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A wake-up call to the West Island Jewish community

Letter to the Editor, September 20, 2019

This article was published more than 1 year ago, information might not be accurate.

Itsik Romano Montreal, QC

Letter to the Editor, September 20, 2019


In the last month, I have had the privilege to meet extraordinary people from our Montreal West Island community.

People with a tremendous passion for our cities of Dollard Des Ormeaux and Pierrefonds, from different ethnicities and faiths, working towards supporting a candidate from one of the political parties in our riding.

I was the only Jewish person in this group, I was excited to take the role of introducing the candidate to my peers from my Jewish community who either have influence or extremely involved in our community.

For me, the Jewish community in the West Island has always been vibrant, active and involved. No matter which political side you are, our Jewish community members were always present and proud to support those who take upon themselves the courage and dedication to run in an election campaign regardless of their faith.

This time around, I have experienced exactly the opposite. I see apathy, shame and a sense of defeat. Our Jewish community are less involved in local community affairs but I have noticed that the candidates don’t even reach out to us, don’t even post pictures with our people at city events, not even a tag on their social media or a mention, we simply don’t exist. The Jewish community in the West Island has become completely irrelevant and that is very troubling.

I can’t believe that this is the type of future we want for our children here. I can’t believe that our vibrant community wants to dig itself more and more into a shell that only cares about our own and not get involved. I can’t believe that we shy away from helping others outside of our community while teaching our children to do good deeds.

Yes, there are more hate symbols painted on pole signs, Yes there are more voices calling in support of the BDS, and Yes, we see more and more people from our Jewish community who turn their backs on us when we praise or pray for Israel. Unfortunately, none of these facts help us feel any better about ourselves but we have to stand tall and must look in the mirror and help others by getting involved.

The more we get involved, the more we get to learn about others as much as they get to learn about us.

Let me give you an example on how we can get involved: We are probably one of the best communities in raising money for our own charities, so let’s start getting involved with other communities and help them reach their goals. We have an amazing oiled machine food bank operation like MADA, so why can’t we take our experience and teach other food banks in our own communities to collect and operate so their supply can last longer. There are plenty of ways for us to get involved, not only as individuals but as the Jewish community as a whole in the West Island.

The more we get involved in our own city and with other communities, the more we both learn about each other, the more we get educated about each other, the fewer differences and hatred we will experience, and if we do, the more support and care we will get in return.

Every time I get involved with other programs or communities I get excited about sharing our tradition and history with others while learning about theirs. Educating one another about our faith, religion and culture will teach you that we are much more similar in our values than different.

We must rethink our identity in the West Island so that our children won’t feel isolated and excluded. Tikkun Olam (the act of kindness concept) doesn’t mean only do for the Jewish community, but do it for all, regardless of culture, race or ethnicity. In the West Island, the Jewish community needs to shine and today is a great day to start.

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