph Papineau sponsors a law which grants full equivalent political rights to Jews, twenty-seven years before anywhere else in the British Empire.

•   1832 – Canadian Jewish citizens gain full rights as British subjects, including the right to sit in Parliament and hold public office.

•   1863 - Congregation Emanu-El inVictoria, BC is built. It remains the oldest surviving synagogue in Canada and is a National Historic Site having been built as a result of Jewish immigration in the Fraser Canyon Gold Rush.

•   1871 – Census identifies a total of 1,115 Jewish citizens: 409 in Montreal, 157 in Toronto, 131 in Hamilton, the remainder scattered along the St. Lawrence River.

•   1886 – After the completion of the Canadian Pacific Railway, Vancouver becomes a destination for a handful of Jewish people.                                                        

•   1901 – Jewish communities across Canada have been established; however, Montreal is the centre of Jewish life:6975 in Montreal, 3101 in Toronto, 1164 in Winnipeg, 224 in Vancouver, 152 in Nova Scotia.

•  1901 – 1911 – 52,484 Jewish immigrants escape Czarist Russia for Canada.

•  Early 1900s – The Jewish community becomes more organized in a quest to establish laws on immigration, human rights and against antisemitism and other forms of hate.

•   1914 – Outbreak of World War I –the Canadian Jewish population has reached approximately 100,000.

•   Early 1930s – Establishment of the Swastika Club in Toronto, an effort to keep Jewish citizens off beaches and parks.

•  1933 –Christie Pits Riot – a massive riot in which Jewish baseball players are taunted and attacked by an antisemitic youth group in Toronto’s Christie Pits Park.

•   1939 – The S.S. St. Louis is turned away from Cuba, the US and finally Canada with more than 900 Jewish refugees. Canadian Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King upholds strict immigration policies that limit Jewish refugees, simply because they are Jewish.

•   Late 1940s – Roughly 40,000 Holocaust survivors come to Canada to rebuild their lives.

•   1950s – Post war Jewish refugees make their way to Canada including Jews fleeing Hungary after the 1956 Revolution and others coming from Northern Africa due to renewed antisemitism.

•   1960s – A new wave of Jewish immigration to Canada begins to take place, mostly settling in Montreal and Toronto.

•   Late 1970s – South African Jews begin to migrate to Canada precipitated by anti-apartheid rioting and civil unrest, mostly settling in Ontario.

•   1976 - After the Parti Quebecois wins the provincial election of 1976, a mass migration of 20,000 to 30,000 Jews, particularly young adults, leave Quebec. The separatist movement is seen as a threat to the Canadian Jewish community, as an independent Quebec would economically and geographically uproot many of the 100,000 Jews in Montreal and divide and weaken the national community. Due to this widespread exodus, Toronto assumes Montreal’s position as the center of Canadian Jewish activity.

•    1991 -Census data reveals that approximately 30,000 recent Jewish immigrants, many from the former USSR and Israel, have settled in Canada. In addition, over the second half of the 20th century, approximately 25,000 Sephardic Jews from Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, Egypt, and Lebanon have settled in Montreal and Toronto.

•    2001 –Census data reveals that Toronto has become the largest Jewish population centre, but other communities across the country are also flourishing: 164,510 in Toronto, 88,765 in Montreal, 17,270 in Vancouver, 12,760 in Winnipeg, 11,325 in Ottawa, 6,530 in Calgary, 3,980 in Edmonton and 3,855 in Hamilton.

•   Today - Canada is home to the fourth largest Jewish population when ranked by country coming after Israel, United States and France. The size of the Canadian Jewish community is estimated to be about 400,000. Out of a total population of 31.3 million, the Jewish population represents 1.2%. The majority of Canadian Jews reside in Ontario and Quebec, followed by Manitoba, British Columbia, and Alberta.

Addressing Antisemitism in Canada

 What does “antisemitism” mean?

 According to a 2016 resolution of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, of which Canada is a member, antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities (see Appendix I for full definition). In 2015, the Canadian government unanimously passed a motion denouncing antisemitism resolving:

a)  To continue advancing the combating of antisemitism as a domestic and international priority;

b)   To expand engagement with civil society, community groups, educators, and other levels of government to combat antisemitism and to promote respect, tolerance, and mutual understanding.

 Hate Crime Statistics collected annually in Canada continue to show that the Jewish community is the most targeted group for hate crime incidents year after year. In addition to gathering reports from police agencies from across the country, Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies actively tracks antisemitic incidents.

With a shocking surge in antisemitism in 2017, members of the House of Commons stood on September 25, 2017 to condemn these acts of hate.

 Mr. Speaker, last week, Jewish people gathered with loved ones to celebrate their blessings during Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year. To all Canadians of Jewish heritage and descent, a belated Shana Tova. This is a time not just for celebration, but also for reflection as Yom Kippur approaches. As I join in that reflection, I am troubled by the raft of aggressive acts of antisemitism that took place over the summer months. B.C.,Manitoba, Quebec and Ontario were home to hateful verbal attacks, graffiti on playgrounds and bike paths, social media threats, and antisemitic literature campaigns. Antisemitism exists. It is on the rise. I ask all Canadians to be vigilant to combat it. Tonight, all parliamentarians are invited to celebrate the high holidays and share in this reflection on Parliament Hill with the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies. Together we can and must stand in solidarity against the rise of antisemitism.

~ MP David Sweet–Flamborough-Glanbrook, ON

“Mr. Speaker, around the worldJews are celebrating the high holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. It is a time for renewal, reflection, and a commitment to Jewish values in action,including tikkun olam, which means repairing the world, and tzedakah, a mora lobligation to social justice and charity. This year has been particularly difficult. Organizations like the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center have reported a rise in incidents of hate all across Canada. While anti-Semitism has never gone away in this country, recent factors have resulted in the resurgence of explicit prejudice and discrimination. Therefore, it seems especially important this year to gather and act in solidarity with our fellow communities to show that love is greater than hate. On behalf of all New Democrats, Isay Shana tova u’metuka to the vibrant Jewish community in my riding of Victoria and to Jewish families all across Canada. May they have a sweet year filled with happiness and good health.”

~ MP Murray Rankin - Victoria

How did the Holocaust affect the Jewish Community of Canada?

 The Holocaust was the systematic, bureaucratic, state sponsored persecution and murder of 6 million Jewish men, women and children by the Nazi regime and their collaborators during World War II. Canada had a closed-door policy to Jewish refugees seeking a safe haven during the Holocaust such that only 4,000 in total were allowed to enter this country between 1933 and 1945.

Some examples of antisemitism during the period of the Holocaust include:

•    The Christie Pits Riot of August 1933 in which Nazis unfurled a swastika flag during a public baseball game. A riot ensued which pitted Jewish and Italian teens against a group of teens who subscribed to Nazi ideology in the neighbourhood.

•   The S.S. St. Louis was a ship carrying 937 Jewish passengers fleeing Nazi persecution. The ship was refused entry into Cuba, the US and finally Canada in 1939. Canadian governmental sentiment towards Jewish immigrants was revealed by an official who responded with, “None is too many,” when asked how many Jewish refugees Canada was prepared to accept. The ship was turned around, returning its passengers to perilous European ground where the majority were murdered in the Holocaust.

•   Nazi War Criminals, under the guise of immigrants, were permitted to settle in Canada after participating in the murder of six million Jews. The majority were never extradited or charged.

Surviving the Holocaust has given Jewish people a unique understanding of what it means to be persecuted, displaced, dehumanized, separated from family, and witnesses to murder. This experience translated into an empathy and desire for activism; when world events shifted and groups from different countries and backgrounds need help, the Jewish community in general has been there to help.

A National Holocaust Monument was dedicated in 2017 in Ottawa and a formal apology was issued to Canada’s Jewish community in 2018.According to Canada’s National Capital Commission, the National Holocaust Monument has a clear set of purposes.

“The Holocaust was the mass extermination of over 6 million Jews and countless other victims, and one of the darkest chapters in human history. The monument serves to honour the victims and survivors of the Holocaust, and the important lessons it so painfully taught us. It also ensures that the lessons of the Holocaust, as well as the incredible contribution Holocaust survivors made to Canada, remain within the national consciousness for generations to come.”

Books, Publications, Films& Web Resources


Youth Literature about Jewish History and Culture

Waldman, Debby & Cindy Revell - Clever Rachel

Waldman, Debby & Cindy Revell - A Sack Full of Feathers


Jewish Beliefs, Practices & Culture

 Katz, Dovid - Words on Fire: The Unfinished Story of Yiddish Kolatch, Alfred - The Jewish Book of Why

Singer, Isidore; Cyrus Adler - TheJ ewish Encyclopedia: A Descriptive Record of the History, Religion, Literature, and Customs of the Jewish People from the Earliest Times to the Present Day

Twersky, Isadore - Introduction to the Code of Maimonides(Mishneh Torah)


History of the Jewish Diaspora (Emphasis on the Americas)

 Comay, Joan - The Diaspora Story: The Epic of the Jewish People Among the Nations

 Gitelman, Zvi (edited) - The New Jewish Diaspora: Russian-Speaking Immigrants in the United States Glinter,Ezra - Have I Got a Story for You(translated)

Howe, Irving & Kenneth Libo (editors) - How We Lived: A Documentary History of Immigrant Jews in America, 1880-1930

Wertheimer, Jack - All Quiet on the Religious Front? Jewish Unity, Denominationalism, and Post-denominationalism in the United States


Notable Canadian-Jewish Figures

 Foran, Charles - Mordecai: The Life and Times

 Ringuet, Chantal & Gérard Rabinovitch (editors) - Les révolutionsde Leonard Cohen


Canadian-Jewish History

Brown, Michael - Jew or Juif? Jews, French Canadians, and Anglo-Canadians, 1759-1914

Brym, Robert J.,William Shaffir, and Morton Weinfeld - The Jews in Canada

Jedwab, Jack - Canadian Jews in the 21st Century: Identity and Demography

King, Joe - Baron Byng to Bagels: Tales of Jewish Montreal

Leonoff, Cyril - Pioneers, Pedlars and Prayer Shawls: the Jewish Communities in BC and the Yukon

 Speisman, Stephan A. - The Jews of Toronto: A History to 1937

 Tulchinsky, Gerald - Taking Root: The Origins of the Canadian-Jewish Community


World War II & the Holocaust

 Bessner, Ellin - Double Threat:Canadian Jews, the Military, and World War II

Eisen, Max - By Chance Alone

Martz, Fraidi - Open Your Hearts:The Story of the Jewish War Orphans in Canada

Mayer, Anita - One Who Came Back

Rosenfeld, Alan - Holocaust Lumber


Antisemitism in Canada

 Abella, Irving & Harold Troper - None is Too Many

 Brown, Michael - Delayed Impact:The Holocaust and the Canadian Jewish Community Jew or Juif?

Davies, Alan T. - Antisemitism in Canada: history and interpretation

 Lapinsky, Jack - Imposing Their Will: An Organizational History of Jewish Toronto, 1933-1948

Levitt, Ceril & William Shaffir - The Riot at Christie Pits

Margolis, Rebecca - Jewish Roots, Canadian Soil:Yiddish Cultural Life in Montreal, 1905-1945 Robinson, Ira - A History of Antisemitism in Canada

Troper, Harold - The Defining Decade: Identity,Politics & the Canadian Jewish Community in the 1960s

Jewish Literature

Becker,Shelly – Even Superheroes Have Bad Days

 Becker,Shelly – Mine! Mine! Mine!

 McKay,Sharon - Esther

 Panofsky, Ruth (editor) - The New Spice Box:Canadian Jewish Writing

 Richler,Mordecai - The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz

 Richler,Mordecai – Jacob Two Two and the Hooded Fang

 Sendak,Maurice – Where the Wild Things Are

 Steinberg, Milton - As A Driven Leaf


Web Resources

Antisemitism in Canada -

Canadian Museum for Human Rights -

Celebrating Canadian Jewish Experience – 150th Project -

Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies -

Historica Canada: Jews (Encyclopedia entry)

Library and Archives of Canada: Jewish Genealogy -

 Montreal Holocaust Museum -

Never Forget Me Survivor Testimony -

Ontario Jewish Archives -

The Canadian Jewish Heritage Network -

Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre -