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Canadian Jews have much to be thankful for this Canada Day!

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By the 1940s Jews in Canada felt safe in their homes and defended the country in times of war.

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Canada Day marks an opportunity to reflect on the evolution of the Jewish presence in our country since 1867 and gauge the growth and success of our community in this democracy. In 1984, Dr. Bernard L. Vigod wrote “The Jews In Canada”, a brisk and informative booklet as part of a series by the Canadian Historical Association entitled Canada’s Ethnic Groups. 

Born in Winnipeg, Vigod was a professor with the Department of History at the University of New Brunswick and his research provided insight into the origins of Jews in Canada and benchmarks based on census reports.

At the outset he noted “the founders of the Toronto and Montreal Jewish communities clearly considered themselves “Englishmen” who professed the Hebrew faith.” In 1881, only 667 out of about 3000 surveyed declared they were “Hebrew”. The earliest arrivals were from the British merchant trade, immersed in the economy, and identified with the general society.

As refugees fleeing persecution arrived from Eastern Europe in the 1890s, Jews were subsequently considered a distinct race for restrictive immigration practices, and not part of the “white” race. This forgotten history continues to affect our community to this day, as radical social justice cultural marxists seek to wrongly redefine us as “white supremacists” and responsible for racial injustices and inequalities in the country.

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While the first synagogue in Montreal was Sephardic, outside of that city the Ashkenazi presence and influence was predominant. By 1901 there were 16,000 Jews in the country, with 7000 in Montreal, 3000 in Toronto, and 1300 in Winnipeg. “The majority were extremely poor; men, women and children were mercilessly exploited in the “sweat shop” industries and most lived in slum conditions.” Free loan societies, orphanages, burial societies, and other support systems were developed.

In 1911 the population was up to 75,000 in the census, with 27,948 in Montreal, 18,237 in Toronto, and Winnipeg had 9023. There were also about 6000 Jews in places like Ottawa, Hamilton, Vancouver, St. John and Edmonton. By 1914 the Jewish population count was 120,000 with 26,000 from Russia alone landing on our shores.

Levels of Jewsih immigration to Canada plummeted before the start of WWII.

At this stage, Vigod reported “As many as 250,000 East European Jewish civilians were slaughtered, or starved or frozen to death between 1914 and 1920.” Bolshevism took hold subsequent to the Russian revolution, amplifying the effects of discriminatory laws and pogroms as the Pale of Settlement collapsed – and Jews were forced again to flee for their lives.

Meanwhile the federal government created 3 categories for non-Anglo-Saxon immigrants, with “Nordic” races preferred and “the permit system discriminated primarily against Jews from non-preferred countries. Jews born in the British Empire, the U.S.A. or preferred countries were not similarly affected … Emigration continued at a high level until 1930, when western countries closed their borders because of the Great Depression”.

By then our people were becoming more ‘Canadian’. In the 1931 census almost 44% of our community were born in Canada, and an astonishing 22.21% of Jewish women, 14,365 females over age 10, were in the workforce, far more than any other ethnic group. Education was “a crucial vehicle of advancement” and despite discriminatory entrance barriers by 1935, 14% of medical students and 17% of dental students were Jewish; there were also three Jewish MPs in the 1930s prewar Parliament. Still, the Canadian government shamefully turned away from almost all Jews who sought refuge here from the Nazis.

On the prairies, Free Loan Societies were integral to sustaining Jewish families and enterprises. Courtesy of Mel Fishman

Following World War II, the horrors of the Holocaust and establishment of the State of Israel generated a sense of solidarity among Canadian Jews. “The six million deaths confer a sacred obligation not to accord Hitler any posthumous victories. (For Israel’s) security and well-being most Canadian Jews accept great responsibility.” And thus a new generation of baby boomers, was born and raised, proudly Jewish while participating in the Canadian economic and social milieu.

Our communities from coast to coast have been strengthened and diversified by newcomers beyond the European influence since Vigod’s review to 1984, Sephardim from Arab lands and from Israel among them. We now number about 390,000. Our men and women are well-entrenched in the realm of politics, academia and the professions. We have come a long, long way from the status of an undesirable race facing government-sanctioned antisemitism in the public service.

Certainly, modern day challenges for us in Canada have emerged and need to be recognized and addressed. The level of poverty among our seniors is plainly unacceptable. Our synagogues are in major crisis as the older generation cannot sustain the facilities their ancestors helped build. Students on university campuses, as detailed by Daniel Koren on TheJ.ca, are harassed, assaulted and vilified for supporting a Jewish homeland. Too many feel the major organizations and ‘machar’ class do not speak to their values and concerns.

Zionistic Jewish youth prosper and flourish is Canada from coast to coast to coast

Most importantly, our peaceful existence as Jews and especially as Zionists is constantly challenged from both the far-right and far-left while our leadership speaks, if at all, in whispered tones. The mainstream media promotes ideologies that seek to assign the historic claims of systemic oppression and discrimination to Jews because it fits their political agenda, and helps them marginalize support for the State of Israel.

In 2020, Jews in Canada have much to be thankful for and proud of. Our communities are diverse and generous. The elements that unify us are substantial and we should build upon those – education, tzedaka, commerce, arts and culture. Our role at TheJ.ca will be to tell those stories with joy, investigate important issues without fear, and stand guard against those who seek our destruction. 

Happy Canada Day to all.

Marty Gold is the Editor-in -Chief of TheJ.ca. Known for investigative reporting, he has specialized in covering municipal and provincial politics, and a wide range of sports and entertainment, in newspapers, magazines, online, and on his first love, radio. His business and consulting experience includes live events and sales, workplace safety, documentary productions, PR, and telecommunications in Vancouver, Los Angeles and across Canada, and as a contestant on CBC-TV Dragons Den.

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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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