A Scattering of Seeds: The Creation of Canada
Episodes Search Site Map The Series Partners White Pine White Pine Home

For TeachersFranšais
Immigration History

Judah and Chasia Shumiatcher, the central characters in Something From Nothing, arrived in Canada almost ninety years ago from Gomel, Russia. It must have been a terrible tearing away. The family was making a good living and had deep roots in their homeland. But the Shumiatchers were facing increasing hostility, prejudice and harassment. Anti-Jewish riots, known as pogroms, were sweeping through their village two or three times a year. The pogroms began in the Russian Empire in the early 1880's. They were violent, organized attacks against Jewish neighbourhoods. Jews were the victims of horrible assaults, rapes, murder, looting and destruction(1).

Fleeing their homeland, the Shumiatchers were part of a mass migration that lasted from the 1880's through to the beginning of World War I(2). Judah Shumiatcher and his second eldest son Morris left Russia in 1909 and the rest of the family followed two years later. It was Morris' idea to come to Canada. He had seen advertisements for Jewish farming settlements in Western Canada where land could be bought cheaply through the help of Jewish philanthropic organizations. The Jewish Colonization Association and the Jewish Emigrant Aid Society were groups that had been formed to help Jewish immigrants establish themselves in their new country(3).

When Judah and Morris arrived in Canada they registered for a piece of land in Rumsey, Alberta. Language was a difficulty, they couldn't communicate very well with the government official who recorded their name. "How about something simpler beginning with 'S'" the government official might have suggested. "How about Smith?" Judah and Morris agreed on Smith, and like so many other immigrants, built a new life in Canada with a new name that suggested their history and culture was other than Jewish.

1,2 - The 1998 Canadian & World Encyclopedia
(Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1998).

3 - A Coat of Many Colours, Two Centuries of Jewish Life in Canada
by Irving Abella (Toronto: Lester & Orpen Dennys Limited, 1990).

Previous Page - - Next Page

Top of Page