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Diamond: How did Canada become a haven for Jews?

(Wikimedia Commons photo)

Some time ago, I attended a political meeting showcasing the newly formed Conservative Party of Canada to a number of members of the Jewish community. The message I heard – namely that, “Our party intends to support the Jewish community and the Jewish homeland of Israel, fully and completely” – surprised me, albeit positively. But, many of us asked, could the party possibly be elected if such messages were shared widely?

Their response was clear: we will do so because it is the right thing to do and because it is good for Canada to support its Jewish community. Several years later, Prime Minister Stephen Harper became one of the most pro-Israel world leaders in history. Harper  confirmed that a Canadian politician could be a friend of the Jewish community and a supporter of Israel, and still be elected several times over.

Fast forward to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberals, who have also been supportive of our community and of Israel, although, in my view, not with the same willingness to raise the bar as the previous Conservative government was. It is noteworthy that the Liberals are a positive anomaly in a world where so-called progressive governments are trending in entirely the wrong direction.

So why is this the case? Is it simply the time, passion, money and energy spent by the Canadian Jewish community that created this outcome? Or could it be that a country that allows its racial minorities, particularly its Jews, to do as well as they can, without being held down or otherwise constrained, becomes a more successful country?

The number of Nobel prizes and other awards won by Jews worldwide are many times greater than what our numbers would suggest. Two documentaries are about to be released in Canada, both of which clearly show the impact we Jews have had in building what is arguably one of the greatest countries on earth.

The answer may be that a society that controls its Jew hatred will be stronger than it otherwise would be if Jews were oppressed. And by extension, the same is true for other segments of society – whether it be black Canadians, recent immigrants, Muslims who are often distrusted for the actions of a tiny minority or our forever dispossessed indigenous community. If every segment of Canadian society is encouraged, and not curtailed, supported and not attacked, understood and not judged, we would have a country that thrives as the whole of its parts.

But in my view, one of the primary focuses needs to be on the Jews. Not because we are better, but because we are smaller in numbers, more easily targeted and, indeed, are targeted the most on a per capita basis than any other group. We have been the perpetual subjects of hurt, derision and physical attacks throughout our history. Jew-hatred is an obsession that society would do well to rid itself of.

Give us a chance and we will lead with consideration, build new buildings and communities, invent new things, create new drugs and work with others to make the world a better place. Some of us will prosper economically in the process, but that is nothing to be ashamed of. In so doing, we will create jobs and capital and wealth for this country. And much of what is earned will find its way into the non-profit sector, as investments in charities, including hospitals, seniors homes, universities, social service agencies and educational organizations.

The same is true of Israel. To the extent that Jew-hatred is manifested as attacks on the Jewish state, Israel will be less able to add its own considerable value to the world of science, ideas and business.

The anti-Semitic caricature of the Jew is entirely the opposite of who we are. John Lennon said, “Give peace a chance.” I say: give the Jews a chance; you won’t be sorry.