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British Columbia (archives) Photo: Index Open
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Study: 14% of Canadian Jews are Israeli emigrants

Study conducted by Jewish student shows number of Israeli emigrants to Canada constantly rising. Most have trouble assimilating socially, but end up staying longer than planned

Roni Rachmani, Vancouver
Published: 12.03.09, 07:42 / Israel Jewish Scene

Fourteen percent of the Jewish community in Canada are emigrants, according to a study conducted at the University of British Columbia (UBC) in Vancouver.

 

The study reveals that some 45,000 former Israelis currently live in Canada, however according to estimates, the actual number is closer to around 60,000.

 

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Brent Harris, a Jewish student who conducted of the study, researched the phenomenon of Israelis emigrating to Canada, and specifically to British Columbia.

 

Jewish institutions in Vancouver estimate that there are some 5,000 Israeli emigrants in the city, although their numbers keep rising. In total, there are 26,000 Jews living in the city and suburb areas.

 

The study included interviews with 31 Israeli citizens living in Vancouver (16 women and 15 men; ages 19-57), most of whom have a higher education and immigrated to Canada between the years 1990-2007.

 

Most of the interviewees claimed they managed to integrate into the local job market, however they were having a difficult time simulating socially, even after several years in Canada.

 

The emigrants claimed forming social ties with the local Canadian Jews was not easy, and therefore mostly associated with other members of the Israeli community.

 

According to the study, the reason for the cleavage between Israelis and locals stems from cultural and behavioral differences. As such, Israelis are much more direct and "warm blooded" than the Canadian, and often find it difficult to understand what the locals really mean. Another difficulty comes from the language barrier – some Israelis often find it hard to explain themselves to the locals.

 

No more Stigma

Most of the interviewees claimed the biggest obstacle they are facing in Canada is the large social gap between them and the Canadian Jews. While Israelis feel connected to the Canadians, the latter see themselves as Canadian both in definition and in behavior. According to the Israelis, the differences between the two groups are larger than the similarities.

 

The study also showed most Israeli emigrants still possess a strong Israeli identity. They enter Israeli internet websites at least once a day, continue to read Hebrew books and want to maintain their Jewish roots. Most view their move to Canada as temporary; however end up staying there for a longer time period than originally planned.

 

Even those who hold Canadian citizenship find it hard to express strong feelings toward their Canadian identity. According to the study, some of the emigrants were not clear about what it meant to "be Canadian".

 

Surprisingly, the study showed that the degree to which the emigrants feel connected to Canada has nothing to do with the amount of time they spent in the country, nor is it connected to the age in which they emigrated.

 

According to Harris, unlike in the past, Israeli emigrants no longer suffer moral condemnation for leaving the country. Harris further claimed that most emigrants do not have guilty feelings for moving overseas, and some even said they paid their dues after finishing the military service.

 

Those who felt uncomfortable with leaving Israel stated this was not because of guilt, but rather because they felt they left behind their families and friends.

 

Most Israelis think today's Israel is different then what it was, says Harris about the attitude towards emigration within Israeli society. The second intifada, the leadership crisis, lack of trust in politicians and public corruption have reached a negative record, and made emigrants reconsider the question of "when to return" to "should we return".

 

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