One of the luxuries I have as publisher is relying on our excellent editor, Michael Regenstreif. Each and every edition, he does extraordinary work to ensure that the Bulletin’s coverage is balanced, thought provoking and of interest to a wide array of readers.
Michael is currently taking a medical leave from the Bulletin to recover from heart surgery and we wish him a speedy and full recovery and look forward to his return in April.
I am pleased to report that we have hired a former Ottawa Citizen editor, Laura Robin, a seasoned and extremely well-respected journalist, to serve as interim editor during Michael’s absence. Also on an interim basis, I have agreed to take responsibility for the editor’s column and will do my best to fill Michael’s large shoes.
The truth is, I don’t get nervous about many things. Adventure activities such as paragliding or shark cage diving are a piece of cake for me. Public speaking? Absolutely no issue. Same thing for decision making, meeting with unhappy people, and so on. However, writing this “From the Publisher” column is an entirely different matter and so in the interest of full disclosure, I will confess my anxiety.
In part, this stems from knowing that the published word, particularly since the all editions of the Bulletin are digitized, is preserved for all time. What happens if new information causes you to cringe at what you once believed? People do evolve as does what is politically acceptable and what is less so. Then again as Ecclesiastes wrote “there is nothing new under the sun.” And so I was quite amused when I remembered discovering a column I wrote for the Bulletin on January, 17, 1994, entitled “maintaining a Jewish identity” when I was a graduate student at Carleton University.
While I like to think my writing style has evolved and matured over the years and certainly I would change a few things (and laugh fondly at the reference to Mirabel airport), I stand firmly behind the essence of the message of a 20-something-year-old student on how Ottawa is a wonderful Jewish community and leading a Jewish life is worth the effort. For your reading pleasure and in the interest of not exceeding my allotted words count, here is an annotated version:
Last year I learned the meaning of Judaism, simply by living and working in Israel. The Jewish spirit is pervasive in Israel, from Eilat to Kiriat Shmona, from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem…
Celebrating one’s Jewishness comes very easily and naturally when in Israel. As my plane touched down at Mirabel airport, many thoughts raced through my head. Who would I speak Hebrew with? What if a course conflicted with a Jewish holiday? Most importantly, could I lead a full Jewish life in Canada? To further complicate the issue, I was moving from Montreal to Ottawa, a city which I knew very little about.
What I have discovered since moving to Ottawa is that while it is much more difficult to be a Jew in Canada, the rewards are worth the effort. Recently, the Jewish Student’s Union (JSU) held a Judaism Day at both the University of Ottawa and Carleton. Nothing could have made me prouder of my Jewish heritage. The display was both eye catching and informative. It was a positive day for both Jews and non-Jews alike, as many questions were asked, and many Jews were eager to talk about their heritage. By setting up such a display at the universities, the JSU exposed itself to potential criticism or anti-Semitism, but is a risk that is well worth taking….
When I moved to Ottawa, I was quite unsure what to expect. After having lived in Israel and having attended McGill University, I was used to being in a Jewish atmosphere. However what Ottawa has given me in terms of a Jewish identity is invaluable. What I have seen is a very active, vibrant Jewish community, which in turn breeds a very active student body. What makes the community so special, and specifically the JSU so much more impressive, is simply the fact that the Jewish student population is not that large….
Five years ago, after a long absence, I returned to the scene of my youth and am delighted to report that Ottawa continues to be an exceptionally vibrant Jewish community and a wonderful place to live and to do Jewish. (A full version of the article can be found at www.archive.org/details/ottawajewisharchives.)