A reception hall in the South Shore town of Candiac, Que., was filled with representatives of the Christian and Muslim faiths, ethnic and communal organizations, and politicians of all levels, in an expression of solidarity with the area’s small Jewish population, in the wake of the Pittsburgh shooting.
“This great joining together is a rejection of anti-Semitism and racism and division and hatred,” said South Shore Jewish Community (SSJC) president Jacques Saada at the organization’s annual gala on Nov. 4.
“You have decided to show a face of humanity and you have decided to do it by celebration, as a great message of hope and optimism.”
He recited the opening of a Hebrew song: “It’s nice to be sitting together as brothers.”
Saada described the show of support as the fruit of the bridges of understanding that the SSJC has sought to build with other people over its 24-year history. The volunteer organization has about 100 families living in the region on its mailing list.
Anti-Semitism “is an injustice that has been going on for centuries and centuries, regardless of the governments and geography of the states,” said Saada, a former federal cabinet minister, who is also president of the Communauté sépharade unifiée du Québec.
“After the Holocaust, we would have hoped that the world would have understood. But no, anti-Semitism is again frequent and active,” as evidenced by the murder of 11 Jews at the Tree of Life synagogue, he said.
“Why is there this anti-Semitism, which comes from the extreme left as much as the extreme right, as well as Islamism? We Jews participate in the progress of the world in medicine, literature, the arts. We participate in the great intellectual, scientific and cultural movements.… So why the anti-Semitism?”
No one, he said, has answered that question.
Among those also speaking were Brossard Mayor Doreen Assad, area Liberal MPs Michel Picard (Montarville) and Jean-Claude Poissant (La Prairie), as well as MP Emmanuel Dubourg of the Montreal riding of Bourassa. A message was also received from La Pinière MNA Gaétan Barrette.
Recognition was given to Abbé Rémi Bourdon of the St-Jean-Longueuil Diocese and Usman Shaikh, president of the Centre communautaire musulman de Brossard. Both have a history of collaborating with the SSJC on inter-religious outreach.
Also at the event, D’Arcy McGee MNA David Birnbaum expressed appreciation for the solace Jewish people have received from their neighbours since the Oct. 27 tragedy, while Israeli Consul General David Levy spoke of the growing commercial and cultural relations between Quebec and Israel.
Patrick Benaroche, vice-chair of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, who admitted he had not realized until recently that there was a Jewish community on the South Shore, praised the SSJC for its openness and pluralism.
Also on Nov. 4, a public commemoration for the victims of the Pittsburgh massacre was held at city hall in Quebec City. The event was organized by the Jewish, Muslim, Catholic and Anglican communities and was attended by Mayor Régis Labeaume. Six Muslim worshippers were killed by a gunman at one of the city’s mosques in January 2017.
“Even if 1,200 kilometres separates us, we share their pain, because we recognize it,” said Labeaume. “Today, our city is more united in its diversity. It’s now our turn to bring hope of a better future to our friends in Pittsburgh.”
“Despite the dark cloud that seems to want to cast itself over world politics at the current time, there are rays of light that illuminate Quebec City,” said David Weiser, president of the Beth Israel Ohev Sholem synagogue.
“The Jewish community of Quebec City is comforted by the support shown by the public. We feel a great warmth.”
The attendees were invited to sign a book of condolence that will be sent to Pittsburgh, as well as write a personal message of hope and attach it to one of two “trees of peace” connected by a ribbon, which represent the cities of Quebec and Pittsburgh.