Zev Wood
Political Science Student

Inclusivity Really Means Exclusivity

Montreal Jewish community demonstrating against the Pro-Palestinian encampment at McGill University on May 2nd, 2024.

On a Shabbat morning in October, I walked with my Bubbie towards our synagogue. I walked this way hundreds of times before, but this time was different as we had to walk past a roadblock set up by police so no cars could drive close to our synagogue. Upon arriving at the synagogue’s steps, we were greeted by more security guards than normal. My Bubbie had to open her purse for inspection while I had to open my tallit bag. We were then patted down using a metal detector wand as my Bubbie jokingly remarked to the security guards that they must be getting lots of business these days.

I could not help but feel aghast, here we were, in Canada in 2023, having to have this level of security at a Jewish place of worship. This heightened security, albeit providing a sense of safety, encapsulates life for Jewish Canadians today.

This experience was one week following the October 7th massacre in Israel.  Before October 7th, I would have imagined that such an attack would be met with condemnation and sympathy across the board. However, I was awakened to a much harsher reality.

Most Jews now say “October 7th changed my life”. For me, however,  it was October 8th that changed mine. I always knew that Hamas were barbarians who would stop at nothing to destroy Israel and the Jewish people. What I did not know was the number of people in my own city that would take to the streets in a crazed frenzy of celebration the day after such an attack. I spent the entire day on October 7th frantically texting friends to see if they were alive, only to see thousands of people in the streets of Montreal cheering for what had just happened. These were not just any people, these were left-wing progressives, people I once thought I agreed with on most topics. How could these people who believe in ideals like LGBTQ+ rights, safety for women and equality for all, cheer on an Islamic fundamentalist terrorist group? This is a group that makes its intentions very clear in its founding charter when it says “The Day of Judgement will not come about…until Moslems fight the Jews, when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Moslems, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him”

This cognitive dissonance among people my age is the result of identity politics. Many people who ascribe to this ideology, view the world through a binary lens of “oppressor” or “oppressed”. Because of this, Jews are classed into the oppressor category, regardless of Jews making up less than 1% of the Canadian population.

As a Jewish Canadian, I hold our government accountable for this continued rise in antisemitism. The past 9 months have been impossible to navigate for myself and others like me. The political side I once aligned with, has effectively hung me out to dry, as I watch nonstop excuses from political leaders like NDP MP Brian Masse, who when asked about the alarming rise in antisemitism in Canada said, “We’re not going to be able to fix anything right now until there’s a ceasefire [in Gaza]”. To Jewish ears, this means the plight of Jewish Canadians is somehow contingent on a conflict waging halfway across the world. Just as progressives shout, “Collective liberation” for some, they also believe in collective punishment for others.

The lack of effective measures in place, whether it be police or policy, has been shocking to me. I cannot help but think to myself, “Imagine the horror if a Black community center had been shot at twice in one week?”. Or if multiple bars in the Gay Village had a Molotov cocktail hurled at them? We would see action. We would see change. Change that I do not see when Jews are on the receiving end.

The normalization of antisemitism in Canada has been horrifying for me. I grew up in a Jewish environment where I was extensively educated on the Holocaust. One thing people might not realize is that Holocaust museums do not show material beginning in1939, rather 1933, 6 years before Kristallnacht. Jews began to feel uncomfortable in Germany in 1933 as they were slowly ostracized from high society. This eventually culminated in the murder of 6 Million Jews only 12 years later.

I cannot help but notice the parallels with the current state of life for Jewish Canadians. This normalization has led to people facing no consequences when chanting for Intifada during recent protests at McGill University. There is no way I can excuse the people who take part in the protests at McGill, no matter what their intentions are, as they are willingly standing shoulder to shoulder with people chanting battle cries and antisemitic vitriol.

Because of this new campus culture, Jews like me are effectively barred from showing any affiliation with Israel if we wish to be included in any left-wing circles. This is untenable and has left me feeling politically homeless.

Recently, I told one of my family friends that I will be studying Political Science at McGill in the fall. Most people would expect to hear a “congratulations” after this, but instead, she told me, “Wow, good luck being Jewish there”. A knot in my stomach formed after hearing this. I began to think about my late grandfather who was a professor of Law at McGill for over 30 years. He loved that institution with his whole heart, and here I am, his grandson, being warned about being openly Jewish at his school. Then after hearing this, I heard the ever-recurring, “You are so brave for wearing your Star of David so visibly”.

What kind of country do I live in where it is brave to not suppress my religious identity?

The reality is, I live in a country where the youth in academia have been captured and captivated by this ideology that favours some over others. If people could abandon their hardline binaries and begin to look at the world with more nuance, I might finally stop being congratulated for the simple act of wearing a necklace.

About the Author
Zev Wood is a twenty-year old Jewish university student from Montreal, Canada.
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