Tuesday, December 07, 2004

A library rises from the ashes

Six months after the library of the United Talmud Torahs was firebombed, the elementary school in the Montreal suburb of St. Laurent has reopened the facility. (CTV and the CBC are both reporting this story.)

Donations of books, money and other materials have been pouring in since before the smoke cleared (including one well-publicized check from Russell Crowe), a process that has reinforced just how much good can come from what initially presents itself as anything but.

I can still feel the sense of revulsion that coursed down to the base of my spine when I first heard what had happened. My parents were visiting us, and I didn't want to upset them over supper. So we ate and then got the kids ready for bed. I quietly researched and wrote a column about it while they chatted with my wife. Just before the 11 o'clock news came on, I told them what had happened and showed them what I had written.

Oddly enough, I had already submitted another column that week. I was well past deadline, but I couldn't let this pass without getting my words out. My editor graciously bumped my other piece to the Saturday paper, juggling an already-packed editorial page calendar in the process. The piece, Hatred comes home to Londoner, was published April 7th. How the editors handled the late-breaking changes reinforced how lucky I am to work with such caring, able professionals.

I wrote about this because, beyond sharing Canadians' outright disgust at this hate crime against children, I attended the campus when I was a child. The story was an enormously personal one, and it galvanized me to explore more of my own background in my writing.

That the school chose the eve of Chanukah to reopen the library is no coincidence. The holiday celebrates the victory of a small band of Jews over an overwhelmingly powerful Greek force. It celebrates the survival of light over the forces of darkness. It recognizes the miracle of a small people's continued existence in the face of a seemingly endless barrage of obstacles. It's the ultimate underdog story.

The reopening of the library signifies a deep-seated refusal to sit back and take it. No matter what those who hate throw at us, we will continue to fight back with all we have to ensure that we all have a tomorrow. A peaceful life really isn't too much to ask for, after all.

If you celebrate Chanukah, I wish you a chag sameach and a holiday filled with light, peace, and the warmth of friends and family. If you don't, I wish you all of these things as well. At the end of the day, we all deserve the same goodness our planet has to offer; something worth pondering as I think of kids who are my own kids' age who once again have a library to call their own.


DeAnn said...

I cannot imagine my life, and particularly my childhood, without a library. Do you read pamie.com? Because she has some awesome opportunities to give to libraries.

Joan said...

Happy Chanukah, Carmi! I'm so glad to hear that the library has reopened.

Photominer said...

Happy Holidays Carmi, my wife's family is Jewish and I so totally enjoy the holidays (its the food man, always the food, mmmmm). Did you ever get your e-mailing hatemonger issue settled? I can't remember you saying anything about that. Your post here reminded me of it and I hope you don't mind my asking.

Jenny said...

Have a wonderful Chanukah!

Anonymous said...

(h.../vaza blogspot com)

Carmi, Happy Chanukah! Thanks for the holiday wishes! I wish you peace, joy and family.

As for the library and issues there, I'm glad to hear how things have come out. What a great story, the way you dealt with your family and how what you wrote made that issue. Fantastic hearing such things that way... Hope shines on.

carmilevy said...

Thanks, everyone, for your kind holiday wishes. Everything seems to have settled down on the hate mail front: the doof who was sending it to me - and to anyone else who would listen - eventually got tired of being ignored. The messages stopped, and life seems to have returned to normal.

I'm itching for the next opportunity to tick off morons like him, however. People like this need to learn. I know they likely never will, but that won't stop me from regularly firing lessons their way. I'd be wasting my time if I didn't push their buttons even a little bit.

Ah, what fun!