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What are the bonds that keep us in the fold? Why do we want to maintain our Judaism?

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Why do assimilated Jews remain Jewish? In Canada there has been little threat, yet still the ties to our culture and beliefs run deep and strong. (Image: Aliyahnorth.com)

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I was sipping green tea and talking with my friend Nathan at McDonald’s last week. The discussion turned to why we assimilated Jews remained Jewish. What hold did Judaism have on us?

I am a third generation Canadian Jew, born in Montreal as was my middle-class father. None of my immediate family were killed in the Holocaust although an uncle, a member of an RCAF crew, was killed in a 1942 bombing mission.

Nathan’s immediate family had moved in the 1920’s from Poland to Russia and so survived the Holocaust; although a seven year stint in the Gulag, more than cured Nathan’s father of his enthusiasm for Communism as a solution to humanity’s travails.

All of Nathan’s large extended family back in Poland, except for two cousins, perished at the hands of the Nazi beast. At 11 years old he became aware that he was Jewish and later, still a teenager, he moved to Montreal with his parents.

So there we were, two people from different worlds discussing why we were Jews. Why do we both “feel” Jewish”? What are the bonds that keep us in the fold? Why do we want to maintain our Judaism?

1. Perhaps most important is the Jewish emphasis on ethics and values. In Nathan’s case, a form of defiance of those who want this earth to be Judenrein, certainly plays a rather significant part in his desire to remain Jewish. He can’t understand why some Jews are eager to discard their Jewishness for something else. The ten commandments are Jewish. These have been accepted world-wide although not necessarily attributed to Judaism. There is a section of our Torah called Pirke Avoth, which deals with morality. It points us in the direction of being good people.

Similarly the Bible, although it reads like a history book, is full of situations concerning ethics and morality – which makes for interesting and long moral discussions, which in Judaism is obligatory.  The Torah is an instruction book on how to live your life.  It guides you to be a better, more knowledgeable and understanding person. Older people are not discarded, but are admired for their knowledge and understanding. That is a wonderful thing for older gentlemen like Nathan and me, neither of whom want to be discarded because of our waning physical abilities. 

Jews often separate business ethics from personal ethics. Although this is not unlike many non-Jews, it has earned us a reputation for being “smart and tough” operators, despite being soft touches and ethical in our personal relationships.

2. There is a “Jewish dissatisfaction gene”. It pushes Jews to see things that are wrong and makes them try to change them. Of course, there is no such gene, and yet it seems that Jews are always disturbing the equilibrium by trying to make things better. Despite wide-spread antisemitism, we still want to be “a light unto the nations”.

3. Jews are fanatical about studying and education. For a Jew, it is wonderful to live in an open society that values learning of all kinds. It binds our intellectual desires with our work lives. 

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4. Drive. Again, Jews have a natural drive. We like to work hard and accomplish something. It is part of our DNA. We are glad that somewhere that drive factor is part of who we are.

5. Optimism. Jews have survived 2000 years of persecution without their own land and have survived as a group and a nation. That is a miracle and both Nathan and I are delighted to be part of that miracle, which of course has resulted in the miracle of the establishment of the State of Israel. 

6. Jews are spiritual. They believe in one God, or not, or in an afterlife, or not, or in reincarnation, or not, and in angels – or not. In any case the question of spirituality is always before us and forms a part of who we are. 

7. We have strong families. We believe in strong loving families. It is the basis of our lives. 

8. We support Israel. Like the Quebecois, we want to be masters in our own home. We have prayed for it for 2000 years. We are proud that it survived the 1948 onslaught against it by its more numerous neighbours, and became, despite the negative publicity, a country that is economically, physically and morally strong. 

So despite our very different backgrounds, Nathan and I will continue to be proud Jews, who support Judaism, and take pride in the Jewish country that is Israel.

Jonathan Usher was born in Montreal. He graduated from Queen’s Law School in 1963 and moved to Toronto where he has lived since. In the past 20 years of retirement he has become a very prolific and published letter-to-the-editor writer and conservative, social iconoclast.

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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.

Monthly support is a great way to help us sustain our operations. We greatly appreciate any contributions you can make to support Jewish Journalism.

We thank you for your ongoing support.

Happy reading!

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