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4 Jew or Juif? population

by Michael Brown
4 Jew or Juif? population, Montreal retained its numerical preponderance until very recently, when Toronto overtook the older center. As the oldest and largest Jewish community in Canada, Montreal was also the wealthiest and, quite naturally, the seat of power. National Jewish institutions maintained their headquarters there; and until re-cently Montrealers supplied much of the leadership of Canadian Jewry. The city took the lead in religious and communal developments; and Jewish culture and institutions have flourished there to an extraordi-nary degree. Montreal Jews also led the way in integrating into the gen-eral Canadian community. In the mid- nineteenth century Rabbi Abra-ham De Sola became one of Canada’s best known men of letters. In roughly the same period Montrealers Adolphus Mordecai Hart and Gerald Ephraim Hart, descendants of Canada’s pioneer Jewish settler, Aaron Hart, achieved eminence as historians, while the Josephs were among the most prominent and successful businessmen of the day. In more recent times the names of poets Leonard Cohen and Irving Lay-ton and novelist Mordecai Richler, all of Montreal, have been among the most widely known on the Canadian literary scene; and the Bronf-man family is to be counted among the foremost business leaders of the world. Especially in the years at the turn of the century, the period upon which the present study focuses, when the Canadian- Jewish communi-ty began to grow rapidly in numbers and institutions, Montreal Jewry asserted its leadership by example and by involvement. For more than two centuries, then, Montreal served as the “ capital city” of Canadian Jewry. What happened there influenced developments and attitudes in the rest of the country immeasurably. In fact, in many respects and for a very long time, to speak of Canadian Jewry meant, in large part, to speak of Montreal Jewry. Today Canadian Jewry is an exceptionally vibrant, vital part of the Jewish Diaspora. And yet, in re-cent years the Montreal community has been in disarray, perhaps even in the early stages of dissolution. The extent to which Montreal Jews have been abandoning their city and moving to places outside Quebec, either elsewhere in Canada or in the United States, is considerable. By all accounts younger, better educated, more mobile Jews are either on the move or thinking about it. The obvious question is, “ Why?” At the root of the current ferment, of course, is the growing strength of French- Canadian nationalism. The coming to power in the province in 1976 of the Parti Québécois, a party that has advocated a form of independence for Quebec, brought matters to a head. The responses of Jews to “ the surprising victory of the Parti Québécois” and the growing   C h a p t e r Home  | T O C  | I n d e x For use on stand- alone, non- institutional computers only. To purchase Scholar PDF version with advanced functionality, go to www. publishersrow. com

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4 Jew or Juif? population, Montreal retained its numerical preponderance until very recently, when Toronto overtook the older center. As the oldest and largest Jewish community in Canada, Montreal was also the wealthiest and, quite naturally, the seat of power. National Jewish institutions maintained their headquarters there; and until re-cently Montrealers supplied much of the leadership of Canadian Jewry. The city took the lead in religious and communal developments; and Jewish culture and institutions have flourished there to an extraordi-nary degree. Montreal Jews also led the way in integrating into the gen-eral Canadian community. In the mid- nineteenth century Rabbi Abra-ham De Sola became one of Canada’s best known men of letters. In roughly the same period Montrealers Adolphus Mordecai Hart and Gerald Ephraim Hart, descendants of Canada’s pioneer Jewish settler, Aaron Hart, achieved eminence as historians, while the Josephs were among the most prominent and successful businessmen of the day. In more recent times the names of poets Leonard Cohen and Irving Lay-ton and novelist Mordecai Richler, all of Montreal, have been among the most widely known on the Canadian literary scene; and the Bronf-man family is to be counted among the foremost business leaders of the world. Especially in the years at the turn of the century, the period upon which the present study focuses, when the Canadian- Jewish communi-ty began to grow rapidly in numbers and institutions, Montreal Jewry asserted its leadership by example and by involvement. For more than two centuries, then, Montreal served as the “ capital city” of Canadian Jewry. What happened there influenced developments and attitudes in the rest of the country immeasurably. In fact, in many respects and for a very long time, to speak of Canadian Jewry meant, in large part, to speak of Montreal Jewry. Today Canadian Jewry is an exceptionally vibrant, vital part of the Jewish Diaspora. And yet, in re-cent years the Montreal community has been in disarray, perhaps even in the early stages of dissolution. The extent to which Montreal Jews have been abandoning their city and moving to places outside Quebec, either elsewhere in Canada or in the United States, is considerable. By all accounts younger, better educated, more mobile Jews are either on the move or thinking about it. The obvious question is, “ Why?” At the root of the current ferment, of course, is the growing strength of French- Canadian nationalism. The coming to power in the province in 1976 of the Parti Québécois, a party that has advocated a form of independence for Quebec, brought matters to a head. The responses of Jews to “ the surprising victory of the Parti Québécois” and the growing < < C h a p t e r >> Home | T O C | I n d e x For use on stand- alone, non- institutional computers only. To purchase Scholar PDF version with advanced functionality, go to www. publishersrow. com
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