What Canada Day Means to Me

June 6, 2024Corinne Krepel

I have always considered myself to be a Jewish Canadian, rather than a Canadian Jew. I couldn't tell you why I have always chosen to primarily identify by my religion first and then my citizenship; there is no defining moment in my life that explains that one way or the other. Being Jewish has always been my primary identity.

As a child, Jewish holidays were fun; and Canada Day was just a holiday where there was no camp and we could have fireworks. Growing up, Jewish traditions were always a very important part of my life. Passover Seders, lighting and gathering around the menorah on Hanukkah, and fasting on Yom Kippur are among my core memories.

When I was 18, I participated in the March of the Living, a Jewish teen study trip to Poland and Israel. This profoundly strengthened my identity as a Jew. Feeling a strong connection to my Bubbie and Zaidy, both Holocaust survivors, my participation in March of the Living shifted my perspective about Judaism. It was no longer just about happy childhood traditions, it now included a determination to persist and survive.

This experience also served as a turning point for my Canadian identity. Visiting and learning about Poland and other Nazi-occupied countries allowed me to appreciate the value of living in a country like Canada. A country that, like all countries, is far from perfect and has a past (and arguably a present) that includes oppression. However, it is also a country where I am not only allowed but encouraged to practice my religion and be my authentic self without fear of persecution. It was around this time I came to truly cherish the beauty of Canada and how lucky I am to live here.

Being a Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) employee has made me keenly aware of how Reform Canadian Jews stand together in the face of antisemitism. This has been especially evident since October 7th. Reform Jewish Canadians have come together to fight antisemitism with a strong sense of pride and a renewed determination to survive. I have been blown away by the way this community has united to stand tall in the face of adversity.

My job gives me the opportunity to connect with both my identities as a Canadian and Jew. The Reform Jewish Community of Canada is geographically diverse, but spiritually homogeneous. There is a bond across this country through our 25 congregations and one virtual community that unites us.

When the URJ participated in the March for Israel in Washington, D.C. last November, Canadians organized busses to join in the momentous event. In December, when Canadians had our own rally in our nation's capital, thousands of people showed up to stand for Israel and the Jewish people.

There have been peaceful rallies and gatherings across the country to show support for the worldwide Jewish community since October 7th. Some of them have been so large and powerful that they were featured on the Canadian news. There have been volunteer drives that have collected staggering amounts of supplies for soldiers and displaced Israelis. There have been fundraisers all over the country to help our Israeli siblings. Watching this unfold in the past eight months has strengthened my resolve as a Jew and Canadian. Canadian Jewry has proven itself to be a strong and mighty force over the past eight months, and it is a force that I am honoured to be a part of.

And so, on this Canada Day, I can honestly say that I have never been prouder to be a Jewish Canadian and am an incredibly proud Canadian Jew.

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