The pleasant temperatures of the short spring and summer of the fertile plains of the Canadian Midwest are a stark contrast to the winter, when temperatures can plummet to -40 degrees Fahrenheit and almost never rise above freezing. That the land is covered with snow for over half the year was probably not a daunting feature for the hundreds of Russian and Eastern European Jews who arrived there at the end of the 19th century.
The first settlement, referred to as
New Jerusalem, was founded in 1882 near Moosomin (Saskatchewan) at the
instigation of Canadian High Commissioner Alexander T. Galt, who saw
Jewish immigration as a solution to the Russian pogroms. Although some
issues arose due to latent anti-Semitism (unusual delays in procuring
the land grants), the Jewish colonizers were accepted as part of the
Canadian drive to open up its western frontier. Due to adverse
conditions and a disastrous fire, New Jerusalem lasted only five years.
such as Wapella and Hirsch were assisted by independent
philanthropists, the English Herman Landau and the French Baron Maurice
de Hirsch (with the Young Men's Hebrew Benevolent Society, and the Baron
Hirsch Colonization Alliance), respectively. The financing allowed for
the initial settlement, but neither of these settlements would have
lasted as long as they did without an influx of independently financed
settlers. The Hirsch colony had the first synagogue in the province and
established, what is today, the oldest Jewish cemetery in Canada.
1906, Lithuanian Jews from Europe and South Africa traveled to
Saskatchewan, but rather than join the already existing settlements,
these scholars and petty merchants went north on the Carrot River to the
well-forested land. Edenbridge, derived from Yidden (Jews) Bridge as
they wanted to name the town, survived for several decades. The wooden
structure of the Beth Israel Synagogue, which was used until 1964, still
stands. Indeed, a few Jewish farms were still active as late as 1968.
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