For many Montrealers, the Holocaust remains one of the most defining moments of Jewish history.
“There has been a remarkable demand for more educational programmes about the Holocaust and its human rights legacy,” said Sarah Fogg, head of communications at the Montreal Holocaust Museum.
Some, however, are trying to help people see the community in other ways and go beyond that trauma.
Sonny Moroz, Montreal opposition city councillor for Côte-des-Neiges–Notre-Dame-de-Grâce, tabled a motion on Monday to have the City of Montreal recognize May as Jewish Heritage Month.
“It was recognized in Canada in 2018,” he said. “Through the senate’s initiative they passed the bill and we’re following their lead.”
The aim, said Moroz, is to celebrate and showcase Jewish culture in this city and to recognize the contributions of members of that community.
In addition to that, some argue, it’ll serve to educate the broader population and accept diversity.
“I think it fosters tolerance, cooperation, dialogue and it gets rid of stereotypes,” argued former Montreal city councillor Marvin Rotrand, B’nai Brith Canada’s League for Human Rights national director.
Recognizing the month is particularly important, he pointed out, in light of his organization’s report Monday showing that acts of antisemitism in the country have skyrocketed.
According to the report there was a seven-per cent jump in overall antisemitic incidents between 2020 and 2021, and in Quebec the increase was the highest at 20 per cent.
Throughout Canada, Rotrand noted, the incidents reported were increasingly violent.
“The number of violent incidents targeting Jews in 2021 went up from nine to 75,” he told Global News. “That’s a 733-per cent increase.
Rotrand said that’s prompted B’nai Brith to reach out to cities to have them recognize Jewish Heritage Month.
“Small and large communities are all going to go public after May 1st with motions, proclamations, social media campaigns,” he said.
Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante said she supports the effort.
“It’s always been important for the City of Montreal to pay respect and to honour and remember what the Jewish community went through,” she told Global News, “and they’ve been contributing to Montreal.”
Moroz’s motion was passed unanimously by city council on Tuesday.