Jewish history in Yukon Territory to be documented

Marcy Oster

TORONTO (JTA) — Jews in Canada’s far North have received a government grant to document Jewish history in the Yukon Territory.

The $55,000 grant from the Yukon territorial government will allow the Jewish Cultural Society of Yukon to research a small, Gold Rush-era Jewish cemetery in Dawson City and the influence the Jewish community there wielded, CBC News reported.

The information will be used to create a mobile display that will travel across Canada, said Rick Karp, president of the society.

“It’s going to travel everywhere and hopefully bring a lot more people up here, from a tourism perspective, into Yukon,” Karp told CBC. “It will point out to people that there was a Jewish influence in Canada beyond Montreal and Toronto and Winnipeg and the large cities.”

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A Jewish cemetery containing seven unidentified people was discovered in Dawson City in 1998. It was rededicated in a ceremony conducted by a rabbi and attended by Canada’s deputy prime minister.

The last person was buried there in 1930 but Karp said a Jewish Yukoner has expressed interest in being laid to rest there.

There were close to 200 Jews in the Yukon during the Gold Rush, Karp told CBC, and their influence extended beyond the Klondike after they left.

“A lot of people came up here, got a lot of wealth, went back to their communities and made a contribution,” he said. “Some very serious donations were made because of the wealth created by the Gold Rush.”

The cemetery has yielded some clues. Its entrance sign was discovered in 1998, showing it was called “Bet Chaim,” or House of Life. Only one headstone was found, belonging to Abraham Packer, a seller of guns, knives and hardware who suffered a heart attack in 1918.

Canada’s 2001 census found 35 Jews in Yukon and 25 in the Northwest Territories.

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