The Jewish Situation



                                by Kenneth Bagnell


                         Year after year the Jewish community is abused, slandered, defamed and shamed when in fact it’s both competent and honorable, thereby helping every single Canadian. How ridiculous it is in virtually every country to be Jewish and thereby victimized for no valid reason whatsoever. To me the Jewish community is more ethical than a lot of us. To me, the current Jewish hater in Pittsburgh, Robert Bowers, must be insane when he was busy taking the life from 11 men and women who were very busy. Busy at what?  Worship. How would you like it if he pulled the gun on United Church citizens? Go ahead, let’s say you’re in the pew; try imagining the killer. To me the Pittsburgh incident is enormously evil. Obviously the man Bowers deserves the life long term with no chance of an early exit. He’s there until he dies and he certainly deserves it. What drove him to this? I mean killing while praying. The psychiatrists must examine this guy and make it all public.

      It’s breathtaking when I checked and found the state still has the death penalty. Even I — who worked hard in Canada in the sixties to eliminate the death penalty –  still said to myself, this guy deserves the rope or the chair. Yes, I know I was in the movement that ended capital punishment but I’m now in such disgust that I am sympathetic with a woman, name unknown, who once said: “You know the Bible is so clear … Go to Genesis Chapter nine and you will find the death penalty stated …” Okay my lady, and thanks. This was no common murder this was mass murder.

           It raises my hair to think there are people out there who will commit this crime for one reason only: they were Jewish. I can’t say what I think.  When a man kills at a synagogue, it’s a racist act. It’s about the most outrageous act in a place of worship in this century. Killing people as they worship God.  Imagine the man deliberately and selectively outside the Synagogue holding an assault rifle, three handguns, shouting anti-Semitic insults, then killing about one dozen honorable and religious men and women who, my God, were at the house of worship! To me this is truly outrageous, and though I helped reject Canada’s death penalty, this individual is clearly a candidate for the electric chair if it is in the state of Pittsburg. Now, this dreadful human roaming in Pittsburgh has shocked every decent man or woman in North America and beyond. He actually shouted out, “All Jews must die…”  What a dreadful and ugly insult! The guy’s crazy. (Sad to say that insanity could be the defense.)     

    Why does this happen?  My own insight based on my educational interest in clinical psychology, is that the man was seriously flawed in his mental, moral and emotional character. I’d almost lay a bet that in a week or so, we’ll be hearing reports that he was (a) a loner and (b) thereby an introvert who, as the years ago by (c) became dangerous. Thereby he acquired the too common attitude of Anti-Semitism. So he blamed everything on the Jews, developing a permanent grudge, and regarding the affluence of the Jewish community with ever deepening hatred. Given that, I assume the criminal lawyers and prosecutors are already building their cases.

      This was black and white prejudicial racism of the highest order. I’ve been in the company of men I believe to be anti-Semites. Inevitably, some of them bring up the wealth that “the Jews” have acquired through questionable ways. Maybe. But more often the answer to that is no. Take the great Jewish lawyers, the great Jewish economists, the great Jewish intellectuals and so on and on. They have the intellect to rise. So be it. That’s just life. They work and work and work. If they love Israel so what. So? In the past whenever I’ve heard a blowhard downbeat the Jewish because they are well off. I listen quietly nod slightly, take in a breath and say clearly that six million Jewish people died in the two wars and had the courage and ambition to recover and do well for their families. Their family members lead the university class and become professionals. And also they’ve succeed well. I add “I like that…” Most of the time my critics – and I sure have them – inhale and wander off.

         You may wonder how I became so close and attentive to the Jewish community. I can only tell you that where I was born and brought up, they are were the kindest and most courteous people I have known to my now elderly years. Let me give you but one example of the many I could. I was born and brought up in the town of Glace Bay, on Cape Breton Island, in Nova Scotia. We had a large community of Jewish people and of course the synagogue to go with it. Now the coal mines are closed, and the population including the Jewish members, has few Jewish people. But they were the most generous people I’ve met in my life. One example must suffice. In the early 1950s, I made my decision to enter the ministry of the United Church. When the word got round in Glace Bay my parents were deeply pleased. One evening, I was out visiting, when a lawyer, Leo Dubinsky, tapped on the front door and my father, who knew him, opened the door for him to come in. He did. He was a very faithful Jew and he had a parcel under his arm. He didn’t want to stay very long but he had heard I was entering the ministry. I was sixteen years old. He said to my father:  “Kenneth is entering the highest of all the professions, truly…” He then passed a parcel to my father, asked that the gift be given me, nodded and went back to his home. Obviously, I will never forget that evening or Leo Dubinsky who would became a Supreme Court Judge, the first Nova Scotian Jewish member.

    Well, I’ll let an elderly Presbyterian minister of Scotland carry us to conclusion, his name being Reverend Thomas Pryde. The man is now long gone, but he wrote what he felt, focusing on ethical and moral qualities of the Jewish culture and community. Here are a few of his sentences: “The Jews are the most wonderful people upon the earth. In all ages, they have lived apart as strangers in a strange land, persecuted, afflicted, tormented and yet by some inherent force  they have outlived their persecutors and always given fresh proof of the gifts God has bestowed on their race.. .. A legend says that a Jew saved the copy of the scriptures that was kept in the Temple of Jerusalem. When the temple was set on fire by the soldiers of Titus, he rushed in, seized the sacred treasure out to foreign lands. From that day on, the Jews became the People of the Book. Their country was gone, their temple was gone, but the book, it was still theirs..” May the ugly incident in Pittsburgh never happen again.  Amen.