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Switzer family descendants from eleven branches total approximately 2000 individuals over seven generations

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Wolf Baer was visited by daughter Bella Switzer who brought her son Hymie to Radom, Poland to meet family | Photo: Courtesy Switzer Family

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As a student of genealogical research and family history, I am often asked how our ancestors left their homelands and arrived in Canada. Following is the story of how the Switzer dynasty arrived, grew, and flourished in Canada.

The dynasty began with Wolf Baer Switzer in Radom, Poland. Wolf Baer was born in 1848 and had eleven children. Bella Switzer, daughter of Wolf Baer, and her husband Abraham, came to Canada from Radom after their marriage in 1905. They settled in the Toronto area where their first son, Hymie, was born.

In 1907 Bella Singer and her son returned to her family in Poland, while her husband traveled out West, resettling in Calgary. When Bella and Hymie returned to Canada in 1910, joining her husband in Calgary, she was followed by her nephews, 12-year-old Charlie Switzer and 14-year-old Sol Bleviss. It was her plan to save the Switzer family by bringing them over as expediently as possible to avoid the poverty and suffering in early twentieth-century Poland.

Times were particularly difficult for Jews in Poland during the final years of the 1800s and the start of the 1900s. In the 1880s and 1890s, after the assassination of Russian Tsar Alexander II, Russian-Polish Jews were exposed to a series of organized massacres targeting Jewish communities. The assassination prompted a large-scale wave of anti-Jewish riots, called pogroms throughout 1881–1884. 

The new czar, Alexander III, blamed the Jews for riots in Warsaw in 1881 and issued a series of harsh restrictions on Jewish movements, but large numbers of pogroms continued until 1884, with at least tacit government approval. The pogroms proved a turning point in the history of the Jews in Poland, and throughout the world. Bloody waves of pogroms broke out from 1903–1906, which prompted a great flood of Jewish immigration to the United States, Canada, and the other safe havens, with almost two million Jews leaving the Pale by the late 1920s, setting the stage for Zionism.

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The Switzer family migration to Calgary became full-blown after World War 1 when tickets were sent for Charlie’s oldest brother Meyer, his wife Etta and baby daughter Lily; younger brother Dave Switzer; and Uncle Myer Switzer, Bella Singer’s younger brother. They arrived together on July 1, 1920.

Family members who arrived would be sent to a family farm in Rumsay, Alberta to work for a period of time to fulfill their obligations to the Canadian Government which allowed the arrival of Jewish “farmers” and “tailors” in its desire to build up farming and life in the “wild west”. Reviewing most of the immigration records of the time it is amazing how many Jewish immigrants were indeed listed accordingly at farmers and tailors.

The family farm in Rumsay, Alta., is where immigrants fulfilled government work requirements | Photo: Courtesy Switzer Family

Once they had completed their farming obligations they would be brought to Calgary and required to live up to their responsibility to do the same and bring more of the family over. With eleven children, Wolf Baer had a large family for the cousins to draw upon and each family member who arrived ensured the continuation of the migration from Poland to Calgary. That is how the family grew and how Bella earned her family name of Mema (or Auntie) Singer, as the titular matriarch of the family in the new world.

The legacy of Wolf Baer lives on at family gatherings like the 2010 reunion | Photo: Courtesy Switzer Family

Today, Switzer family descendants from all eleven branches live throughout North America, Israel, and indeed, worldwide numbering in total approximately 2000 individuals in seven generations.

In celebration of our migration to Canada, members of the Switzer family started celebrating their growth and diversity with family reunions in Calgary starting in 1990 and continuing every five years except, unfortunately for this year due to Covid19. Normally held on a long weekend, we average 300-500 family members coming “home” from around the world. From Wolf Baer to Mema and today, the Switzer’s, Bleviss’s, Cyngiser’s, Belzberg’s, Aizenman’s, Fishman’s, Singer’s, & Farber’s have all contributed to their new homeland as they ensured the legacy of Wolf Baer would continue through time. Discover your family’s history by contacting your local Jewish Genealogical Society, or join us on our webinars and meetings, listed on our website at www.jgstoronto.ca.

Mel Fishman is the President of The Jewish Genealogical Society of Toronto (JGS Toronto).

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Thank you for choosing TheJ.Ca as your source for Canadian Jewish News.

We do news differently!

Our positioning as a Zionist News Media platform sets us apart from the rest. While other Canadian Jewish media are advocating increasingly biased progressive political and social agendas, TheJ.Ca is providing more and more readers with a welcome alternative and an ideological home.

We revealed the incursion of anti-Israel progressive elements such as IfNotNow into our communities. We have exposed the distorted hateful agenda of the “progressive” left political radicals who brought Linda Sarsour to our cities, and we were first to report on many disturbing incidents of Nazi-based hate towards Jews across Canada.

But we can’t do it alone. We need your HELP!

Our ability to thrive and grow in 2020 and beyond depends on the generosity of committed readers and supporters like you.

Monthly support is a great way to help us sustain our operations. We greatly appreciate any contributions you can make to support Jewish Journalism.

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