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Quebec Jews Not Expected to Flee

June 28, 1978
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A prominent Canadian Jewish leader predicted today that “unless there will be a radical turning of events, the majority of Quebec Jews will remain” in Quebec. But Rabbi W. Gunther Plaut, president of the Canadian Jewish Congress and senior scholar at the Holy Blossom Temple here, added, “Even though there may be no anti-Semitism and no negative feelings directed their way, Jews will be, with all their civil liberties intact, the out-group.”

Plaut made his remarks at a session of the 89th Convention of the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR) at the Harbour Castle Hilton Hotel here, attended by 500 delegates representing some 1300 Reform rabbis from the U.S., Canada and abroad. Because of dynamic changes in the Jewish community of Canada, as well as concern with the Jewish situation in Quebec, the Reform rabbis assembled here devoted special sessions to the subject of Jewish life in Canada. Several rabbis in the panel discussion on the “situation in Quebec” agreed that there is some anxiety among Jews in that province. Of the 300,000 Jews in Canada, about 120,000 live in Toronto and 120,000 in Montreal.

Plaut stressed that he felt that “a great Jewish community will exist in Montreal unless an extreme right-wing element with strong anti-Semitic feelings takes over in Quebec.”He said that “in a French Quebec, there would be a natural distinction between the non-French of all kinds and the Quebecois….It is this which gives rise to a sense of Jewish anxiety because the climate of any state with a monolithic culture and social structure would not be fully hospitable to a minority aspirations.”

However, he cautioned the Reform rabbis from throughout the U.S. and Canada: “You who come here from the U.S. must not confuse this situation with that to which we Jews have, unhappily been regularly exposed over the centuries, namely, one in which anti-Semitism is encouraged by governments or given free reign. Once again, I repeat, that this is not the issue.”

Plaut said “The issue is the Francization of Quebec and the natural fall-out which is its consequence.” In comments prepared for delivery at another session, Plaut said that the leadership of the Canadian Jewish Congress has come to the conclusion that independence is not in itself a Jewish issue.


Rabbi Edward S. Treister, of Temple Rodeph Shalom of Dollard Des Ormeaux, Quebec, stressed that “the separation of the province of Quebec from Canada and any form of relationship between Quebec and Canada which may come about are not Jewish issues per se. Nor is Francization a Jewish issue. Jews are, to be sure, affected by any decision in these areas, but not specifically as Jews.”

Rabbi Mark A. Golub of Temple Beth Sholom in Hampstead, Quebec, spoke of an eventual referendum on independence. “The continuing imponderables of a dark and unknown Jewish future in Quebec which awaits an eventual referendum on independence, are the subject of many a debate,” he said. “The future of the Canadian confederation might well depend upon the outcome of the referendum vote, but the Jews of Quebec, as well as all other Quebecans and Canadians must continue to live out their daily lives while the Sword of Damocles remains uneasily poised over their heads,” he said.

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