Historic new research study of Canadian Jews points to growing, diverse, and cohesive community

by User Not Found | Mar 15, 2019

March 12, 2019 marked the release of major new survey findings that for the first time provides a comprehensive portrait of what it means to be Jewish in Canada, touching on such areas as identity, practices, and experiences. This survey is benchmarked against comparable research in the USA and shows that Canadian Jews as a whole are distinct from their American counterparts in being more connected to Jewish life, through education, membership in Jewish organizations, friendships, and connections to Israel.

Robert Brym, Professor and SD Clark Chair of Sociology at the University of Toronto, Rhonda L. Lenton, Professor of Sociology and President and Vice-Chancellor, York University, and Keith Neuman, Executive Director of the Environics Institute for Research, have collaborated to develop and analyze the findings of the historic 2018 Survey of Jews in Canada.

“Knowing how Canadian Jews define their Jewishness and what they need and want from Jewish organizations can help shape community policy and programming. The Canadian Jewish community is substantially more cohesive than its American counterpart, and the kind of knowledge the survey provides can help keep the community strong. I’m proud to bring this important work forward, both personally and as a sociologist,” said Brym.

“The historic nature of this research marks the beginning of a better understanding of how our community practices our faith, engages within families and with others, and how each of us shapes our cultural identity,” said Lenton. “I see a positive common thread of Canada’s success in embracing people from around the world while supporting and encouraging cultural and religious differences.”

“This study provides a powerful example of how survey research can be used to provide a valuable portrait of Canada’s Jewish community that is both enlightening to all and practical in guiding the organizations working to support this community,” said Keith Neuman, Executive Director, Environics Institute for Research.

The research team worked closely with national survey partners; the UJA Federation of Greater Toronto, the Jewish Foundation of Manitoba, Federation CJA (Montreal), and the Jewish Community Foundation of Montreal.

“We are proud to be a part of this national survey and saw this as a great opportunity for the Winnipeg Jewish community to participate in something that has never taken place before and that we could not afford on our own. The gathered information will play a critical role in our community’s ongoing sustainability,” said Zachary Minuk of the Jewish Foundation of Manitoba.

The survey was conducted by telephone and online between February and September 2018 with a representative sample of 2,335 Canadians (ages 18 and over) who identify as Jewish or part Jewish. The survey focused on the Toronto, Montreal, Winnipeg, and Vancouver metropolitan areas, which together account for more than 80 percent of the country’s Jewish population.


  • One in three Canadian Jews considers religion to be a very important part of his or her life, but the basis of Jewish identity today is as much about culture, ethnicity and family. One of the most important expressions of being Jewish involves families getting together over a meal to mark a Jewish holiday.
  • The Canadian Jewish community as a whole remains surprisingly cohesive across generations, in terms of maintaining such traditional practices as lighting candles on the Sabbath, belonging to Jewish organizations, donating to Jewish causes, and becoming bar or bat mitzvah. In many cases there are notably few differences between young adults and elderly Jews.
  • Canadian Jews are mindful of anti-Semitism in this country, but are more likely to believe that other groups, such as Indigenous Peoples, Black people, and Muslims in Canada are the frequent targets of discrimination. Moreover, Jews are more likely to hold this view than Canadians as a whole.
  • Canadian Jews have a strong connection to Israel, through an emotional attachment and spending time in the country. Eight in ten have visited Israel at least once, and one in six have lived there for six months or more. While Jews share a connection to Israel, they do not agree when it comes to the politics of the region with respect to efforts to achieve peace and the building of settlements on the West Bank.

Click here to read the full report.