McGill Shaped Me Into A Better And More Engaged Jew

Attending McGill was the best thing to happen to my Jewish identity. For the first time, I was no longer the token Jew, but a leader in a vibrant Jewish community.

Measuring quality of Jewish life on campus solely on perceived anti-Zionist rhetoric is immensely reductionist. Algemeiner ignores the vibrant, active Jewish community infrastructure on campus, and the Jewish history and culture steeped into the city of Montreal. During my years at McGill, I was able to participate in and organize a wide variety of Jewish religious and cultural activities. I met some of my best friends through building Jewish community architectures together, and could show a tourist around the sights of Montreal and unintentionally find Judaism in every step: dafka in the bagels of St.Viateur and the smoked meat at Schwatz’s, but also in the dive bar on the Main that was formerly my great great-grandfather’s Yiddish printing press.

Algemeiner’s metric assumes that exposure to what it feels is anti-Zionist sentiment is detrimental, so much so to negate all the strength and vibrancy of the apolitical aspects of the Jewish community. The various BDS campaigns played a big part in my life as a McGill student, though these discussions shaped me into a better and more engaged Jew. What Algemeiner dismisses as hateful rhetoric afforded me the opportunity to learn from Jews across a full political spectrum, to reconcile, challenge, and sometimes confirm my long-held beliefs. As Hillel taught, one who is too shy to ask questions will never learn.

Sure, McGill is imperfect. The mainstream Jewish institutions often fail to resonate with large swathes of the student body. Activist rhetoric has ridden uncomfortable lines. But, as Rabbi Tarfon taught, it is not your duty to complete the work of perfecting the world, nor are you free to desist from it. Algemeiner seems to seek to deter Jewish students from fixing McGill’s Jewish community, and ignores all the ways they already are. By overlooking efforts to bring Jewish students together with their Palestinian peers, by overlooking the vast array of Jewish student community institutions, Algemeiner paints McGill as a place where it is overwhelmingly uncomfortable to be a Jew.

I would not be the Jew I am proud to be today without the community I found at McGill. It’s a shame Algemeiner doesn’t see it the same way.

This story "McGill Shaped Me Into A Better And More Engaged Jew" was written by Cassie Frankel.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Forward.

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