Canadian Jewish Heritage Month 2023: Celebrating Jewish heritage in Canada

May 3, 2023 – Defence Stories

The month of May is Canadian Jewish Heritage Month, an opportunity to recognize, celebrate, and learn more about the countless contributions Jewish Canadians have made to the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces and to the country.

Canadian Jewish Heritage Month was officially recognized by the federal government in March of 2018 after a unanimous vote in the House of Commons. The month of May was chosen because of its meaningfulness to the Jewish community around the world. Notably, it often lines up with Shavuot or the “Feast of Weeks”, which celebrates the spring harvest and commemorates the revelation of the Torah.

Early beginnings of Jewish immigration to Canada

The first known Jews to settle in the land we now call Canada were Samuel Jacobs and Aaron Hart, commissaries attached to the British army during the British conquest of New France in 1760. Before that, Jewish immigration was banned in New France. Hart’s sons were involved in founding the first Canadian Jewish community in Montreal, with the first Canadian synagogue being established in 1768.

The biggest wave of Jewish immigration to Canada came between the end of the 19th century and the end of World War I, when persecution and poverty in Europe forced millions of Jews to find a better life elsewhere. Today, Canada’s Jewish population is approximately 335,000 people, making it the fourth-largest Jewish community in the world.

Honouring Jewish Canadians

During this month, we recognize and honour the bravery and resilience that Jewish communities have shown throughout history. Diversity is one of Canada’s greatest strengths and the participation of Jewish Canadians in our country’s civic life is of tremendous value. This vibrant community has contributed to every aspect of life in Canada, from business and politics to arts and culture, sports, science, and much more.

Sadly, Jewish Canadians have faced and continue to face horrendous acts of racism, discrimination, xenophobia, and violence. Antisemitism is an ongoing problem in our world, and its harmful effects continue to hurt Jewish individuals and communities around the globe. This is a month to reflect on the fact that while progress has been made, Jewish people in Canada continue to face discrimination every day.

For the DND/CAF, this is a month to stand in solidarity with Jewish Defence Team members and reaffirm our goal to eliminate all forms of antisemitism in our workplace, which are unacceptable and morally reprehensible. Let us ensure that all Jewish DT members feel they belong and can contribute meaningfully to operational success.

Educating ourselves

Let us educate ourselves on the rich history of Judaism and all its unique communities and sub-ethnicities. Let us learn from the lived experiences of Jewish DT members and promote open dialogue regarding any antisemitism they have faced, past or present.

In relation to Canadian Jewish Heritage, there are several resources and organizations available to DT members:



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