By Michael Levitt
As Canada marks its annual Jewish Heritage Month this May, the country’s Jewish community has reason to feel at once grateful and uneasy. This ambivalence reflects what is, in many ways, a tale of two realities, evoking Charles Dickens’ famous line: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”
To be sure, democratic Canada, with its multiculturalism and embracing of minorities, is arguably one of the best countries in which to live as a Jew. Not for nothing, it’s home to one of the few Jewish communities outside Israel growing in number. Canada’s 400,000 Jews represent the world’s third largest diaspora community, after the U.S. and France. If current trends continue, it will overtake its French counterpart and become the second-biggest Jewish community outside Israel within the next 15 years. Pretty good for a community that suffered open and widespread discrimination until the 1950s.
Today, Canadian Jews are thankful to live in a country that takes pride in its diversity, and where governments at all levels share a commitment to fight antisemitism and other forms of racism. Jews are thankful for the opportunity Canada has given them to succeed in all fields of endeavour and contribute greatly to the life of this country.
The freedom and democracy that make this possible is something Jews can’t take for granted, not given our history. Indeed, many Canadian Jews are here today because their parents, grandparents or great-grandparents fled murderous anti-Jewish pogroms and other persecution in their homelands in search of a safer, freer life in Canada.
And yet, for all the positives, there’s trouble in paradise. Amid disturbing developments on several fronts, Jews can’t afford to be complacent. We’re facing an alarming rise in antisemitism that manifests in many toxic forms, mirroring a similarly disconcerting global trend.