A Look Back at the History of Jewish Canadians

January 3, 2019 | Danya Elsayed

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Canada is a cultural mosaic; our citizens come from all over the world. You might have made the journey yourself from another country, or maybe one of your family members did long ago. Regardless of how we got here, our diversity strengthens our identities as Canadians.

This week we're taking a look at the history of Canada's Jewish community that spans more than 250 years. Jewish Canadians were, and still are, an integral part of our society; they are contributors of business, literature, music, entertainment, art and politics.

Here are the photos of a few notable Jewish Canadians. There are many others; this is just a small few.

Joseph Shuster

Co-creator of the DC comic book character Superman.

Jerry Siegel and Joseph Shuster
Jerry Siegel (right) Joseph Shuster (left), co-creators of DC comic book character Superman. Photo by


The Joe Shuster story: the artist behind Superman, Julian Voloj

Celia Franca

Founder of The National Ballet of Canada.

Celia Franca

Joey Jacobson

An Airman in the Second World War.

Joey Jacobson's war : a Jewish Canadian airman in the Second World War, Peter J. Usher

Aubrey Drake Graham, a.k.a. Drake

Toronto-born Aubrey Drake Graham is a three-time award-winning Grammy hip-hop artist.

Aubrey Graham during his Summer Sixteen Tour.
Photo courtesy of The Come Up Show.

Far from over : the music and life of Drake, the unofficial story, Dalton Higgins


Some History

The history of Jewish Canadians starts off with the Great Migration of Canada between 1815-1850. Thousands of settlers arrived in Canada in search of financial success. Among those groups were Jews from Europe.

Most of the early Jewish Canadians were either fur traders, merchants or landowners. They built their lives in a new country with little to their names. Many of our families can relate to this story of coming to Canada with the hope for a brighter future.

Jewish immigrants on board the General Sturgis, Halifax, Nova Scotia, 6 February 1948.
Jewish immigrants on board the General Sturgis, Halifax, Nova Scotia, 6 February 1948. Photo courtesy of The Canadian Encyclopedia.

After World War II and growing anti-Semitism, many Jews from Europe, Africa and the Middle East immigrated to Canada. Since then, the Jewish population in Canada has grown immensely. Toronto holds the largest number of Jewish Canadians with more than 100,000. 

Are you interested to learn more about what it's like to be a Jewish Canadian? From January to March 2019, Barbara Frum is hosting a series that is part of our Thought Exchange programs, called Many Lives, One People.

Recommended Resources

Here are some of the resources used in writing this article, for further reading:

Do you know any other Jewish Canadians that have made an impact in Canada? Please tell us about them in the comments below.

This post was updated with corrections and a list of recommended resources on January 21, 2019. A previous version of this post incorrectly stated that there were more than 2,500,000 Jewish Canadians in Toronto.