Graeme Hamilton writes @ The National Post: The new Jewish exodus: Canada seen as safe haven for French Jews in wake of anti-Semitic attacks
|Annual Israel march in downtown|
Montreal, April 23, 2015.
The murderous targeting of shoppers buying groceries before the Sabbath, two days after an attack on the journalists of Charlie Hebdo, came amid a surge in anti-Semitism that has Jews questioning how long they can remain in France. More than ever, Canada is seen as a safe haven, and leaders of Montreal’s Jewish community are only too happy to extend a welcoming hand.
It was love that brought Catan, 28, to Montreal last year when he joined his fiancée, who had moved from France five years ago to pursue her studies. But the rise of anti-Semitic hatred back home makes the Jewish couple reluctant to return as they contemplate raising a family. Among their circle of Jewish friends in France, many are planning to leave. “It was perhaps the straw that broke the camel’s back,” Catan said of the January attacks. “It will lead people who were thinking of leaving to take action.”
Like Catan, Adam Scheier was shaken by news of the January terror attacks in Paris. The senior rabbi at Montreal’s Congregation Shaar Hashomayim was at an event in Nashville, and instead of returning home, he flew immediately to Paris as an expression of solidarity. “I found fear,” he said in an interview. “Parents were telling me how terrified they were to send their children to school.”
“This is a Jewish community that has western liberal values that are consistent with our Canadian values. This is a Jewish community that is filled with professionals, people of achievement in law, in business, medicine, sciences and the arts. This is a vibrant, dynamic community that could make a contribution to our country, and this is a community that speaks French, which is something that is very attractive for the Quebec government.”
Montreal Jewish organizations have recently created a task force in response to a steep increase in requests for information from French Jews interested in moving to Canada. Monique Lapointe, manager of immigration services for the social services agency Ometz, said her organization alone received 70 such requests in the three months since the January attacks, double what it would normally receive in a year. The task force is looking at how the community can smooth immigration from France, starting by helping potential immigrants navigate the bureaucracy and letting them know what services are available once they arrive. [...]
Whatever hurdles immigrants have to overcome, Frederic Saadoun says it is worth the trouble. He moved from Paris to Montreal with his wife and young children 10 years ago, as anti-Semitism began to rise in France. There were assaults on Jewish children, anti-Semitic graffiti near Jewish schools and advice from a rabbi not to wear Jewish symbols in public. “We preferred leaving before things got worse,” Saadoun, 46, said in an interview.
At the time, fellow Jews in France criticized him for leaving, but now the same people tell him he did the right thing. “There are not a lot of countries where you die because you are Jewish, but it happens in France,” he said citing the Hyper-Cacher attack and the 2012 assault on a Jewish school in Toulouse by an Islamist terrorist who murdered three children and a rabbi. “There is a physical threat, but what is even more terrible — because in the end, there is little chance of dying — is to be assaulted in daily life,” he said. “My father, who lives in southern France, faces verbal and physical abuse when he leaves synagogue. That sort of thing happens every day.” He said his son and daughter, 17 and 15, are now perfectly at ease displaying their Jewish identities in public.
It is when they return to France to visit family that he has to warn them. “I tell them to be careful. In the métro, don’t show your Star of David. Don’t display any distinctive symbol showing you are Jewish. They no longer understand, because here they have no problem, they feel safe,” he said. “Canada is peaceful and they do not at all feel threatened as Jews. We have to teach them when they go to France how to behave as threatened Jews.” More.