Sacred Ground On De La Savane: Montreal’s Baron De Hirsch Cemetery
Danny Kucharsky

Vehicule Press

Montreal’s Baron de Hirsch Cemetery was created in what was called at the time Côte des Neiges West. It is Canada’s largest Jewish cemetery, in a city that at one time had the second largest Jewish population, after New York City, in North America.

Long before this cemetery existed, the earliest Jewish settlers in Quebec bought land in Trois-Rivières and what is now Old Montreal to bury their dead. Jews are obliged by their faith to absorb the costs of burying their indigent dead, and this became a major problem at the beginning of the 20th century. At that time the Jewish community, overwhelmed by rapid growth and immigration, appealed to Baron Maurice de Hirsch for aid. Hirsch was a European philanthropist whose donation became the basis of the Baron de Hirsch Institute and the starting point for community support for the quick and the dead.

Kucharsky adds a small walking tour of the Baron de Hirsch Cemetery at the end of the book, and although it can be used on its own, the reader will want the entire saga of the Jewish community in Montreal. Kucharsky includes the oddities: one of the six Titanic victims to be buried in Montreal, as well as Bernard Wilensky of Wilensky’s Light Lunch (immortalized in Richler’s The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz) have their last resting places here. D. R. Cowles’s sepia-toned photographs of some of the older graves add a note of nostalgia. mRb