Collection 3 - Community Files

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Community Files

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  • ca. 1900 - present (Creation)
    Saint John Jewish community

Physical description

4 m of records

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(1858 -)

Administrative history

Saint John's Jews were very active within their own ethnic and religious community and also in the city's organizations and business life from the first arrivals in 1858 to the present day. Many community members are noted for their extensive contributions to charitable organizations, educational and professional achievements, business presence and military involvement

The general history of the Saint John Jewish community includes written histories by community members, most notably Dr. Eli Boyaner and Dr. Joseph Tanzman. Additional articles include Jewish immigration to the city, athletes, artists, businesses and the film industry. Lists of Jewish residents have been compiled from census returns and city directories.

A reunion of the now widely scattered Saint John Jewish Community, called the "Koom Ahaim", was held in Saint John in July 1984 to coincide with provincial bicentennial celebrations.

Jewish men in business were led by Solomon Hart who opened a cigar factory in 1858. Similar businesses were established by the families that followed from England and Western Europe. The Eastern Europeans possessed skills and trades when they arrived, but they turned first to the peddling of goods into the countryside to earn money and also to learn English. After a few years, small shops and factories were established in the city's North end along Main Street and some later moved uptown or to other parts of the city. It was a varied group of businesses but clothing, food, and manufactured goods were the most common things available. Many also sold second hand goods and dealt in scrap metal. The history of Jewish businesses has been well documented through the city directories, newspaper advertisements and features, and a limited number of company records. At one time a great many of Saint John's prominent merchants were Jewish, but by 2007 all of the "original" Jewish run businesses had closed.

The Saint John Jewish community was very active in both World Wars. During the Second World War many men enlisted for the army, navy, and air force, while many women joined the Red Cross, the Canadian Women Army Corps, enlisted as nurses, or stayed in Saint John to provide assistance to the servicemen passing through the city, either in their own homes, in the Jewish Servicemen's Centre on Union Street, or in other service centres.

Jewish life throughout Canada and the rest of the world is also represented, mostly from newspaper clippings and magazines. This serves to place this community into a context with the rest of the world and reflects information easily available in the local city newspapers on world events.

Custodial history

The Saint John Jewish Historical Society began to collect material on the history of the Saint John Jewish community in 1983. The collection was originally housed in a small art studio on Canterbury Street in Saint John before the opening of the Museum in July 1986 in the Jewish Community Centre on Wellington Row. Formal cataloguing of the collection began in 1986. Material collected from 1983 to 2001 has been microfilmed by the Provincial Archives of New Brunswick. The archives is stored in a dedicated archival space in the Museum’s current location at 91 Leinster Street and regular additions of material are made. Prior to acquisition by the Museum, these materials were held by the donors in their homes, and generally donated prior to moves, downsizing or change in community role.

Scope and content

The fonds includes published and unpublished articles, newspaper clippings, information from census returns and city directories, programmes, newspaper clippings, newsletters, scrapbooks, letters, advertisements, memorabilia.

Physical condition

Immediate source of acquisition

Much of the material in the fonds has come from members of the Saint John Jewish community and indicate donations of material of personal interest. Most of the items from newspaper sources were collected by Museum staff.


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There are no restrictions. Generally material must be consulted on site or through correspondence with the curator.

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Finding aids

A finding aid is available, however, the information is under review and revision and an updated version should be available in 2014.

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