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Quebec's Jews: Caught in the Middle

- Abstract

UNTIL very recently, the prevailing ethnic tension in Canada’s province of Quebec-between the French-speaking Roman Catholic majority and the strong minority of English Protestants-stimulated the development of a large, chesive Jewish community, perhaps the most vigorous in North America. Quebec’s climate of candid ethnicity had made Montreal, where most immigrants to Canada once settled, an increasingly polyglot, cosmopolitan center, hospitable to groups (like the Jews) that could readily maintain their distinctiveness. But with the rise of a separatist nationalistic movement, culminating in the election last November of the Parti Quebecois, the atmosphere has rapidly changed.
For the first time in the history of Canada, a provincial government has been elected that is committed to taking Quebec out of the confederation. Whether or not it is ultimately successful, the French Canadian bid for separate statehood has already resulted in proposed legislation and policies of dubious constitutionality, if not actual threat to individual civil liberties. Ever a barometer of change, the Jewish community has entered upon a state of almost continuous caucus that reflects uncertainty about the present and anxiety about the future.

About the Author

Ruth R. Wisse is the Martin Peretz professor of Yiddish and professor of comparative literature at Harvard. She is the author most recently of Jews and Power (Nextbook/Schocken).