What’s Canada Day like for new Jewish immigrants?

Etel Ergun Avimelek with her husband and two teenage kids. (Supplied photo)

Etel Ergun Avimelek hasn’t been able to meet very many people in Winnipeg yet. She arrived just last summer from Turkey with her husband and their teenage kids, hoping to escape rising anti-Semitism there, but getting settled hasn’t been easy. First they had to quarantine, then find a house, then get the kids settled in their new school—a Jewish high school in Winnipeg, Gray Academy—all while working new jobs and navigating pandemic life.

The Avimeleks moved to Canada in August 2020 as part of the local Jewish federation’s GrowWinnipeg program. The idea behind it is to staunch the decline of the city’s Jewish population by actively recruiting new Jewish immigrants. Since the program started 20 years ago, 6,000 new residents have arrived.

Ergun Avimelek and her family are among the latest newcomers. But their story comes with a few twists. On top of pandemic problems, the family has found themselves celebrating their first Canada Day in the midst of a national reckoning with the country’s residential school program. Understanding this horrific legacy was not on their radar when they moved here, but it is now.

On today’s episode, Ergun Avimelek describes her perspective as a newcomer to Canada, why she chose this country as her home and how she sees the struggles of Indigenous Canadians.

What we talked about:

The CJN Daily is written and hosted by Ellin Bessner (@ebessner on Twitter). Victoria Redden is the producer. Michael Fraiman is the executive producer. Our theme music is by Dov Beck-Levine. Our title sponsor is Metropia. Find more great Jewish podcasts at thecjn.ca.

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