Exiles from Nowhere:
The Jews and the Canadian Elite

Alan Mendelson

In this compelling investigation into the attitudes of some influential 19th- and 20th-century Canadian intellectuals – a circle that radiates from the philosopher of Canadian nationalism, George Grant – what emerges is an insidious anti­semitism rooted in the doctrine of Christian triumphalism.

Mendelson begins with Goldwin Smith, who churned out antisemitic pieces for periodicals across the English-speaking world. George Grant’s grandfather, Rev. George Monro Grant, Principal of Queen’s University, wrote that there was no need to treat Judaism as a real religion because it had been superseded by Christianity. During World War II, the young George Grant took his lead from his uncle Vincent Massey, part of Mackenzie King’s inner circle who conspired to exclude Jews from Canada.

When Lament for a Nation was published in 1965, George Grant was assured a premier place as a Canadian public intellectual. Yet it is a puzzling fact that many of his intellectual heroes were tainted with antisemitism, including historian Arnold Toynbee, philosopher Martin Heidegger, writer Louis-Ferdinand Céline and Jewish-born theologian ­Simone Weil.

The title “Exiles from Nowhere” is taken from Canadian-Jewish novelist Matt Cohen, who was befriended by George Grant – a relationship that flourished for a time, then foundered on issues related to the Jewish-Christian divide.

“Mendelson’s shrewd, resourceful and highly original book will unsettle many complacencies and make all of us take another hard look at the leadership class of Canada in the 20th century.” – ­Robert Fulford

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