Bonjour Chai Live: How Sephardic Jews helped shape Jewish culture in Canada and beyond

The hosts of Bonjour Chai with Henry Green, founder of the preservation project 'Sephardi Voices', in a live podcast taping done in collaboration with the Canadian Race Relations Foundation for Jewish Heritage Month.

It’s a little-known fact that the first Jews in Canada were actually Sephardim, founders of the Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue in Montreal in 1768. Over subsequent years, Ashkenazi Jews would follow from Europe, becoming the dominant Jewish culture; it wasn’t until the mid-20th century that Middle Eastern Jews arrived to add their own contributions to the Canadian Jewish mosaic.

The often quiet history of Sephardic contributions to Jewish culture—not just in Canada, but in Israel, the United States and elsewhere as well—is the focus of a new book and digital-preservation project called Sephardi Voices, spearheaded by Henry Green, a professor of Judaic and religious studies at the University of Miami and the founding director of the Jewish Museum of Florida. In partnership with the Canadian Race Relations Foundation, we invited Green to share stories and insight into the Sephardi world in Canada and beyond for the first-ever live virtual taping of Bonjour Chai.

Plus, we get to know Mohammed Hashim, the executive director of the CRRF, who outlines his organization’s work, paths toward a more comfortable dialogue between pro-Israel and pro-Palestine Canadians, and what his favourite kosher restaurant is. Later, David and Ilana actor-splain why Jewish representation matters in film and television, and what it was like working on Jewish theatre shows this year.


Bonjour Chai is hosted by Avi Finegold, Ilana Zackon and David Sklar. Michael Fraiman is the producer. Andre Goulet is the technical producer. Our theme music is by Socalled. The show is a co-production from The Jewish Learning Lab and The CJN, and is distributed by The CJN Podcast Network. To learn how to support the show by subscribing to this podcast, please watch this video.