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A Comparison of the Great Immigrations of both the Jewish and Irish communities to Canada Essay



People consider the immigrations of both the Irish and the Jewish communities from their mother countries the greatest exodus ever to occur around the world. While the Irish migration occurred in mid 1800s, the Jewish occurred in the early 1900s. The migrations involved a huge number of people, leading to a mixture of cultures in Canada, and a corresponding huge impact on the labor force and the general economy of Canada[1] (Tulckinsky, 2008, p.34).

Furthermore, the migration influenced the demographic structure of their home and host countries in that the number of those who remained behind reduced with the population of Canada almost tripling. Therefore, the effect on the economic, politics and even the social life was automatic in all the concerned countries because of the change of environment.

Various reasons fuelled the migrations of these communities to Canada. There were some burning issues behind the communities’ migration. Some of the reasons, which could have led to the movement, include need for standard lives[2], search of employments and generally an environment conducive for them to continue with their activities. These communities immigrated to Canada in different periods.

Immigration to Canada

The Jewish community migrated to Canada in the mid 1800s while on the other hand the Irish followed the suit in early 1900s, a difference of roughly 100 years. All these communities came from their homelands to settle in this new land for the hope of earning a better and standard of living. Therefore, some of the factors contributing to the Jewish immigration was the fact that they were poor and wanted to better there status of life.

The unifying forces during this migration for the Irish were their language and their homeland. The Irish people spoke the same language enhancing their bond and thereby sealing their relationships. The fact that they migrated as a group and from similar homeland contributed to their unity and togetherness.

On the other hand, the Jewish originality and their almost similar level of income and state of living too bound them (Olson, 2004, p.357). This therefore led to their migration in unity and as group[3]. During the immigration, the Irish people came into Canada directly unlike the fellow Jews who had to transverse through Europe and Asia before coming to Canada. This followed the fact that they were facing persecution from the majority of communities.

Further, the Jewish community did not have similar language and place of origin. However, their religion and Hebrew also bound them, which was their language of faith. The confederacy secured them a chance to do their activities together even when they were migrating to Canada.

These binding factors played vital role as they cemented their relationship and association. From time immemorial, language and religion have played a key role in cementing of solidarity and unity among different communities, a case still witnessed to date in the conflicts that occur around the globe. Communities, which speak different languages have always had rift between them as opposed to those with similar language[4].

Religious ties on the other hand play a vital role in ensuring that people or communities are united. Therefore, it still applied to the migration of these two communities into Canada. Without these similarities and commonness, they could not have managed to migrate smoothly to Canada. However, one can ask, ‘What pushed the communities from their homelands?’

Lifestyles in their Mother Countries

Furthermore, to dig deep into the cause of their immigration, it is in order first to answer the afore-posed question concerning the forces that really pushed these communities from their homelands to their present destination Canada.

In addition, the question concerning what was going on in their homeland is necessary to bring out the cause of their immigration. They could not have moved out of their original homeland if there were no problems or some pressure forcing them to move. Therefore, the Irish people migrated to Canada because of the great Irish famine[5].

There was a famine caused by a drought that resulted from a disease, which attacked potatoes, their staple food. This famine lasted for a long period leading to a mass starvation, disease outbreaks, and even death of some of them (Margolis, 2009, p.173). This situation worsened leading to mass migration of the Irish people to Canada in search of food. It was the only option that they could do so in order to begin a new life in Canada.

On the other hand, Jewish migration to Canada was because of very different reasons as opposed to that of the Irish. The growth of the anti-Semitic beliefs in the late19th century and early 20th century in parts of Europe and Asia too aggravated the migration. These beliefs were against the Jews community forcing them to seek refuge to the west.

This was a massive rejection of the Jews people and therefore they opted to go to Canada for them to survive[6]. They therefore, went in Canada, a place that they could be accepted and be able to continue with their day-to-day life without any attack and rejection (Hiebert, 2003, Para. 3).

The Jews’ choice of Canada followed the fact that it was a prosperous nation with fertile soil for carrying out agriculture. Furthermore, there were various developments introduced in Canada after the achievement of confederation. This also played a part in the choice of Canada as their destination after being forced to move out of Europe. The Jewish people also led a very poor life in their places of origin. They had no stable income and therefore they were leading a very miserable life.

Nevertheless, the fact that some few Jews in Canada were wealthy, they began forming federations aimed at uplifting the Jewish state of life (Sack, 1975, p.12). Therefore, through these federations, the Jewish communities migrated to Canada to engage themselves in the economic activities to improve their living standards. Therefore, while traveling to Canada they were expecting to lead good lifestyle and safe living conditions. On arrival at Canada, the reception was highly commendable[7].

Integration to Canada

On arrival, the Jewish as well as the Irish received a warm welcome. There was no hatred or other counter reactions from the Canadian people. Some of the Jewish had traveled to Canada to seek refuge from the then persecutions. Therefore, this fact secured them a good chunk of the warm welcome by the Canadians (Gracia, 2003, p.225). The fact that some Jews had already pitched camp in Canada also contributed to this warm welcome.

Their presence, which had contributed positively to the economy of Canada, previously softened the Canadian people who had faith in them that they could assist in rebuilding the bruised Canadian economy. Therefore, majority of the Canadian people welcomed them. The anti-semantic belief witnessed in the Europe and Asia was not nowhere in Canada[8]. Likewise, the Irish unity transferred and manifested to the Canadians was highly welcome.

When the two groups arrived in Canada, they had to improvise ways to sustain their livelihood. For instance, the Irish community had fled from their homeland due to the famine that had invaded their homeland. Therefore, they considered migrating to Canada because of the fertile tracks of land that were not under utility (Hedican, 2003, p.203). They therefore, settled in these areas, which had fertile soil that could produce good harvest and be able to sustain them.

On arrival with their shiploads, most of them circulated around Canada, and engaged in land cultivation and crop planting. The most attracting factor, which led to their immigration, was the hunger, which broke in their land. Everybody therefore had to seek food and a place where he could be able to obtain food. On the other hand, the Jewish community immigration to Canada is associated with various factors.

Even before the influx of the Jewish in Canada, in the late 19th century and early 20th century, already some Jews had already migrated to Canada. These early migrations were because of search of greener pastures and for self-upkeep. The commonly known influx of many Jews in Canada was due to increased case of persecution and the growth of anti-Semitic beliefs among others. When they arrived at Canada, the Jews also received a positive welcome.

Their reason was to be relieved from the persecutions and gain acceptance. They did not consolidate in one place rather they spread into rural and urban areas. Their reason for picking Canada was the hope that they could get peace of mind[9]. The other nations secluded them refusing to associate with them, a rejection that fuelled their migration. They also moved to Canada because of the growth of anti-Semitic beliefs.

Therefore, the Jewish community picked it because it could accept refugees. The rate at which persecutions were happening in the areas where the Jews were staying was high and therefore they sort refuge in Canada which was the only destination that they could reach and which they had hope. The fertile soils that were in Canada also were one of the reasons for the Jewish choice.

Jews also migrated to Canada because the then immigration laws applicable in the US that restricted them from going to the land of their first choice, hence their decision to head Canada, their second choice.

Furthermore, resources at their disposal hampered their movement to America since they could not manage to cater for the travelling expenses hence leaving them with the option to head Canada. They escaped the anti-Jewish and eh anti-Zionist policies propagated by the Arab regimes. These oppressions facilitated their movement to Canada a country that welcomed them without any restrictions.

The number of the Jewish immigrants in Canada increased in the late 20thcentury because of lack of any restricting laws prohibiting entry to the Canada. On the other hand, the Irish people entered Canada and settled on the eastern part as they carried on with their farming activities. They ploughed large tracks of agricultural land and planted variety of crops. These led to increased in food leading to the country becoming self-sufficient.

When the number of the Jews immigrants continued to increase, the Canada immigrations official and the government of Canada started to restrict the movement of Jews in the Canada. This was serious to the level that they restricted their movement without considering the restriction provisions of non-preferred category.

Rome notes that all the Jews,” irrespective of their age, citizenship, place of birth with exception of those born from British subjects or in the United States or had family in Canada…were lumped under the special permit group with other people who came from Italy , Syria, Bulgaria, Turkey and Greece…” (1974, p.56). This restriction meant that permission could only be offered to the Jews and the southern Europeans upon issuance of a special entry permit[10]. The issue now became a matter of which political icon one owned.

When it comes to religion issues, these two communities had some differences. The Irish people were Catholics. The Irish Diaspora prophesized Christianity, owing to this religious affiliation, they were welcome at Montreal in Canada a place where Catholics were already established. This catholic Irish settled in the city in the early 1840 and afterward moved upward. There are various reasons, which have been advanced or attributed to their upward movement.

Existence of the Irish catholic population that existed as early as 1820s constituted to their third community having distinctive behaviors in their demographics, allegiances to institutions, Anglo Protestants and the French Canadians. These factors lead to there upward movement as group to be able to find harmony and space in line with their activities and their spiritual growth in their denomination or faith. Therefore, there were some differences between the Jewish and the Irish religions.

The Hebrew formed the basis of the Jewish religion as they practiced Jewish religion as opposed to the Irish who were Catholics. The Roman Catholic Irish believers had to move into the northern part of Canada to seclude themselves from the other believers[11]. On the other hand, most of the Jews community moved to the eastern parts of Canada to carryon with their religious practices. Moving as a community meant that they could preserve their religious beliefs, values, and practices.

These religious affiliations had some influence in their settlements in Canada. Primarily, they contributed to their seclusion and choice of the place of stay. Most of the Jews assumed particular destinations. On the other hand, the catholic Irish also found specific place where they pitched camp and established their residence. These religious affiliations played a big role in the patterns of occupation in Canada.

The religious affiliations also brought different spiritual teachings and social life of the people from both the affiliations. For instance, the issues of marriage were deferent from the doctrines and the understanding of the catholic Irish with their counterpart the Jewish people. The high rate of intermarriages between the Irish catholic and the Protestants could not compare to that of Jewish[12] (Linfield, 2002, p.49).

The intermarriages played a function of exchange and accommodation of each other’s Christian beliefs and practices. They also assisted in reducing the rift or religious differences in Canada as people from different religious backgrounds embraced the values and beliefs of other religions.

The trust and continued interactions led to a flexible transformation of believers thereby assisting in the promotion of stability and understandability of the faithful by clearly defining to them that they were worshiping one God irrespective of one’s beliefs and opinions.

When it came to the question of unity and sticking together, there were some levels of variability. For instance, the Jewish held close ties to their teachings. They clearly focused on the laid down teachings and therefore instances of interactions through intermarriages with other communities or religious affiliations were minimal[13]. The systems of association remained closed: not open to other people[14].

On the other, the Irish community was more open and adopted a flexible thinking mind. Regardless of the seclusion witnessed during their early years of migration, the Irish Catholics became transparent and flexible towards other protestant churches that had their operation in Canada.

For instance, the Irish catholic, involved themselves in the practice of intermarriages with their counterparts from the evangelical or the protestant churches. These interactions and intermarriages witnessed between the communities led to the decline in the religious affiliations ties thereby allowing the sharing of views from different perspectives.

In some occasions, there were allegations that the Irish Catholics sent their young daughters to work as households in the houses of the Protestants. This was one of the example of how these two communities depicted differences in character and behavior. Likewise, in the Jewish religious, Jews did their work themselves and could not allow their children to engage in certain tasks (Rome, 1974, p.11).

This therefore was one of the reasons, important in the history of the Christian differences, which existed between the two faction groups: Canada immigrants.

Furthermore, the Irish Catholic undertook different steps geared at ensuring elimination of illiteracy, improvement in the production of its produces among other initiatives. For instance, the money, which was, collected from this activity, served in improving of the living standards of the poor. In addition, it was used to fund for the establishment of schools to generate or rather promote formal education among children[15].

When it comes to the issue of preserving religious practices and culture, both of the communities tried their best way out in ensuring that their religious practices and religious were accorded due respect by all the followers. For instance, the Jews had strict procedures put in place to mark their identity preserved for them. They protected their culture and particularly their religious thinking and beliefs[16].

They ensured this by establishing places to worship, building of schools aimed at teaching the Jews’ children on matters patterning the Jewish religion. These Jewish teachings purposed to ensure the continuity of their religion to the coming generations (Friedgut, 2007, p.390). It ensured their identification as a religious and independent[17]. Furthermore, they also built various institutions like schools, which could teach its people on issues pertaining to the Jewish ad Hebrew practices.

On the other hand, the Catholic Irish also preserved their practices though they were not as strong and established as those of the Jews. The Irish catholic were a bit flexible in their philosophy to religion compared to other people who prophesied different faiths. The cultures and the traditions observed through their celebration of mass also varied from faith to faith.

The fact that there were already established groups of Roman Catholic already in existences in Canada made it a little bit easier for the Irish catholic to be assimilated in the system. Although there were some minor differences of opinion especially on the place of residence, it did not have an adverse effect on the establishment of the Jews. Assimilation in the system occurred without problems. They occupied the northern part of Canada where they were to spend their rest of their life.

The Jewish on the other hand, because of the fact that they were the minority and different from other major religious affiliations in Canada, did not receive any upheavals or problems in their establishment in Canada.

Their process was fast and convenient. Therefore, based on this factor, there was a good welcome of the Roman Christian Irish catholic in Canada since some of the people who professed the Roman Catholic faith had already set the stage[18]. The thinking on the same knot agitated the rebuilding of the Irish Catholic. The fact that most of the Irish were Catholic, they found a better environment already established as most of the residence in Canada were also of Catholic faith.

They therefore, went on with their programs and duties without receiving any rejection or difficulty. The religious separations of these two communities did not have any problem in the integration of the two communities in Canada. The two religious arrived at different periods with the Irish being the first followed by the Jews.

They both came from different homelands professing different religious groups. Therefore, the fact that their religious affiliation was not similar and that all of them were intruders, they faired on well with each community undertaking their activities without interferences.

This understanding and peace of mind promoted good social interactions and peace, which prevailed over Canada regardless of its cosmopolitan nature[19]. They observed strict adhering to the cultures and religious beliefs without having to interfere with the other party’s piece of mind. Other religious denominations already existed like the Anglo Protestants and the French protestant that were leaving peacefully in Canada (Beer, 2007, p.191).

This environment or climate enhanced their integration and therefore played a significant role in the overall process of integration in Canada. When these religions brought by the Jewish entered the Canadian land, it was not the most people’s choice; people who lived in Canada had already established or rather identified their churches[20]. Therefore, it had no effect to the people’s spiritual life.

On the other hand, the Roman Catholic religion already stood firm in Canada. The catholic Irish came to Canada with their religion; it was not a new kind of religion as it was in their public domain.

Therefore, not so many people got involved in the activities of these religious groups, but rather the Irish continued with their previous activity of observing their religious duties (Brown, 1986, p.144). Their movement to the eastern part of Canada also contributed in their unity and ties. They therefore continued to advance there Christianity as Catholics amidst other religious groups


From the discussion above, it is clear that these two communities: the Jewish and the Irish migrated to the Canada for variety of reasons[21] majority of which were associated with their mother countries. As revealed, the core reason for the Irish migration was the increased starvation, which was because of poor harvest of their staple food, which faced a disease attack (Nusteling, 2009, p.73). The situation pushed the people into moving to Canada in search of green pastures.

The need to empower themselves economically was another reason. On the other hand, the Jewish migration resulted from the increased persecution and oppression subjected to them by the anti-Semitic, beliefs of the Europe and Asia, search for refuge and lack of enough resources to aid themselves.

There are some activities and practices, similar in characteristics about these two communities. These characters successfully ensured or facilitated their achievement of their objectives. The paper has looked into details some differences and similarities between these two communities concerning their migration to Canada.

They have now grown in strength and roots and therefore stand out as established and able to stimulate economic growth in Canada through a multiple businesses set up (Rysh, 1979, p.25). They also have carried out agricultural farming activities contributing positively to the economic development of Canada. Though they entered Canada following the then tough situation, their contribution towards the Canadian economic development is alarming.

Reference List

Beer, Max H. “The Montreal Jewish Community and the Holocaust.” Current Psychology 26.3 (2007):191-205.

Brown, Michael C. “The Push and Pull Factors of Aliyah and the Anomalous Case of Canada: 1967-1982.” Jewish Social Studies 48.2 (1986): 141-162.

Friedgut, Theodore A. “Jewish Pioneers on Canada Prairies: The Lipton Jewish Agricultural Colony.” Jewish History 21.4 (2007): 385-411.

Gracia, Robert J. “Irish Immigration and Settlement in a Catholic City: Quebec, 1842- 61.” Canadian Historical Review 84.2 (2003): 217-251.

Hedican, Edward J. “Irish Farming Households in Eastern Canada: Domestic Production and Family Size.” Ethnology 42.1 (2003): 200-210.

Hiebert, Daniel N. “Jewish Immigrants and the Garment Industry of Toronto”. Web.

Linfield, Hudson S. American Sociological Association: United Jewish Communities. New York: Word Press, 2002.

Margolis, Rebecca J. “Jewish Immigrant Encounters with Canada’s Native People: Yiddish Writings on Tekahionwake.” Journal of Canadian Studies 43.3 (2009): 169-193.

Nusteling, Hubert P. “How Many Irish Potato Famine Deaths? Towards Coherence of The Evidence.” Historical Methods 42.2 (2009): 57-80.

Olson, Sherry P. “The Challenge of the Irish Catholic Community in Nineteenth-Century Montreal.” Histoire sociale / Social History 35.3 (2004): 333-362.

Rome, David D. Canadian Jewish Archives: Early Documents on the Canadian Jewish Congress, 1914 – 1921. Montreal: Canadian Jewish Congress, 1974.

Rysh, Dickson F. Canadian Archives: On Sunday Observance. Montreal: Canadian Jewish Congress, 1979.

Sack, Braxton G. Canadian Jewish Archives: Canadian Jews – Early in this Century. Montreal: Canadian Jewish Congress, 1975.

Tulckinsky, Gerald V. Canada’s Jews: A People’s Journey. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2008.


  1. More than 50% of all the entering immigrants were the Irish while 10% were the Jews.
  2. Canada tops in terms of quality living.
  3. The unity of the Jewish community prevails despite the many years of its origin.
  4. In their endeavor to nurture unity and cooperation, the Muslim communities campaign for a common language: the Arabic language.
  5. There was overpopulation of the Irish homeland following the napoleon wars, was experiencing political as well as religious crises yielding no option better than migration.
  6. The Jewish who were the minorities (dispersed) failed to succeed in their efforts to seek recognition from their homeland government.
  7. With the Jews’ migration still going on, the Jews prefer Canada to any other country owing to its warm welcoming gesture
  8. This is why the Jews found it easy in establishing the first synagogue in Canada to develop their broken spiritual issues.
  9. They had suffered raping, killings, destructions, and injuries among others longing for a place free of these tribulations.
  10. These new laws came as Bronfman assumed the presidential position in Canada.
  11. This part had many Catholic churches, which could accommodate the Irish and too carried on some cultural practices that favored them.
  12. This gives the reason why the Protestants easily adhered to the rules set by the Catholics as opposed to the Jews who up to date hold Saturday as their day of worship even after the Catholics changed it to Sunday, the day when all protestant churches attend worship.
  13. The Seventh Day Adventist Church (SDA), which observes the Jewish rules, does not allow marriage between a SDA and non-SDA (Protestants and the Catholics).
  14. This is still the case today.
  15. Catholics ranks the top when it comes to sponsoring schools.
  16. The religious culture founded by Abraham, Isaac, and Moses of the bible still hold for the Jews of today.
  17. Many constructions are underway with the Jews going further to establish their own hospitals in their endeavor to achieve independence.
  18. The Irish preferred settling in the places already established in terms of Catholic churches.
  19. There are no records of conflicts between the two communities based on location, resources, and religion.
  20. Despite the many established synagogues, the Jews could not win extra souls, from Canada or their Irish counterparts, other than themselves.
  21. Search for peace, food employment and better standards of living.
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IvyPanda. 2019. "A Comparison of the Great Immigrations of both the Jewish and Irish communities to Canada." September 17, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/a-comparison-of-the-great-immigrations-of-both-the-jewish-and-irish-communities-to-canada/.


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