March 26, 2019

Aliyah and Yeridah Examined

“My generation believed that upon reaching our domestic and professional goals, we were more or less set for life. And so, by the end of the 1960s, I thought I was out of the shoals with only clear sailing ahead. During that decade, our three children were born into a city so safe there was no need to talk of safety at all. From the time they were in second or third grade, they rode the municipal buses on their own. Once when Billy, lost in thought, missed his stop, landed at the end of the line, and started trudging back, he was spotted by a woman who invited him in to phone us. We got him home scarcely more than an hour later than usual.

Of course, such incidents could cause us momentary anxiety, as could the children’s every illness and accident, but the physical part of child-rearing kept getting easier. That we were the first generation of parents to be blessed with vaccines and antibiotics greatly reduced both disease and distress. The chore of sterilizing bottles gave way to simple soap and water, and diaper services—already a welcome advance over home laundering—gave way to disposables. Upon discovering frozen fish sticks in the supermarket, I felt I should compose a special prayer of gratitude.

With our children in a new Jewish day school founded by David Hartman, with me embarked on my professorial career, and with Len competitive at squash and collaborative at work, we had a wonderful life. In those years, departing from the irregular practice of my parents, we also began observing Sabbath eve at home, I lighting candles, Len reciting kiddush. I was no good at public worship, but we needed a context to give thanks for all that came to us unearned. The eve of Sabbath became that ceremonial acknowledgement.

During the Vietnam war, Canada’s political irrelevance served us well; it was good to be on the sidelines. But this is not to say we were wholly unaffected by events across the border. “What do we want? Freedom! When do we want it? Now!” Pent-up demands of the kind that brought about the 1964 Civil Rights Act also saw the rise of the Black Panthers, Timothy Leary promoting mind-altering substances, the O’Neills (Nena and George) selling the benefits of “open marriage,” and radical student revolutionaries trashing their deans’ and professors’ offices in the name of “free speech.””

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