Quebec: CROP Survey presents Opinions on Chassidic Jews.

By Zvi Hershcovich |

A recent poll, conducted by CROP and published in La Presse, [Le Malaise Musulman. By Louise Leduc | La Presse | 16 March, 2014] surveyed Quebecers asking for their opinions on eight denominations.

The results are very worrisome. 56% of respondents have a somewhat negative or very negative opinion of Chassidic Jews. That is only marginally lower than Muslims (as a whole), who are disliked by 57% of Quebecers.

According to Youri Rivest, vice president of CROP, one reason for the low opinion of Chassidim is the recent negative headlines on Lev Tahor, whom the public considers Chassidic Jews.

Did you ever mistake an Amish person for a Chassid? Or a Chassid for an Amish? Many Chassidim, particularly those who have traveled through rural areas the of the United States, have been mistaken for the traditional Christians who shun much of modern technology. After all, both Chassidim and Amish people are bearded, wear interesting hats, and generally keep to themselves.

Most Chassidim feel this way about Lev Tahor. “I work with a French Canadian,” confided a Belz Chassid from Outremont recently. “When news of Lev Tahor came out, she looked at me and asked, is this the way you all treat your families?

At a recent event, another Chassid approached me, asking me to clarify on bill613 that even though Lev Tahor may look like Chassidim, they are not affiliated with the mainstream Jewish world and seen as complete outsiders (as evidenced in an excellent Mishpacha article). “It must be made clear that the Chassidic community of Montreal were actually the ones who brought the information about the abuse to the authorities,” he said. “Lev Tahor are not Chassidim.”

Regardless, Lev Tahor have fooled public opinion, as evidenced from this poll. The proposed charter of values probably also contributed to the negative opinion of Chassidic Jews, who have been targeted for years in blogs by Pierre Lacerte and Celine Forget.

A telling number for separating what percentage of negativity came from the charter (rather than Lev Tahor) would be the release of the opinion of orthodox Jews (who were listed as a different denomination, separate than Chassidim. To be fair, reform and conservative were also considered separate denominations). However, those numbers weren’t released.

Nonetheless, the poll did ask francophones their opinion on the banning of religious symbols, and 68% are in favour of it, while only 37% of francophones would tolerate the Yarmulke (compare that to 35% who would tolerate the Hijab).

Also revealing was that 72% of respondents to the poll strongly or somewhat agree that “immigrants must put aside their culture and adopt that of Quebec.” Rivest noted that in English Canada, immigrants are told “welcome home,” but in Quebec they receive a message of “welcome, but do as we do.”

What is clear from the poll is that a majority of Quebecers have negative attitudes toward Chassidim. Will it remain so, or will it drop now that the Lev Tahor drama appears to be over?

Only time will tell, but maybe Chassidim need to figure out some way to change public opinion positively.
One of the readers commenting on this post had this to say:

yc says:
April 2, 2014 at 7:51 pm

I strongly agree that positive communication is imperative; I have become close friends with many of my neighbors. Nevertheless, you must know that the vast majority of Quebecois have never interacted with a chassid at all! Consequently, I find the poll data to be the disturbing repercussion of negative media (mis-attributed) and die-hard stereotypes.