20 Realities Of Growing Up Jewish In Montreal
#1 You learned everything you know about love at summer camp.
Everyone in the world has their own shtick, and growing up Jewish in Montreal has one too. There is a massive Jewish community that resides all over the city, and we might have a lot more in common than some even realize. Whether you grew up in Westmount or NDG we are all bonded together in a way that no one can actually pin point. It is a mix of many things combined to produce this connection we all share. It provides a sense of comfort in knowing we are not alone, and can all relate to some if not all of the following.
1. You Learned Everything You Know About Love At Summer Camp
Jewish sleep away camp was always a huge part of growing up as a Jew in Montreal, you learned at a young age that your camp friends and real friends usually don't mix. YCC, CBB or Pripsteins; this is where you were taught everything from kissing to how to sneak out without getting caught. The list goes on. Camp goggles were real and everyone knew it, you started off the summer as a 4 and by the end of second month you were considered a ten. You waited all year long for two months of some of the most fun you will ever have in your entire life. You usually heard weird noises coming from the back bunk where your counselors slept, seriously worrying if they were okay but too scared to get out of bed to check. You probably went on to be a counselor at the same camp you grew up at and had even more fun than as a camper because you really figured out what was going on in the back of the bunk.
2. You Always Have Bagels In The House
First of all, Montreal is known for having the best bagels possibly in the world which really gives us a leg up to begin with since we have such easy access to them. You can remember Saturday or Sunday morning going with mom or dad to the nearest bakery to pick up the dozen bagels for the week. You watched as they chose between Fairmount and St Viateur wondering to yourself what is the difference? Eventually you grew up and learned that one is crunchy and the other is soft.
3. Jewish School
You either went to a Jewish high school/elementary school or had some type of Jewish learning in your life; either after school or all day long depending on how serious your parents were. All your siblings went to the exact same school and the had same teacher, so if they were a rotten student chances are the teacher wasn't going to take it easy on you, they probably taught your parents too ensuring everyone in the family was on the same path.
4. Girls All Had The Same Clothes
Growing fads within the Montreal Jewish community was and always will be a thing. Maybe in your day it was wearing Space FB pants and V necks or Juicy Couture track suits but at some point or another you showed up somewhere wearing the same exact thing as your friends and didn't mind one bit, in fact you took pride in you all dressing and looking alike. Uggs and Roots sweatpants rolled over the proper amount of times so the little pocket hung out just enough to put your new camera flip phone in was definitely a must.
5. Where You Grew Up Says A Lot About You
Whether it was Westmount, St-Laurent, Cote-St-Luc, NDG or Dollard Des Ormeaux we all had one thing in common, being Jewish. It bonds us in ways no one will ever understand. The Westmount Jews are a little more upscale, we can admit this. They live in hills with locked gates and drive down garages so they have the right to be a little cocky. St-Laurent Jews were generally religious attending the nearby Herziliah St-Laurent which has now sadly closed down. CSL Jews are pretty standard, most likely Ashkanaz a little more on the JAP side (jewish american princess) of things but cool nonetheless. NDG Jews are a little rougher and tougher, they know what's up. The West Island Jews are a breed of their own, the mix of being from the West and Jewish created a hybrid unlike the rest.
6. Facing The Choice Of A Bat Mitzvah Or Sweet 16
As a Jewish girl you weren't necessarily forced into becoming a woman and having a Bat Mitzvah you usually had a choice between Sweet 16 and becoming an official woman as seen in the eyes of god. A good chunk of us chose the Sweet 16 bash at The Loft, coincidentally this is where the majority of us had our Bar/Bat Mitvahs as well.
7. Kosher Bakeries
Just walking by a bakery is intoxicating, the smell itself just begs for you to come in. Luckily in Montreal we have a ton of options especially for those that are Kosher. Even non Jews can admit the fact that they shop at these places at least once a week. Everywhere you look you will most likely be able to locate a Kosher bakery, especially in the top 5 most Jewish populated areas; Westmount, CSL, NDG, St Laurent and DDO/West Island.*
8. Tone Of Voice
Noticing how your tone of voice changes depending whether you are talking to your Jewish friends or non Jewish friends. Sometimes you forget and just have a mismatch of voices and sound like you are absolutely losing your marbles.
9. Coming Together In Times Of Need
The Montreal Jewish community definitely has it's perks. The CJA is a massive association that brings us all together from all corners of the city especially during hard times. If someone is sick and in need of a helping hand, or lost a loved one, we can always count on each other for support. One of our greatest assets as a community is each other, so you'll always have someone to turn to.
10. Pizza Pita
No matter where people went out (even if it was different places on either sides of the city) everyone would always meet up at Pizza Pita afterwards. Most of the time you didn't even order food you just sat and chatted and hung out for a few hours. It was definitely a popular hang out, somewhere you could just out and chill maybe and eat a slice or two.
11. The March To Jerusalem
Every year you remember getting ready for the March by getting all kinds of pledges and raising as much money as you could. Starting and ending at the Cavendish mall, it always ended with a huge party complete with bouncy houses and an abundance of Popsicles. Your feet were most likely insanely sore by the end and you had to stay off them for a few days post march, but it was always worth it.
12. Getting Wasted At Family Events
Passover is a time for reflection on our struggle out of Egypt as well as a great time to get absolutely hammered on Manishevitz and discuss politics as well as other important issues with family members, eventually resulting in some type of drunken argument. You may or may not have thrown up matzah once or twice in your life but you definitely felt like you were going to.
13. Israel Day Rally
Getting together with your friends and family wrapped in your Israeli flag and stickers all over your face you couldn't wait to be with the entire community supporting our country. Plus it was always a great excuse to skip school. Every April in Phillips Square we would come together and feel at home even when we are so far away from the homeland.
14. Tokyo Thursdays
Tokyo bar/club was once a hot spot for Jewish interaction on Thursday nights. Especially in the summer all the Jews of Montreal would flock to Tokyo lounge to experience a night of drunken gossiping and Jewish geography.
15. Cheapy Tuesdays
Tuesday night is the only night to go see movies, it's seven dollars for crying out loud, why would you even think of wasting thirteen dollars by going any other night of the week? You probably went to Guzzo in St-Laurent along with every other Montreal Jew within radius. You ran into ex boyfriends, ex best friends mothers, fathers, and even bubbies and zaidies. If it was a Tuesday and you weren't at the movie it's either because you have tickets to the hockey game or broke your leg.
16. Dating Someone Who Isn't Jewish
When you date your first non Jew everyone assumes and prays you are just going through a phase, getting it out of your system now before it's too late. You eventually just give up because not only do Bubbie and Zaidie not approve but Nona and Nonno aren't too happy either. God forbid they have any tattoos (Oy Vay), and if they do, make sure they aren't visible if you are planning on bringing him around for any Jewish holiday dinners.
Everyone knows everything about everyone. Even if you think you are being sneaky, odds are there is someone somewhere who knows what you are up to. The worst part of being in such a close knit community is that nothing is sacred. Your parents, grandparents and even your dogs are probably gossiping. By some degree of separation you are probably hooking up with someones ex boyfriend that you met one time at a party and she is going to be pissed.
Every Jew (not only Montreal Jews) has a birth right to go to the homeland at least once in their lifetime and experience it first hand. Oh, and did I mention its a free trip? However be careful, the success of this trip depends many factors. If your trip leaders sucks then you might as well just go home right now because you are ultimately going to get screwed. However if you are able to make the most of a bad situation then you might just have the time of your life. You may even fall in love with a soldier and decide to extend your trip just to spend time with them and their family. Years later you might get a call from them asking to stay at your house for a few weeks (months) when they visit Canada for the first time. You pretty much have to say yes even though we aren't necessarily as hospitable is the Isrealis.
The best kosher snack ever created, even your non Jewish friends tried to steal them from you. The smokey flavor was the bomb and you could literally live off of them as a kid, and still crave them as an adult.
20. Trying Bacon
At one point or another you were faced with a choice. To go left and keep on the straight and narrow or go right and change it up. Bacon is always right. It is almost impossible to get away from, and every Jew eventually tries bacon at least once in their lifetime. (unless you're a really good Jew) We are a bacon obsessed society and some of us might fall into its delicious trap. Some however, are stronger than others.
*This article has been updated.