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Jewish shoppers seeking Passover foods encountered rural Quebec supermarket managers displaying incredible ignorance, indifference and disdain.

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You would think the Walmart of Sainte-Agathe which sold Jewish food during the year, St.-Viateur bagels and Snowdon Del rye bread, would have a clue about Passover. (Photo: etsy.com/ca/listing/967536443)

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Rumour has it that five years ago, the IGA in Sainte-Agathe-des-Monts (Saint-Agathe) had a Kosher section all year round. Which makes eminent good sense. You see Saint-Agathe and other towns and villages in the Laurentians area, ie Mont Tremblant, Sainte Sauveur and Morin Heights were known to have many long term Jewish residents. Some Jewish families had lived in the Laurentians and especially the Sainte-Agathe area for generations.

In fact, over 120 years ago, the Jewish population in Sainte-Agathe was fairly significant. Many Jewish immigrants from Europe, after settling to Montreal in the 1860s-1880s, realized the toxic environment of downtown industrial Montreal during the summer, was “no day at the beach”, so they built homes, cottages and summer estates in the Saint-Agathe area so their families could escape to the country for the summer. Over the years, the attraction of Sainte-Agathe and its beautiful lakes, mountains and clean air attracted more Jewish residents from all over Quebec, Ontario and New England. Which led to the establishment of several Laurentians hotels catering to Jewish families and Jewish summer camps catering to the children of Montreal, Quebec and Toronto Jews.

In 1953 The House of Israel, an orthodox synagogue, was established in Saint-Agathe for all the Jewish residents of the Laurentians. Currently, its membership exceeds over 1500 families.

Imagine my surprise, this year when prior to Passover, I embarked on my Arthurian quest of Passover products here in the Laurentians and found there was not a Matzah box, or Matzah ball to be had.

Gornischt. Nada. Zero.

Though I am a Toronto resident, for most of this pandemic year I have been residing with my girlfriend in her lakeside home south of Saint-Agathe. For safety sake I did not venture back to Toronto to obtain my Passover order with all the grieven trimmings, the gefilte fish, the Kosher brisket (or even Kosher-style brisket from Nortown) the matzo ball soup and the Matzahs.

Instead quarantining in the Laurentians, I ventured out to the local IGA and Metro in Sainte-Agathe to try to fill my Passover order.

Imagine my shock and dismay, when in trying to explain to various French Quebec sales clerks and store managers, my desire for Kosher for Passover products, I was met with incredible ignorance, indifference and disdain.

I tried to explain in my broken French that I am Jewish and there is a significant Jewish population in Sainte-Agathe and throughout the Laurentians and in the past, there was a Kosher section. I tried to explain the concept and holiday of Passover to these disbelievers.

Many centuries ago we were slaves of the Pharaoh of Egypt- and Moses, our leader, brought us out of Egypt, with just the clothes on our back. Because we had to hurry to get out of Dodge, we Jews had no time to wait for the bread to rise, so we made unleavened bread, which tasted like the mortar we used to build the pyramids.

I literally tried to explain matzah, with my hands and bad Franglais, “C’est pain (bread), mais flat. Comme ca.” But to no avail, with these French sales clerks.

As I was ranting, this got me thinking to myself.

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Since we had the Almighty G-d on our side, couldn’t we wait a few more minutes for the bread to rise? Why were we in such a hurry? The Angel of Death had knocked out all the non-Jewish first born.

The Egyptians were otherwise engaged in mourning their deceased firstborn. There must have been a lot of crying and renting of garments and protesting the Pharaoh’s incredible bad judgment.

There must have been lots of clean up. The Angel of Death was one mean murderous dude.

Police had to be called. Witnesses questioned. The culprit was obviously not so obvious. Was there a serial murderer on the loose? Sketch artists had to be called. It was not easy to sketch the Angel of Death on tablets in those days. Security cameras would not be invented for centuries. Did the Angel of Death have accomplices? CSI had to be called in. DNA had to be gathered? Does the Angel of Death even have DNA?

We Jews then should have had plenty of time to allow for the bread to rise. Just think of all the great pizza, cakes, breads, pasta and cookies we could eat during Passover, if we just waited a few minutes for the bread to rise? But I digress.

Sometimes, even when Walmart actually tried to acknowledge Passover to Jewish customers, they still got it wrong. But unlike in Ste. Agathe, at least this store made the effort. (Photo:i.imgur.com/5To6hBR.jpg)

I then launched into a brief summary of the Four Questions to these disbelieving French Canadian IGA and Metro sales clerks, trying to describe to them why the Passover is different for us Jews because we eat matzah, not bread and eat bitter horseradish which reminds us of our bitter experience as slaves. But for some strange reason, though we were slaves, we recline on these Seder nights as if we were wealthy Hollywood film producers.

I also tried to explain the Passover plate and the charoset, (symbolizing the mortar we Jewish slaves had to make and use in the building of the Pyramids) the salt water, maror and the Lamb Shank.

I was offered a pork leg, at Walmart, which was close, but no cigar.

You would think the Walmart of Sainte-Agathe which sold Jewish food during the year; St.-Viateur bagels and Snowdon Del rye bread, would have a clue about Passover. But the store manager of Walmart, refused to speak English to me and simply pointed to the challah section as the Kosher for Passover products section, which of course missed the whole point and was a huge no-no on Passover. Hard pass.

The other store managers of Metro, IGA and Walmart, were not only, not embarrassed at their ignorance, but were a bit disdainful that I had the chutzpah to ask about a Jewish holiday, celebrated by many Jewish Sainte-Agathe residents, of which they were clearly ignorant and worse, indifferent.  

I was about to ask for their personal home addresses, paint some lamb’s blood on their doors and you know, hope for the best, but I demurred.

On a positive note, my new Jewish next door neighbor, a recent transplant from Montreal, gave us her extra box of Matzah. She also made us home-made matzo balls and the sweetest charoset.

And saved Passover for us, after all.

Born in Montreal and a Toronto resident since 1974, Mitch Wolfe, a graduate of Harvard University (in political science) and University of Toronto Law School, has been writing about Canadian, American and international politics for decades and is a regular political commentator on Sirius XM 167 Radio, Canada Talks. Wolfe is also the author of “Trump: How He Captured The Trump White House”, which he wrote and had published two months before the 2016 election (available on Amazon.com)

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Thank you for choosing TheJ.Ca as your source for Canadian Jewish News.

We do news differently!

Our positioning as a Zionist News Media platform sets us apart from the rest. While other Canadian Jewish media are advocating increasingly biased progressive political and social agendas, TheJ.Ca is providing more and more readers with a welcome alternative and an ideological home.

We revealed the incursion of anti-Israel progressive elements such as IfNotNow into our communities. We have exposed the distorted hateful agenda of the “progressive” left political radicals who brought Linda Sarsour to our cities, and we were first to report on many disturbing incidents of Nazi-based hate towards Jews across Canada.

But we can’t do it alone. We need your HELP!

Our ability to thrive and grow in 2020 and beyond depends on the generosity of committed readers and supporters like you.

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