Pioneers

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Like most of the province’s residents, the Jews of British Columbia are immigrants or the descendents of immigrants who sought a better life here. For many, BC offered safety and security when home countries were in turmoil and the chance to be anything they wanted even if they had to start small.

Introduction
Lumley and Selim Franklin
Isidor and Hannah Director
Harry Adaskin
David Oppenheimer
Bessie Diamond
Joseph Boscowitz
The Nemetz Family
Introduction

Introduction



Like most of the province’s residents, the Jews of British Columbia are immigrants or the descendents of immigrants who sought a better life here. For many, BC offered safety and security when home countries were in turmoil and the chance to be anything they wanted even if they had to start small.

From the few hundred Jews who lived in BC in the nineteenth century to the approximately 30,000 Jews who live here today, Jewish people have always been a small ethnic group within BC’s total population. Whether involved in business, politics, or agriculture, the individuals and families who made the long journey to Canada helped create a strong Jewish community while being part of everyday Canadian life.

Lumley and Selim Franklin

Lumley and Selim Franklin



The Franklin brothers, Lumley and Selim, were "high bred gentlem(e)n" from Liverpool, England. Following a fire in his very successful store in San Francisco, Selim Franklin was lured by the Gold Rush to settle in Victoria. He became a real estate dealer and auctioneer. In 1860 Selim was elected to the second Legislative Assembly of Vancouver Island.

The year Selim resigned from the Legislature, 1866, his older brother Lumley was elected second mayor of Victoria. Lumley Franklin was influential in joining Vancouver Island to the mainland Colony of British Columbia and a leader in the confederation movement to unite it with Canada. The brothers were founders and executive members of the Victoria Philharmonic Society. Both sang in musical performances.

Isidor and Hannah Director

Isidor and Hannah Director



Isidor and Hannah Director arrived in Prince Rupert in 1908. Beginning as squatters, they went on to become community leaders. Isidor opened a clothing and watch repair store with Maurice Cohen and because of Hannah’s musical talent, the Director’s home became the social and cultural centre of the city.

During WW I, they temporarily left Prince Rupert to homestead in the Prince George area, as Isidor experienced difficulties finding work due to his German background. Hannah was elected chair of the Prince George School Board, becoming the first woman to hold the position and the first Jewish woman to be elected to public office in Canada. All told, the family spent 14 years in the north country. They moved to Vancouver in 1922. Amongst other things, Hannah and Isidor were the official hosts of the Kitsilano Showboat for over 30 years.

Harry Adaskin

Harry Adaskin



Born in 1901, Harry Adaskin and his family immigrated to Toronto from Riga, Latvia. His musical training at the Toronto Conservatory of Music led to a career as a violinist in the Hart House String Quartet. From 1946 until his retirement in 1973, Adaskin taught in the Department of Music at the University of British Columbia. He was also the host of the CBC radio programs “Musically Speaking” and “Tuesday Night.” In 1974, Adaskin was made an Officer of the Order of Canada. He died in 1994.

David Oppenheimer

David Oppenheimer



David Oppenheimer and his four brothers left Bavaria in 1848 to seek their fortunes in America before travelling to Victoria. Victoria would become the base of operations for their stores in the interior mining towns of BC. In 1886, David and his brother moved to Granville, the town which would become known as Vancouver.

Oppenheimer was an enthusiastic booster of his new home, serving as the first president of the Vancouver Board of Trade and as alderman for an east-end, working class district in 1887. The next year he was elected mayor for the first of four terms. As Vancouver’s second mayor from 1888 to 1891, Oppenheimer organized the city’s water supply, built bridges across False Creek and to the agricultural area of Richmond, established the Parks Board, and procured the land for and officially opened Stanley Park.

Oppenheimer died in 1897 having been involved in everything from business and politics to the founding of the Alexandra Orphanage and the Y.M.C.A.

Bessie Diamond

Bessie Diamond



Bessie Diamond contributed greatly to the cohesion of the Vancouver Jewish community. She was one of the founding members of the National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW)’s Well Baby Clinic in 1927. As president of the NCJW in 1936 she and her husband Joseph found a location at Crescent Beach that would become the site of a summer camp. In 1951, she played a lead role in the establishment of the Golden Agers Club. In addition, Diamond was personally involved in refugee settlement programs after WW II as a volunteer.

Joseph Boscowitz

Joseph Boscowitz



Jewish traders obtained furs from the First Nations by bartering beads, blankets, firearms, fish hooks, axes, clothing, and food stuffs. Some owned boats and established trading posts along the coasts of Vancouver Island and BC.

A German pioneer to Victoria, Joseph Boscowitz, became involved in the seal industry after opening the fur trading company, J. Boscowitz and Sons, in the late 1800s. He also ran the Boscowitz Steamship Company which operated three ships in the North Pacific. The S.S. Barbara Boscowitz was named after Joseph’s daughter. By the time he died in 1923, Boscowitz had contributed greatly to the economic growth of the province.

The Nemetz Family

The Nemetz Family



Abraham and Toby Nemetz and their children Charlie, Samuel, Sarah, David, Harry, Chava, William, Leo and Esther shared a typical immigrant family experience. In 1913, Sam Nemetz was the first family member to immigrate to Canada from Odessa. He brought over one family member per year, aided by the other siblings as they immigrated. The last of the family members came to Canada in 1922 aboard the RMS Antonia travelling third class.

At some point in their lives, each of the Nemetzes made Vancouver their home. Their contributions to the City of Vancouver and the Jewish community have been great.