Jacobs, Samuel William

views updated


JACOBS, SAMUEL WILLIAM (Wolf ; 1871–1938), Canadian lawyer, politician, and Jewish community leader. Jacobs was born in Lancaster, Ontario. His family was among early East European Jewish immigrants to Canada. Educated at McGill and Laval Universities, Jacobs was called to the Quebec Bar in 1906. An expert on Canada's legal code and railway law, he was the author of The Railway Law of Canada (1909), co-editor, with Léon Garneau, of the Quebec Code of Civil Procedure (1903), and treasurer of the Montreal Bar Association, 1916–17.

Jacobs was also deeply committed to the Jewish community. In 1897, in response to the growing antisemitism in the wake of the *Dreyfus affair, Jacobs founded the Jewish Times with Lyon Cohen. The first continuing Canadian Jewish publication, the English-language weekly represented Montreal's middle-class Anglo-Jewish community for the next 17 years. In 1913, Jacobs and fellow lawyer Louis Fitch represented Quebec's Jewish community in the high-profile Plamondon libel case in which the accused leveled accusations of *blood libel and other outrageously calumnious accusations against Jews. Jacobs was also active in many Montreal Jewish associations serving as president of the Baron de Hirsch Institute of Montreal in 1912–14 and as life governor of Mount Sinai Sanatorium, the Young Men's Hebrew Association, and the Hebrew Free Loan Association.

Jacobs entered Liberal electoral politics in 1917 and was elected member of Parliament for the heavily Jewish riding of Montreal-Cartier, a seat he held through six consecutive elections. When first elected in 1917, he was only the second Jewish member of Parliament and the first to hold a seat in the Commons for an extended period. Jacobs was outspoken with respect to issues of importance to the Jewish community. He was particularly vocal in battling against discrimination and for Jewish immigration in an interwar period of increasingly restrictive immigration policies. While a member of Parliament he was also one of the founders of the Jewish Immigrant Aid Society (jias) in 1920 and served as president of the Canadian Jewish Congress from 1934 until his death in 1938.


B. Figler, Sam Jacobs: Member of Parliament (1871–1938) (1959).

[Judith E. Szapor (2nd ed.)]