Hirsch v. Protestant School Board: a Testament to Division in Montreal’s Jewish Community, 1920-1930


  • Olivia Kurajian


Jewish, Montreal, Quebec, Social History, class relations, assimilation, religious freedom, 20th century, school boards, community, inclusion, exclusion, interwar period, anti-Semitism, Protestant, migration


Montreal’s geographical, social, political, educational, and historical spheres have been indisputably influenced by the Jewish community as early as the British Conquest of New France. While making vast contributions to the society, the Jewish community has been met with a fierce anti-Semitism. Thus, in Quebec, a government-mandated division between Catholic and Protestant schools furthered the plight of Jewish children and their families. This division ultimately excluded an influential cohort of people in Montreal- its Jewish schoolchildren. Yet, many scholars advance that idea that the Jewish population was given the right to choose between Catholic and Protestant schools in exchange for their tax dollars and some freedoms. This assumption ignores the pervasive anti-Semitism in Montreal that led to a much different reality in terms of the rights of the Jewish community regarding education in the city. Jewish schoolchildren were most often allowed to attend Protestant institutions but were expected to engage in several types of assimilating and Christianizing narratives, consistent with the anti-Semitic society that engulfed them in their everyday lives. Nevertheless, this anti-Semitism did not erase the political and social agency that erupted within the community. Nonetheless, a division between the so called “uptowners” and their contending group, the “downtowners” culminated in what is now known as the Jewish School Question. As such, a landmark legal case, Hirsch V. Protestant School Board was a testament to division in Montreal’s Jewish Community in the interwar period between 1920-1930. The dearth of study on this particular legal case prompted this research.


Please cite this contribution as follows:

Kurajian, O. (2021). Hirsch v. Protestant School Board: a testament to division in Montreal’s Jewish Community, 1920-1930, "forsch!" - Studentisches Online-Journal der Universität Oldenburg, 1, 84 -93.







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