We fight Hitler's creed overseas ... but we have a seedling of it right here at home, says this Rabbi
RABBI ABRAHAM L. FEINBERG
(Holy Blossom Temple, Toronto)
NOT long ago a Toronto merchant of Jewish descent asked me to recite a prayer at Sabbath Service in behalf of his son, who had just gone overseas. He was willing to join Holy Blossom Congregation, he told me—provided that the Temple office mail him its notices “in blank envelopes.”
“You see,” he said, “my partners don’t know I’m a Jew.”
To the vast bulk of Jews this attitude is deplorable, unjustifiably lacking in both self-respect and faith in the Canadian people. But no Jew can say it is without cause.
Jews are kept out of most ski clubs. Sundry summer colonies (even on municipally owned land), fraternities, and at least one Rotary Club operate under written or unwritten “Gentiles Only” signs. Many bank positions are not open to Jews. Only three Jewish male physicians have been admitted to non-Jewish Hospital staffs in Toronto. McGill University has instituted a rule requiring in effect at least a 10% higher academic average for Jewish applicants; in certain schools of the University of Toronto anti-Jewish bias is being felt. City Councils debate whether Jewish petitioners should be permitted to build a synagogue; property deeds in some areas bar resale to them. I have seen crude handbills circulated thanking Hitler for his massacre of 80,000 Jews in Kiev.
There are, of course, items on the other side of the ledger. The United Church of Canada passes a forthright resolution urging its members to combat antiSemitism for Christianity’s sake; measures against anti-Semitism are taken by the Trades and Labor Congress, the Youth Commission and the Adult Education Association. Ontario adopts a law prohibiting “Gentiles Only” advertisements; Welfare Chest leaders welcome the merger of Jewish and Gentile charity drives. Just a few weeks ago I attended a luncheon called by a nationally known economist to
plan Dominion-wide research into anti-Semitism.
Even the friendliest Gentiles, nevertheless, tend to regard the Jew as a “problem.” This was affirmed in so many words by 1,125 students at the University of Manitoba. In their answers to a recent questionnaire a majority listed the Jewish problem as second in importance (following the French Canadian and preceding the Japanese).
Why? Not, surely, because of the more absurd type of slander that Nazi anti-Semites have imported. The Manitoba students did not believe, for example, that Jews slaughter Christian children to obtain their blood for ritual purposes—though a sheet alleging that as a fact may be in your letter box some day. They don’t believe in the notorious “Protocols of Zion,” officially denounced 10 years ago by a Swiss judge as “obscene, forged nonsense”—though I saw these “Protocols” among “literature” distributed in Toronto by an allegedly religious organization. Only fanatics and children give thought to this lurid rot.
Why, then, should even sensible people regard the Jew as a “problem”? Because even sensible people believe other charges—some equally false, some distorted and some based on irrational emotion.
It is not long since I heard rumblings about the supposedly bad response of Jewish young men to the military callup. In fact, earnest advisers begged for an enlistment campaign. “The armed services are rife with anti-Semitism! They claim Jews are shirking!” I explored the facts. They left no doubt that the opposite is true: Canadian Jewry has contributed to the Forces beyond its census percentage.
According to the 1941 census there are 170,000 Jews in Canada—1.4% of the total population. The Canadian Jewish Congress gathers data from the familias and friends of servicemen and women through its representatives. On the basis of absolutely authentic figuras, at least 16,010 Jewish youths were in the armed forces a month ago. This accounts for
9.5% of the Jewish population; the percentage in the entire Dominion is 8.7%. Many Jewish boys on enlisting did not define themselves as such; they were reluctant to wear Hebrew identification tags, in fear of mistreatment if taken prisoner. The Congress would learn of them, ordinarily. On the other hand, in tiny villages where perhaps only one or two Jewish families dwell, it undoubtedly has failed to obtain a record of Jewish servicemen. Therefore, 16,010 is a minimum.
We recall that the Air Force did not campaign for Jewish enlistments in the early months of the war; that physicians with “wrong” family names could not always enter the Medical Corps, and that certain historic Army units rejected applications from boys whose fathers went to synagogue.
The Jews and Finance
ANOTHER notion, accepted by an astonishing . number of rational persons and especially widespread in the Canadian West, is that Jewry controls “high finance.”
The overwhelming mass of Jews (even before Hitler) have always been wretchedly poverty-stricken. As to Jewish banking firms, they are second-rate, cracker-box country stores compared to the Morgans, etc. The House of Rothschild is practically defunct. In Canada not one Jew is director of a bank, trust company, public utility or large department-store chain corporation. The 1937 Directory of Directors, in a total of 4,670 company directors, lists 44 Jews, whose holdings represent a relatively insignificant morsel of the Canadian economic fabric.
The Jew’s admitted preference for commerce is not a racial quirk nor an accident. It was forced by history--* as most group habits are. From the dispersal of the Hebrew nation in the year 73, Jews largely ceased to be farmers, as in Biblical times, and clustered about the trade marts and handicraft booths of the cities. They did it to protect themselves from mob attack, to earn a living, and to observe their religious laws. In the Middle Ages ghettos were imposed by legal edict, and Jews specifically lost the right to buy or till the soil, to serve in the Army or work with their hands. Nothing was left to them save trade, moneylending and peddling. Also they required a form of “capital” which could be carried on one’s back into exile!
These long-term conditions did not begin to change until the 18th century, with the French Revolution. In view of that the Jews of Canada responded surprisingly well to the chance offered them for a new kind of life in agriculture. Six Canadian Jews farm the land for every one in finance. One Jew out of 16 in the Prairie Provinces is gainfully employed on a farm; in Saskatchewan the proportion is one to six.
According to the figures, Jewish farmers produce enough wheat to feed every Jew in Canada. Refugees, between 1933 and 1938, invested four fifths of their salvaged moneys in farm land, and are making it pay (for the first time). Yet a published letter recently declared that these unattractive rural properties had been bought to secure exemption from military service. Small wonder that Canadian Jews occasionally throw up their hands in anger and say, “We’re damned if we do and we’re damned if we don’t!”
Since 1921 the proportion of tradesmen in Canada generally has increased; among Canadian Jews it has decreased. This is very significant for the future, but it has not prevented the growth of an imaginary fear that Jews are capturing the business life of the Dominion. Perhaps concentration in urban centres attracts notice to the Jewish retail merchant. Although the actual source of money power resides in the bank behind the scenes, the store front hits the eye. As one Gentile put it, “There’s a Jew name on every corner.”
The simple facts are available. A sizeable proportion of Jews is engaged in commerce—18.43% in the clothing and textile industry, where many Jewish workers have been replaced by Gentiles from rural areas. As to the professions, the percentage of Jews in them is smaller than the rest of Canada; this also holds true of the proportion engaged in gainful employment of all kinds.
The Black Market
UNDER severe pressure any individual may lose his nerve. A few Jews become so frightened by the klieg lights of anti-Semitism that they want to change their names, noses, hair, faith, anything to become anonymous, to avoid being “prominent,” and to keep the word “Jew” out of circulation. In the United States a tiny clique of rather influential Jews actually attempted to forestall Felix Frankfurter’s
appointment to the Supreme Court, because the crackpot anti-Semites would exploit it as “proof” of Jewish “power.”
Some Gentiles, too intelligent for the “financial control” bogey, have succumbed to the whispers about Jews in the “black market.” There is nothing to conceal. Material shortages, leading to stringent regulations, are especially serious in the overcrowded textile areas with which Jews have been long identified, not only in Canada but elsewhere. Loose supervision by undermanned government agencies make malpractice tempting. Reprehensible results accrue, not only among the “little men,” but also in large, incidentally non-Jewish, corporations. Tkese corporations are impersonal, shadowy, unseen— not individuals, mere names—but they are no less culpable.
In the pre-Hitler Reich, divers Jews became involved in highly dramatized scandals centring around questionable business methods and inflation. The key culprits in profiteering were the arch-German tycoon Hugo Stinnes, and his cronies, who grabbed a large bloc of German industry by shrewd and ruthless manipulation. Honest Jewish merchants, who formed the preponderant mass, were outraged and shamed by the fragment of their number which had brought them into disrepute, as they are in Canada today. But the German people never forgot the “Jewish traitors.” Goebbels managed that—while Stinnes became a “big shot” industrial magnate.
The Jew in Canada is like a “mysterious” stranger who has just moved into the block. The whole gamut of rumorology can be exhausted in gossip about his origin, habits, livelihood— and the horrible things “they say” go on in his house at night. If the “stranger” is wise, he knows that the more he apologizes the more he will lose dignity as a human being. Aside from that, he can never catch up with the falsehoods. For every “ghost” laid another may take its place. If he replies to all known charges he will be termed boastful. (For example, crime statistics definitely indicate that the Jew is less prone to law violations as a whole than the Gentile.) If he omits some replies through inadvertence, or because the charges are just “too silly for words,” a crackpot will accuse him of evasion.
Atan open forum some weeks ago I was denounced for not repudiating the “alliance” of Catholics and Jews in the American movie industry. Otherwise, the speaker insisted, why do the Hollywood producers, “all Jewish,” put out such Catholic propaganda as “Bernadette” or “Going My Way?” Can such poppycock be answered?
Frequently one unpleasant experience leads to wholesale condemnation. I saw a soft-eyed matron’s lip curl into an ugly sneer one day. It was in a crowded streetcar, and I could not avoid overhearing: “Those Jews are cheats! I bought a coat from Izzy
Cohen last week, and today I saw the same thing in his window for $20 less!”
Izzy Cohen’s forefathers have been funnelled into petty trade for generations. In Poland and Russia their quivering wits eked out an existence in bedlam market places where a kopeck (penny) meant the difference between starvation and black bread and herring. They even derived a certain psychological compensation from outsmarting the dull-witted rnouzhik (peasant).
That mind-set will disappear in the second generation; Izzy Cohen’s son Irving will not display it. In the meantime Izzy Cohen has close personal contact with his customers. Unlike a huge, depersonalized department store, Izzy Cohen is there—a living focus of resentment.
Izzy’s fiesh-and-blood presence explains the matron’s ire. It does not explain her first two words: “Those Jews”— a blanket charge. Her mind operated, vaguely, somewhat like this: “Cheating is bad. Izzy Cohen cheats. Therefore Izzy Cohen is bad. Therefore all of Izzy Cohen’s relatives and friends, all Jews, are bad, until each of them proves that he does not cheat!”
Jews are deeply wounded by this mental habit. The differences within every group are much greater than any differences between it and other groups, above all in ability and morality. All Jews do not look, think, act, vote - or even pray alike. In everything but religious doctrine they reflect the same variety of appearance, opinion, snobberies and social customs— as their fellow Canadians. A Confirmation Class in Holy Blossom Temple is a hodgepodge of every social, racial and economic trait in the conventional middle class of Canada !
No group, even the tiniest, is free of unsavory qualities. “Why does the world expect it of us?” Jews implore one another. “Why condemn outright 1.4% of Canada’s human material because some have been less than angels, or even criminals?”
“Hitler was a Christian! Let’s throw that up to them!” a pupil in my religious school, with burning cheeks, once expostulated.
Manners History’s Byproduct
AS FOR the purely social differences, “manners” _ are a byproduct of history. The Briton, who set the standard for Protestant Canada, glorifies restraint. Why? His manners are suitable for a nation which has more or less “bossed things” for a long while; they exude understatement, quiet confidence, a superiority so soundly established that it does not need to “sell” itself. Sometimes the high-strung Jew holds a British Canadian to be anti-Semitic or condescending when he is merely aloof.
Jewish manners grew out of a totally dissimilar framework. They belong to a people which has been browbeaten, battered around and never at rest; they betray overstatement, taut struggle, constant selfjustification. A Jew still close to his European background is apt to be demonstrative, intense, anxious for approval. All these personality traits are natural, if not actually mild, in a man subjected to a merciless struggle for existence— but they can so easily be labelled “aggressive,” “showy,” “pushy.” After all, the world for centuries has stripped the Jew of everything but his own energy—and faith.
Jews are not one whit “smarter,” innately, than Gentiles. For collective action in such an emergency as they are facing now—a crisis created by the world’s moral decay—they are displaying pitifully little sagacity. The Jew as an individual has merely been forced to use his wits !
Zionist Palestine testifies that puny Jewish ghetto dwellers and tradesmen, given the opportunity, can build the greatest colonization project of the 20th century, on the soil, with their sweat and valor. The second and third generation of Jewish Canadians are tall, athletic, sports-loving “outdoor” young men and women, responding fully to the healthful, hopeful life that Canada stretches forth to them.
An abstract phrase like “those Jews” can become a blind alley for the hopes of 170,000 aspiring people. It is no more valid to speak of “those Jews” (or any other group as such) being “vulgar,” “loud,” or “cunning,” than to speak of “those redheads” in that fashion. There are good and bad in every people; the idea that all individuals are responsible for one dooms the whole world to perdition.
“Aren’t your people inclined to be too sensitive, Rabbi?” a deeply sympathetic Anglican churchman once cautioned me.
Jews are in fact touchy. The raw material of certain “complexes” accumulates in abundance, as illustrated by a recent episode.
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A Jewish girl in her teens was publicly singled out and bundled off home by the manager of a skating rink who had just decided on a “Gentiles Only” policy7. After she blurted out the story to me I pieced together the twisted, pathetic threads of her emotional fabric.
The girl’s mother had gone to a private school, which never once, in five years, invited her to a house party. She was denied the company of cousins at the summer cottage, because her parents feared it would cause talk among the Gentiles. When they bought their new home the amiable agent had warned her father that property values would deteriorate because it was becoming a “Jewish neighborhood.” (“Although, mind you,” he had said, “you people take good care of your homes!”) She heard her uncle whisper to a friend that a bank manager had told someone that Jews were reselling Victory Bonds. (“We have no definite figures,” he had confessed.)
At school a teacher read one morning from her religious textbook that Judaism is a primitive religion, without love; yet in her Jewish Sunday school, the command, “Love thy neighbor,” was exalted as a text from the Old Testament. Her older brother had been advised by a file clerk in an employment office to change his name before being recommended to an engineering concern. A relative once told a story at the dinner table about a Jewish charity campaign which kept down its collection figures, on the advice of a Gentile, who felt the public might get wrong ideas about Jewish wealth. Day in, day out, everywhere, the adolescent girl absorbed the impression that she was not like other girls, that she was at least a “problem,” at worst a pariah.
Even the faith in universal brotherhood can be is being—perverted to sow hatred and discord among God’s children. According to the signed joint statement of more than 5,000 Protestant. ministers in the United States, the text of the Crucifixion narrative, as ordinarily taught in Sunday schools, not only libels the Jews of the time of Jesus, but. extends the crime of deicide, by emotional transference, to the Jewish people of today.
Argument from history, logic and morals can he adduced to erase this injustice from every Gentile mind. Furthermore the Christian clergy has surely not fostered it. No kindlier ministry can be encountered anywhere than the servants of Christ in Canada.
Yet on Hallowe’en night in Forest Hill Village, Toronto, a young Jewish lad of seven was accosted by three husky high-school boys, robbed of his apples and sent home with the words, “You little Christ-killer!” ringing in his ears. I found him crying on my doorstep.
Children need emotional security above all else. For many Jewish youngsters that security appears hopelessly out of reach, particularly among those in higher economic levels, who are more easily hurt by social injustice.
The color of of a Jew’s response to prejudice varies, of course, with personal temperament. At one extreme he takes flight, retreating into his own shell, horrified at the possibility of going where he is not wanted. At the other extreme he makes a fight, excitedly shouting that Canada has no “second-class citizenship,” and that his legal rights are more important than Mr. Smith’s approval. Between these two poles is a lacerated domain of
profoundly wounded pride. The Jew has an aristocratic lineage. The heir of Moses and Jeremiah (and Jesus) does not enjoy being treated as a suspect — even when his needle-trade workers, spurred by memories of long imprisonment in sunless Polish sweatshops and muddy ghettos, rush overenthusiastically, with their beloved brood, to the beauty and freedom of Lake Simcoe.
After sensitiveness, the second common bond of all Jews is fear. When the Jew reviews his past he defines himself as history’s classic scapegoat.
Anti-Semitism is a secondary symptom of social chaos. Like a boy who kicks the cat when he can’t go on a picnic, the world has repeatedly taken it out on Israel in periods of misery. In 1349 the Jew was blamed for the outbreak of the Black Death (bubonic plague) in Europe. In the 1890's France provided one of the most spectacular whipping-hoy episodes in history the Dreyfus case, when a Jewish Army captain was imprisoned on Devil’s Island to draw attention from a highly placed clique of traitors. In 1911 a corrupt coterie around the Russian czar concocted a charge that a young Christian hoy had been murdered as part of a Jewish “religious rite,” to divert the ignorant peasants from their wretchedness. Hitler made the most effective use of Jews for the same purpose. If the Jew scapegoat had not existed in Germany, Hitler would have created another.
The lesson of Nazi death camps has burned deep into Jewish memory. German Jews were more thoroughly assimilated than any in modern times. They cast overboard their “Jewishness” in a frenzy of “being like other people”; conversions to Christianity, and mixed marriages, rose to record peaks. Yet even baptism could not shield them.
The political and economic forces, and the goose-stepping power-idolatry of the German masses, which spewed up a Hitler, are not at large in Canada. But the Confederation is undergoing terrific impacts and the war has unleashed dynamic energies thrusting out for space. The postwar order may be a wild disorder: a mad battle for jobs at the bottom, a shrewd scramble for mastery at the top.
Is the Jew being nudged into the scapegoat part? If so, it may be valuable, and urgent, for all Canadians to explore the matter. History shows that the Jew, because of his weakness and vulnerability as the first target of reaction, can serve as a warning signal to men who love freedom.
The Canadian-Jewish community is of long standing. Although only Catholics were allowed in “New France,” a Jew founded the “Society of Canada” in 1738 and helped General Montcalm defend the colony; several were among the officers who led the victorious English in 1760. Twentyfive years before the Jews of Great Britain obtained full rights, those in Quebec were granted equal civic and political status by a bill which passed the Assembly in 1832. That was the Magna Charta of Canadian democracy.
On the west coast Jews played a remarkable part as pioneers, supplying a mayor, members of the Legislature and, in 1871, the first representative from British Columbia to the Dominion Parliament. The later Russian immigration, which began in 1881 with the pogroms, developed clothing factories, and introduced the manufacture of fur goods and cigars. Hundreds followed the railroads across the West.
The flow of Jewish immigration has now thinned out to an average of 700 per year; in addition, the rate of natural increase has plunged lower for Jews than for the general population. Future
entry of Jews from overseas can scarcely create a mathematical hazard for either of the two dominant racial groups, the British or French.
The bond between Canada as a whole and Europe is strong. Canada’s two principal racial sections, French Quebec and Protestant Ontario, have both been founded by Old World settlers hotly proud of their separate culture and traditions.
The Jew, too, takes fierce pride in his heritage. It does not include a homeland, or soldiery, or the leisured arts of a secure people. It even bears the ugly scars of long European martyrdom, surface marks derived from the bitterness of Europe’s scene and not from his essential being. However, the Jew’s heritage, from his viewpoint, still nurtures the loftiest ideals of Western man; its passion for brotherhood and the inalienable worth of every human being as a child of God are democracy’s heart. To the Jew, his moral, intellectual and practical contributions to the roots of Canada’s life so far outweigh even the falsehoods uttered, against him (much less the acknowledged imperfections) that he is humiliated when men expect him to justify his existence. A real .Jew, bound to his essential traditions, converts even the badge of hatred into a badge of honor.
Yet the Jew hasn’t the slightest desire to be a “state within a state” or remain apart in language and customs, whether as citizen of British or of French Canada. The Yiddish tongue is used less and less by Jews every year; now only a fragment cannot speak English; 51% of all Canada’s Jewry in 1941 was native-born; less than 1% is unnaturalized by birth or choice. The children and grandchildren of European stock are Canadian in every sense. If anything, Jewish leaders are afraid they will sacrifice too much of their inheritance!
According to some analysts a downward trend has set in for the unity and national health of Canada. The Jew thinks he knows the date: March 20, 1934, when Henri Bourassa declared in Parliament that anti-Semitism was rising throughout the Dominion. The Jew has seen anti-Semitism wielded to overthrow nations from without and a whole continent from within; he regards it as a thermometer that measures not only his own temperature, but, far more important, the well-being of the country in which he dwells.
Canada is not exempted from the Nazi plan to divide and soften up the democracies. Years ago Hitler discerned that latent Jew-hatred in all lands could be stimulated and turned to advantage.
In the United States, Carlson’s book, “Under Cover,” exposed the vast network of agents, quacks, politicos and “catchword” groups (800!) through which Goebbels tried to rivet all eyes on the Jews. Canada’s story, on a smaller scale, would be no less terrifying. Canadian Jewry was easily accessible, because 70% of it is centred in Montreal, Toronto and Winnipeg. “Political parties,” publications, clubs, uniforms were subsidized, frequently under the swastika as emblem. Crackpots became prophets. Devices without number or parallel were “borrowed” from Berlin. Two illustrations are the following:
(1) “Don't fight the Jewish war!” a man, feigning drunkenness, yelled in a crowded Toronto trolley car on a September day, 1939. Then he was seen to alight, sober up, board the next car and repeat the performance. (In France exactly the same trick was used to help undermine her resistance to Nazism.)
(2) A certain “ditty,” with slight
occasional modifications, made its appearance simultaneously in 18 United States cities. It went like this:
“The first American soldier to
kill a Jap was Mike Murphy,
The first American pilot to sink a Jap battleship was Edward O’Hara,
The first American coastguardsman to shoot a German spy was Dan Gallagher,
The first American to shoot a Jap plane was Colin Kelly,
The first--to get four new tires
was Izzy Goldstein.”
Within a few weeks it was circulated on cards, through newspapers, trade magazines, etc., by hundreds of thousands, in every part of the country, particularly near Army camps. Finally it arrived in Canada. Several papers unwittingly published it (as a “joke”), one later admitting the mistake. A trade journal carried a reprint. A speaker, unaware of its significance, used it at a Toronto Board of Trade meeting (as a “good story”).
The truth of the “ditty” is zero. Actually, an amazing number of Jews were “firsts”; a Jewish lad from Brooklyn was the first to leap off a barge on the Normandy beachhead, a Jewess was the first American nurse killed in action, etc. . . . That does not matter essentially. The critical fact is that behind the camouflage of sly, sinister humor, anti-Semitism and doubt were injected into the veins of two countries.
I was sure this hoax had at last run its course. Yet only two weeks ago the familiar “gag” was distributed outside a church after a Sunday service in
Kingston, Ont. . . . This neat concoction has been definitely traced to Berlin; it was transmitted by short wave from there to England and the United States.
Has artificially stimulated antiSemitism ceased in Canada? Why should it cease? It is Nazism’s “secret weapon,” as Dr. Ley, German Labor Minister, boasted. It undermined the unity and faith of democratic nations, thus softening them up for World War Two. When Nazism loses that war on the military front, its agents will go underground everywhere and continue the fight inside enemy territory. These termite hordes are already fanning out; Goebbels has already announced that the Jew will be the underground’s first victim. No wonder Franklin Roosevelt said the antiSemite “is playing Hitler’s game!”
Jews are normal human beings, reacting to the conditions which a Gentile world imposes. They are not a problem, they need not remain a “mystery” to any Canadian—and they yearn to be just ordinary citizens of a growing, glorious Canada.
The cure for the “Jewish problem” is simple and old: enlightened patriotism, dissemination of the facts and principles of Canadian history, a universal return to the root teachings of Christianity and a realization that the other fellow is very much like ourselves . . .
“I had a second war on my hands when I got home, when I heard what people were saying about the Jews. My best pal in France was a Jewish boy,” a demobilized soldier said to me not long ago. Perhaps he indicated where the soundest hope lies—with the men who are bleeding side by side for Canada, and know how trivial “race” and creed really are!