Thursday, November 30, 2017

Jews in Manitoba

Asper Jewish Community Campus
The Jewish population in Manitoba is small. It accounts for a little over 1.6% of the overall demographic in the province today and was no higher than 3% in the 1930s. This would be pre-suppose that the Jews of Manitoba were in decline. However, that would ignore the vibrancy and resiliency of the community even now. Without doubt Jews have grown up in both Manitoba and particularly in Winnipeg to be an example for what other faith, ethnic groups and peoples wish to achieve for themselves and the place they live.

It is disheartening to hear that the University of Winnipeg radio stations has been sanctioned for anti-Semitic broadcasts back on November 11. The university has responded accordingly and suspensions have been instituted. Quite rightfully some students are wary if not fearful that incidents are increasing. Statistics Canada verifies that this in indeed the case. Manitoba has had fewer of these reports but it is still a worrying trend.

What accounts for the increase? It is possibly because of an overall rise in intolerance. There is an echo chamber of voicing one's view and having it reinforced and then dismissing or blocking any other world view. The insularity and isolation in much of the Internet may be linked to this movement. President Trump himself calls news critical of him "fake news" while news that cheerleads is considered real news.

Here in Canada the online conservative forum Rebel Media stepped afoul on the issue of white supremacy but also had contributors who took shots at Jews. This reached a head this year with departures of numerous conservative commentators who had grown uncomfortable with the extremism.

Racism and intolerance exists in Manitoba. We have a long way to go. But we have also come a long way. For the Jewish people, they have built a real community that is part of the overall once. The Jewish community campus brought education, fitness, history and culture under one roof and shared it with all. It is important to note that doing this posed challenges for the Jews here. They had various political stripes, intellectual pursuits, schools, synagogues and neighbourhoods. As the community nears 150 years in the province, there is strength together but room for disagreement and varied passions within.

The outright ugliness of what is happening outside of Manitoba should not penetrate what many in this province have been trying to achieve in all these years: a prosperous and tolerant society. So what is the real news? The Jews of Manitoba are your neighbbours. And good ones. They are among many other neighbours both old and new that are part of our overall community.

Don't let hatred be a defining feature of what Manitoba is. The problems that exist can be solved with determination rather than extremism. Our strengths come from the fact that we are maturing as a city and province. Attack one of us and you attack us all. The Jewish people in the province should know we have their back.

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