MONCTON, New Brunswick (Apr. 22)
Dr. Francis Weil, president of the Tiferes Israel Synagogue here, has called for a toning down of the controversy which erupted in this Canadian Maritime Province city after a Jewish mother charged that non-Catholic pupils were discriminated against during catechism classes in the French-speaking public schools of District 13.
Weil, who is a professor of physics at the Catholic University here, warned of a possible backlash against Jews within the Catholic community over what he does not consider to be a Jewish vs. Catholic issue, the Moncton Times-Transcript reported.
The newspaper quoted Weil as saying that public statements by both groups could lead to “animosity” on the part of some and the victims could be the Jewish children in the district. “It could wind up being an embarrassing situation for these youngsters,” Weil said, adding that he did not want to see anything “spoil” the “very good” relationship that has existed between Jews and Catholics over the years.
CHARGE JEWISH CHILDREN BEING STIGMATIZED
Natania Etienne, whose two children attend District 13 public schools, charged recently that they and other non-Catholic pupils were discriminated against and stigmatized because no alternative classes were provided for them while catechism was being taught. She said they were forced to linger in the school corridors, a charge denied by District 13 Superintendent Yvon Ouellette who said they could “go to the library.”
Alternative classes were provided for grades one through six but not for grades seven through 12, Rabbi Michael Wolff of Tiferes Israel agreed with Weil that relations between Catholics and Jews in this community have been “excellent” and said he hoped requested changes in catechism would not disrupt them, the Times-Transcript reported.
He did say earlier that District 13 officials were putting “a lot of pressure” on non-Christian pupils by teaching the catechism and not providing alternative classes for the older pupils.
CATCHISM TEXTBOOKS CRITICIZED
According to Wolff, the question in the district is not anti-Semitism. But Donald Jubas, president of B’nai B’rith in Canada, has charged that the catechism textbooks contain “anti-Jewish” material such as the charge of deicide against the Jews.
Weil was quoted by the Times-Transcript as saying that his two children have been treated very fairly in the District 13 schools they attend. He noted further that Jews in the Moncton area have attended the district schools for generations without the incident. But Weil also contended that some priests fear that the current controversy may result in a backlash against Jewish students, the Times-Transcript reported.