The strike of French-Canadian internes in Montreal hospitals as a protest against the appointment of a Jewish chief of staff to the Catholic Notre Dame Hospital, and the recurrence of “Jews Not Wanted” sentiment at a Toronto suburb have focused attention on the Jewish situation in Canada.
It was thus coincidental and fortunate that this week brought Rabbi Harry J. Stern of Temple Emanu El, Montreal, here to New York.
Stopping over between conventionsâ€”the Rabbi had just come from the Central Conference Convention in Wernersville and was on his way to Montreal, from where, this Saturday, he will leave for London to attend the sessions of the World Conference for Judaismâ€”Rabbi Stern was only to happy to discuss the background of the Canadian anti-Semitic situation with a reporter for the Jewish Daily Bulletin.
AMERICANS CAN’T UNDERSTAND
As a prelude to all questions the Rabbi informed the reporter that, unfortunately, Americans didn’t understand the Canadian situation, especially, in the province of Quebec, scene of the recent hospital furor. He said that efforts to develop good will between Jews and their non-Jewish neighbors had developed rapidly and that his personal relations with the Catholic episcopacy and the Protestant clergy had been “very friendly.” In this respect he pointed to the fact that as the only Jewish member of O. E. A., an association of Montreal clergymen, he has for the past three years been chairman of the group.
“Differences between the Jew and his Canadian neighbor,” he said, “revolve about a historic condition peculiar to French Canada and anti-Semitism today is predicated on an economic basis and on a growing nationalism that has lately arisen that is fearful of the loss of the French language and culture in Quebec.
EXPLAINS SCHOOL SYSTEM
“This difference,” the Rabbi continued, “as most apparent in our school problems. In 1867 when the Canadian Confederacy was ratified, the French Canadians insisted upon the maintainance of their own schools under the direction of the Catholic church. The Protestants, the English speaking residents of the province set up another school system. Both systems were supported by government funds.
“At that time, there were few Jews and the educational problem of the group was taken care of by the Shearith Israel Synagogue, a Sephardic congregation. As the Jewish population developed, the educational problem grew. The government offered the Jews a separate school but this was rejected by Jewish leaders who feared segregation. It was settled only a few years ago with a pact made with the Protestant group that calls for the education of Jewish children in their school system for the next fifteen years. There is a free mingling of the children under this arrangement, no segregation at all as had been the case before the pact was arranged.”
JEWS AND PROTESTANTS
Rabbi Stern uses this story to illustrate the fact that the Jews gravitated toward an association with Protestants in the Province of Quebec. The progressiveness of the English and the language made for a more natural intercourse between the Jews and the English Protestants than between the Jews and the French Catholics.
And this is the background of present anti-Semitic feeling. For many years the English minority and the French majority fought bitterly; by now they have grown used to each other or at least have become convinced of the futility of open strife. But with the association of Jews with the English minority a wing of the French nationalists opened warfare against Jewry, which is thus placed in the unfortunate position of being the butt of the nationalists’ wrath.
In speaking of the latest manifestation, the internes’ strike, Rabbi Stern said:
“The finer and official element of ##e French Catholics oppose anti-Semitism. This is proven by the fact that Dr. Rabinovitch was appointed to so important a post in the Notre Dame Hospital. The strike of the internes was undoubtedly the result of agitation of a group of nationalists. The administration’s standing by its appointment is further evidence of a better feeling among Catholic officialdom, both of the church and province.
“As a matter of fact, since the accession of Cardinal Villeneuve to the Quebec diocese every effort has been made to promote better understanding. I have had most pleasant dealings with the Cardinal. Another point to be considered is that the most influential French language daily, Le Canada, has been an outspoken friend of Jewry. Sevoir, once anti-Semitic, is now quite friendly to the Jews. Only one publication, Le Patriot, has been a steadfast opponent of Jewry and this weekly, we understand, is supported by interests outside of Canada. A new weekly, L’Ordre, has lately come into being and has proven itself a friend of the Jews and an enemy of an anti-Semitic publication such as Le Patriot. The English press in Montreal, has always been extremely friendly to the Jews.”
OPTIMISTIC ON RELATIONS
When asked about the future of Jewish-Gentile relation in Quebec, Rabbi Stern was very optimistic. He felt that what really counted was the feeling of the better element in the French population. The nationalists he saw as of passing moment, a movement that would die with the coming of better times. It was apparent that he saw the anti-Semitic movement as a nationalist manifestation of the unprogressive French elements against the more modern and unsuccessful English population. And Jewry, as has happened many times before in its long history, was in the unfortunate position a buffer.
Elsewhere in Canada the situation is vastly different. In English Toronto anti-Semitism is social and professional in very much the same manner as it is in the United States. This, Rabbi Stern said, could be counteracted only by education and the creation of good will through fellowship in Canada. In Western Canada, where there is a large foreign population, there is a distinct anti-Semitic movement that is quite Nazi in form. It is represented by a publication called “The Nationalist.”
LAUDS CANADIAN-JEWISH BODY
To combat anti-Semitism throughout Canada there has recently been established a Canadian Jewish Congress. The Congress has made amazing strides in its less than a year of activity. It was responsible for the recently passed Hyman bill that makes racial defamation libelous and punishable as such. It has an active anti-defamation and boycott committee.
Recently the B’nai B’rith made an effort to establish a branch of its anti-defamation group in Canada but this has met with opposition from Canadian Jewry.
The Canadian Jewish Congress, attempting to become analogous in Canada to the Board of Jewish Deputies in England, offers representation to other Jewish organizations on its board but is not desirous of the formation of a joint council such as is now operating in the United States composed of the American Jewish Congress, the American Jewish Committee and B’nai B’rith, said the Rabbi.
“We,” he continued, “are desirous of avoiding the mistakes made in the United States that couldn’t be helped because of conflicting organizations. We hope through unity to achieve strength.
Leaders of the Canadian Jewish Congress movement are S. W. Jacobs, president; H. M. Caiserman, secretary; Nathan Gordon, chairman of the anti-Defamation Committee. Also taking an active part in the work are Rabbis Maurice Eisendrath of Toronto and Rabbi Stern of Montreal. The latter is a member of the Dominion Executive.