MONTREAL — Barry Dolman, the first Jewish president of the Quebec Order of Dentists, returned from France last month, shaken by the anxiety expressed by Jewish dentists about their future in that country.
Dolman, who was elected head of the professional organization in November 2011, recently returned from Paris for meetings in connection with a historic agreement between Quebec and France that allows greater mobility of professionals, including dentists, between the two jurisdictions, notably through mutual recognition of qualifications.
“While in France, I had the occasion to speak to a number of Jewish dentists actively looking to relocate to Quebec because of the ever-increasing religious intolerance in that country,” Dolman told The CJN.
“As the president of the licensing authority, I was able to answer their questions relating to the legal process, but was shocked by their personal inquiries.
“Normal questions about finding access to synagogues, Jewish education and kosher food were followed by ‘Are there areas in Montreal where Jewish residents are well tolerated or accepted?’
“I must say my jaw dropped, and in that one inquiry, the entire dilemma of these colleagues became clear.”
These Jewish dentists have good livelihoods and live comfortably in the material sense, but they are very uneasy. Many felt there’s no future for their children in France, Dolman said.
Dolman, who has been practising dentistry for 37 years, was elected in a general vote open to the order’s more than 4,700 members throughout the province to a four-year term.
“This is not the first breakthrough I have made as a Jewish dentist within my profession,” he said. “But it’s probably the most significant given this current political context.”
He added: “Early on in my career, unlike some of my colleagues and friends who left when the Parti Québécois was originally elected [in 1976], I made a decision to remain in Montreal with my young family. It was certainly news at the time and made the front page of The Globe and Mail.”
Dolman said the fact he graduated from both McGill University (B.Sc., 1971) and the Université de Montréal (DDM, 1975) has enabled him to embrace the city’s cultural duality.
Dolman decided in 2010 to challenge the sitting president of the order, Diane Legault, a former Liberal member of the National Assembly and the first woman to become its president when she was elected in 2006.
“My colleagues said it was more than a long shot, as there had never been a Jewish president,” he recalled.
“I was elected across the province from Abitibi to Quebec City with a two-thirds majority in every constituency except in Gaspé, where I lost by one vote,” said Dolman.
He believes this is a positive statement from a society that is so often divided over language.
He is also the current chair of the Canadian section of the Pierre Fauchard Academy, an international dental organization founded in 1936, and a past president of the Canadian Dental Association. He has been a member of the Alpha Omega International Dental Fraternity, an organization of Jewish dentists, since 1975.
After hearing the concerns of these French Jewish dentists first hand, Dolman said he returned to Quebec all the more appreciative.
“I realize that, although we often hear complaints about the language policy, we are very fortunate to live where we are, have what we have, and are respected for who and what we are and how we have contributed to the society in which we live.”
The order’s mission is to maintain high standards of dental practice and ethical conduct, and to promote oral health among Quebecers.