Friday, April 27, 2012

Why the Journal took a look at the Hasidim 

This week The Gazette printed an opinion piece by Allan Nadler ("Le
Journal's exposé of Hasidim was incendiary," April 24). I would like to
respond to Mr. Nadler's piece.

First, the impression Mr. Nadler
leaves is that there is some sort of connection between the Journal's
stories, which began on April 15, and vandalism in Val Morin at 15
Hasidic-owned homes that occurred prior to publication. It is hard to
see how our stories retroactively caused vandalism.

Second, Mr.
Nadler says the Journal, to "alarm" readers, intentionally doubled the
number of Hasidim in Quebec to 20,000 and said the community would
number 49,000 in 2030. These figures come from a study done by the
Coalition d'organisations hassidiques d'Outremont and quoted by
Université du Québec à Montréal professor Julien Bauer in a book called
Les Communautés juives de Montréal, a scholarly text edited by Pierre
Anctil and Ira Robinson.

The stories by reporter Émilie Dubreuil
were not an exposé of the Hasidic community, as any reader of the
three-day series would have grasped. Nor did she attempt to explain the
entire world of Quebec's Hasidic community. The stories focused on one
specific issue - that of young people who decided to leave the

Four men decided to talk about making that difficult
choice and why. They left behind parents, spouses, children and
community. And they did it knowing they would be ostracized, as a
spokesman for the Hasidic community confirmed in the stories.

reporter gave these men space to talk about what their former lives
meant to them and how they are living now. What we reported were their
thoughts, actions and feelings. Very personal, very emotional, very

And we made it clear that a very small minority decide to leave.

On the second day, we dealt with the issue of education in some, not all,
Hasidic communities. Government reports criticize the lack of formal
training, which does not meet basic provincial requirements. That lack
of education was one of the main criticisms of all four of the men who
talked with us. One describes how he knew little English, math, algebra
and history until leaving.

Mr. Nadler writes that the stories
portray the Hasidic community as a clear and present danger to Quebec
society and culture, and that its presence threatens the social fabric
of Quebec's modern and enlightened culture of laïcité. I challenge him
to find any reference to such a danger or threat in the series. No such
idiotic blanket statements were made anywhere. The stories were about
humans, not ideology.


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