Tradescantia Zebrina .:. The Wandering Jew

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tales and opinions of the wandering Jew

You live where?!

This post brought to you by the 75 minutes and counting wait at the Peace Arch border crossing.

My taxi ride to the Montreal airport, Tuesday morning, is the reason why I live where I do. People have told me, time and again, that I ought to move – to Snowdon, Cote-St-Luc, Mile End, Outremont, even Westmount. Moving would be the solution to the tensions of living as a visible Jew amongst, well, non-Jews.

But I intentionally did not rent an apartment in one of the Jewish ghettos. I find communal insulation troubling in a post-modern society, in a country that is pluralistic, and prides itself in being a multi-cultural quilt (often framed in contrast to the “melting pot” o’cultures south of the border).

So back to the taxi, early Tuesday morning. We hadn’t yet driven to the end of my block when the taxi driver broke the brief silence and asked, “T’es juif?” [“You’re Jewish?] When I confirmed that I was he replied, “Et t’habite ici?!” [“And you live here?!”] Again, I confirmed. He asked why I didn’t live in Outremont with the “old Jews.” So I explained that I think people should be able to live wherever they want, regardless of religion or culture. He grinned, said he had family members who would never leave their town because, though they have family in the next parish, they don’t agree with that priest’s opinions. He then asked if I believe in Jesus. I explained that I believed that he had lived, but not that he was the messiah. This then opened to a big conversation about Catholicism and Judaism, with questions asked from the front seat, and answers offered from the back. Which came first, Judaism or Catholicism? If not Jesus, who is your messiah? Are you the sam as the old Jews in Outremont? When do you go to church? How long are your mass services? Are there problems between the many Muslims [“Musselman”] and Jews? Do you pray to the Virgin Mary? Who is your G-d, and what’s his name?

It was a really interesting cab ride, and I actually appreciated the lingering rush hour traffic, as it allowed for a longer conversation. And I doubt that, were I picked up at an address in Cote-St-Luc, Outremont, or Westmount this conversation would have happened. I live where I do, despite the inconveniences (oh so long walks to shul, long treks to get kosher groceries, being called names on occasion, looking around for any response from neighbour’s as we start singing in my sukkah, etc) I think it’s worth it. Discussions, visibility, showing that we’re not a homogenous, secretive, unapproachable People.

My car’s stopped right on the international boundary now, with the marker on my right and the Peace Arch on my left. And Chabad’s giant menorah just on the Canadian side of the Peace Arch on the centre lawn.

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Filed under: judaism, religion, travels

One Response

  1. […] I’ve been asked about living on the “wrong” (French, Catholic) side of town by a taxi driver in Montreal, questioned by a city of Montreal employee on homosexuality and Judaism while walking […]

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