The many Jewish con­tri­bu­tions to Canada

The Canadian Jewish News (Toronto) - - News - — EL­IZ­A­BETH WOLFE AND YONI GOLDSTEIN

In this spe­cial is­sue of the Cana­dian Jewish News, we cel­e­brate Canada’s 150th birth­day by high­light­ing Jewish con­tri­bu­tions to this great coun­try.

We are all for­tu­nate to have found a home in Canada. Our sto­ries be­gan, in many cases, with our an­ces­tors im­mi­grat­ing to Canada to seek bet­ter op­por­tu­ni­ties, to flee from per­se­cu­tion or, as of­ten was the re­al­ity, a mix­ture of both. We ar­rived in a coun­try that al­lows us to cel­e­brate our Jewish her­itage and live full Jewish lives, while ex­er­cis­ing all the rights of Cana­dian cit­i­zen­ship. This has not of­ten been the story of the Jewish Peo­ple through­out his­tory and we should ac­knowl­edge our good for­tune.

But as much as we have re­ceived from Canada, Jews have also im­pacted ev­ery as­pect of life in our coun­try. This year is an op­por­tu­nity to cel­e­brate Jewish life in Canada and our in­di­vid­ual and com­mu­nal con­tri­bu­tions to its well­be­ing.

His­tor­i­cally, Jews in Canada were not ini­tially viewed as equal par­tic­i­pants. And so, we col­lec­tively schep­ped

nachas for ev­ery Jewish “first.” No Cana­dian Jewish his­tory is com­plete with­out ref­er­ence to Ezekiel Hart, the first Jew to be elected to public of­fice, David Croll, the first Jewish sen­a­tor, Herb Gray, the first Jewish fed­eral cabi­net min­is­ter and deputy prime min­is­ter, Nathan Phillips, the first Jewish mayor of Toronto; David Lewis, founder of the CCF, pre­de­ces­sor of the NDP, Louis Ras­min­sky, the first Jewish gover­nor of the Bank of Canada and Bora Laskin, the first Jewish chief jus­tice of the Supreme Court of Canada. Be­yond the fields of pol­i­tics and gov­ern­ment, Jews have also ex­celled in the sci­ences, the arts, ar­chi­tec­ture, law, hu­man rights and in ev­ery un­der­tak­ing imag­in­able. We are all fa­mil­iar with the Jewish celebri­ties whose tal­ents have en­riched gen­er­a­tions: Molly Pi­con, Leonard Co­hen, Wil­liam Shat­ner and Drake, to name but a few. Business lead­ers like Sam Bronf­man, Gerry Schwartz, Larry Ta­nen­baum, Barry Sher­man, Joe Rot­man, Sey­mour Schulich, Izzy Asper, Mur­ray Kof­fler, Pe­ter Munk, Les­lie Dan and Joe Le­bovic are known as much for their phil­an­thropic lead­er­ship, as for their business acu­men. The sto­ries you will read in this is­sue are a small sam­pling of the Jews who have suc­ceeded tremen­dously in their life’s chal­lenges and have con­trib­uted much to the Jewish com­mu­nity and life in Canada. They are the be­gin­ning of a much longer list. And the truth is that each of us has sto­ries – not all of them are big, but all of them are im­por­tant. To­gether, they weave the fab­ric of Cana­dian Jewish life. Ev­ery fam­ily has a story. So many of us are blessed to have been born to par­ents who, in­di­vid­u­ally and as a cou­ple, were deeply com­mit­ted to en­hanc­ing the lives of all around them by pro­vid­ing jobs, coun­selling, fi­nan­cial as­sis­tance and lead­er­ship in both business and phi­lan­thropy, within the Jewish com­mu­nity and be­yond. Their gen­er­a­tion broke bar­ri­ers and opened doors, so that we would all ben­e­fit. But it was their par­ents who fought the truly life-threat­en­ing bat­tle: cross­ing con­ti­nents and the At­lantic Ocean as young teens, of­ten trav­el­ling alone, speak­ing only Yid­dish, with no ap­par­ent skills, lit­tle ed­u­ca­tion and no cer­tainty of any kind, to make a liv­ing and to pur­sue a new life in Canada. Those early im­mi­grants es­tab­lished our syn­a­gogues and schools, our hos­pi­tals and our fu­neral homes across this coun­try. They cre­ated the foun­da­tion for our fu­ture se­cu­rity as a Jewish com­mu­nity in Canada. They con­trib­uted to the cre­ation of this great na­tion. All of these sto­ries are equally im­por­tant. The Cana­dian Jewish News has recorded Jewish life across Canada for almost half of Canada’s 150 years. And as we cel­e­brate this coun­try’s sesqui­cen­ten­nial, it is our hope to doc­u­ment the sto­ries of Cana­dian Jewry, through­out time, across the full span of Canada’s ge­og­ra­phy, across dis­ci­plines and across the re­li­gious spec­trum, from per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ences of in­di­vid­ual de­spair or tri­umph, to the sto­ries of public im­port. With that in mind, we wel­come your sub­mis­sions about your own Cana­dian-jewish sto­ries. And we com­mit to post­ing rep­re­sen­ta­tive ex­cerpts on­line or in print for the rest of this 150th year. Please join The CJN in cel­e­brat­ing Canada’s 150th year.

COVER PHOTO BY SHUTTERSTOCK

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