No Better Home for the Jews... than Canada?

Symposium for Canada’s Sesquicentennial
York University | Israel and Golda Koschitzky Centre for Jewish Studies

October 22nd & 23rd, 2017. SOLD OUT.

A keynote address and day-long symposium devoted to serious discussion of the audacious question:
"Has there ever been a better home for Jews... than Canada?"

By certain measures, Canada is and has been the safest, most socially welcoming, economically secure, and possibly most religiously tolerant home for the Jews than perhaps any other country, past or present. Modern multicultural states certainly seem to be better for Jewish communal life than 19th century, 20th and even some 21st century European nation-states were. And by almost all measures, Jewish life during our modern, secular era has been better for Jews than life for Jews under pre-modern states the world over. Jews in Canada enjoy high rates of religious observance at all denominational levels, high degrees of secular and Jewish education, virtually unlimited political franchise, institutional completeness for the meeting of Jewish social needs (old folks’ homes, summer camps, kosher groceries & restaurants, etc.), unbending social acceptance, significant cultural production and public recognition, negligible and not particularly dangerous forms of antisemitism, and comparatively low intermarriage rates.

Might Canada be among the best homes that Jews have ever had, or even the single best home? The question invites further questioning.

What criteria ought to be used for such audacious comparisons? What does a good home for Jews look like? Are matters of physical, economic and political safety more important than levels of social integration, degree of legally enshrined equality, or the capacity of Jewish community(s) to exercise religious freedom? Is “better” cultural production or religious creativity a matter of quality or quantity? Are elite or popular thresholds for at-homeness equally important to consider? Does population size matter? How much appreciation ought we scholars bear?

Prominent Jewish Studies scholars - including some of the leading Canadian Jewish Studies scholars - will come together and bring their formidable intellects, their range of disciplinary perspectives, and their diverse areas of expertise to bear on taking Canada seriously. Some scholars will draw out comparisons between specific so-called Golden Age "homes" of Jewish life and Canada; others will approach the question more abstractly or thematically.

The symposium contributes to the Canada 150 celebrations by considering the legacy of Canada’s national project from the perspective of one of Canada’s foremost and original minority ethnic and religious groups. Jews have been a part of the making of Canada since before 1867, but rarely are Canada’s virtues or vices evaluated from the vantage point of minorities who live within Canada but are not usually conceived of as its model citizens. Indeed, Jews provided the colonies and the new state one of its first test-cases for including non-Christians in its conceptions of citizenship, for the establishment of religion, and for fundamental state concerns like property rights, eligibility criteria for holding public office, and for public education. The symposium thus looks to expand Canadian sesquicentennial themes to the Jewish “nation-within-a-nation,” in several ways. It includes national subjects often cast into the shadows when the nation itself reflects on its identity and achievements. It includes Canadian Jewish community members and scholarly experts. Finally, it expands the global interest in Canada – its past, its character, its future - among those Jews and Jewish Studies scholars who have not (yet) taken an interest in Canada.

2017 Harry S. Crow Lecture / Symposium Keynote Address & RECEPTION TO FOLLOW.
Morton Weinfeld, McGill University

Lecture: 6:30pm - Schulich School of Business
Reception: 8:00pm - Schulich Private Dining Room

9:00am - 4:30pm
Kaneff Research Tower, Room 519


Introductory Remarks by:
David S. Koffman, York University

Essays and Arguments by:
Pierre Anctil, Université d'Ottawa
Judith Baskin, University of Oregon
Hasia Diner, New York University
Lois Dubin, Smith College
Jack Kugelmass, University of Florida
Rebecca Margolis, University of Ottawa
Richard Menkis, University of British Columbia
Allan Nadler, Drew University
Ruth Panofsky, Ryerson University
Derek Penslar, Harvard University
Norman Ravvin, Concordia University
Ira Robinson, Concordia University
Mia Spiro, University of Glasgow
Harold Troper, University of Toronto, OISE
Jeffrey Veidlinger, University of Michigan

No Better Home - symposium - schedule


A book version of "No Better Home" will be published by the New Jewish Press:

The symposium is generously supported by York University's Canada 150 @ York fund, in its priority theme, "Diversity & Inclusion." The Harry S. Crowe Lecture and the symposium are generously supported by the Israel and Golda Koschitzky Centre for Jewish Studies. Co-sponsored by York University's Departments of History, Humanities, and Politics, and the Robarts Centre for Canadian Studies.

Contact: David Koffman