First Jewish Settlers

The first known Jew to settle in Berlin (now Kitchener) was Samuel Liebschewitz. In the 1860s, he bought a tract of land in the south end of the village and established a small mill that soon expanded. He named his business German Mills, but most people knew it as “Judaburg” or “Jews Bourgh.” With few Jews living in the area, the moniker shows how prominent Liebschewitz was, though it could also reflect anti-Semitism.

In the 19th century, the Jewish community in Berlin and Waterloo remained small, with a solitary peddler or craftsman here and there but no one remaining long. In 1891 there was only one Jewish family in the area, and ten years later there were only four. The Bergs and Cohens in Waterloo were Russians; the Lewis and Sugarman families of Berlin were from Germany. By 1901, John Lewis had established a steady scrap metal business on Victoria Street North. He was one of the earliest settlers who stayed a significant period of time, at least until 1913, when he sold his business to a newcomer. Before 1900, the predominant occupations of Jewish settlers in the area were merchant, junk dealer and peddler.