Jews and French Quebecers recounts a saga of intense interest for the whole of Canada, let alone societies elsewhere. This work, now translated into English, represents the viewpoints of two friends from differing cultural and religious traditions. One is a French Quebecer and a Christian; the other is Jewish and also calls Quebec his home. Both men are bilingual. Jacques Langlais and David Rome examine the merging - through alterations of close co-operation and socio-political clashes - of two Quebec ethno-cultural communities: one French, already rooted in the land of Quebec and its religio-cultural tradition; the other, Jewish, migrating from Europe through the last two centuries, equally rooted in its Jewish-Yiddish tradition. In Quebec both communities have learned to build and live together as well as to share their respective cultural heritages. This remarkable experience, two hundred years of intercultural co-vivance, in a world fraught with ethnic tensions serves as a model for both Canada and other countries.
David Rome was a Canadian historian and the director of the Montreal Jewish Public Library and was part of the Canadian Jewish Congress as the archivist and later historian of the organization. He was officially honoured on several occasions, recieving CJC's H.M. Caiserman Award and being invested as a Knight in the Order of Quebec in 1987. In addition, he is also the co#8211;author of Les Juifs du Québec, bibliographie r#233;trospective annot#233;e (1979) and The Stones that Speak/Les pierres qui parlents (1992).
Preface to the
This book tells a saga of intense interest for the whole of Canada, let alone societies elsewhere. It deals with the merging-through alterations of close cooperation and socio-political clashes - of two Quebec ethno-cultural communities: one, the French, already rooted in the land of Quebec and its religio-cultural tradition; the other, the Jewish, migrating from Europe through the last two centuries, equally rooted in its Jewish-Yiddish tradition. Here both communities have learned to live together, and finally to share their heritages.
A most remarkable experience, 200 years of intercultural co-vivance, it is part of the epic of the building of a nation able to make experience in the living together of world cultures not only a possibility but a reality; eventually a test case for other countries in our world on the eve of the third millennium.
The huge territory north of the St. Lawrence River-New France, Lower Canada, Quebec, with its panoramic kaleidoscope of northern beauty-has been the scene of many of the major dramas of the northern hemisphere's New World. Vital door to the North American heartland, it has served as the northern approach to New England and to the American metropolitan centres, as well as the north Atlantic, the northern border with the USSR and the northern air route between America and Europe.
Above all, it is the homeland of peoples from prehistoric native settlements to European colonists who in recent centuries were sent here by the first imperialists: the French, who settled along the St. Lawrence River and the Great Lakes and travelled the continent from the Gulf of Mexico to the Prairies and the Pacific Ocean; the English, who settled what is now the United States and the Maritime provinces.
In the eighteenth century, as the conclusion of a series of world wars, Quebec's destiny was to be conquered by the British. French soldiers and administrators left New France for the old homeland. The sixty thousand civilian residents of French origin who had belonged to this land for over a century and who were already "Canadians" - and in broader terms "Americans" - remained to live together with the English who came to settle. And with the English came the Jews, both from England and from the British colonies of the eastern seaboard. They brought to Quebec a complex, neutral society with much to teach their hosts.
The transfer of imperial rule from Versailles to London in 1760 abolished French Quebec homogeneity and unity of religion and language, and introduced new dimensions of racial and cultural pluralism, and economic and political concepts and patterns. Yet Canadians of French origin had not been left in complete isolation from their European roots. Thanks to their Catholicism and French cultural traditions they were able to keep alive not only their North European traits and the Greco-Latin character of their educational system, but also their contacts with the outer world through emissaries - notably their missionaries - in both the French and the British empires.
Originally Quebec was a less than tightly governed outpost; then it became a conquered colony. During two centuries Quebecers - all Quebecers - French, English and Jews together-had to attain satisfying development, right by right and position by position, peaceably, largely by the strength of principles inherent in an alien constitution, but always by the fraternity and the ingenuity of its own sons, and by the political genius of devoted leaders.
The Jewish newcomers readily adapted to Quebec's majority and learned French. They formed an early alliance with the Catholics against the Anglican monopoly and religious hegemony, winning themselves the right to a synagogue and, soon after, to full civic rights at the hands of the French nationalist, Catholic-led legislature. No one was surprised when, before the 1837 revolt, Ezekiel Hart entertained Louis-Joseph Papineau in his Trois-Rivieres home, when Dutch Jewish immigrant Levy Koflrnan (become Louis Marchand) fought beside the rebels, or when A. P. Hart defended the revolutionaries before martial courts; all this largely during the first century of Jewish residence in Quebec.
The expanded peoples of Quebec lived in amity under a series of constitutions which generally recognized basic freedom and equality for all under law. These arrangements established relationships with the imperial power, with the neighbouring English-language colonies and between the French and the English in the colony, culminating in the Canadian confederation of 1867.
Within the conditions of English and French duality, Quebec has witnessed the creation of a people in all dimensions of loyalty and fraternity, language, religion, literature, defence of group interests, custom, economy, institutions, music and law. Despite the occasional impingement of neighbouring jurisdictions and, at times, open violence between conflicting interests, Quebec history has generally been marked by a convention of peacefulness which can serve as a rare model. Tradition has avoided clash. Indeed, the convention of shunning conflict is a major theme of Quebec and Canadian history. Rednecks are not absent, but the people of all major groups have usually put them in their places.
During two peaceful centuries the "immigrant" peoples of Quebec developed an intense and rich life - the Anglophone as an integral part of American, Anglo-Saxon and anglo-Canadian culture; the Québécois in French, somewhat more independently of the civilization of Paris, and more recent arrivals, a melange of other European, Asiatic, African and French Antilles origin. Each group has its own history of ethnocultural relations with the dominant English or French, yet retention of its own cultural heritage -the totality shaped rather in its own Québécois "American" way. These French Quebec centuries have seen, by and large, the recognition of its language, its church and its custom.
Moderation, discipline and a dedication to the extended family enabled Quebec society to avoid exile and assimilation; to interpret treaties and charters into minority rights and human rights and into the claims of the majority; and to translate the bloody catastrophes of the Upper and Lower Canada rebellions into the first Canadian confederation.
The apparatus of Quebec patriotism was developed largely during the birth of the colony of Canada, when its poets -French, English and Jewish - developed a vast bibliography of periodicals and a people's literature and the spokesmen for the rebels of 1837 became officials in the post-Durham governments. Québécois claimed and won moral status and even "rebellion losses" for the Anglophone street fighters who burned the parliament buildings in Montreal -all this when ironically super-loyalist Benjamin Hart was virtually driven from Canada by the Anglophone regime for protesting his imperialist loyalty.
This was to be the last time that London authorities were to intervene in Canadian crises; out of the Upper and Lower Canada rebellions emerged in 1840 a government directly responsible to the citizenry, a prelude to the Confederation of 1867.
Inevitably the wide concept of Quebec as an independent state arose. Indeed, this has become one of the poles in the range of French-Canadian nationalist self-perception and alternatives for people's fulfillment. Yet the Quebec tradition of moderation has even permitted Anglophones to participate with Francophones in the pursuit of the French tryst with fulfillment, notably as when T. S. Brown and Wolfred Nelson shared in the leadership of the French in the Rebellion of 1837-38.
The Ultramontane Influence
A score of years after the 1837-38 rebellions in Quebec and Ontario, two momentous events occurred in Quebec. From tiny Lithuania and other Slav countries came a growing stream of a new type of immigrants, Yiddish-speaking, who were to introduce a new and radically different culture to Quebec. At the same time, and also from Europe, there emanated into Canada ultramontanism, a powerful religious movement which came to be probably more influential in Quebec than in any other region on the continent. For four-score years the church in Quebec permitted an intensive, though mostly academic, teaching of contempt and hostility towards the Jewish people. The record is so harsh that it is surprising the consequences were not more dire. The Jewish community reacted with dismay, fear and distrust, particularly as the movement was allied with developing Quebec nationalism, buttressed by the considerable talents of Monsignor Paquet (1832-1900), Canon Groulx (1878-1967), journalist J. P. Tardivel (1857-1942) and the influence of Action sociale catholique and La Semaine religieuse de Quebéc, not to speak of the pulpit.
Strangely enough, this bolder and more hostile "patriotism" flourished even after Confederation. A series of journalists and religious spokesmen, defenders of French Quebec provincial interests, were for decades consistently hostile to Jews and were at times more active in oppressing them than in advancing the people of Quebec. This school of patriotic education continued into the twentieth century under the more political but equally anti-Semitic leaders of Action francaise, Action nationale, Henri Bourrassa in his younger years and, above all, by Canon Groulx and the journalist Adrien Arcand.
The movement became increasingly involved in partisan politics; indeed some parties were formed and some political...