A brief report on the decline of Brantford's Jewish Community


The Jewish community in Brantford peaked in the 1960s. By this point in the city's history, there were 150 Jewish families and numerous businesses in the downtown area. The community had established a Hebrew school and an active synagogue, and in the 1950s, the city had elected a Jewish mayor, Max Sherman. The community had become intertwined in with the city's cultural, economic and politicial life.



The community gradually declined in the 1980s. The reasons for decline came down to two primary factors.

Firstly, post-secondary education was considered important within the community. Families encouraged their children to leave Brantford to pursue their education. As a result, family-owned businesses were not taken over by the next generation, and once the previous generation retired, they often left Brantford to follow their children to other cities.

The second factor was due to the decline of the city's manufacturing sector and the transformation of the downtown area. The economic crash resulting from the closing of the huge Massey and Cockshutt plants impacted downtown Brantford severely. This situation was compounded by the Hotel Kerby fire and ensuing development. The Hotel Kerby was considered the largest hotel in Canada West, boasting 70 rooms. After a blaze in 1976 destroyed the building, it was converted into a mall. Although intended to revitalize the downtown core, the mall drove out most of the surviving small businesses in the area.

These changes resulted in the gradual decline of the community and by 2002, the synagogue was shut down as it could no longer be sustained. Today only around 25 Jewish families remain in Brantford.



The Memories of Brantford Project thanks the sponsors for their generous support.