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eBook Jew or Juif?: Jews, French Canadians, and Anglo-Canadians, 1759-1914
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Publisher:  Varda Books
Original Publisher:  The Jewish Publication Society
Published:  2001
Language:  English
Pages:   368

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ISBN: 1-59045-159-7

About the Book -- Jew or Juif?: Jews, French Canadians, and Anglo-Canadians, 1759-1914

American Jews have long perceived the Canadian-Jewish community as a particularly vital and thriving part of Diaspora. Michael Brown's landmark study offers an unusual perspective on the origins of Canadian-Jewish assimilation in Anglo-Canada and the fear and insecurity that Canadian Jews experienced under the French Canadians.

Canadian-Jewish history begins with British roots. England, in the minds of Canadian Jews, has always been a benevolent and secure refuge, a mother country tolerant of Jewish sentiment in her "Anglo-Saxon daughter states." The ancestors of Abraham De Sola, Canada's first ordained rabbi and a noted writer, had fled from the Inquisition first to England and then to Canada. Canada was attractive to Jewish immigrants because it is a "democratic" country. Its economic potential, empty spaces, and social fluidity represented, like the country on its southern border, a real land opportunity. While Canadian Jews have at times been wary of their American-Jewish brethren, they saw in American-Jewish society a paradigm of all that was dynamic, liberal, and progressive. Canadian Jews thus grew very British and also very American, boasting of their dual loyalty. However, the Jews have been traditionally ambivalent toward France. Under the ancient regime, France had been an unpleasant environment for Jews. In contrast to Britain, France did not permit Jews or other non-Catholics to immigrate to Canada. In general, Jews had an easier time with Protestants that with Catholics - especially since Canadian Catholics felt obliged to preserve the Catholic nature of society.

Brown shows how the "presence of Jews and the toleration of Judaism presented a threat to Catholic hegemony." Jews never comfortably integrated into French Canada. Only in Montreal, where the language of government and business was English, did Jews feel comfortable living with the French. As the Jewish population of Canada grew, so did the number of important institutions established to look after their religious and social needs. Many were associations analogous to those of Anglo-Canadian gentiles. All served to contribute to autonomous Jewish life in Montreal, in Toronto, and elsewhere in Canada. In many ways, Jews eventually developed into a third national group - never quite losing their sense of insecurity and feelings of being on the outside. Though today's Canadian Jews are an integral part of the Canadian mosaic, the rise of French-Canadian nationalism has revived their previous insecurities. Brown's book provides a clear understanding of the ambiguity that Canadian Jews and competing population groups with differing values, traditions, and agendas.

About the Book



  1. Introduction
  2. British Roots
  3. The American Connection
  4. The French and Roman Catholic Relationship
  5. As Part of Anglo-Canada
  6. The Third Solitude
  7. Postscript: "Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose?"




An Excerpt from the Book -- Jew or Juif?: Jews, French Canadians, and Anglo-Canadians, 1759-1914

Toward the end of the nineteenth century Anglo-Canadians had become less relaxed and less liberal even in their dealings with French Canadians as, increasingly, the theory of minority rights was abandoned for that of majority rule. French-language rights in the Manitoba schools were watered down. The Autonomy Bills of 1905 accomplished the same thing in other western provinces. French-language rights in Ontario shools were ended in 1912, as noted earlier. Such issues as the execution of Louis Riel in 1885 were also resolved to the satisfaction of one group only, the Anglo-Canadians. In Montreal, the largest city of French Canada, there emerged a pervasive "anglicized and anglicizing character." Contemporaries sensed the haughty disdain of Anglo-Canadian Montrealers, who ran the city often without regard for the ever larger French majority. French and other rising young professionals realized "that to advance in their professions they had to adopt much of the culture of the dominant, English-speaking minority."

Immigrant groups felt such pressure even more acutely. Since Anglo-Canadians generally accepted the British model of a homogeneous society rather than a more pluralistic model, the pressures they applied on "inferior" non-British groups were enormous. The public school in Canada was regarded as "a crucible for the creation of a new race, unified in language, customs and thought." If a strong Canada were to be built, and if the non-French majority were to retain cultural and political hegemony, then all the new immigrants had "to be assimilated and developed into British-Canadians." Intellectuals like C.A. Magrath and James R. Conn argued that Anglo-Canadians should take "an active interest in this matter of assimilation." Journalist Howard Angus Kennedy, who favored unrestricted immigration into Canada, declared in 1907 that "even the most backward" of the "Continental races of Europe" might be profitably blended into "the future British race," provided they were initiated through a "rational and patriotic system of education in their new home." Even radicals like James S. Woodsworth looked forward to the homogenization of the non-French population of Canada, and perhaps of all Canadians.

The pressure to Anglify was exerted on Jews in many ways. It came from all quarters, including fellow Jews. At the turn of the century even those Anglo-Canadians most open to the Jewish presence, such as the editors of the Montreal Daily Witness, tended to look down on Jewish immigrants as "half-man, half-beast," asserting that

Jewish children should grow up on the same benches with Christian children, thus imbibing Canadian sentiment and growing into a patriotic citizen, and not as strangers and foreigners in this country in which they are born and in which they live.

Well-meaning neighbors might deluge a new Jewish family with English books and papers and make certain that children would attend school. The message was clear and unequivocal.. In Montreal, at least, what mitigated such pressures and made them somewhat more friendly that coercive was the fact that all the non-French groups faced a hostile century. Thus, whatever their true feelings, Jews, Anglo-Protestants, and other non-French groups were rather more inclined to tolerate each other than they might otherwise have been; they understood the necessity for presenting a united English-speaking front.

An Excerpt from the Book


In Jew or Juif? Michael Brown presents a history of anti-Semitism in French Canada that Globe and Mail critic Irving Abella recommended as a "massively researched, well-written and provocative study." In his book Brown points out that, historically, anti-Semitism has been stronger in Quebec than it has been throughout the rest of Canada. The professor attributes this partly to the fact that the devout Catholics of Quebec have regarded their religious faith as inseparable from their strong patriotism in the fight for national survival. Brown argues that antipathy to the Jews is embedded deeply in the roots of French Canadian culture, and that the Catholics of Quebec will continue to oppose the full integration of Jews into their homogeneous and tightly knit society. Abella told readers of the Globe and Mail: "This is a powerful book and it deserves a wide audience--especially in Quebec and among Canadian historians who have traditionally glossed over the darker aspects of French-Canadian nationalism." He felt that Jew or Juif? serves as "a timely warning against complacency.

- Literature Resource Center, Gale Group


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