Our Upstairs Neighbors

Most American Jews have the sense that Canadian Jewry is in a much different place than American Jewry. While this may be true, it’s not necessarily the case for the reasons they think. It is true that the Jewish community in Canada is more traditional in most cases. And it is also true that its social politic may be more liberal (for example, gay and lesbian marriages are legal in Canada). But Canadian Jewry is not as distant from the impact of interfaith marriage as previously thought, or as often assumed by the American Jewish community. Perhaps that is what is heartening about the fact that the Canadian Jewish community is learning from American Jews—and organizations such as our own Jewish Outreach Institute—about how to respond to interfaith marriage, transforming the challenge into an opportunity for growth, as seen here in the Canadian Jewish News in an article called “JOI helps interfaith couples raise Jewish kids” (.PDF document).

We see it in their response to our Mothers Circle program for women of other religious backgrounds raising their children as Jews. And we see it across the board (Reform, Conservative, Reconstructionist, Renewal, Orthodox, Chabad; Federation, JCC, JFS, etc.) in response to our work in communities such as Ottawa—which is leading the way in its response to the current demographic challenges facing the Canadian Jewish community.


  1. As a Canadian Jew myself I can say that your views are wrong. Intermarriage rates are lower here than in the US. Ottawa is maybe 4th or 5th in Jewish population in Canada and is no way representative, as many have come from other parts of Canada to work in the government.

    Check out the current debates within the Conservative movement for the more indications as to the level of traditional feelings between Canadian and American Jews. (As an example-the synagogue my mother went to as a child in Montreal has separate male-female seating-and is a Conservative, not Orthodox synangogue.)

    Comment by Dave — September 29, 2006 @ 9:26 am

  2. As one of those Jews that moved from elsewhere to Ottawa to work for “government”, I beg to differ that Ottawa is not “representative” of the Jewish Community in Canada. I am not exactly sure what you mean but I do not dispute that there are only 350,000 Jews in Canada with probably about 50% of those being in Toronto. So while Toronto has the majority of the Jewish population in Canada, I think that Outreach does have to be done differently in the smaller communities like Ottawa. It doesn’t mean though that there is less of “problem” in Toronto with intermarriage etc. Perhaps you just don’t know about it.

    If you are interested in learning more about the Jewish Community in Canada, not just in Toronto, I would recommend th excellent book by Morton Weinfield from the University of McGill called: Like Everyone Else But Different: The paradoxical success of Canadian Jews (McClelland and Stewart, 2001).

    Jackie in Ottawa

    Comment by Jackie Luffman — September 30, 2006 @ 4:14 pm

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