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By BERNIE BELLAN
Recently the Reverend John Howson, who is national director emeritus of the group “Bridges for Peace”, told me about a trip he had taken to visit the former Jewish farming colony of Edenbridge, Saskatchewan.


During the course of his trip to Edenbridge, which is now a Saskatchewan Heritage Site, Howson told me he, along with his wife and a guide accompanying them, were able to enter into the now-abandoned Edenbridge synagogue. I was astonished to learn that the synagogue wasn’t even locked. Howson himself said that he was astonished to discover that he was able to get in so easily.
In any event, Howson said he was incredibly moved by the beauty of what he found when he entered the synagogue. The pictures accompanying this piece – which I thought was an appropriate piece to run in the same issue as Myron Love’s piece about the restoration of the Melville synagogue (on page 6), offer testament to how well preserved the Edenbridge synagogue has been.
I also decided to run an excerpt from a letter written in 1932 by Canada’s then-Minister of Agricul-ture, someone by the name of “R. Weir”, which appeared in a 1932 edition of The Jewish Post. In the letter Weir makes reference to the Saskatchewan Jewish colonies of Lipton and Edenbridge which, at the time, were both quite vibrant.

“…when the virgin soils of the Canadian west were under the plough, representatives of the Jewish race were to be found among those pioneers who, under the then very adverse conditions, so heroically extended the producing areas of the British Empire. While, therefore, the Jews have become perhaps more prominent in the commercial field than in agriculture, they have in Canada, as elsewhere, contributed something of worth to the farming industry. In this connection, I recall that last December was the hundredth anniversary of the birth of Maurice de Hirsch, founder of the Jewish Colonization Association and a very strong advocate of farming as an occupation for the Jewish masses.
Baron de Hirsch implemented his belief through liberal endowments of foundations to which were entrusted the mission of colonizing Jews in various parts of the world…I do recall that Hirsch in the Estevan district of Saskatchewan is named after this very fine Jewish gentleman. If I am not mistaken, at or about the same time this community or colony was built up, that of Lipton and Edenbridge came into existence. These colonies were, I believe, founded during the heavy immigration period from 1907 to 1914, and besides the contribution made to western agriculture through the medium of these colonies, successful farming was then and is still being carried on by independent Jewish farmers at many points in the three Prairie Provinces.
As you are aware, the first Jewish immigrants under a colonization scheme arrived in Western Canada some fifty years ago.
I understand that the first meeting of the Canadian Jewish Colonization Association was in the year 1907 on the eve of a very heavy influx of Jews into Canada. This was at a time when the Edenbridge district was a wilderness of weeds and marshes, but nevertheless, approximately 15 years later, under diligent cultivation, there were more than 4,000 acres under crop…”