There were two periods in my lifetime when there was a mass exodus of Jews from Montreal, in 1976 and 1995. Parents were separated from children, siblings from each other, and grandparents from their grandchildren. These painful periods corresponded with the separatist referenda in Quebec.
Nonetheless, many thousands of Jews made the decision to remain here. Some for professional reasons, others for family reasons and many because they just didn’t want to move from a beautiful, cosmopolitan, upbeat, safe city.
Recently I ran into someone while shopping and asked how he was. He responded, “Fine. The kids left long ago and it’s a good thing they did,” knowing full well my children remained in Montreal.
I was taken aback by his response, as I never asked how his children were, or where they were living. I got the feeling that, with a slightly smug attitude, he was giving me a lecture: Your children should have left long ago. Look what’s happening now.
I have some news for those whose children left. We have a life here with a large extended family. I see my grandchildren almost daily and we have a close relationship. My mother is, thank G-d, still alive and both my brother and I are here for her. When she has to go to the hospital for any emergency she is not alone. She has her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren beside her.
The decision to leave is taken with a heavy heart. It cannot be easy to watch your children pack up and leave, even if it’s only down the 401. But please – do not cast aspersion on those of us – and our families – who chose to remain here.
We are now faced with yet another threat to our identity, this one seemingly more dangerous than any we have faced so far. About twenty years ago my family became observant. Over that time we learned much about the beauty, depth and wisdom that Judaism has to offer. One of those teachings is deceptively simple, yet fundamental to our essence – we don’t run the world, G-d does.
I am not proposing sitting back and allowing Pauline Marois and the Charter of Quebec Values to trample on my religious identity. We will fight her tooth and nail. We will do what we must to try to make sure that she does not get elected in the next election. But, in the end, it will be G-d Himself who will decide what happens here.
So, along with protesting, writing letters and becoming actively involved in the election, we must stay united. We must speak with one voice – whether our children are here or not. And a little praying along the way wouldn’t hurt either.