Jewish Montreal: Its Midcentury Legacy

Book your 2021 trip with just a $50 deposit and enjoy flexible transfer policies for bookings made before March 31. See Worldwide Quest’s updated terms and conditions here and information on how we plan to travel safely here.

On this Travel Pursuit, we will learn about Montreal’s Jewish community, one of North America’s first Jewish enclaves, and its acclaimed literary legacy.

 Shaar Hashomayim synagogue, Montreal
Shaar Hashomayim synagogue

Jews starting coming to Quebec in the 18th and early 19th centuries but remained few in number until the first half of the 20th century. A new cohort of immigrants caused the Jewish population of Quebec to increase by more than 800 percent between 1901 and 1931. Yiddish became the third most prevalent language in Montreal, after French and English. Quebec’s Jewish population continued to grow, peaking at 120,000 in 1971. Nearly all the province’s Jews were concentrated in Montreal, making the city a centre of cultural creativity. This was especially true for its writers who drew on their European roots while absorbing the polyglot culture in which they were living.

We will read selected works of four towering figures. A.M. Klein (1909–1972), the founding father of Canadian-Jewish literature, combines Jewish and French traditions in his poetry. Klein mentored the outspoken poet Irving Layton, né Israel Pincu Lazarovitch (1912–2006), who in turn influenced his friend Leonard Cohen (1934–2016 ), who began writing poetry in Montreal before turning to a career in singing and song writing. Mordecai Richler (1931–2001) was a novelist and essayist whose abrasive but comic satire recounts the lives of the Montreal Jews he grew up with.

Ben's Deli in Montreal
Ben’s Deli in Montreal

As we walk the streets, meet the people, hear the stories, and eat the food of Jewish Montreal, our experience will be enriched by our discussions of a literary voice unique in North America.

Please contact us at for a detailed itinerary.



“No matter how long I live abroad, I do feel forever rooted in St. Urbain Street. That was my time, my place, and I have elected myself to get it right.”

– Mordecai Richler


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Montreal, Quebec

May 30–June 4, 2021

ReadingsSelected stories by Mordecai Richler; readings from the Montreal Sephardic tradition; selected poetry of A.M. Klein, Irving Layton and Leonard Cohen

Hotel de l'Institut

Ann Kirkland, founder of Classical Pursuits. Ann led our previous trip in 2017, and has been exploring and reading with Classical Pursuits travellers for 20 years.

Approx. C$2395 + 15% GST
Single Supplement: C$795

Fee includes guides, readings, accommodation, most meals, wine with dinner, discussions, ground transportation, walking tours, talks, excursions, and admissions.

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Travel Pursuits 2021