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Many Jews shun their heritage for fear of being a target of antisemitism

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Antisemitism isn’t a reason to abandon a rich Jewish life, and we must find ways to connect with other Jews to show them the joy of being Jewish | Photo: University of Nebraska-Lincoln

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A teenage girl sits in her classroom preparing to take her final exam in a grade 10 course. She listens carefully to the instructions and, as the exam begins, confidently opens it to the first page.

 She studied hard and she knows that she is going to ace this test. The first task is to write a persuasive essay based on a popular Christmas story. It’s worth 50 per cent of the exam grade.

 Just one problem: She doesn’t know the story. She is embarrassed to raise her hand and tell the teacher. She has never told any of her teachers or her classmates that she is Jewish. As far as she knows, she is the only Jew in her school, and has never even heard Judaism mentioned except in the context of an occasional antisemitic joke, or comment made by her classmates.

She fails her final exam. While she still manages to pass the course, her final grade is not nearly what she deserves.

 A man is shopping at his local mall. He passes an adorable elderly couple who are casually strolling hand in hand. Out of the corner of his eye, he spots a small group of youths loudly joking and pushing each other oblivious to the other shoppers. They spot the elderly couple and start yelling antisemitic epithets at them, and even mock the crude tattoo on the man’s arm – the tattoo he received as a prisoner of Auschwitz.

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Outraged, the man’s immediate instinct is to come to the couple’s defence. But this instinct is quickly replaced by the fear that he may be putting himself at risk in a situation that has a very real chance of turning violent. He tells himself that no real harm is done; it is just some stupid kids mouthing off. Later, the shame sets in.

 The preceding situations are true stories. The first was shared by one of my students, and the second by an acquaintance following a community talk I presented about the dangers of antisemitism. 

 One truly heartbreaking aspect of both of these stories is that they didn’t shock me. Instances of antisemitism, whether overt or implicit, have become more frequent and brazen in recent years.

 B’nai Brith Canada’s League for Human Rights’ Annual Audit of Antisemitic Incidents 2019 reports that 2019 was the “fourth consecutive record-setting year for antisemitism in Canada” with an 8 per cent increase over 2018.

 In 2018, Jews were the most targeted religious group of hate crimes in Canada. Despite Jewish people accounting for only one per cent of the Canadian population, we account for 19 per cent of all hate crimes in Canada. Considering those statistics, it is not surprising to me that there is a rise in Jews disconnected from their own Judaism.

 That we are such a small minority of the population is nothing new, nor is the existence of antisemitism. Jews have been the minority, and the target, of baseless hatred, wherever we’ve lived, for thousands of years.

A tragic effect of these factors today, is a generation of Jews growing up without a connection to their Jewish identity. There are so many in this amazing country of ours that will tell you that they are Jewish, but that is where their connection ends. They have been scared into shutting down that part of themselves. Yet Judaism is part of who we are, it is the bond of a people and it gives us strength. It is something that must be celebrated.

 Together we must examine our connection to Jewish traditions, culture, and religion, and how that makes us stronger both as individuals and as a people. We need to also look at some of today’s barriers that are affecting Jews, preventing them from embracing their Jewishness.

 We must also celebrate and emulate the successes of groups and individuals who find innovative and impactful ways to make meaningful connections amongst our fellow Jews.

Corey Margolese is the founder of JTeach.ca, a not-for-profit organization that offers training and resources in the dangers of antisemitism, Holocaust education, and in Judaic traditions, culture and religion. He is a public school teacher.

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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!

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