Communal Solidarity

Immigration, Settlement, and Social Welfare in Winnipeg’s Jewish Community, 1882–1930

Arthur Ross (Author)

Between 1882 and 1930 approximately 9,800 Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe settled in Winnipeg. Newly arrived Jewish immigrants began to establish secular mutual aid societies, organizations based on egalitarian principles of communal solidarity that dealt with the pervasive problem of economic insecurity by providing financial relief to their members. The organization of mutual aid societies accelerated the development of a vibrant secular public sphere in Winnipeg’s Jewish community in which decisions about the provision of social welfare were decided democratically based on the authority and participation of the people.

Communal Solidarity: Immigration, Settlement, and Social Welfare in Winnipeg’s Jewish Community, 1882–1930 looks at the development of Winnipeg’s Jewish community and the network of institutions and organizations they established to provide income assistance, health care, institutional care for children and the elderly, and immigrant aid to reunite families. Communal solidarity enabled the Jewish community to establish and sustain a system of social welfare that assisted thousands of immigrants to adjust to an often inhospitable city and build new lives in Canada.

Arthur Ross’s study of the formation of Winnipeg’s Jewish community is not only the first history of the societies, institutions, and organizations Jewish immigrants created, it reveals how communal solidarity shaped their understanding of community life and the way decisions should be made about their collective future.


“Ross has undertaken a unique study of the development of several social welfare agencies created and run by Winnipeg’s far from unified Jewish community. Communal Solidarity shows how a secular and thoroughly democratic set of values among the most recently arrived Jewish immigrants challenged the hegemony of Winnipeg’s established Jewish community – with some amazing results. This is a work of exceptional scholarship and should be on the shelves of everyone interested in Winnipeg, western Canadian, ethnic, transnational and Jewish history.”

– Jim Mochoruk, Chester Fritz Distinguished Professor, Department of History University of North Dakota

“An important addition to the literature and achieves its purpose of linking the experience of communal organization in Winnipeg to the larger networks of Canadian Jewry and to position these institutions as pioneers in the struggle against the Canadian government for a more humane immigration legislation. Moreover, by opposing the political doctrines of individual responsibility and social welfare in a dialectic, Ross demonstrates how an immigrant community achieved synthesis to ensure the welfare of its members by relying on internal resources within the Canadian context.”

– Simon-Pierre Lacasse, University of Ottawa, Histoire sociale/Social history

About the Author

Arthur Ross was born and raised in Winnipeg’s North End, the historic centre of Jewish, communal solidarity. He is a Professor in the Department of Political Science and Public Administration at Ryerson University.

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