The past 12 months have been profoundly hectic. For all the things people disagreed about during 2018, perhaps we might at least agree about that. Our plugged-in society makes for uncommonly busy times – there is always something new, though not necessarily good, around the corner. It’s not the healthiest way to live and probably has a lot to do with why people feel so on edge, but I’d like to think that The Canadian Jewish News provides something of an antidote to all the craziness. There aren’t too many places left for respectful conversations and honest dialogue, and that is entirely regrettable. I’m heartened that The CJN remains one of them, and confident that will continue in the coming year.
Looking back, it’s striking how much ground we covered in 2018. From major communal issues like education, conversion and the cost of living Jewishly to larger societal matters, including the pitfalls of social media, the rise of anti-Semitism and the power of inclusion, The CJN was there. Add to that in-depth reporting on Israel – which marked its 70th birthday and a quarter-century since the signing of the Oslo Accords during 2018 – plus our extensive arts and culture section, and it made for a lively 12 months at the CJN offices. (A shout-out to my favourite story of the year: our deep investigation into why Jews love herring so much.)
The safest prediction is that 2019 will bring more of the same, but I worry we may be confronted with even more angst, especially in this part of the world, and especially in this community. The final months of the coming year – Canadians go to the polls in late October, and Israelis vote in national elections in early November (though it might very well come sooner, given the volatility of the current coalition) – are shaping up to be especially tense.
For Canadian Jews, the federal election campaign will no doubt include vigorous debate around key issues like rising anti-Semitism and support for Israel. The current Liberal government has generally continued the trend of the previous Conservative government toward warm relationships with Israel, but many Canadian Jews will have questions about its financial support for the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA). Some may also inquire about relocating the Canadian embassy to Jerusalem, a move Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer has already promised to make if elected. (As for the two federal parties further to the left, they need to prove they are serious about tackling anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism in their ranks if they hope to attract significant Jewish voting numbers. Sadly, it’s hard to see that happening.)
When Israelis go to the polls, Canadian Jews are certain to have strong opinions, too. In recent months, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has looked vulnerable amid coalition squabbling and corruption investigations. Can he hold on one more time? It’s difficult to imagine political life in Israel without Bibi, but that will be up to the voters to decide. Engaging from the sidelines, though, you can count on Canadian Jews having much to say about Israeli politics and the relationship between the Jewish state and the Jewish Diaspora.
So buckle up. It’s gonna be another busy year.