Canada's Jews: In Time, Space and Spirit. Edited by Ira Robinson. Brighton, MA: Academic Studies Press, 2.013. 501 PP
With the approach of Canada's sesquicentennial in 2017, the time is ripe for Ira Robinson's edited volume, Canada's Jews: In Time, Space and Spirit. It surveys the myriad ways in which Jews have contributed to the fabric of Canadian society from its origins to the present day--not only in the well-known urban centers of Montreal, Toronto, and Vancouver, but in smaller cities and towns scattered across the country. Robinson's aim for the volume is straightforward but difficult to achieve: to present "a comprehensive, if necessarily imperfect, portrait of Canadian Jewry in time, space, and spirit" (11). The book includes the contributions of twenty-five academics, archivists, and journalists. As is typical of edited volumes, the quality of the articles and the treatment of topics is uneven.
The book consists of three parts. The first, "In Time," is a history of the Jews in Canada. It recounts the Jewish presence in New France, moves regrettably quickly through the eighteenth century, and covers the eastern European migration through two articles, one on Jewish farming colonies and the other on the immigrants' impact on the communities of Canada's two major provinces, Quebec and Ontario. The section ends with two excellent essays by Jack Lipinsky and Franklin Bialystok on Canadian Jewish history in the twentieth century and the first decade of the twenty-first. Lipinsky's article, "In Search of Unity: Anti-Semitism, Zionism, and the Canadian Jewish Congress to 1945," traces organizational growth of the community on both the local federation level as well as the national level with the establishment of the Federation of Zionist Societies of Canada and then with the Canadian Jewish Congress in 1919 and its subsequent revival in 1934. Bialystok breaks with current scholarship by presenting the history of Canada's Jews from 1945-2011 as the "postwar period" and shows how many Canadian Jews still "cling to the legacy of the Holocaust" through their unconditional support of Israel and their fear of antisemitism in Canada (117).
The second section, "In Space," combines history with sociology and political science in offering an assessment of "Jews in Contemporary Canada." Each of the articles--with the exception of quick and insufficient surveys of Jews in Atlantic Canada and Winnipeg--offers readers a window onto the current makeup...