Quebec’s Bill 96 exposes a critical problem with homegrown Canadian rabbis: we barely have any

The National Assembly of Quebec in 2013. (Photo by Paul VanDerWerf/Flickr Creative Commons)

It’s not making headlines nationally, but Quebec is ushering in Bill 96, legislation that will further cement French as the province’s dominant language. While Canadians may be familiar with various provincial government attempts to ensure French remains the primary language, Bill 96 goes a step further: it will require all new immigrants to send their children to French-language schools after a three-year, non-renewable grace period.

Why does this matter for Jews? Because Canada has a rabbi shortage. There is no Canadian rabbinical school outside the ultra-Orthodox movement, which means many shuls end up hiring Americans who move here with their families. While some American rabbis may be excited to force their children to become fully bilingual French, it’s a big ask—and a significant hurdle for the two synagogues in Montreal currently looking for new rabbis. Our own resident rabbi in Montreal, Avi Finegold of Bonjour Chai, breaks down what this all means, and chats with a representative of one rabbinical search committee about the ramifications.

Plus, Ilana chats with her long-time friend, who is one biological daughter of the infamous Norman Barwin, a disgraced doctor who illicitly used his own sperm to inseminate more than a hundred of his fertility patients.

Listen and subscribe to The CJN’s weekly current affairs podcast above.

What we talked about

  • Read about Bill 96 at
  • Read about the $13-million settlement against Norman Barwin on CBC News


Bonjour Chai is hosted by Avi Finegold, Ilana Zackon and David Sklar. Michael Fraiman is the producer. Andre Goulet is the technical producer. Our theme music is by Socalled. The show is a co-production from The Jewish Learning Lab and The CJN, and is distributed by The CJN Podcast Network. To learn how to support the show by subscribing to this podcast, please watch this video.