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Canadian Documents Throw New Light on History of Jews in Quebec

April 26, 1956
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

The Bronfman Collection of Jewish Canadiana at the Jewish Public Library of Montreal has received from the Public Archives at Ottawa photostatic copies of historic Canadian documents in Yiddish and in English which shed much new light on the history of the Jewish community here, it was announced here today.

These Jewish documents, now under intense study in Canada and in the United States, indicate that, at least to large extent, the so called Spanish or Sephardic phase of Canadian Jewish History was a misnomer, deriving from the personal connections of the eighteenth century Jewish pioneers with a London synagogue following the Spanish rite of the Jewish faith. It had been suspected earlier, however, that many of these Jewish new comers to Canada had Germanic or Ashkenazic connections. However, historians persisted in their belief that the first Canadian Jews were Spanish speaking and that Yiddish speaking Jews did not come to Canada until much later, probably in the nineteenth century

The documents now added to the Bronfman Collection, probably the oldest of Jewish interest in this part of Canada, indicate that Yiddish–as well as English, of course–was spoken and written in Montreal and in Quebec at an earlier date than that which had been set for the coming of the first Jews into Canada. These Canadian documents are of profound interest to European historians, for Yiddish letters of the eighteenth century are not very common. Linguists in New York and Jerusalem are examining copies of these documents for the light they can throw on the social and cultural history of the Jews.

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