The St. Joseph’s Lebanese and Syrian Benevolent Society of Sydney is a long-standing community organization that has been in existence since 1909. The Society works to sustain the Lebanese and Syrian culture in Cape Breton through a number of initiatives, programs and other cultural activities.
The Cedars Club is a celebration venue and is owned and operated by the Society. The Club is available to members and guests for booking for a wide variety of events. The building is equipped with a full-size kitchen, main hall and stage area and bar. WiFi is also available.
To foster a pride in, and an awareness of, Lebanese and Syrian culture in Cape Breton through cultural events and other activities rooted in traditional
Lebanese Culture in Cape Breton
The 20th century began one of the greatest contributions to the rapid increase in the Canadian population with the continuous flow of immigrants into Canadian Society. Representation from countries around the world packed up their most cherished possessions and prepared themselves for the long journey to Canada. They hoped to find employment and happiness here as they sacrificed what they had in their home lands to try and establish new roots in Canada.
In the early 1900s most immigrants travelled by sea for two or three months before they reached Canada. Often through illness or accident, during their voyage they would loose loved ones and have to bury them at sea. They knew the dangers of such a long excursion, however this was a chance they were willing to accept.
Upon arriving in North America, a large number of Lebanese people heard of the great job prospects in the Maritime Provinces of Canada. Some people settled in St. John and Halifax, but a vast group chose to come to industrial Cape Breton, where they hoped to find employment in the prosperous mining and steel industries, which were experiencing rapid growth and expansion in the early 20th century.
Two of the first Lebanese families to settle in Sydney, Nova Scotia were the Hannas and the Libbuses. Isaac Libbus along with his father and Mr. Hanna arrived in Cape Breton around 1900. They settled in the Townsend Street area of Sydney which is still referred to today as the Gaza Strip. The first thing these early Lebanese immigrants did was build blocks on Townsend Street. These blocks were large three-story wooden homes and known as the Hanna Block and the Libbus Block. The first floor of the block housed the family business along with a few other small shops. Many Lebanese families lived on the second and third floors of the blocks.
In the early 1900s, many Lebanese families were brought to Sydney after hearing about how well the Hannas and Libbuses were doing. When a new family arrived in Sydney they would setup house in one of the main blocks until they were able to establish a residence of their own. There were so many new families arriving around 1907 that often a whole family slept in one room in one of the blocks. And so, the blocks took the image of almost looking like hotels. Some of the new families who came to Sydney were the Josephs, Haddads, Abbasses, Khattars, Kytes, Shaheens and many more.
A few years after the arrival of the Lebanese people in Sydney, around 1910, the St. Joseph’s Lebanese and Syrian Benevolent Society was organized. The original club was located on the site of the present Cedars Club on MacKenzie Street in Sydney. In the early 1900s, most of the Lebanese families lived within walking distance of the club and many of them still resided in the Gaza Strip area in the 1980s.
From approximately 1920-1950, the Lebanese Community in Sydney also had its own church. The community occupied the old St. Patrick’s Church in the north end of Sydney during these years. The Lebanese Priest during at the time was Father Louis Saaib from the United States. He returned to the United States in 1950, where he passed away shortly afterwards. The Lebanese Church and Society were the main sources that helped make the Lebanese Community in Sydney one of the most dominant ethic groups in Nova Scotia.
Board of Directors
Art Risk – President
David Genter – Vice President
Becky Chisholm – Treasurer
Janine Joseph – Secretary
Father Albert Maroun