The biggest influx of Jewish immigration to Brantford occurred between 1881 and 1911. Many emigrated from Russia and Eastern Europe where there was an ongoing period of repression and pogroms. Faced with the decision to either give up their religion and convert to Christianity or potentially be killed, many instead chose to emigrate. Those who arrived in Brantford arrived with little to no money, knew no English and were only skilled in few industrialized talents, but they brought their traditions, close family ties, and most importantly their religion.
Although there were many possible locales in which these early immigrants could start their new lives, Brantford seemed a good option as the physical environment reflected that of the land which they had left behind and the city itself was viewed as a place of opportunity, freedom and peace. Although they did face some discrimination, the social and political environment was certainly an improvement over the pogroms from which they had fled, and they were able to fulfil their basic needs and eventually their aspirations.
(Image above: Mrs. Isaac Simon. From the Ontario Jewish Archives.)
(Image right: Jewish immigrants from Russia, pictured after arriving in Quebec in 1903)
The first Jewish family in Brantford was brothers Hiram and Isaac Simon, along with their respective families. As more Jewish families moved to the area, they soon formed a close-knit community that worked together to take care of common needs, which included religious and social needs.
Early Jewish pioneers came to Brantford as pedlars on foot or with horses and wagons. Many of them settled in Brantford after taking a circuitous route through the United States or other Canadian cities. Over time, Brantford's Jewish community grew to make up 1% of the city's population.