Introduction: Canadian Jewish Creativity at the Margins
Welcome to the Winter 2011 issue of The Student Journal of Canadian Jewish Studies (SJCJS). Created by the Concordia Institute for Canadian Jewish Studies, SJCJS provides a forum for undergraduate and graduate research that aims to investigate, through interdisciplinary approaches, the many experiences of Jews in Canada.
The Jewish community of Canada is a rich and varied group that has become an established part of the Canadian landscape. Despite making up a minority of the population, they have managed to integrate themselves into Canadian society while maintaining their distinctive group identity. Yet this minority status has not ceased to affect the community and in turn has created an ongoing dialogue concerning what this means for the community. This position of being a minority is not only felt vis-à-vis the larger Canadian society but also in relation to the larger Jewish community. Thus, the way in which Jews relate to being a minority can differ, as can be seen in three of the essays in this issue. Each of these essays examines how being a minority affects members of the Jewish community in different ways.
Two of these essays discuss groups that are minorities within the larger Jewish community. Mark Friedman’s essay “Forging a New Community: The Jews of the Maghreb in Montreal” examines the North African community’s settlement in Montreal and offers readers a picture of this community’s integration into both the larger Quebecois society as well as the predominantly Ashkenazi Jewish community of Montreal. Often overlooked by scholars and other members of the Jewish community, Friedman provides a picture of their unique development as a community in Canada.
In the essay “The Experiences of Multiethnic Jews: Integration into the Larger Jewish Community” Jordana Manley examines the position of multiethnic Jews in the North American Jewish community that consists of a mainly Caucasian majority. By conducting interviews with members of this minority, readers are provided with a picture of the challenges such individuals face with integration into the Jewish community and brings their marginalized voices to the fore.
Looking at the position of being a minority in relation to the larger society, Michelle Kahn examines the position of Jews in Hollywood during the 1930s through to the 1950s in her essay “Poland to Polo.” The central question being examined is why only a small number of films concerning Jews and Nazi Germany were made between the 1930’s to the end of the studio era in the mid-late 1950’s. With research being supplemented by interviews with academics and authorities on the film industry, we obtain insight into a period during which discussion or portrayal of Jews and the Holocaust was seldom done because of industry expectations.
Although the fourth essay of this issue does not discuss the minority status of Jews, we chose to include it for its compelling look at the way in which Jewish texts can interact with new media. In his essay “Paths and Pointers: Remediation and/as Talmudic commentary in a video clip on KosherTube,”Joshua Davidson uses a short video clip by Rabbi Lazer Brody found on the social-networking website KosherTube, to illustrate the interplay between the Talmud, one of Judaism’s central and oldest texts, and the new medium of the Internet.
As the editors of the SJCJS, we hope that the Winter 2011 issue will allow you to discover the various ways in which Jews are affected and in turn deal with being part of a minority, while also coming to see the way in which new media have an impact upon traditional Jewish documents.
Jennifer Zilm and Katherine Romanow