Lewis Lewis: Early Pioneer Business & Jewish Community Leader of Victoria, BC

Lewis (Jeretzky) Lewis

Values Codes I – E – L – P

Lewis Lewis as a young man, (BCABC)

Lewis Lewis as a young man, JMABC


Lewis Jeretzky was born in Poland in 1828.

At the age of nine, he was taken to England where he was educated.


Along the way

In 1845, at the age of 17, Lewis Jeretzky migrated to New York, where a mix-up at immigration gave him the American name of Lewis Lewis.

Lewis worked for two years with a wholesale jewelry firm.

He left, in 1847, for Brazil and Peru.



The discovery of gold brought Lewis Lewis to California in 1849, where he engaged in mining for a time and then went into the dry goods business in Sacramento.



With the discovery of gold, Lewis came north with his wife in 1858, going to Yale, British Columbia in the heart of the Fraser gold diggings.

He was later described as: “one of the earliest gold seekers.”


Victoria, BC

Lewis Lewis opened a grocery store in Victoria in 1859, and a dry goods store on Yates Street, in 1861. He continued in business, with short interruptions, until 1890.

Early Yates Street in Victoria

Early Yates Street in Victoria

Lewis was active in the business life of British Columbia.

During the Cariboo Gold Rush he advertised in the Cariboo papers and did considerable trade with the miners.

Lewis Lewis in his Store.

Lewis Lewis in his Store. (JMABC)

Lewis Lewis’ operations extended up Vancouver Island to Somenos and Cowichan, and to Saltspring Island.



Lewis was on the subscription list of the Victoria Hospital.

Politically, he took a position against Confederation.

In 1868, he signed a petition for Annexation of British Columbia to the United States.

In 1870, he opposed the proceedings of the Yale Convention, which favored union with Canada.



An important man in Jewish community affairs, Lewis Lewis was elected a trustee when the Hebrew Benevolent Society was formed in 1859.

He worked hard to realize the building of the synagogue.

At the organizing meeting in 1862, he became a Charter Member and was elected to the committee to solicit subscriptions for erection of the synagogue.

In 1865, Lewis Lewis was elected Treasurer of Congregation Emanu-El.

In 1866, he served on the committee seeking contributions to prevent foreclosure of the synagogue.

In 1869, Lewis was elected President of Congregation Emanu-El.

In 1881-82, he presided for a second term, during a reorganization when the synagogue was again in a financial crisis.

His wife, Rachel Lewis was a member of the Hebrew Ladies Organization in 1864.

Lewis Lewis, 1889, (BMABC)

Lewis Lewis, 1889, (BMABC)


Lewis Lewis became a Mason in 1850, while in California.

In 1860, he helped to establish the Masonic Lodge in Victoria.

Twenty-one members were active in the Masonic Order when it was organized, of which six were Jews and two of whom held office.

In 1868, Lewis Lewis joined the International Order of Odd Fellows.



While living in California, Lewis Lewis married Rachel Nathan of a Liverpool, England family.

Lewis Lewis Tombstone in Victoria, with Masonic Symbol, #ws2483

Lewis Lewis Tombstone in Victoria, with Masonic Symbol, #ws2483

Together they had two sons and a daughter.


Lewis Lewis died in 1904.

He was buried with Masonic Ritual in the historic cemetery that he helped to found in Victoria.



  • Cyril Leonoff, editor, “Pioneer Jews of British Columbia,” Western States Jewish History 37/3&4.
  • Sarah H. Tobe, “Lured North of the 49th, Jewish Colonial Roots,” Western States Jewish History 46/2&3.
  • Archives of Sarah H. Tobe, Cyril E. Leonoff, Christopher J.P. Hanna, and David Rome.

Sarah H. Tobe is curator of this Lewis Lewis exhibit.