Two brothers, Jacob and William Diamond were among the first Jewish people to settle in Alberta,
in 1888 and 1892, respectively. They made the long journey from their home in Lithuania.
The Diamond brothers went on to be successful merchants in Alberta, and, perhaps, more notable,
they organized for a High Holy Day service attended by other Jewish Albertans
who had arrived.
Unlike the Diamond brothers, early Jewish immigrants came to Alberta to
establish farm colonies, settling in central and southern Alberta,
near places such as Pine Lake, Trochu, Medicine Hat and Lethbridge.
This first attempt at farming was not overly successful. Many
of those who came were city-dwellers who had grown up in the
cities of Europes. A Jewish relief agency in London
England raised $400 to distribute the destitute Jewish pioneers. Because of the
difficult conditions in Alberta and the Jewish peoples inexperience in farming, many of the
immigrants left Alberta soon after, some going to the United States.
By 1906, the community had largely reestablished itself in Calgary.
By 1931, only eight percent of the Jewish population in Alberta was living in rural communities. The
majority of Jews lived in larger urban areas such as Edmonton, Calgary and Lethbridge. Of the urban
Jewish population, most lived in less affluent sections of the cities.
World War I almost
completely stopped any immigration to Canada.
The interwar period was a time of heightened racism against the
Jewish people. Although Jews had always faced anti-Semitic attitudes, this was greatly escalated.
Poland's Jewish population was blamed for the terrible state of the economy, and some Jewish
people could not leave their homes without fear for their safety. The stage was being set for the
ominous policies of the National Socialist (Nazi)Party in
The end of the economic depression of the 1930s came only with the Second World War and the Holocaust.
The aftermath of the Holocaust brought about an influx of Jewish immigration into Canada and Alberta.
Many of the Jews who came were survivors of the Holocaust. For Jewish Albertans,
the deaths of six million Jews in the Holocaust changed and
reinforced the way they saw their community in terms of their Jewish identity.
World War II, as the community established itself, many moved to more affluent areas in the cities. For example,
Edmontonians moved to the Glenora neighbourhood and for Calgarians, from Bridgeland to the Mount Royal
or Britannia districts.
Presently, Jewish Albertans are prominent in leadership and
professional circles, with positions such as lawyers,
university presidents, judges, and professors. In the 1970s, Alberta experienced an increase
in Jewish immigration into the province from Israel and increased need of services.
As with all communities, the arrival of those who are
co-religionists or of similar culture can also challenge the
existing, established community. Jewish
immigrants from Israel may find they have more in common with other immigrants from Israel then with
the second or third generation Jewish people in Alberta.
For a more detailed consideration of the Jewish presence in
Alberta, read Harry Sander's feature article The Jews of
This digital collection was
produced with financial assistance from Canada's Digital
Collections initiative, Industry Canada.