First Jewish Settlers

Salit family, ca. 1920

Salit family, ca. 1920

The Niagara Falls Jewish community is relatively young compared with other small Ontario communities. The 1901 Census lists a single Jewish settler, Harry Vanpragg, an insurance agent born in England. He did not remain long. The next settler to arrive was community patriarch Myer Salit. Salit landed first in New York, after a harrowing shipwreck occurred during his voyage. He joined his wife’s brother, Herman Rubin, in St. Catharines before moving on to Niagara Falls. Herman brought Myer into his peddling business and taught him the trade. The local Jews in St. Catharines lent him $5 to purchase a horse and buggy, and because of his lack of English and familiarity with the area, he ended up lost in Niagara Falls one day. He discovered that there was a market for junk removal and peddling there and decided to move to Niagara Falls in 1905. He then sent for his wife Emma and their eldest daughter. Herman followed suit with his family around 1907, after a short residency in the United States.

The community grew steadily over the next few years thanks to the arrival of the Bergen, Ruben, Segal, Sax and Devor families, who came from Russia and Poland. Many of them immigrated first to the United States, Quebec or Toronto and made their way to Niagara Falls. Soon after, Jacob Rosberg, one of the great community leaders, arrived in Canada and settled in Toronto with his wife and kids in 1913. They eventually relocated to Niagara Falls around 1916, viewing it as a better place to raise their children.

Very Hospitable

Frances Salit Meisels, the youngest daughter of Myer Salit, recalls the early days in Niagara Falls and the hospitality her family extended to the many summer tourists in town.

Interview with Francis Salit Meisels, 16 June 2007, Sharon Gubbay Helfer. OJA, Oral History #362