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Beth Israel Cemetery

Beth Israel Cemetery National Historic Site of Canada

© Parks Canada / Michelle Cinanni, 2007

In 1992, the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada (HSMBC) recognized the Beth Israel Cemetery as a site of national historic significance for its historical and architectural values. It is the first cemetery recognized as an outstanding example of landscapes reflecting cultural traditions. The great age of the site, the funeral chapel, the arrangement of the graves, the shape of the gravestones and use of Jewish symbols together make this a unique site typical of Jewish cemeteries.
Consecrated in the early 1850s, Québec’s Jewish cemetery became the property of the Beth Israel Ohev Sholem Congregation in 1894. Restored in 1976, it is one of two Canadian cemeteries directly associated with the first Jewish settlers of the 18th century. Rectangular in shape, the cemetery is surrounded by a fence, and contains a funeral chapel and around 300 graves set close together in long rows with no space left between them. The gravestones are generally simple and modest, bearing inscriptions in Hebrew and a great variety of religious symbols. All these features reflect Jewish beliefs, including that of the equality of everyone in the face of death.

The cemetery is associated with the ongoing presence of the Jewish community in Québec City for more than 200 years, making this the second-oldest Jewish community in North America. The first members arrived with General Amherst in 1759 and contributed to the economic growth of the new British colony. They played an important role in the demands for an elected House of Assembly, voiced starting from 1763. Subsequently, members of the Jacobs, Levy, Joseph, Peters and Pollack families in particular took an active part in the city’s ongoing development.