Metropolis of the Dominion of Canada, situated on an island in the St. Lawrence River; the most important center of Jewish population in British North America. In 1901 the Jewish population of Montreal was 6,790. Owing to the large influx of settlers from eastern Europe since that date the present (1904) Jewish population is about 13,500 in a total population of 370,000, including the suburbs. For the history of its community see
The secular education of Jewish children in the Province of Quebec is provided for by a bill passed by the legislature in 1903. By the "Provincial Education Act" Protestant and Catholic school commissioners maintain separate public schools. Previous to 1903 Jews were given the option of contributing their taxes to either the Protestant or Catholic panel. Generally they paid their taxes into the former, and sent their children either to the Protestant public schools or to Jewish schools subsidized by the commissioners. So long as the number of Jewish pupils formed but a small ratio of those attending, there were no difficulties, but with the growth of the population serious differences arose. The law attributed the tax to the landlord, whether paid by him or by the tenant, and as the ratio of Jewish landowners was small, this led to the claim that the Jewish contribution to the tax was not in proportion to the number of Jewish pupils attending the schools of the Protestant Board. Although the Protestant commissoners continued to receive Jewish pupils at their schools, they declined to acknowledge any obligation to educate children of the Jewish faith whose parents were not owners of immovable property subject to taxation for school purposes; and they claimed the right to refuse to receive Jewish pupils in the event that the schools should become too crowded.
A crisis was provoked when a scholarship won by a Jewish pupil was withheld by the Protestant commissioners. The case was carried into the courts in 1903, and the validity of the Protestant commissioners' contention was judicially established. Vigorous measures were promptly taken to alter an act which was so opposed to the full civil rights secured to the Jews by the act of 1831. Public opinion was unanimous in demanding that the anomalies of the law should be corrected. A committee of the Jewish Educational Rights Movement, representative of every section of the community, waited on the government, and with the cooperation of the Protestant commissioners a law was passed in April, 1903, enacting that all Jews were to pay their taxes into the Protestant panel and enjoy equal rights with the Protestants in the schools under the Protestant commissioners. A conscience clause was provided protecting Jewish children in their religious observances.
In addition to those that attend the ordinary public schools a large number of Jewish children are educated at the school attached to the Baron de Hirsch Institute; they receive instruction in Hebrew and in secular subjects, the cost in the case of the latter being assumed by the Protestant Board. A night-school is also connected with the Baron de Hirsch Institute. The Talmud Torah Association (founded 1896) maintains a large school for the training of children in Jewish religion and history and in the Hebrew language. Instruction in these subjects is imparted also in the several schools supported by the congregations.Organizations.
The Jewish philanthropic organizations of Montreal are numerous. The excellent work performed by The Baron de Hirsch Institute and Hebrew Benevolent Society in relieving distress and assisting immigrants has been mentioned in the article Canada, referred to above. Other associations which have performed important charitable work are the Ladies' Hebrew Benevolent Society (founded 1877), the Ladies' Chevra Kadisha (1878), the HebrewSick Benefit Association (1892), the Hebrew Benevolent Loan Society (1893), the Hebrew Young Ladies' Sewing Society (with Diet Dispensary; 1894), the Hebrew Ladies' Aid Society (1894), the Charity Society of the Chevra Tillim (1898), and the Jewish Endeavor Sewing School (1902). Several of the congregations maintain their own aid societies and sewing circles.
Montreal is the headquarters of the Federation of Zionist Societies of Canada, and in 1904 supported six local branches of the movement. Among other communal organizations are four lodges of the Independent Order of the Sons of Benjamin, the Montreal Lodge of B'nai B'rith, the Zion Cadet Corps and Jewish Lads' Brigade, the Montefiore Club, the Maimonides Literary Circle, the Gereuth Circle, the Young Men's Hebrew Association, and the Montreal Branch of the Jewish Theological Seminary; the Anglo-Jewish Association maintained a branch in Montreal from 1881 to 1891, and the Kesher Shel Barzel supported a lodge from 1872 to 1890. In 1895 the Montreal Chovevei Zion Society No. 2 purchased 4,000 "duman" of land in Palestine, east of the Jordan, for colonization; this land, however, was afterward transferred to other hands. Several other philanthropic and literary societies established in the earlier days of the community have been replaced in their activities by later organizations.
- Statutes of Province of Quebec, 1903;
- Jewish Year-Book (London), 1903;
- Ville-Marie, Montreal Past and Present, Sandham, 1870;
- Gazetteer of Montreal, 1892.