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Crossing the Great Divide. Looking at the US from the North of the Border

Tue, December 18, 10:15 to 11:45am, Seaport Hotel & World Trade Center, Harborview 2 Ballroom

Session Submission Type: Panel Session


Now forming the third largest diasporic population in the world and uniquely situated on the continent, Canadian Jewry is poised to gain influence in wider Jewish forums as its demographic weight increases and as it is gradually coming to terms with the originality of its contribution. Situated just North of the American border, Canadian Jews have a very different history than their American counterparts, largely because Canada remained until quite recently a part of the British Commonwealth of nations and because it has developed into an officially bilingual country with English and French as equally dominant languages. Immigration to Canada by Jews is also a more recent phenomenon than in the United States, notably following a large post-war influx of Holocaust survivors, a fact that has reinforced the attachment of Canadian Jewry to traditional forms of Judaism. Jews were also influenced positively by the tendency of recent Canadian governments to support more liberal policies regarding social issues, and to approve of diversity as a positive factor to be encouraged through a multiculturalist ideology. These elements have contributed to the emergence of a Canadian Jewish polity that is quite different in its sensitivity from the American, and more likely to find its own voice in the future.

This session will explore the complexity of multiculturalism in the Canadian political environment vis-a-vis the American political sphere, in order to deepen our understanding of the distinctions between the two countries and how this affects Jewries on both sides of the border. In this context, special attention will be paid to Montreal, a place where Jews were more systematically exposed to the political changes taking place in Canada and Québec. Not unlike Canadian Jews in general, Montreal Hassidim react differently to their immediate political and cultural environment, posing a challenge to the maintenance of the translocal ideology often presented as one of the foundations of modern Hassidism. Likewise, the Canadian response to the presence of strong Hassidic communities in Montreal has been markedly different politically and legally than what is to be found south of the border.

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