Letter to the editor, Canadian Jewish News, April 2000
Levant answers Csillag
Two weeks ago, Ron Csillag attempted to rebut an article that I wrote for the National Post, in which I criticized the Canadian Jewish Congress for campaigning against the recitation of the Lord's Prayer in public facilities.
I will ignore Csillag's personal attacks - he more or less implied that I was a disloyal Jew for daring to criticize the CJC. Actually, I made exactly the opposite point: By pursuing this campaign, the CJC itself is endangering the Jewish interest.
Here's how. The CJC is pressuring the Ontario government to ban Christian prayer at Queen's Park and town councils, and they applauded when Saskatchewan banned prayers in tax-funded schools, too.
This would be an appropriate campaign for the Canadian Atheist Congress, if such a group exists. But the CJC is supposed to be lobbying for Ontario to support prayer-based Jewish day schools.
The CJC has to make a decision: If it is for tax-funded prayer in Jewish day schools, how can it be against Christian prayer in tax-funded public facilities?
Doesn't the CJC understand the precedent it wants to set for Christians will be applied to Jews, too? It's like the CJC wants to take the Christmas lights down at City Hall, but still wants the big menorah lighting ceremony to continue.
A better approach would be the one the CJC used to take - promoting Jewish activities, not denigrating Christian ones. Instead of banning the Lord's Prayer in Queen's Park, for example, the CJC should be lobbying for the rights of Jewish MPPs to say their prayers, too.
Unfortunately, the CJC has forsaken its pro-Jewish past for an increasingly secular, multicultural and even anti-Christian future.
Csillag claims that the CJC was never intended to promote Judaism, but was built to advance "human rights for Jews and other minorities." How banning anyone's prayers accomplishes this is a mystery, but in any event, that's not actually the CJC's mission.
The words "human rights" and "minorities" don't even appear in the CJC's charter. The CJC was built to help Jewish immigrants integrate into Canada, to fight anti-Semitism, and to recruit Jewish soldiers for World War II. If Samuel Bronfman ever intended for the CJC to become a replica of the federal Liberal party - mimicking their campaigns on gay rights, Aboriginal land claims and the firearms registry - he kept it a secret.
How much further into secular mush can things go, before the J in CJC becomes irrelevant?