30 May 2008

Canada: Quebec City's Jewish history

Quebec City is celebrating the little-known history of its Jewish community with a recently opened exhibit - Same Cloth, Different Thread: The Jews of Québec - as part of the city's 400th anniversary, according to the Canadian Jewish News.

Quebec City’s Jewish population was probably never much more than the 125 families it had at its peak in the 1940s and ’50s. But the community’s history goes back to the 18th century and its impact, especially on the capital’s commerce, was far greater than the numbers would suggest.

The exhibit, open through September 26, is part of Shalom Québec, a series of events and a collaborative research project among historians and academics.

The Shalom Québec website provides much more information about the community, and visitors are are invited to contribute stories or memorabilia.

The bilingual exhibit is in the Gare du Palais railway station, because of its location on a street where many Jewish stores were located. It includes text, photos and more, beginning with a profile of Esther Brandeau of France, considered the first documented Jew to arrive in New France.

In 1738, Brandeau arrived, disguised as a male sailor. When discovered, she was sent to a convent, refused to convert and was sent back to Europe the next year.

Congregation Beth Israel Ohev Shalom is the only synagogue, headed by president Jonathan Hawey, born in Quebec City in 1955, He was raised a Catholic, but his unusual name combined with genealogical research confirmed he was the direct descendant of an 18th century Scottish Jew (who married a Catholic and assimilated). Hawey converted to Judaism and says that his Hebrew is better than his English.

Some of Quebec's early Jews: Samuel Jacobs, 1759; fire chief John Franks, late 18th century; engineer Sigismund Mohr, late 19th century; prominent Jewish businessman Maurice Pollack from Ukraine, early 1900s; Sadie Lazarovitz, one of the first Canadian female law graduates (1928).

Some difficult times are addressed, such as the anti-Semitism of notary Jacques Plamondon, and the synagogue's arson before its inauguration in 1944. World events include France's Dreyfus affair, Russian pogroms, the Nazi era and the State of Israel.

Read more here.

Shalom Quebec offers much more detail on the area's Jewish history, with history, timeline, religion, families, important sites, research and more. The site is in French and English. There is much more information on Brandeau and other early Jews.


  1. Anonymous6:03 PM

    I believe Ida and Isabel Hurst might be the first Jewish sisters to graduate from McGill University (1896 & 1899).......

  2. Anonymous9:09 AM

    Clara Goodman, was also one of the first women Jews graduating in Law in 1929 (was delayed by two years due to health issues) but couldn't practice due to teh restrictions in Quebec

  3. Anonymous12:01 AM

    Actually Clara Goodman received her LLB in 1921