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How much do we need to change, modernize, Americanize, Canadianize – and how much to preserve?

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Canadians watching America’s nervous breakdown should beware of schadenfreude – the guilty pleasure you take in watching someone else’s misfortunes. Canadian Jews should be particularly wary of it, because Israelis could look down on them as glibly and condescendingly.

I’ve always been amused when Canadians claim Americans are hypernationalist, but they are not – that itself is a nationalist statement. We all know the best way to trigger Canadian pride is to mention America. Canadians joke – “what do you call a sophisticated American?” – a Canadian; or “why do Americans walk around sleeveless but Canadians won’t?” – because Canadians don’t have the right to bare (bear) arms.

Now, alas, the situation is depressingly serious. As the world suffers from pandemic lockdowns, and the resulting economic breakdown, America’s suffering is intensified by a buffoonish, narcissistic president; some racist bullying cops; thousands of self-righteous, violent looters – and a population watching cities burning, unemployment soaring, and the mood souring.

Canada, and especially Quebec, endured its own Corona-missteps – some due to incompetence, some politically motivated. And while Canada doesn’t have America’s racist legacy from slavery, Canadian minorities and outsiders have their own complaints about condescension and other forms of bigotry.

In fact, Canadian Jews suffer from rising anti-Semitism too, while experiencing more anti-Zionism, and less mainstream acceptance, than American Jews do. Much hostility is hidden behind Canadian politeness. But most Canadian Jews are unaware that generally, support for Israel hovers around 70 percent of Americans, but usually around 40 percent of Canadians. Moreover, powerful voices in the Canadian Jewish establishment often try suppressing the real debate we need about various dimensions of Canadian Jew-hatred.

In fact, in all my years of writing for the late, lamented, Canadian Jewish News, one line I wrote about anti-Semitism in Quebec triggered more intense pushback than the thousands of sentences in hundreds of other articles I wrote. Most disturbing was that rather than asking what you would normally ask someone complaining of discrimination – “what did you experience, how can I help” – I was denounced and “how-dare-youed” – by fellow Jews.

Ultimately, schadenfreude is for the arrogant or the insecure, trying to prop up fragile egos on others’ suffering. This is a time that calls for true understanding, genuine empathy, and real education.

Over the next few months, as Canada remains in full or partial lockdown, as some of Canadian Jews’ favorite hobbies – communal Jewish work and travel to Israel – are severely curtailed, I am proposing we all do a Deep Dive. While anticipating the “day after” when communal life resumes, and travel to Israel resumes, let’s take advantage of this quieter time. Canadian Jews should study – and have intense ideological conversations – about three essential topics – Canadian Jewry, modern Jewish identity, and Zionism/Israel today.

Regarding Canadian Jewry – it’s remarkable how ignorant most Canadian Jews are of Canada’s unique history, let alone Canadian Jewish history. It’s worth understanding Canada and Canadian Jewry as North American phenomena – distinct from Europe, and distinct phenomena – distinct from America and American Jewry. What about Canadian Jews makes them more traditional, more Zionist, more community-oriented than American Jews?

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If it’s just the relative youth of the community, the closer proximity to the immigrants who arrived, and Holocaust refugees in particular, or that extra bit of hostility in the air, all Canadian Jews need to is look south and see what the community will look like in ten years. But, I argue, there’s something else going on. Canadian culture is not American culture. And, especially in Toronto and Montreal, there is a traditionalism, a family-orientation, and a communalism, that sustains the community — and is worth preserving.

The question of Canadian Jewry’s uniqueness flows naturally into broader questions of modern Jewish identity, specifically, how much do we need to change, modernize, Americanize, Canadianize – and how much do we preserve? Tradition needs to be embraced – not as the refuge of the lazy or the uncreative, but as the lifeline of the bold, the creative, those willing to live modern lives, while still in a deep, rich, intense conversation with the past.

And, finally, at the core of so many modern Jews’ identity is Israel and Zionism – especially for Canadian Jews. What Zionism can mean for us in the 21st century, as we go from strictly political Zionism to broader Identity Zionism – is the pressing Zionist question of our time.

So there we have it – a communal agenda. Marching orders to use the lockdown to bulk up on Jewish learning, Jewish thinking, Jewish brainstorming, and Jewish identity-building.

Recently designated one of Algemeiner’s J-100, one of the top 100 people “positively influencing Jewish life,” Gil Troy is the author of the newly-released The Zionist Ideas, an update and expansion of Arthur Hertzberg’s classic anthology The Zionist Idea, published by the Jewish Publication Society and a 2019 National Jewish Book Award Finalist. A Distinguished Scholar of North American History at McGill University, and the author of ten books on American History, his next book, Never Alone: Prison, Politics and  My People, co-authored with Natan Sharansky will be published in September.

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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.

We thank you for your ongoing support.

Happy reading!

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.

We thank you for your ongoing support.

Happy reading!

cOMING SOON…….

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