Allan Nadler
Retired Rabbi, Emeritus Professor of Jewish Studies, Drew University

“Boychiks Who Call Wolf” Undermine Canadian Jews’ Battle with Hatred

In the past month alone, Canadian Jews have felt themselves triply traumatized by what many have experienced as part of a pattern of hatred directed against my country’s coreligionists. Our reaction been been understandably fast and furious, given the worldwide explosion of hatred towards the Jews and the Jewish State. It has also too often been reckless and overly alarmist. Some writers have wondered if Canada remains a safe home for Jews; others have claimed their parents, or grandparents, would have shuddered in disbelief at the country they loved having been consumed by Jew-hatred, and which they would not recognize today. I beg strongly to differ. Growing up in Montreal in the 1950’s and 60’s, I encountered antisemitism on an almost daily basis, whether walking to and from Outremont’s Adath Israel Modern Orthodox shul, or during the week to its eponymous Jewish day school. Far more menacing than local Quebecois kids merely calling us Maudit Juifs, things often got violent, at times even requiring police escorts to escort us home from school. Such menacingly overt and socially acceptable hatred of Jews by native Canadians has thankfully become exceedingly rare today in Montreal. Having retired and moved back home to Montreal six years ago, after some thirty years in the New York area, I can testify that I have neither experienced nor witnessed a single overt, let alone threatening, instance of Jew-hated, and that a anti-Semitism — in Quebec at least — has been at a historic low, until the cataclysm of October 7th that is. A more sober, calm and credible assessment of our situation is urgently needed, beginning with these three most recent alleged instances of  overt anti-Jewish expression is urgently called for.

First was the Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s enforcement of already existing humane slaughtering regulations in demanding that Canada’s shochtim (Jewish ritual slaughterers) comply with the law of the land — as required by the halachic principle Dinah de-Malchutah Dinah — after having already exempted Jews from the requirement to stun cows and sheep before slaughter. This demand would, however, require either three minutes after each kill to determine scientifically that the animal was “brain dead” before hosting, dismembering, and disemboweling it, which is halachically not only acceptable but as numerous Modern Orthodox rabbis have been arguing for years, preferable.

The immediate response by certain rabbis and Jewish leaders has been to cry “anti-semitism,” some going so far as to invoke the spectre of Nazi Germany and Hitler’s ban of Jewish ritual slaughter on humanitarian grounds, the darkly ironic prelude to the slaughter of six million Jews. Those who did engage in such a toxic analogy almost all compared Canada’s compromise to ensure that her Jewish citizens enjoy domestically slaughtered beef (more than 75% of kosher meat found on the country’s supermarket shelves have for years come from the US, Mexico and Argentina) to the total bans on kosher and halal slaughtering in Belgium, pushed by the far-right legislators, that did indeed reek of unjust discrimination against religious minorities. But no one in Canada’s Parliament has ever spoken of banning ritual slaughtering but enabling it to be more humane.

Rather than complying with the proposed compromise, the country’s two major Kashrut-Certifying Agencies and kosher meat producers in Montreal and Toronto chose instead to take legal action against the Canadian government. The lawsuit claims that Canada was somehow violating the Jews’ civil rights, ensured by Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms. As if the questionable merits of such a grave allegation against our profoundly decent and philosemitic country were not enough, an even more dubious accusation by a Montreal shochet and partner to the lawsuit that the CFIA would violate his Charter-protected human rights, should the rabbis persist in their refusal to comply, whereby he would lose his current job. The fatal flaw in this tricky claim – leaving aside the highly dubious jurisprudential claim in reading the charter – is that the rabbinical kashrut authorities had months earlier already certified as kosher produced from post-slaughter-stunned animals. They now insist that this could not continue and that their leniency was only a stop-gap emergency measure and the meat was only kosher be-di’eved, the halachic term for ex post facto leniency. That is a highly dubious assertion, given that they were not precisely accidentally selling something non-kosher as kosher (which would be the technically correct application of this rabbinic term). Having decided to rule reasonably (and halachically) to protect the highly profitable domestic kosher meat industry in the first instance, the rabbis now seek to reverse course by arguing that their permission of meat from stunned animals was somehow an ex post facto; it is an elementary matter of legal logic that something cannot be marketed and sold for months as de jure kosher, (le-chatchilah in rabbinic parlance) only then to be, ex post facto, to be declared treyf. No reasonable reading of the suit can fail to discern that the central motive for their lawsuit alleging governmental anti-Jewish discrimination, protecting their profit margins from the CFIA’s requirement to pause an additional two to three minutes between slaughters, thereby reducing the daily number of slaughters. It is hardly anti-Semitic to observe that prioritizing profits over animal welfare may strike many Gentile and Jewish Canadians as placing monetary interests over merciful treatment of animals, the ethical principle of “Tsa’ar Ba’ali Hayyim.”


Less than two weeks later, debates in Canada’s House of Commons over the progressive National Democratic Party’s parliamentary bill to declare the government’s immediate recognition of a Palestinian State did indeed take an unmistakenly nasty anti-Semitic turn. The spokesperson for this bill delivered a heinous speech before the House angrily denouncing Zionism and “the occupation” (the progressive’s code for Israel), insisting over and again that its war against Hamas was no different than the Holocaust. Invoking the memory of her deceased Jewish father, a Holocaust survivor(her mother is an indigenous Lakota Nation member), she repeated over and again that Gaza is today’s Auschwitz and that her dad would have denounced it in the same manner. This vile lecture was interrupted by enthusiastic cheers by far too many Canadian parliamentarians with a standing ovation. A vile exhibition of hatred towards both the Jewish State and Jews worldwide, to say nothing of a disgusting

In the end, Parliament approved a significantly softened version of the bill by a large majority. It limited the proposed trade embargo with Israel to military equipment (Canada has not sold lethal arms to Israel in many years) and reaffirmed Canada’s longstanding support for the “two-state solution” to resolve the “Israel-Palestine” conflict. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau – historically an unwavering supporter of Israel and good friend to Canada’s Jews — negotiated this agreed-upon political compromise that allowed him to preserve his Liberal Party’s tactical parliamentary coalition with the NDP. Though arguably not a principled moral stand, this was a classic case of the political brinksmanship of compromise. It most certainly does not descend anywhere close to the depths of classical anti-Semitism. His political enemies may uncharitably accuse Trudeau of having become a typical political weasel, ready on a dime to betray his convictions for political gain. Still, he is undoubtedly no Jew hater, as too many Jews – including colleagues, friends and family members have suggested.


Finally, here in my native Montreal, a political caricature published in the largest daily newspaper, the French-language La Presse, depicting Benjamin Netanyahu as Nostradamus. Its publication provoked immediate and widespread accusations of anti-Semitism directed not only at its clueless creator – a satirist with no prior history of ever offending the Jews – and the paper more generally, even though it has mainly been very balanced and measured in its reports and editorials about the violence, since October 7th. The mayor of the Montreal-adjacent township of Hampstead– that has the distinction of being the municipality with the largest per-capita Jewish population in the entire Diaspora — issued a public condemnation of this bit of political satire in which he baselessly accused the paper of trading in anti-Semitic tropes. Never mind that La Presse has been exceptionally supportive of Israel and unwavering in its denunciation of anti-Semitism, especially since October 7th, and that this cartoonist – whose art has never before displayed prejudice towards Jews or other religious and ethnic minorities – and who was evidently unaware of the long and hateful history of accusations of bloodsucking – from Vampirism to the classic blood libel alleging that Jews ritually slaughter Christian Children for matzah consummation.

We are rightly outraged when confronted with the horrible explosion of anti-Semitism on the streets of our cities and the lawns of our college campuses. The violence, intimidation, and public defamation of Jews, synagogues, JCCs, Jewish businesses and restaurants — all very thinly veiled as merely political anti-Zionism – demand our most muscular condemnation. Canada’s Jews have not experienced such open and too-often violent hostility since the 1930s when Nazis in Quebec, Ontario and Alberta assembled publicly to support Hitler’s plan to exterminate our people and physically assault Jews in the streets and parks of its major cities. Montreal and Toronto. Thankfully, this is not the 1930s and just as certainly as we are obliged to call out Jew-hatred whenever it rears its hideous head, we must, for the very same reason, be very judicious before we rush to condemn those presumably innocent of it. To the same extent that we bridle at the hideous analogies of Israel to Nazi Germany, those whom we smear as antisemites, invoking the Holocaust no less! — are entitled to bristle right back at us for doing to them what we, rightfully, find outrageous. Recklessly damning our fellow Canadians with harbouring hatred of Jews without prior due diligence violates Hillel’s famous summation of the essence of Judaism not to do to our neighbours that which is hateful to us. When we justly call out the real anti-Semites while at the same time trivializing it, we only sabotage our justified outrage at today’s horrific worldwide explosion of antisemitism and hamper our efforts to put an end to its most vicious iteration that compares Israel to the Third Reich, the latest iteration of inverted Holocaust Denial

Chazal — Our Talmudic Sages Of Blessed Memory — long ago warned, “Hakhamim hizaharu be-divreichem! (scholars, be careful with your words). We risk terrible consequences not heeding this ancient call by not being more measured in defending both Israel and Jews worldwide in these frighteningly challenging times.

About the Author
Professor Emeritus of Religious Studies and Director of the Program in Jewish Studies at Drew University (ret.). Prior to his appointment at Drew in 1998, Dr. Nadler was the Director of Research at the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research in New York City, and Dean of YIVO’s Graduate Training Program, the Max Weinreich Center for Advanced Jewish Studies (1991-1998). From 1991-94 Dr. Nadler was Visiting Professor of Jewish Studies at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY. In 1994-95 he served as Adjunct Professor at the Skirball Department of Hebrew and Judaic Studies at New York University. In 1998 he was the Ezra Sensibar Visiting Professor at the Spertus Institute for Jewish Studies in Chicago. In 2005-2006, and again in 2012, Dr. Nadler was Professor of Jewish Studies at McGill University in Montreal, where he had previously been a fully time faculty member from 1982-1984, and an adjunct professor from 1984-1990. In 2011, Nadler was the Norman and Gerry Sue Arnold Distinguished Visiting Chair in Jewish Studies at the College of Charleston, in Charleston, South Carolina. An Orthodox-ordained rabbi, Dr. Nadler served the Charles River Park Synagogue in Boston and Congregation Shaar Hashomayim in Westmount (Montreal), Canada(1982-1991). Dr. Nadler’s hundreds of articles, essays, op. eds. and literary reviews have appeared in numerous scholarly and popular journals and newspapers such as Commentary, The New Republic, The Jewish Review of Books, Tablet Magazine, The Journal of Jewish Thought and Philosophy, Judaism, Tradition, Modern Judaism, The New York Times, Newsday, Forward, The Jewish Week, and The Baltimore Jewish Times. Dr. Nadler is the author of: Faith of the Mithnagdim: Rabbinic Responses to Hasidic Rapture (The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997), The Hasidim in America (American Jewish Committee Monograph Series, 1995).