Discussing Jewish Heritage Month with Linda Frum

May is Jewish Heritage Month in Canada. It’s a month dedicated to celebrating Jewish accomplishments and honouring distinguished Canadian Jews who have impacted society at large. This celebratory month is relatively new, having been established in 2018. We spoke with the Honourable Linda Frum who, along with Former-MP Michael Levitt, brought the idea to the House and the Senate as a non-partisan bill.

“It was Irwin Cotler who first launched the idea of legislating a Jewish Heritage Month. When he retired, he tasked Michael Levitt with the job of getting it done,” Frum said. “Michael asked me to lead the effort in the Senate while he championed it in the House. And it went through very quickly and very smoothly. That was back in 2018. It was wonderful to see just how warmly the idea was embraced by all Parliamentarians. It passed unanimously.”

The need for Jewish Heritage Month grew out of the desire for the Jewish community to be recognized within Canadian society: “We are such a small community and we do have to really stand up and be proud about waving our flag and talking about ourselves to our fellow Canadians,” Frum explained. “Because if we don't do that, no one else is going to do it… And we want our community to be appreciated and celebrated like all the other communities in Canada, because we have so much to celebrate and a lot to be proud of and a lot to appreciate.”

Throughout our conversation, Frum emphasized the remarkable contributions of Canada's Jewish community, going so far as to say that other Canadians have the impression that there are more Jews living in this country than there actually are. “There's almost no aspect of life in Canada that hasn't been bettered or improved because Jewish Canadians contributed. I think everyone would agree that in every endeavor across the board—arts, music, sports, business, scientific inquiry, literature, all of it—there are notable Canadian Jews who have made each of those fields better.”

And so the month of May was chosen to celebrate Jewish Canadians because of its significance in the Jewish calendar as we mark Yom HaShoah, Yom HaZikaron, and Yom Ha’atzmaut. But the focus was never to dwell on antisemitism or persecution. Rather, “it’s important for us to focus on what is great about our culture, what is great about our leading contributors, and how deep our roots go into this country,” Frum explained.

“We should be celebrating. We should be joyous. We should be proud. We should be happy about being Jews in Canada. And we should be sharing that with our friends, with our allies, and with people who maybe don't know much about us. That's the idea. It should be a happy time.”

We couldn’t agree more. Though we face many obstacles and increasing antisemitism, especially in a post-October 7th world, we cannot forget how much our community has done, and how much we have thrived in this country we call home. Part of our culture has always been holding the sorrow with the joy, and this Jewish Heritage Month we hope you’ve been able to do both—with an emphasis on the joy.

To learn more about Jewish Heritage Month, click here.