The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 7 Dec 1939, p. 181-192
Jackson, Gilbert E., Speaker
Media Type
Item Type
Divisions in Canada. Immigrants becoming Canadians by choice. Some autobiography. The period of necessary adjustment that immigrants go through. The moment the speaker feels that he became a Canadian. The speaker's tale which is similar to that of a million immigrants, Canadians who have adopted Canada. Canada's immigrants as assets, due partly to the debt they feel they owe to their adopted country. The Jews, who have been homeless for most of the last 2,000 years. The lack of civil rights afforded the Jew in most of Europe today. The Jews' position in the Christian era. The British Empire as a haven for the Jew. What the Jews have done for the British Empire. The story of a Jewish boy who came to Cambridge and became the speaker's friend. How that person repaid his debt to England. The British way of investing in people. The healthy rivalry between Jew and Gentile at university. No overt anti-Semitism in Canada. How recent events have taught us that an attack on the Jews preludes an attack on everybody's liberties. Examples of anti-Semitism that the speaker came across in his role as an unofficial employment agent for students. The Jewish influence for good in the troubled affairs of the nations at this time.
Date of Original
7 Dec 1939
Language of Item
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Chairman: Rev. Canon H. F. D. Woodcock, Vice-President.
Thursday, December 7, 1939

CHAIRMAN: It is my privilege to introduce the speaker, our honoured guest today, Mr. Gilbert Jackson. He is very well known throughout the Province of Ontario and

in Canada, and perhaps better known the last few years in London, England. He has been connected with the University of Toronto for many years, beginning his association with it in 1910. He was Lecturer in Economics and afterwards Professor of Economics in the University. Later still, he became Director of the Course of Commerce and Finance. A very young man, you say, as you look at him, to have achieved so much. Mr. Jackson is now a Consulting Economist in Toronto, having lately returned from England, where he was Advisor to the Bank of England.

I have very much pleasure in introducing our guest of honour, Mr. Gilbert Jackson, who is going to speak to us on a subject in which I think every thoughtful person should be interested--"Anti-Semitism".

MR. GILBERT E. JACKSON, B.A.: We spend a great deal of our time, when you come to think of it, discussing the divisions that exist in Canada. With all the main divisions, everyone of course is familiar: between French-speaking and English-speaking, between urban and rural, between employers and employed; sources of divergence in interest between great groups of people in this country, which sometimes cause us not a little worry. But I wish to dwell on another distinction today, which is often (and that is a sign of the country's health) overlooked. I mean the distinction between those born in Canada, whatever their race or language, and those living in Canada but born abroad. In the latter group are included, of course, all who may be classified as immigrants in law, whether British-born or born in Sweden or Galicia.

The distinction is one that I like sometimes to rub in, to my Canadian-born friends. I like to remind them that just as an Englishman may become a member of the House of Lords by mere accident of birth, so should they consider themselves Canadians by the mere accident of birth. They happened to be born in this country. Here, whether because they liked it, or because they could not follow some ambition elsewhere, or for sheer lack of enterprise-here they happen to remain. That is how they happen to be Canadians.

But we who came here as immigrants (and I rank among these, for in spite of having lived here before some of the members of this Club were born, I came originally, nevertheless, from another land)-we who came here as immigrants are not in Canada because of a mere accident. We came to Canada because this country looked good; we stayed here, because we found it was good. We came in hope; and we were not disappointed. We became Canadians by choice, not by accident.

That goes for all, or almost all of us: for the Britishborn, for Americans, for Swedes and Icelanders, for Greeks, Italians and Galicians--and for Jews. We have adopted Canada; but more important, we feel an immense gratitude to this country because Canada has adopted us.

That is a fact that I want to drive home this morning. I wish to drive it home for the sake of all the two-million-or-so Canadians, originally born elsewhere, who have adopted Canada. Because each of us knows more about his own experience than anyone else's, perhaps I may be pardoned for indulging in a monment's autobiography.

When I first got here, in 1911, 1 came in a fine sporting spirit. Canada had offered a chance in life to me; the chance of a small appointment in this university. No chance as good was offered elsewhere. I was prepared to like the country.

For all of us who come here, there is a necessary period of adjustment. We think English-or Swedish-or Greekor Galician-whatever we may be. Because we think thus, we don't always at first understand the Canadian-born, and very naturally, the Canadian-born don't always understand us. Sometimes, when young and foolish, we criticise Canada without understanding. Sometimes, and with ample provocation, Canada criticises her less attractive immigrants.

But that passes, or if it doesn't, your immigrant had best get out. Some do. But those who remain (and who don't wear their hearts on their sleeves) are apt to develop an affection for Canada that they seldom talk about.

When I had been three years here (in the spring o£ 1914) I received a most attractive offer from across the line. I had worked, over a period of six weeks, for Clarence Barron, the veteran owner of the Wall Street journal, one of the greatest men whom I have ever known. I had an offer from Barron of a permanent job with him. He made it in Boston. I said, "Of course I'll come to you." That wise old man said, "No. You'll not accept it here. Go back to Canada. Take a fortnight's holiday. Look around the place, then write and tell me that you'll come to me."

Somewhat unwillingly, because I saw no need of this, I went back to Toronto. For a couple of weeks I'd wait (simply to please Barron) and then--I'd hurry back to take up this appointment.

I got here on a Sunday morning. I stepped off the street car and set off up St. George Street to my boarding house. The trees were in green leaf, the sun shone, every thing was fresh and everything was peaceful. In a single minute (and to my great astonishment) I said to myself, "But this is where you belong-and you don't belong anywhere else. You can't go to Barron." So there was nothing to do but wait a fortnight for decency, then write to Barron a letter that he probably understood, trying to tell him why my mind had changed completely-to refuse his offer, once for all.

On that morning, I suppose I became a Canadian. Twice since then I have left Canada: once, going to the last war, when I served not in a Canadian, but a British regiment; and once, to take service with the Bank of England. Each time, I spent four years away from Canada, but each time, I came back like a homing pigeon.

I tell this long story, not as a piece of egotism: but because, with differences in all the details, it is the tale of a million immigrants-Canadians who have adopted Canada.

If your immigrant has got the right stuff in him (and if he doesn't have it, he will probably not stay here-half our immigrants depart) he feels as I felt on that Sunday morning, and as I feel now-conscious that Canada gave me my chance in life, to make more than a bare living, to do something useful in the world, to start a family, to bring up children (this more important than anything) and to face the children's future with a feeling of security. When a country does that for a man it establishes an obligation-one that all the work of a man's life cannot repay. There are, I make bold to say, hundreds of thousands of immigrants among us, conscious of a debt to Canada which there is no means of assessing, and anxious, all their lives, to pay that debt. Your immigrant is an asset, not merely because he represents a certain amount of brains and sinew, but because all that is good in him urges him to pay that debt to Canada.

This is said without respect of race. But my job this morning is to talk about the Jews. And the Jews are a peculiar people-not because of their supposed racial characteristics (and there is nobody who tells such marvellous funny stories about the Jews, as the Jew, full of pride of race but wise) but because, unlike all other kinds of immigrants to whom this Dominion has given a chance in life, the Jew has been homeless for most of the last two thousand years.

In these days, in most of Europe (where, still, most Jews live) the Jew has few civil rights, if any. In certain countries (France, for instance) he has the full rights of citizenship; but there are few Jews in France. Generally speaking, the Jew has been and is "outside the pale"-his economic opportunities limited, his legal position insecure, ostracised socially by the ruling classes, above all, the future of his children a matter of complete uncertainty.

In one respect, particularly, the Jews' position has been desperate, not in this generation only, but almost always in the Christian era. Seldom has he been able to claim,, with the same confidence as the rest of us, the protection of the courts. The rest of us could regard the courts as a 'safeguard; to the Jew, legal disabilities have been a handicap additional to his social and economic disabilities. And in many countries, the law has done little or nothing to protect the Jew from mob violence. When I was at Cam' bridge, the time-honoured mathematics course was altered; there were to be no more senior wranglers. Almost the last of the senior wranglers was a Jew-Selig Brodetzky, born in Russia, today British, and one of the most marvellous mathematical brains in the world. Selig Brodetzky has described to me how, while still a child, he watched a Russian mob murder his mother and his uncles.

Now for the Jew, more than for any man of the race, the British Empire is a haven. Before the courts, the Jew has the same rights as any man, administered impartially. Within the British Empire the Jew, his possessions, his livelihood, his wife and children, are absolutely safe. And one of the things that I should like to talk about this morning, is the position of the Jew vis-a-vis the British Empire. The debt of the Jew to the British Empire is tremendous. Nobody knows this better than the Jew. To him, the British Empire stands for certain principles (as also does the United States) without which, his race perhaps could not survive.

Shall I tell you what is the most striking utterance that I have heard since the war started? I should think that everyone within reach of my voice also heard it, but not everyone may have given it the same attention. Its author was our friend, whom I see here this morning, Rabbi Maurice Eisendrath. In a speech to his co-religionists last September, he began talking about "Our Empire". And I felt proud when he made use of that expression.

Did he not illustrate, more aptly than anyone in our neighbourhood, the difference between this Empire of ours and our enemies in this (I hope) the last of all world wars? Can one imagine a Rabbi, speaking in Berlin, Munich, Prague or Warsaw, talking about "our Reich"? (One can well imagine what would happen to such a Rabbi, bold or rash enough to say these words). The fact that a Rabbi, speaking to Jews, should naturally make use of this phrase, and that all of us should regard it as perfectly natural, and pass it without comment, is as good an illustration as I can recall, of the fundamental characteristic that makes us proud of the British Empire.

And if the British Empire does thus-and-so for the Jews, what have the Jews done for the British Empire? I pass over the familiar, historic illustrations-the London Roths child of Napoleon's time, making possible the financing of Wellington in Spain; Disraeli purchasing the Suez Canal shares, and changing fundamentally the whole of British Empire strategy-helped by the descendants of that same Rothschild.

Instead, I should like to tell another story-this time, not about myself. It is the tale of a poor Jew boy who came to Cambridge at the time when I went to Cambridge. For reasons which will appear presently, his identity must be disguised.

This Jew was born in one of the British Dominions not Canada. Full of ambition he came to Cambridge-an expensive place-in my first year. He came from a home as poor as you can imagine. He had, I think, $4 with which to finance his Cambridge career. Ridiculous, of course, and no remittances to come.

His Tutor-the Cambridge Tutor stands in the relation of a parent-was a wise and humane man-fortunately, quite well off. He lent this penniless boy the money with which to pay his college bills. Otherwise, of course, he would have disappeared at Christmas, leaving unpaid debts.

This Jew became my first friend in Cambridge, and my best friend. I did not take him for a Jew. Never had I met a Jew before. I had read about them in books, of course, but I did not actually realize, having met none, that the Jew still existed on this earth. Not till my friend came to breakfast one morning and said, "If you don't mind, we Jews don't eat bacon," did I realize that the Jew still existed in the world of men. But, as I say, this Jew became my best friend-and came to my home and stayed with my parents. For a fortnight, for his sake, we had only Kosher food.

His Tutor lent him the money to pay his college bills; a pretty dangerous proceedings, you may think. But this Jew proved to be the best law student of his generation, and Cambridge is provided with scholarships. This Jew began to gain scholarships, one after another. He paid back his Tutor; he paid his own expenses; and starting with only $4 to pay for his college course, he finished by saving money.

My great ambition, at that time, was to become an English barrister. I, too, had no money. But there were two special scholarships in this college--the Jew's and mine--which financed the two best men in each graduating year, so that they could be called to the Bar. My great ambition was to get one of these scholarships.

No need to tell you that I was not one of the two best men of our graduating class. But to my great surprise and delight, I did, on graduation, get one of the two scholar ships, so that I found I could become a barrister. My Jew friend should have competed against me for it; and if he had, never in this world could I have won it. He did not compete.

Twelve months later, he won it also, but in order that I should first get it, my friend had "stood down" for a year, risking his chance--risking the whole of his career--so that I, his Gentile friend, might have a chance. I did not learn the facts until years afterwards.

But that is not the story that I set out to tell you. What he did for me, I shall never forget. But I talk about him this morning, because I want to tell you just one of the things that this man did for England.

He went in due course abroad, settled in a foreign country which I do not name. "In that country, presently, my friend became the leading member of his own profession. But his activities were not confined to law-ranged far beyond. They were such that he had access, in England, to Whitehall and Downing Street; and in the land where he lived, access not only to political but also to court circles.

Quite unofficially, for years past (and on his own initiative entirely) this man has held what perhaps I may call a "watching brief" for England. Acting with entire good faith towards everyone (and that is a main element in his strength) time and again he has strengthened British interests.

A couple of years ago, casually reading the paper, he came on a certain news item. At first, it did not register. Then he said "My God" (for it must be confessed that even Jews, when excited, take the name of the Lord in vain), "My God," he said, "if this happens it will cost England" (never mind how) "ten million dollars!"

It was none of his business, but he made it his business. He worked hard and for a long time, both in England and the country where he lived. If he had let the matter rest, nobody would have done anything about it. As it is, and as a result of his work, the ten million dollars have, I believe, been saved already for England.

This, you may think, is a small matter. What are ten million dollars, in 1939? Ten million dollars would not pay Britain's war bill, even for half a day. These are the days for thinking in big figures.

Well, that may be so. But there is an arithmetic about the business that I find quite impressive. England (because England is fair and generous) took in a Jew boy long years ago, gave him a first-class education, and chucked him a handful of scholarships (about $7,000 in all, I suppose) with which to pay for that education. England, in brief, took in this immigrant, and in him invested, quite casually, the trifling sum of $7,000.

That was a long time ago, but the Jew remembered. Ever since then, in one fashion or another, not in cash but by guarding Britain's interest abroad, my friend has been paying the debt. I have no doubt that, years ago, his debt had been repaid, many times over.

Then at the last, as if he had not already done enough, he turns around and saves for England ten millions of dollars.

If we were to consider his $7,000 of scholarships as an income-producing investment, we might say that he had paid the Mother Country back, in cash interest, at the rate of about 32 per cent per annum during all the time since he left Cambridge.

Or if we were to consider this as a case of investment appreciation, we might say that England's initial $7,000 had appreciated by rather more than 1,400 per cent in the meanwhile.

If a man had been wise and well informed enough to buy Lake Shore when it was 10c a share; and if Lake Shore were some day to be quoted at $143 per share; and if he were then to sell, he might make as good an investment as England so casually, but gracefully, made in that boy, long ago.

But, is not that our British way? We cast our bread upon the waters. We take in our immigrants and educate them, give them and their sons a chance, in faith, and in faith only, faith that by giving them a square deal, by giving them what democracy means we shall build them into the Britain--or the Canada--that all of us are making--faith that by following this course, we shall be creating an asset for our country.

For years and years it was my privilege to teach youth in this town. My pride in our own University rests in part on this: that any man's sons and daughters can come into the buildings, and all are treated alike. There is no favouring the sons of the rich--indeed, at one time and another, I tossed out quite a lot of rich men's sons myself--with no compunction at all. And there is no neglecting the sons of the poor--even of the poor immigrant.

Gentile and Jew mingle on equal terms in those buildings-whatever may be the case outside-and there is a very healthy rivalry between them. I have myself gone in for one kind of anti-Semitism in this connection. The class of 1932-no better class has ever fallen to my lot--included a lot of able Gentiles (some of them here in this meeting) and a handful of able Jews. (I pause at this point, to dispel a widely held illusion: the belief on the part of a lot of Christian parents, that all Jewish students are able. Nothing could be further from the truth. A lot of Jewish students are terrible. They couldn't be worse if they were Christians! But the first-class Jewish student is a delight to teach.)

Well, here was this class, with a lot of able Gentiles, and a sprinkling of able Jews. But the Jews were always at the top-and, much as I liked them, I got sick of it. I pleaded with the Gentiles. I said, "Can't you do just a little better? Must these Jews keep on beating you?" Like the good fellows that they were, my Gentile students rose to the challenge. They did their best; and it was very good. But in spite of that, the Jews led still at graduation.

But if we can be proud that our University makes no distinction between rich and poor, between privileged and unprivileged, or between creeds, can we say the same of Canadian life generally?

I fear not; and one couldn't learn that better than by becoming (as I did) an unofficial employment agent for students going out into life.

Of course, overtly, we do not have anti-Semitism in Canada. Here and there, it is true, there have been local manifestations of this evil thing, which all the world over marks the brute slumbering in every society. But except in one or two Canadian holiday resorts, and in the small element of our population which may perhaps, not unjustly, be described as Goebbels-minded, nobody here gives expression to dislike of the Jews.

Recent events, indeed, have taught us all that, almost always, an attack on the Jews preludes an attack on everybody's liberties. There is a recognized technique in this: your would-be dictator stirs up the lowest of human passions against the most defenceless minority-the Jews are an admirable choice for the purpose-teaches the hooligan element that exists everywhere the fun of kicking those who can't kick back-and having recruited and trained for his own purposes a big enough team of toughs, then in frank contempt of the law proceeds to make a slave of everyone. The last ten years have surely taught us that in defending the Jews among us against those who preach anti-Semitism, we safe-guard our own liberties; and if we permit-or still worse-encourage Jew-baiting, we thus undermine inevitably the foundation of our own civil liberties. All of us are well aware of this.

How then did I, working as an employment agent for students, come across anti-Semitism?

I came across it, sometimes--not always, thank God!--where I found doors closed to first-class men, simply because they were Jews. Nothing unpleasant was intended against the Jew. The fact was, merely, that in certain places he was not welcomed. And as far as I could, I made it my business never to send a Jew job-hunting, where I knew that 'the door was not open to him. There is no need of humiliating anybody.

When I did find a particular door closed, of course I was sorry. Four students I recall especially, Jews all of them, first-class men, devoted to Canada, filled with a zeal for public service, who graduated at various times from this University. A little while back I left my friend of Cambridge days unidentified. I won't identify these young men either. But all of them are working, and all are working abroad. All of them either have carved out, or will carve out careers for themselves. But it seems that their abilities are lost to Canada.

These are just instances, in one man's recollection. There must be many more. I personally don't pity the man who must look abroad for his career, for I had to do the same thing-and I am glad of it. But I do, for the sake of Canada, regret their going. For in this generation, because of the problems that face us, and because we give our young men education at a great cost to the State, we can't afford to lose Canadians with trained ability.

Let me go back, in closing, to the point I made when I began this morning-that in the kaleidoscope of Canadian life with its many races and cultures, with its different backgrounds and its diverse creeds, we have an immense asset in the willingness, on the part of a myriad strangers within our gates, to serve Canada.

Working for a generation among all kinds of young men--students--I believe that this is nowhere more certain than in the case of the Jew. But I would go further than this: and here I speak not of the Jews in Canada, but of all Jews everywhere-the sixteen millions of them. I have said that the British Empire stands for certain principles, without which perhaps, the Hebrew race could not survive. None knows this better than the Jew. Now that the British Empire must fight, harder than it has ever fought for all that we call dear and decent, be sure that all the Jews in all the world are for us. And if their need is great-if in ghettoes and concentration camps, on homeless vessels wandering the seas and on the Shanghai waterfront they suffer-their influence for good in the troubled affairs of the nations at this time is also very great.

CHAIRMAN: We are indeed grateful to you, Mr. Jackson, for this very timely address you have given us, an I know it has done us all a great deal of good. We pride ourselves on the freedom which the British Empire affords to all its citizens and as citizens of the British Empire it is only our duty, as well as our privilege, to share with other citizens the same privileges we ourselves possess, no matter whether they be Jew or Gentile.

We thank you, Sir, for the personal references you have made. I think they have been most impressive. We thank you because of the picturesque way you have given this address, an I am certain it will go farther than this room in its influence and its power for good. We do want to feel that every citizen in our Dominion of Canada has equal rights with every other citizen.

Thank you very much, Mr. Jackson, for your fine address.

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Divisions in Canada. Immigrants becoming Canadians by choice. Some autobiography. The period of necessary adjustment that immigrants go through. The moment the speaker feels that he became a Canadian. The speaker's tale which is similar to that of a million immigrants, Canadians who have adopted Canada. Canada's immigrants as assets, due partly to the debt they feel they owe to their adopted country. The Jews, who have been homeless for most of the last 2,000 years. The lack of civil rights afforded the Jew in most of Europe today. The Jews' position in the Christian era. The British Empire as a haven for the Jew. What the Jews have done for the British Empire. The story of a Jewish boy who came to Cambridge and became the speaker's friend. How that person repaid his debt to England. The British way of investing in people. The healthy rivalry between Jew and Gentile at university. No overt anti-Semitism in Canada. How recent events have taught us that an attack on the Jews preludes an attack on everybody's liberties. Examples of anti-Semitism that the speaker came across in his role as an unofficial employment agent for students. The Jewish influence for good in the troubled affairs of the nations at this time.