Education about Judaism Should Include Non-Jews: Panel

Mara Bosloy


There are obvious and effective ways to build Jewish pride. Fighting antisemitism and educating people on the Holocaust are two popular ones.

But so is educating non-Jews about Judaism and Jewish culture, a panel discussion heard recently.

The May 26 panel over Zoom included educators focused on teaching youth – both Jewish and not – about Judaism, antisemitism, and the Holocaust.

That was one of the topics raised in the discussion, organized by Andria Spindel, executive director of Canadian Antisemitism Education Foundation, for Jewish Heritage Month in May.

Shari Schwartz-Maltz, who works for the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) and chairs its Jewish Heritage Committee (JHC), runs programs that are almost completely comprised of non-Jewish students.

The committee has previously organized Kensington Market Walking Tours, in which students stroll through one of Toronto’s most famous neighbourhoods while learning its Jewish history.

This school year, the JHC planned a full year of Holocaust education programming, including the distribution of 17,000 copies of Hana’s Suitcase to every grade 6 student at the TDSB, and a virtual reality tour of the Majdanek concentration camp.

Leora Schaefer, executive director of Facing History and Ourselves, an educational organization dedicated to eliminating bigotry and hate by using the lessons of history, said one doesn’t learn about Jews or Judaism by studying the Holocaust.

“We learn about the Holocaust from the perspective of the perpetrators,” said Schaefer. “We have to go back and see the history of antisemitism to truly understand how the events of the Holocaust occurred.”

Teaching about Jews and Judaism also will lead non-Jews to understand that not all Jews are white. Corey Margolese, a teacher with the York Region School Board and Torah High, a private Jewish school, started to help people form their Jewish identities.

“There are many degrees of Jews, many ethno-racial communities,” Margolese said. “The teaching of Jewish diversity is important.”

So is Jewish identity within Canadian society.

“There are various contributions Jews in Canada make actively to Canada and to the world as a whole. Jews are part of every aspect of society. We still maintain our own sense of culture, we also contribute positively to where we live,” Margolese said.

One way to help combat antisemitism is to help non-Jews come to a more informed look on Diaspora-Israel relations. Often, heard the panel, antisemites conflate Israel with Judaism.

Said Nicole Miller, executive director of Fighting Antisemitism Together: “Canadian Jews chose Canada, not Israel, as home.” She said Diaspora Jews can still love Israel as the Jewish state without agreeing with its politics.

Mara Bosloy
Mara Bosloy

Mara Bosloy is a publishing and editing professional currently working at a leading Canadian educational publisher. She attended Jewish overnight camp for years and has been actively involved in the Jewish community.