The last native Yiddish speaker from Saint John, N.B., reflects on the Jewish Maritime exodus

Prince William Street, Saint John, New Brunswick. (Photo by Jonathan E. Shaw/Flickr Creative Commons)

Before Robert Brym became an esteemed sociology professor at the University of Toronto, he was the only kid in Saint John, New Brunswick, whose first language was Yiddish.

Born to a religious mother and atheist socialist father, Brym had to navigate cultural and religious different Judaism while figuring out how Jews assimilated (or didn’t) in a small Maritime society. From the 1970s, Saint John’s Jewish population has dwindled, as Brym—and other Jewish kids from the Atlantic region—moved to bigger cities for school and work.

Brym, today one of the country’s foremost experts on Canadian Jewish demographics, understands this exodus all too well, and joins to discuss his upbringing and wider Jewish demographics in small towns and beyond.


Yehupetzville is hosted by Ralph Benmergui. Michael Fraiman is the producer and editor. Our music was arranged by Louis Simão and performed by Louis Simão and Jacob Gorzhaltsan. Our sponsor is PearTree Canada, which you can learn more about at This show is a member of The CJN Podcast Network—find more great Jewish podcasts at