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Antisemitism in Canada: History and Interpretation [Paperback]

Alan Davies

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Book Description

Oct. 22 1992

This book is the first collection of scholarly essays to treat the topic of antisemitism in Canada, a complete history of which has yet to be written. Eleven leading thinkers in the field examine antisemitism in Canada, from the colonial era to the present day, in essays which reflect the saga of the nation itself. The history of the Jewish community, its struggles and its fortunes is mirrored in the wider history of Canada, from Confederation to the present.

The contributors cast light on Canadian antisemitism through a thorough examination of old and new tensions, including Anglo-French, east-west and Jewish-Ukrainian relations. Attitudes to Jews in pre-Confederation Canada, French Canada from Confederation to World War I as well as the interwar years, and in twentieth-century Ontario and Alberta from 1880-1950 are illustrated in various chapters. Of particular interest are the examinations of such well-known figures as Goldwin Smith, the greatly admired liberal historian of Victorian Canada, Adrien Arcand, the would-be F?hrer from Quebec, and James Keegstra and Ernst Z?del, of more recent notoriety. Analyses are also provided of Nazism and Canadian Protestantism and Jewish-Ukrainian relations since World War II. This is a complex and contentious subject; yet, to understand the ideas and forces that have sought to undermine the Jewish presence in Canada is to understand the dangers that threaten any democratic society, and thereby to guard against them.

This compelling collection of essays offers intelligent, readable accounts of an area of Canadian history about which we know too little.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 312 pages
  • Publisher: Wilfrid Laurier University Press (Oct. 22 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0889202168
  • ISBN-13: 978-0889202160
  • Product Dimensions: 22.4 x 15 x 1.8 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 422 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #335,928 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


EARLY IN the New Year swastikas were spray-painted on seven synagogues in the Montreal area. Scrawled on the walls of one of the buildings was an old Nazi slogan: Juden Raus, or "Jew Out." While this sort of vandalism is rare in this province and this country, it's hardly unheard of. What is unheard of is the fact that all of these acts took place on the same day. They weren't random; they were carefully planned.
One of the synagogues was just a few blocks from my home; and while I am, I confess, one of those Jews who doesn't think all that much about being Jewish, lately that's started to change. With the economy stubbornly refusing to recover and hope in the future practically nonexistent, people are looking around for someone to blame for their problems. Jews are a convenient target. They always have been.
That's why a new book that explores the Canadian Jewish experience couldn't have arrived at a more opportune time. As Alan Davies, a professor of religion at the University of Toronto, explains in his introduction to Antisemitism in Canada, "antisemitism must be brought under microscopic inspection for the sake of the collective good" because "it is an 'early warning system' of dangerous currents in the body politic, much as canaries once warned miners of poisonous fumes in coal mines."
As Davies also explains, Antisemitism in Canada is not intended to be "a comprehensive history" of hatred and prejudice in this country. Nevertheless, this collection of scholarly essays does cover a lot of territory—from Quebec to the West, and from pre-Confederation Canada to the 1985 Deschenes Commission on Nazi war criminals.
Although there are lots of things here that many readers will already be acquainted with—the virulence of anti-Semitic rhetoric and feeling in Quebec up until the end of the Second World War, and the tragic official record on immigration during the war—there are surprises, too. I'd never heard of Goldwin Smith (1823-1910), for example. One of the leading Canadian thinkers of his time, he was also "one of the most prominent (Jewhaters) of his day in the English-speaking world." While he may be largely forgotten now, he had an enduring influence on his students, including a future prime minister, Mackenzie King.
One of the most compelling selections in the book is Davies's own essay on "The Keegstra Affair." In addition to providing a thoughtful profile of James Keegstra's Manichean character "haunted, like so many others of his generation by the mystery of evil, [he] was apparently in search of some form of absolute reassurance"—Davies includes excerpts from essays (spelling mistakes and all) written by Keegstra's impressionable students. They are nothing short of chilling.
Because of its subject matter, Davies's book is inevitably narrow in focus. Gerald Tutchinsky, a history professor at Queen's University, provides a broader, more three-dimensional view of Canadian Jewish history in Taking Root.
Joel Yanofsky (Books in Canada) -- Books in Canada --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

About the Author

Alan Davies is a professor of Religion at the University of Toronto and is an ordained minister of the United Church of Canada. His other books include How Silent were the Churches? Canadian Protestantism and the Jewish Plight during the Nazi Era (WLU Press) written with Marilyn F. Nefsky, Antisemitism and the Christian Mind and Infected Christianity: A Study of Modern Racism.

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