Silence in the face of bigotry

Less than 100 years ago, my great-grandmother Sylvia arrived in the United States.

Like thousands of Jewish immigrants, she worked alongside her uncle in New York as a tailor. Free from the pogroms of Europe, the two hoped to use their meagre earnings to reunite their family in America as the flames of antisemitism surged through Europe. However, the dream proved futile. Unlike Sylvia, her family never crossed the Atlantic. Instead, they perished in a blaze of gunfire when the Germans marched inside the synagogue and massacred all those left behind.

As a child, I remember my grandmother’s tales of her eagerly awaiting letters from relatives in Europe. Later, these conversations made me wonder what Sylvia thought when the letters stopped coming. How long did she sit in anguish before she learned that no family remained as the world heard of the horrors inflicted on her family and the Jewish people?

The manifestation of antisemitism murdered whatever extended family my mother could dream of—there are no great-uncles or aunts, no cherished tales of the French countryside or the British isles—no history, no records, only death.

I am not Sylvia nor my grandfather Moshe; I am not my mother—however, through such lineage, I am the product of incredible tragedy as well as triumph. My grandparents overcame what their parents endured; they found refuge and built a life in the United States. Antisemitism persisted, but they could finally pursue their dreams––my grandfather realized his own when he became a curator at the American Museum of Natural History.

I mention such accomplishments to paint the picture that although I may appear only as an American, a history of persecution lives in me. The savage effects of antisemitism that plagued my ancestors remain in my DNA; but so does their courage.

Unfortunately, the ideologies that inspired the ultimate extermination of my ancestors crept into the Concordia Global Affairs Association. Under their banner, the Concordia MUN team––called the Concordia External Delegation (CED)––evolved into a hostile environment for Jewish delegates. In my few years as a delegate, I’ve listened to the leadership’s emphasis on comradery and excellence. Nonetheless, this semester, those words rang hollow.

Last month, a new delegate, filled with hatred for Jews, ranted at a Jewish delegate using vile slurs—clearly in violation of CED’s values. Despite the leadership being aware of the confrontation, they remained silent. A week later, I asked why the delegate remained on the team. Unsatisfied with the leadership’s response of “we can’t get mad about everything,” I presented an ultimatum: I would not compete at the upcoming conference alongside an antisemite who tarnished my friend with antisemitic slurs.

To a point, I concur with the leadership’s assertion. People are capable of change and outrage is not a productive solution. Perhaps through education, the delegate’s ignorant worldview is capable of change. But, as long as sentiments of hate remain, bigotry requires consequences.

Witnessing and experiencing antisemitism is insufferable not only because of the words of the bigot, but the silence of the onlookers. The sensation is a reminder that some will always consider a Jewish person––someone like me––different, not belonging, and tainted. However, the fear caused by the bigot pales in comparison to the inaction of his audience. My heart raced, stomach churned and jaw-clenched as it dawned on me that hatred towards people like me did not bother those I considered teammates, friends and leaders. If comparing Jews to Vernon elicited no response, then what would?

The coup de grace of my MUN career came a few hours before the conference. I looked out at the darkening sky contemplating the social and professional consequences of following through on my pledge to quit the team. Then it dawned on me, the inaction of the leadership and silence of the majority required a resignation––there was no choice.

Thus, I sent a letter one week ago resigning from the team. A few moments later,  the leadership announced the expulsion of the antisemite from the delegation. I support the decision and hope it serves as a lesson to change the now-former delegate’s heart. However, the unsettling reality remains; the antisemite may be out but so is a Jew.

Following the resignation, the silence of my teammates discouraged me. I questioned if quitting the team achieved anything or simply delayed the normalization of antisemitism. However, I found hope in another delegate’s unexpected resignation. Upon learning the circumstances of mine, she told me that she would not compete in a culture tolerating antisemitism. Neither Jewish nor obligated, her action separated the sea of doubts plaguing my mind. Her departure reminded me of our collective obligation to work alongside each other, even when not personally affected, to fight the day when our differences are not only tolerated but embraced.


Graphic by @sundaeghost

Student Life

Tasting history: A 200-year-old beer recipe brought to life

The Museum of Jewish Montreal hosts a celebration and tasting of the famous Hart family beer

The Museum of Jewish Montreal hosted a lecture and tasting to celebrate the recreation of a 200-year-old traditional beer recipe from the famous Jewish Hart family brewery, on Oct. 26.

Nearly 100 people gathered in the bright main room of the museum, which opened only eight months ago. At 7:30 p.m. sharp, the room, already filled with displays of famous Jewish literature, historic maps and archival photos, was packed with eager and thirsty attendees.

beer blogger and business lawyer, Gary Gillman. Photo by Danielle Gasher

The almost illegible manuscript of the beer recipe was displayed at the front of the room, in front of rows of chairs, for everyone to see and attempt to read.

The Museum organized the event in collaboration with Fletcher’s Espace Culinaire and Le Réservoir microbrewery.  Fletcher’s, a Jewish-Québécois fusion café, offered their space on the main floor of the Museum, for the event to take place.

Julia Dubé, the event and financial development coordinator for the museum, said the team first discovered the beer recipe when one of their research fellows stumbled upon a beer blog talking about it.

“When she found this article, she shared it with the team, and we immediately wanted to do something with it,” said Dubé. “We had the idea to recreate the beer, using local ingredients and trying to follow the recipe from the manuscript. So we approached our neighbour, Le Réservoir.”

Le Réservoir, a microbrewery on Duluth Avenue, just a street corner away from the museum, accepted the challenge to recreate the beer.  

Concordia graduate and master brewer at Le Réservoir, Nathan McNutt, made it his mission to follow the recipe and the methods used as closely as possible. “We are all very excited to taste the beer for the first time,” said Dubé.

The museum is dedicated to sharing Jewish stories in Montreal. Since the Hart family is such an important name in Montreal’s Jewish community, this was a story the museum couldn’t pass up on.

“Part of these stories relate to food, relate to beer. When we found this story, we thought it would be a very contemporary and interesting thing to share,” Dubé told The Concordian.

Photo by Danielle Gasher

The Hart family are known to be the first Jews to have arrived in North America. They settled in Trois-Rivières in 1761. The entire family is celebrated for their contributions and devotion to Quebec’s Jewish community. The family created the first synagogue in Canada and were active in the fight for Jewish political rights during the 18th century, according to an article on Canada’s History’s website by author and historian, Denis Vaugeois.

That’s why, Montreal-native beer blogger and business lawyer, Gary Gillman, was surprised to stumble on the Hart name when researching early Quebec breweries.

“Growing up here in the Jewish community, we all had known of the Harts and were very proud of them … but we knew their political history, particularly Ezekiel’s situation with respect to trying to set a legislative assembly in the early 19th century. I had no idea that they operated a brewery,” said Gillman.

Gillman found the recipe through public provincial records. In fact, it was so easy to access, he continued digging to see if anyone else had published or at least found the manuscript. “As far as I could tell, nobody actually found it and published it, much less analyzed it from a brewing point of view,” said Gillman. He published a blog post about the beer in February 2016.

Photo by Danielle Gasher

To Gillman, the recipe represents traditional English brewing. “That means things like its alcoholic strength, which is over eight per cent, its use of hops … a substantial quantity of hops. They also used the first mash, the first run off the malted barley, which is the richest extract and produces the strongest beer.”

The brewer of the beer, McNutt, said, “For the most part, we kept very true to the style, very true to the ingredients. We made sure that [the beer] was Quebec-grown, that it was organic.” He explained he had to make certain adaptations to stay true to the original recipe, techniques and style of the brew. He said he used smoke malt, with the help of wood chips, to replicate a taste that was common in 18th century beer. He also added wild yeast to the beer, and aged it in an oak wood barrel, which he said added complexity to the beer’s taste.

Among the guest speakers at the event was Vaugeois, who was particularly touched by the recreation of the recipe. Vaugeois, who wrote a book about the Hart family, imparted his knowledge about the Harts to the crowd.

“Since I don’t drink beer, I focused on the brewery, on the will of Aaron Hart to bring his sons together so they could create a dynasty. He created an enterprise for his sons, like Molson,” said Vaugeois about his book.


Vaugeois said that upon researching and writing so much about the family, he felt like he had a special connection to them. “I feel like I am myself a Hart,” he said.

Once the presentation from guest speakers was over, guests were invited, with their free beer coupon in hand, to the next street corner to taste the celebrated beer for themselves at Le Réservoir.

As the speakers hinted, the flavour of the beer was beautifully complex.  From the balanced smokiness, to a nice spiciness and subtle yet satisfying bitterness, this beer’s taste was a nice surprise.  

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