BDS Activist Fears Return to Israel

By RON CSILLAG

For Gilad Paz, the COVID pandemic hasn’t all been bad: It has stalled his legal case and possible deportation to Israel.

Paz, an Israeli supporter of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement, has claimed that he faces persecution for his political views if returned to the Jewish state. 

His refugee claims have been rejected since he first sought asylum in Canada in 2016, and earlier this year, he exhausted his remaining legal avenues to stay in Canada. 

An immigration lawyer consulted by the CJR said anyone applying for refugee status in Canada must sign a conditional deportation order. When all avenues of appeal fail, the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) could implement the order.

But the COVID crisis has intervened. 

“Because of COVID, there are no deportations of anybody,” Paz, who lives in Montreal and works in customer service, told the CJR.

Paz, who was a lawyer in Israel, became active in the BDS campaign in 2014 following Israel’s “Operation Protective Edge” in Gaza. He also became involved in Israel’s left-wing Meretz political party and with Amnesty International.

According to the pro-BDS Independent Jewish Voices Canada, which Paz has joined, he began using social media to criticize Israeli operations in the Gaza Strip, alleging that Israel had committed war crimes against Palestinians.

Paz, 38, fled to Canada shortly after a 2016 announcement by Israel’s interior minister, Aryeh Deri, and Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, that the government would form a task force to identify and deport or deny entry to those who support BDS.

Gadi Paz
Gadi Paz

But Paz said his chief reason for claiming asylum are threats he received from two Israeli officials, including one from an aide to an Israeli cabinet minister.

In Montreal, Paz filed a claim for refugee status, alleging that his support for BDS put him at risk of persecution from Israeli officials and fellow citizens.

The Immigration and Refugee Board denied his claim. An appeal, at which translations from Hebrew of the threats were submitted, was also unsuccessful. Paz then sought a judicial review at the Federal Court, which ruled against him earlier this year.

The court took note of Israel’s crackdown on BDS supporters, saying that Israeli government ministers had warned that Israeli activists involved in the movement “would pay the price” by being barred from Israel, and those already in the country would be deported.

Still, the court found Israel offers protections to dissidents, even if they receive death threats.

“Israeli civilians who receive threats to their life or safety have access to legal and administrative remedies from independent judges and government organizations, and NGOs are available to help people whose rights have been violated,” the ruling stated.

Israel’s actions towards dissidents “does not mean that it is a non-democratic country…”

Paz took issue with the decision, saying the court “narrowed everything down to state protection,” an irony, he said, given that the threats came from within Israel’s political establishment.

“The main threat was from somebody who is an organ of Israel. Once an agent of persecution is an organ of the state, it’s unreasonable to look to the state for protection. It just doesn’t make sense,” he said.

The Federal Court allowed that while Paz “may possibly encounter difficulties in his home country, there is no evidence on the record to show that he has attempted to seek protection and was denied such protection.”

The efficacy of Israeli state protection “has been assessed several times by our Court,” the decision added.

Paz said journalists and political figures in Israel who have received death threats are given protection. If he’s deported to Israel, “I’m not entitled to any protection.”

According to consular guidelines, Israeli citizens who seek refugee status in Canada may not receive a new passport or extend their current one. They may only receive a one-way travel document to Israel, where they must sort out their status at the Ministry of Interior.

The Israeli passport Paz used to enter Canada expired in March 2018.

Paz said he has two options remaining, and both are available in February 2021, one year after the Federal Court ruling. One is to apply to remain in Canada on humanitarian and compassionate grounds. The other is a pre-removal risk assessment, which weighs whether the applicant would face danger or risk of persecution in the country receiving him.

He said he is applying under both programs. Paz has done some legal homework and found that the CBSA tends not to deport prior to those procedures, though it legally could.

In an email to the CJR, a CBSA spokesperson said the agency is bound by the Privacy Act and is “not able to release case-specific information.”

In a 2016 interview with Haaretz, Erdan, the Israeli public security minister, claimed Paz “is apparently using the excuse of the boycott only to try to receive a permanent residence permit in Canada.”


Ron Csillag
Ron Csillag is editor of the CJR

At 100, Rabbi Erwin Schild Looks Back – and Forward

By DAN HOROWITZ

One of Toronto’s most iconic religious leaders celebrated his 100th birthday recently and, despite COVID restrictions, hundreds of community members marked the milestone in a creative, albeit belated manner.

On Sunday, June 7, more than 100 cars adorned with balloons and signs drove by the home of Rabbi Erwin Schild, a name synonymous with Adath Israel Congregation since 1947. Well-wishers honked and shouted greetings from their passing cars.

The rabbi’s actual birthday was March 9.

In 1989, Rabbi Schild retired and was named Adath Israel’s Rabbi Emeritus after serving for 42 years.

Rabbi Erwin Schild
Rabbi Erwin Schild

The significance of living to be 100 is not lost on him

“If there is one terminal that is beyond normal, it would be living to 100,” said Rabbi Schildi, who is passing the time during COVID by reading, studying and responding to countless emails.

“You wouldn’t say 95 or 96, but 100,” he mused in an interview with the CJR. “Also, in one of the rabbinic writings, there are the ages of man mentioned and it goes up to 100. Beyond that, the person is really not considered part of the world.”

Clearly, that’s not the case with Rabbi Schild who, even today, continues to play an important role for synagogue members,many of whom visit him at his home.

“Rabbi Schild has been and continues to be the spirit of Adath Israel,” said Rabbi David Seed, spiritual leader of Adath Israel for the past 17 years. “He was the visionary who helped build the synagogue in its current North York location as a Conservative congregation.”

Rabbi Schild’s impact has been felt by the entire community, Rabbi Seed said, “helping to create the foundation upon which so much of our Jewish community rests, especially regarding interfaith engagement and dialogue. Personally, it is a privilege to interact with Rabbi Schild in so many ways and I look forward to doing so for years to come.”

Born in1920 in Cologne, Germany, Rabbi Schild completed high school and continued his Jewish studies at the Jewish seminary in Wuerzburg. It was a brief respite before Kristallnacht, the pogroms across Germany in November, 1938 that marked the beginning of the end of Jewish life in the country. Like many young men, he was imprisoned in Dachau at the age of 18.

After his release, desperate to leave Germany, he found refuge in Britain as a student at a London yeshiva. But with Britain and Germany at war, thousands of Jewish German refugees, including a young Erwin Schild, were considered security risks and interned as enemy aliens.

He was among those internees – mostly male, young and single – who were shipped to Canada to be interned once again as enemy aliens in prison camps for the duration of the war.

In February 1942, with the help of Rabbi Abraham Price, a prominent local Orthodox rabbi, and the Canadian Jewish Congress, Rabbi Schild and other Jewish students were liberated so they could continue studies in Toronto at the University of Toronto and Yeshiva Torath Chaim.

Rabbi Erwin Schild - University of Toronto graduation
Graduating from the University of Toronto, 1947

In September 1947, the freshly-ordained Rabbi Schild was named the new rabbi of Adath Israel.

The author of four books, Rabbi Schild was awarded the Officer’s Cross of the Order of Merit of Germany in 2000. A year later, he was inducted into the Order of Canada for “improving dialogue between the Christian and Jewish faiths, promoting harmony at home and abroad.”

“When I think about me receiving the Order of Canada – especially as someone who arrived in Canada as a prisoner, on a prison ship, it’s like it was a miracle,’ he said. “For me, in due course, to be recognized as an outstanding Canadian, well, I could never have imagined this is my wildest dreams. It was truly miraculous. I am proud to be a good and patriotic Canadian.”

His proudest achievement, among many, was growing the synagogue, the only one he served during a remarkable career.

“I took a small congregation of about 150 families and I forged it into a major congregation of almost 1,800 families,” he noted with a proud smile. “Of course, I had many wonderful and dedicated contributors and lay people who helped with that growth. I am very proud that my name is on the outside of the synagogue.”

Schild Adath Dedication

That growth made physical expansion necessary. In 1965, an addition created more lobby space, school rooms and the western portion of the building, which was dedicated as the “Rabbi Erwin Schild Wing”in 1971.

When discussing recent news and world events, Rabbi Schild expressed his concern over the recent closing of the Canadian Jewish News.

“I’m very disappointed that the CJN is no more,” lamented the rabbi. “I think it’s a dangerous situation that there is no means for our Jewish community to follow what is going on and a place where we can publicize our views and opinions. There needs to be democracy in the Jewish community, and this democracy is endangered when we don’t have the press.”

As for his legacy, Rabbi Schild is adamant.

“I want to leave behind a strong Jewish community as well as a strong, democratic, modern and impartial Canadian society; a society that reaches out to our fellow human beings.”

ZARNETT-KLEIN: Making a Difference at York University: A Tale of Appreciation and Frustration

By ZACHARY ZARNETT-KLEIN

“What can we do to materially improve Jewish student safety and inclusion at York University?”

For six months, this has been the guiding question in my pursuit to make life better and fairer for Jews and pro-Israel students at York. 

In recent days, York University released two anticipated reports. The first was an independent external review by Justice Thomas Cromwell, formerly of the Supreme Court of Canada. The second was a report of the Internal Working Group appointed by York University. Each was tasked with examining the events of Nov. 20, 2019.

I have been a York student for seven years. But Nov. 20, 2019 was different. I witnessed first-hand the horrific protests that occurred that night. As a student, I was familiar with the issues at York. But that night, something changed. I could no longer be a bystander. I had to stand up. 

And so began my activism. I conducted hours of research and writing. I posted videos to social media of me speaking on the issue, to raise awareness. I reached out to elected officials, community advocacy organizations, my own personal network, and York’s administration. It seemed that no one was quite sure what to do. 

Let me say that there are good people who want to make a change. Let me also say that these same people often don’t know how to effect that change, or, even if they have an idea, are intimidated into silence.

With the reports now released, my initial thoughts are those of appreciation and frustration. I appreciate the strong education that I have received at York University. I have been fortunate to find many welcoming spaces on campus, including at Hillel York and Hasbara Fellowships Canada. 

I appreciate that York’s administration has expressed its commitment to address key issues, voiced understanding of our concerns, and continues to have meaningful dialogue with our community leaders.

I appreciate that the administration commissioned an independent external review. I was interviewed by Justice Cromwell through my contribution to the submission of a Jewish advocacy organization. I found this process to be both professional and thorough. 

I appreciate that B’nai Brith Canada, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, and Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Centre each made submissions to the Cromwell review.

I appreciate the expressed support from several elected officials across party lines, some of whom I had the opportunity to engage over the past several months.

However, I’m also frustrated.

I’m frustrated that only one recommendation adopted by the Internal Working Group references “antisemitism,” and only one recommendation includes the word “Jewish.”

I support the recommended focus on education to address racism, Islamophobia, and antisemitism on campus. Yet, I’m frustrated by the lack of a plan to account for people who choose not to engage productively. Education is the carrot, but we’re missing the stick.

I’m frustrated that the Internal Working Group released its recommendations before consulting broadly with students. I understand that the group now intends to welcome feedback from the York community. But I fear that the report’s release may prejudice any advice that is to come.

I’m frustrated that neither report satisfactorily recognizes antisemitism within the specific context of York University. Although antisemitism is not unique to York, it exists at York in unique ways. This includes:

• Social isolation: Jewish and pro-Israel students are made uncomfortable by campus dynamics, causing many such students to retreat from student life.

• Systemic marginalization: Motions by the student union that singularly criticize Israel are adopted in the name of the entire student body.

• Public manifestations, such as the protests last November.

Finally, I’m frustrated that neither report references the mural in the York University Student Centre, which furthers both anti-Israel and anti-Palestinian biases. This mural portrays a Palestinian man preparing to throw rocks at an Israeli village – an unmistakable call to violence against civilians. It casts Palestinians in a negative light, targets Israel, and heightens tensions on campus. This mural stymies open and respectful dialogue.

I hope this marks a turning point. We must continue to advocate for changes at York University. We must ensure proper implementation of the recommendations of these reports.

Today, I am left with the same question as when I started: 

“What can we do to materially improve Jewish student safety and inclusion at York University?”

I hope this question is given further consideration. I am optimistic that, as a York University community and as civil society, we can find the answer. It is time we answer this call to action.


Zachary Zarnett Klein
Zachary Zarnett Klein

Zachary Zarnett-Klein is a York University student from Toronto. His passions include community involvement, civic engagement, and human rights.

AVIV: I’ve Had it With Jewish Ignorance…

By DAN AVIV

…and here’s a recent example. As a Jew, I loved the idea of the “Saturday Night Seder.” Over a million people watched it, and the organizers raised more than $3 million for the CDC Foundation. However, as a Jewish educator, I cringed for much of the hour and 11 minutes. Though Billie Porter’s performance was transcendent, there were so many mundane moments with Jewish stars joking about how little they knew or how much they hated their religious instruction. Non-Jews like Rachel Brosnahan, Darren Criss and Josh Groban seemed to know more about Passover traditions than their Jewish counterparts. (Now that’s a good bit.)

Whatever might explain this shtick, it’s not about a lack of pride. Surveys indicate that Jews are flush with it. The 2013 Pew Research Study reported that 94 per cent of American respondents agreed that they are “proud to be Jewish.” Three-quarters said that they have “a strong sense of belonging to the Jewish people.” Eighty-three per cent of “Jews of no religion” reported being proud to be Jewish. The numbers in Canada are as strong, if not more so. The 2018 Survey of Jews in Canada recounted that “[t]wo-thirds of Canadian Jews say that being Jewish is very important in their lives, with most of the rest indicating that it is at least somewhat important.”

Pride isn’t the problem. The “being Jewish” part is. 

Even though it happened what seems like years ago, the Seder still resonates with lessons. The Haggadah presents us with the four children as archetypes, clearly privileging the good child. We all want to be like them, wise and questioning. But even the bad child is included in the conversation, and the latter two children, as feckless as they are, are part of the experience – with concrete tips for how to best address their learning needs. No one is irredeemable. No one is unteachable.

The rabbis in the Mishnah thought similarly about the unlearned, or am-ha’aretz. It’s bad to be an am-ha’aretz, but it’s important to stress that being one is not the person’s fault. Their state of mind could be a result of bad schooling or no schooling at all. And even though Hillel said an am-ha’aretz could not be pious (Avot 2:5), he also taught that only the bold can learn and only the patient can teach.

It takes true courage to admit that you don’t know. Perhaps humour helps to lessen the sting of such an admission. Hopefully, there’s a patient teacher on hand to hear that and acknowledge it.

In other words, it’s on educators and schools to fix ignorance. Toronto’s day school system is extensive but largely focused on educating its students and graduating them. Whether all of these schools survive in a post-COVID world remains to be seen, but we have an opportunity to redefine Jewish learning.

In 2005, Jack Wertheimer argued that “[t]he current challenge in the field of Jewish education is to link the silos, to build cooperation across institutional lines and thereby enable learners to benefit from mutually reinforcing educational experiences.” What we did instead was spend 15 years building more silos.

ADRABA, a program I launched with Sholom Eisenstat and Frank Samuels, seeks to address not only the casual acceptance of ignorance in the Jewish community but also the silo problem.

ADRABA blends traditional teaching with technology to enhance learning. How we design curriculum, use space and construct the learning day reflects this forward-looking pedagogy, one that seeks to take learning outside the immediate bounds of the classroom and the traditional school.

For example, in a unit on Bereisheet (Genesis), we integrate a virtual tour of the Sistine Chapel and invite a comparison/contrast of the frescos with scripture and commentary. In another lesson, we explore the Israel Museum’s Pessah seder plate collection as inspiration for designing and fabricating our own at a “makerspace.”

We also dedicated an entire curriculum to exploring how Jews eat and what this says about our culture, values and traditions. Once the bounds of the traditional classroom are removed, the possibilities are endless – and the learner drives learning.

When it comes to the silo problem, we have worked intensively to establish partnerships with a diverse roster of Jewish institutions downtown. Our shared goal is simple: We want to provide additional options for Jewish learning for Jewish teens who aren’t already part of “the system.” In a reality where resources are limited, we don’t need to duplicate efforts. We need to maximize them.

Being Jewish and proud is wondrous. But it’s not a shtick, and like the opening improv gambit, it’s only the beginning. When someone says they’re proud to be Jewish, I’m quick to reply: “Yes. And?”


Dan Aviv
Dan Aviv

Dr. Dan Aviv is the Lead Educator and Design at ADRABA (adraba.ca), Toronto’s newest and only blended learning Jewish high school.

Stuart Smith: The Jewish Premier Who Never Was

By STEVE ARNOLD

Stuart Smith never got the chance to be premier of Ontario, but that’s one of the few things at which he didn’t succeed during a long and accomplished life.

Smith, the first Jewish leader of the Ontario Liberal Party, died June 10 at age 82 after a lengthy struggle with a form of dementia.

Tributes that began flowing as soon as news of Smith’s death became public recalled him as a mentor, a kind and calm employer, a brilliant psychiatrist, teacher and business leader.

One of the first statements came from Steven Del Duca, interim leader of the Ontario Liberals. He memorialized Smith as a kind and generous man who mentored countless others.

“He was our first Jewish leader and a man of great intellect,” Del Duca said. “Stuart leaves a lasting legacy for our party. He carried us through tough times.

“It was under his leadership that the Ontario Liberal Party laid down roots in urban Ontario – work that has resonated for decades afterwards.”

Others sending memories across Twitter included former Ontario cabinet minister Ted McMeekin, who recalled Smith’s first provincial campaign in 1975 against then-city councillor Bob Morrow, who ran for the Conservatives.

“Dr. Smith was brilliant. The 1975 campaign pitting a beloved Councillor Morrow vs. well-liked Dr. Smith was a classic. Smith’s camp urged voters to ‘Keep Bob working for you – in Hamilton.’ Smith became MPP and Bob became Hamilton’s longest-serving mayor. RIP Dr. Smith.”

Former NDP Premier Bob Rae remembered Smith as “a very engaging and bright soul. He confessed to me once that he found the pressures of politics debilitating, but loved public service. He contributed much to our province.”

One of those Smith mentored to a stellar political career was former Deputy Prime Minister Sheila Copps. After failing in her first bid for office in the Ontario election of 1977, Copps went to work for Smith.

“He was a great boss who never blew his top,” she said in an interview. “He was always very generous and open.”

Copps won her next bid for a provincial seat and worked under Smith on a variety of issues that helped move the Ontario Liberals from a largely rural party to one that also appealed to city dwellers.

One of those issues was an early resolution to advance LGBTQ rights. Although it only gained only three votes in the Liberal caucus, Copps remembers how Smith urged her to move on something they both believed was right.

“He gave me the courage to go ahead and move that motion,” she said. “He was always there to push the envelope in a positive way.”

Stuart Lyon Smith was born May 7, 1938 to a family that ran a grocery store in east-end Montreal. His grandparents were Jewish immigrants from Russia, Poland and Austria. Smith attended McGill University, earning a medical degree and a specialization in psychiatry. While there, he also became president of the McGill Student Society, was a champion debater, and active in the McGill Liberal Club.

In 1965, he sought the Liberal nomination in the heavily-Jewish Montreal-area riding of Mount Royal, but dropped out of the race at the urging of party leaders anxious to nominate another up-and-coming star – Pierre Elliott Trudeau.

Putting political ambitions aside, Smith moved to Hamilton, Ont. in 1967 to become professor of psychiatry at the new McMaster University medical school.

Those early political aspirations bubbled up again in 1975, when Smith won a seat at Queen’s Park. The next year he won a close contest to become leader of the Ontario Liberals, becoming only the second Jew to lead a provincial party; Stephen Lewis was the first when he took over the NDP in 1970. Larry Grossman would later leader the Progressive Conservatives from 1985 to 1987.

Smith led the Liberals through two general elections but was unable to defeat the Tories under Bill Davis.

Stuart Smith with Pierre Elliott Trudeau
Stuart Smith (right) with Pierre Elliott Trudeau

Copps remembered her mentor as someone who loved the business of creating public policy, but not the cut-and-thrust of politics.

“I think the best thing he ever did was leave politics because it gave him a lot of grief and terrible migraines,” she said. “They were so bad that sometimes he would escape from Queen’s Park and go sit in a dark room in one of the area hotels.”

After his political career, Smith served as chairman of the Science Council of Canada, led a commission examining the state of post-secondary education across the country, and chaired the National Roundtable of the Environment and Economy.

He also tried his hand at business, forming RockCliffe Research and Technology Inc., a firm which introduced public-private partnerships into government laboratories.

In 1994, he was named founding president of Philip Utilities Management Corporation, a company created to manage Hamilton’s water and sewer systems. PUMC was a division of Philip Services Corp., but the parent company collapsed in 1997 when it was forced to acknowledge it had significantly overstated earnings from its copper-trading business.

Terry Cooke, a former chair of Hamilton-Wentworth Region, remembered Smith as “brilliant and multi-dimensional.”

“He used to make fun of the fact he was probably too intellectual for politics and business,” Cooke added. “He had many dimensions to his life and was successful in all of them.”

Smith served as a director of Esna Tech in Richmond Hill and as director and long-time chairman of the board of Ensyn Technologies Inc.

He is survived by his wife Paddy (Patricia, née Springate) and children Tanya (Betsy) and Craig (Sandra), along with five grandchildren.

A celebration of Smith’s life will be held when conditions permit. Memorial donations can be made to any charity, or by planting a tree in his memory.

ON THE RECORD: Today’s Reminiscences of Jewish Canadian Musicians of Note

By DAVID EISENSTADT

BEN STEINBERG – Composer, Conductor, Organist, Music Educator (Jan. 22, 1930 –

Years ago, my wife Rhoda and I chose Leo Baeck Day School to register our eldest son into a junior kindergarten program. During a meeting, Principal, Steve Garten asked, “of course you belong to a synagogue or temple.” Raised in Orthodox and Conservative congregations in Calgary and Ottawa, we hadn’t yet joined a Toronto shul, so our son could not be admitted to this Reform Jewish day school. It was time to join, somewhere.

We audited services at various congregations over a half-dozen Friday nights and Shabbat mornings, hoping to find a comfortable sanctuary. We enjoyed the Temple Sinai vibe and have been members there since November 1978. And yes, our son was then admitted to Leo Baeck.

What sealed the deal was Sinai’s perfect trifecta: Cantor Severin Weingort’s voice; founding Rabbi Jordan Pearlson’s oratory; and the music of composer Ben Steinberg. Today at 90, he has been a central figure for four decades and was named the temple’s composer-in-residence in 1996.

Ben Steinberg
Ben Steinberg

While I admired his craft as a composer who found his musical niche, and as a longtime Temple Sinai congregant, I never really came to know the quiet and soft-spoken Steinberg, as I did Rabbi Pearlson and Cantor Weingort. As a lay leader and a member of the temple’s pulpit and services committee, I do remember an evening shiva I was asked to lead, and where he was in attendance. Leaders had the option of singing the service, which was never my choice. I proceeded without singing, and wondered if I was being judged by Steinberg, who was in attendance. After davening, he was gracious, as is his manner, and wished me yacher koach.

Steinberg’s illustrious career is well remembered by temples and synagogues in the United States. Between 1980 and 1991, he was commissioned by various U.S. congregations to write 18 compositions. His approach to his craft is deep and complex. When beginning a composition based on a Jewish text, employing rhythm, harmony and melody, his “Jewish sound” permeates everything he creates.

This Winnipeg-born son of cantor/conductor Alexander Steinberg was a soloist at eight and conducted his first choir at 12 at his father’s synagogue. 

Ben then studied piano, singing and composition at the Royal Conservatory of Music from 1948 to 1951 and 1957 to 1960, graduating with a bachelor of music degree from the University of Toronto.

Beginning in 1950, he served 10 years as Holy Blossom Temple’s music program director, and in 1960, became its music director until moving to Temple Sinai as music director in 1970. Teaching in various public schools from 1953 to 1958, Steinberg became head of music at Winston Churchill Collegiate in 1961 and then Forest Hill Collegiate until 1986. He served Canadian Jewish Congress as music chairman for 27 years.

His compositions include five sacred services; The Vision of Isaiah (1970) for tenor, choir and organ or instrumental ensemble; Yerushalayim (1973) for soprano, choir and opera; and Echoes of Children (1979), a cantata for soloist, narrator, chorus and orchestra, which won an International Gabriel Award and was twice performed on PBS.

A recipient of numerous awards and honours, he was named artist in-residence for the city of Jerusalem in 1978 and 1980. A highlight in 2001 was his Eisendrath Bearer of Light Award, bestowed by the Union of American Hebrew Congregations. The University of Calgary (my undergrad alma mater) recognized his contribution to Canadian and Jewish music worldwide and established a Ben Steinberg Archive to house his original manuscripts, scores and papers.


David Eisenstadt
David Eisenstadt

David Eisenstadt is Founding Partner of tcgpr.com and a graduate of Carleton University’s School of Journalism and the University of Calgary.

A Household Name, and Facing Racism in Society

By RABBI MICAH STREIFFER

It’s amazing how quickly the world can change. Nearly two weeks after his death under the knee of a police officer, George Floyd has become a household name and his memory has become the catalyst for a burgeoning anti-racism movement. How are we, as Jews and Canadians, to respond to this moment? What wisdom can our tradition and our history lend us?

We find this in Torah.

When a man or woman commits any wrong toward a fellow person, thus breaking faith with the Eternal, they shall confess the wrong they have done and make restitution (Numbers 5:5-6).

Ostensibly, this passage is about theft, but the Rabbis assert that it is actually about humanity. For one thing, it teaches that a wrong against a fellow human is also a wrong against God – an expression of our value that people are created B’tzelem Elohim, in God’s image.

Further, the Etz Hayim comments that “every breach of faith is a form of theft, stealing another’s trust under false pretenses.” So this text is actually an admonishment of the way that we fail to recognize the image of God in our fellow human beings – how we steal one another’s dignity and treat some people as lesser. This is exactly the discussion that is being called for in our society.

In some ways, the unrest we are watching south of the border is a uniquely American phenomenon, born of slavery and of centuries of discrimination against African-Americans. But let’s not kid ourselves: Racism is not limited to one country.

Canada has a complicated relationship with racial justice issues. On one hand, we live in a society that prides itself on diversity, where you can keep your name and heritage and still be Canadian, and where the streets are filled an incredible rainbow of diversity.

But we also live in a society with a deep history of discrimination. Canada had slavery, both the enslavement of Indigenous people and the importation of African slaves. The numbers were considerably smaller than south of the border, but the practice existed. Canada also has a history of mistreatment of its Indigenous peoples, from forced assimilation, to the restriction of individual liberties, to the tragedy of residential schools.

A history of unaddressed systemic discrimination can only lead to a present that includes systemic discrimination. And that is where we are today. According to recent studies, Black Canadians earn, on average, one-fourth to one-third less than new immigrants who are not a visible minority.

Black Canadians have an unemployment rate five to seven percent higher than other Canadians, and are less likely to be able to obtain a university degree.

Indigenous people experience unspeakable levels of poverty: Four out of every 10 Indigenous children live in poverty. And Indigenous women are far more likely to be victims of violent crime.

Both Black and Indigenous Canadians are overrepresented in Canada’s prison system because of underlying issues like poverty and unequal access to education, and because of their strikingly different treatment in the justice system.

And in just the last few weeks, there have been several notable cases of police violence against Black and Indigenous Canadians, some with tragic results.

In other words, we live in a society that has a racism problem. Last week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau affirmed that “there is systemic discrimination in Canada, which means our systems treat Canadians of colour, Canadians who are racialized, differently than they do others.”

The fact that we can say this out loud is an important step forward. The fact that our children study the residential schools, that we have a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, that the Ontario government has pledged money to help the Black community recover from COVID – all these represent steps in the right direction. But they are also reminders that there is much work to be done. 


We Jews have our own history of persecution, which makes us sensitive to this issue. Many in our Canadian Jewish community are the descendants of Holocaust survivors. And our tradition speaks to the importance of upholding the dignity of every human being: As it says in Tractate Sanhedrin of the Talmud (37a), “Anyone who destroys a single life is considered to have destroyed an entire world.”

With those as our values and with this as our history, we need to be a voice for the dignity of our neighbours.


In this moment of transformation, it is important to listen. After all, what higher Jewish command is there than shema – listen? Let us listen to the stories being told in the public square – stories of pain, sorrow, and hope. Let us open our eyes to the lived experience of people of colour, and to the realities of institutionalized racism in our society. And let us, as a society, begin to transform that listening into systemic change that can make a difference in people’s lives.


Rabbi Micah Streiffer
Rabbi Micah Streiffer

Rabbi Micah Streiffer is spiritual leader of Kol Ami, a Reform congregation in Thornhill, Ontario

Aliyah Up Amid COVID Fears

By LILA SARICK

Applications from North Americans seeking to move to Israel are at a record high, driven in part by fears about COVID and increasingly tight borders.

In May, 814 applications to make aliyah were submitted to Nefesh B’ Nefesh, a nonprofit agency that facilitates immigration from North America. That was twice as many as the 424 applications at the same time last year.

Canada also saw an increase in applications, with 111 applications submitted over two months, from April until the end of May 2020, compared with 70 applications submitted during the same time in 2019.

“May 2020 was the largest ever amount of applications received in our 18-year history,” Yael Katsman, director of communications for Nefesh B’Nefesh, told the CJR.

“The whole pandemic has made some priorities shift. All of a sudden people realize they can work remotely and they can be in touch with their family on Zoom.”

In one case, an applicant had been trying to convince her company that she could work remotely. Now, with many employees working from home, her ability to work from Israel seems more feasible, Katsman said.

As the virus spread rapidly around the world this spring, Israel was quick to close its borders to everyone but its citizens. For Brenda Zalter-Minden, who lives in Burlington, Ont., that was enough to convince her to submit her application. She had planned to be in Israel to visit her daughter and help her with her three young children over the Passover holiday.

Brenda Zalter-Minden and her grandchildren

“I couldn’t get there. That just really rattled me,” she said. “I feel stuck. I never want to feel like I can’t get to my grandchildren and of course, my daughter, again.”

Her daughter is taking her final nursing exams in September, and Zalter-Minden said she hopes to be there in August to help with child care so her daughter can study. But for now her plans are up in the air.

“I’m trying to get all my paperwork in order, but it’s taking an extremely long time,” she said.

As part of the application process, she has sent all of her personal identity documents – birth certificate, wedding and divorce papers and her and her husband’s passports – to the Jewish Agency, where they need to be certified and then forwarded to the Israeli Embassy in Ottawa

“They were all sent with registered mail,” Zalter-Minden said. “I haven’t heard from them that they’ve received it. I’m a little concerned.”

She has phoned the Jewish Agency often, but said very rarely reaches a person there or has a message returned.

Zalter-Minden, who is semi-retired and worked as an organizational development consultant before the pandemic saw her speaking engagements cancelled, said she hopes to get to Israel either as soon as her immigration status is confirmed, or when the country reopens to visitors.

While some airlines are resuming flights to Israel gradually, currently, only citizens and those coming on aliyah are permitted into the country, Katsman said. On the week of June 9, a flight carrying 50 olim landed in Israel, she said.

“It’s a hard thing to pack yourself up and sell your property and get ready,” especially in the midst of a pandemic, Katsman said.

She predicted that the real bump in aliyah will come in 2021.

David Rotfleisch, a Toronto tax lawyer, had planned to be living in Israel by Rosh Hashanah this year, but he admits that it’s looking unlikely. His decision to make aliyah was not motivated by COVID, but by what he interprets as divine providence.

David Rotfleisch
David Rotfleisch

Last December, he won a raffle for what he thought was an apartment in Jerusalem. It wasn’t exactly that, but he did win a sizeable amount of money to buy a home in Israel.

“I’m religious. To me, this is a direct communication from HaShem that I should be making aliyah and living in Israel,” Rotfleisch said.

He went to Israel to look for an apartment earlier this year, leaving just before the country went into lockdown. He hasn’t been able to return to continue house hunting, and has no idea when it will be safe to fly again.

Rotfleisch, who is self-employed, has been working remotely for years. “I’m just as employed in Israel as I am in Toronto,” he said. But with his paperwork delayed by the temporary closing of the Israeli Embassy, and health concerns about travelling, he is uncertain when he will have the chance to return to Israel.

Publisher Arrested, Not Charged over Antisemitic Content

By RON CSILLAG

The publisher of a Polish-language news outlet in the Toronto area has been arrested for disseminating antisemitic material.

The June 7 arrest followed a complaint filed late last summer by B’nai Brith Canada over anti-Jewish content in Goniec, a Mississauga-based news website and weekly newspaper that also maintains a YouTube channel. The publisher, Andrzej Kumor, was not charged with a crime.

In cases like this, investigators consult and work with the Ontario’s attorney general to determine, on a case-by-case basis, if an offence meets the threshold for charges to be laid under the Criminal Code’s provisions for wilful promotion of hatred.

Police determined that in Kumor’s case, the threshold was not met to allow for prosecution of this offence, Peel Regional Police spokesperson Kyle Villers told the CJR.

Kumor was “cautioned,” however, and the offending material was removed from the website, Villers added.

A criminal lawyer consulted by the CJR said arresting someone but not charging them is rare. In some cases, she said, it’s done to elicit information or to compel the subject to alter his or her behaviour.

Kumor has claimed that “Jews are spying on you” using the WhatsApp cellphone application, B’nai Brith said in a June 11 news release.

Andrzej Kumor
Andrzej Kumor

The publication has spread familiar antisemitic tropes, including that Jewish forces control the governments of the United States and Poland, while a YouTube showed Kumor accusing Jews and Zionists of having “terrorism in their blood,” B’nai Brith pointed out.

“We salute the Peel Regional Police for their diligence in pursuing this matter, and hope that Mr. Kumor has learned his lesson,” said Michael Mostyn, B’nai Brith Canada’s CEO.

In an email exchange with the CJR, Kumor said “it is very unfortunate that I was punished for exercising my Charter rights. I used to consider Canada a free country, with the rule of law.

“As I told officers, the term ‘hate speech’ is vague and broadly defined, and that I really do not know what I can publish. They said that they cannot give me legal advice, but I should stay away from controversies.”

According to B’nai Brith, last October, Kumor ran unsuccessfully for a seat in Poland’s parliament with the far-right Konfederacja (“Confederation”) party. Konfederacja has a long history of antisemitism, the Jewish group noted, with its leader saying in May 2019 that “the American empire here is the political and military tool of Jewish blackmail against Poland.”

The publisher, Andrzej Kumor, was not charged with a crime and not taken into custody.


Ron Csillag
Ron Csillag is editor of the CJR

EDITORIAL: On Spellings, Antisemitism and Free Speech

On June 10, I participated in a panel organized by Ryerson University’s Centre for Free Expression on the subject of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) working definition of the term “antisemitism.”

To be clear, even the spelling used by the IHRA for Jew-hatred was controversial. Customarily, it’s been spelled “anti-Semitism.”

The term itself was coined in the 1860’s by German writer and anti-Jewish agitator Wilhelm Marr as his way of advancing the longstanding hatred of Jews.

As we entered the 20th century, Jew-hatred became endemic and antisemitism inexorably grew to its culmination in Nazi Germany’s attempt to destroy the Jewish people. It almost succeeded; the murder of 6 million Jewish men, women and children represented two-thirds of European Jewry. The near-destruction of European Jewish life became known as the Holocaust or in Hebrew, the “Shoah.”

Following this cataclysmic event, one would have thought that Jew-hatred would have disappeared, or at least diminished, but sadly, this diabolical form of discrimination continued, and even the term coined by Marr became a controversy.

Antisemitism, we were told, meant not the hatred of Jews but the hatred of all Semites – peoples of the Middle East – which was unquestioningly a bastardization of the term, since “peoples of the Middle East” never entered Marr’s mind.

Nonetheless, by the mid-1980s, Jewish organizations including the former Canadian Jewish Congress, advocated for modifying the spelling of the word, excising the hyphen and capitalizing the first letter, to read “Antisemitism.” Many media style guides continue to insist on the old hyphenated spelling (for the record, the CJR spells it without the hyphen).

If that were the only problem, we might find a solution. However, the definition itself has now become a point of controversy. In an attempt to come to grips with a common understanding of Jew-hatred in the 21st century, the IHRA took a definition already constructed by the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia, and developed a new working definition:

“Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of Antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”

Clearly, the definition is uncontroversial, some might say pareve. It has been widely accepted. Along with the working definition come a number of helpful examples to give context. And it is here where serious complications arise, mostly from the far left of the political spectrum.

A number of the examples try to explain how Israel as a Jewish state can become the stand-in for the ugliest stereotypes of Jews. To be clear, there is a specific proviso outlined by the IHRA in its definition stating that “criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as antisemitic.”

Nonetheless, this has not diminished the outcry from groups like Independent Jewish Voices of Canada and others who stand firm in their belief that this definition, coupled with the examples, will both stifle any legitimate criticism of Israel and lead to legal sanctions should anyone even attempt criticism.

And yet, the vast majority of Jewish interest and advocacy groups, from left to the right, including, JSpace Canada (where I sit as a board member), New Israel Fund, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, and B’nai Brith Canada, as well as many others around the world, fully support the IHRA definition. In fact, more than 30 countries have voted in support of the IHRA definition, including Canada, the UK and many Western European nations.

As we move forward with the IHRA definition, we must all show increased care not to allow the criticisms of those who reject the wording to bear fruit. Many progressive Jews have legitimate, serious concerns about some policies of the State of Israel, and we all must be free to voice those differences. But at the same time, it is important for the naysayers to understand that the vast majority of Jews worldwide have embraced the IHRA’s definition and they too have a voice – perhaps the most important voice of all.


Bernie Farber
Bernie Farber

Bernie Farber is the publisher of the CJR and presently the chair of the Canadian Anti-Hate Network.  He is recognized internationally as an advocate on human and civil rights. Mr. Farber has led various social justice organizations, including Canadian Jewish Congress and the Mosaic Institute. 

Jews of Colour Ponder Racism – and Solutions

It was billed as an “Evening of Deep Listening” – a panel of Jews of colour, each with different perspectives on how to combat racism “with/in the Jewish community.”

The June 8 virtual event, presented by the Toronto Board of Rabbis and Jews of Colour Canada, came at an especially sensitive time given events in the United States surrounding the death of George Floyd and the revitalization of the Black Lives Matter movement.

“When I say Black lives matter, I’m talking about a basic sense of dignity and respect,” said panel moderator Emery Warner, who described himself as “a proud Jew and a proud Black man.”

Panelist Tyler Samuels, a student leader at the University of Toronto’s Hillel and a director of Jews of Colour Canada, confessed to feeling “immense sadness” during this time.

He said he has seen, for the past decade, young Black people being killed by police, with limited support, until now.

Panelist Tema Smith, a diversity advocate, writer, and Jewish community activist, said her stress is off the charts and that she has not been eating or sleeping well in recent days.

Rivka Campbell, co-founder of Jews of Colour Canada, said she usually thinks, “oh, here we go again” when it comes to police brutality, but “this time [it] felt different… it was like a dam broke.”

An Evening of Deep Listening

The conversation shifted to how mainstream Jewish society feels about non-white Jews.

Smith said white Jews tend to treat Jews of colour as “others,” with questions like “what brings you here?”

Campbell said she feels that sometimes, the questions may be innocent, but they still makes her and other Jews of colour feel “other-ed” every time they walk into a Jewish space and are asked what they are doing there.

Samuels said he feels uncomfortable when people ask about his presence in a Jewish space, and avoids those situations. “It’s emotional labour you don’t want.”

He continued: “At the end of the day, white Jews can present as white and no one will know they’re Jewish. But for Black Jews, we have to present ourselves as Jews to get respect from our community, but also we can’t change our skin colour.

[White Jews] don’t have the fear of being arrested by police for no reason… [White Jews] have white privilege. We need to recognize that. Black Jews have to defend ourselves. I don’t want that. I want a united front,” Samuels said.

Said Smith, “Jews and whiteness is not a simple history… Whiteness has shifted… There is a discomfort of feeling like we are being lumped with a group of people that have tried to kill us.”

Speakers noted the importance of Jewish diversity education, which they said needs a lot of work in order to build bridges between White Jews and Jews of colour.

The panel was co-presented by Hillel Ontario, UJA-Federation of Greater Toronto, the Downtown Jewish Community Council, Miles Nadal JCC, Schwartz-Reisman JCC, and Prosserman JCC.

– With files from Mara Bosloy

Kvetching and 20/20 Hindsight: Parshat Beha’alotecha

By ILANA KRYGIER LAPIDES

In the opening scene of Annie Hall, Woody Allen’s highly-strung character Alvy Singer jokes about two elderly Jews having dinner at a resort. One turns to the other and says, “Boy, the food here is really terrible.” The other answers, “And the portions are so small!”

We Jews have a reputation for kvetching, and nowhere is that more apparent than in this week’s parsha, Beha’alotecha.

The Israelites have kvetched in the desert before. Following the Exodus, they cried, “You have brought us out here into this desert to make us all die from hunger.” (Exodus 16:3). Moses advocated for his people and G-d sent manna.

This time, the kvetching is different. It happens, not because the people are hungry, but because they are bored. “…the children of Israel once again began to cry, and they said, ‘Who will feed us meat?”’ (11:4)

As the story progresses, G-d is unimpressed. G-d promises to provide meat until it is, literally, coming out of their noses (11:20). With the meat “still between their teeth,” many Israelites are struck by a plague and the most egregious offenders are killed.

It’s not such a mystery where the chutzpah to complain comes from. Our people have a proud history of creating systems designed to work better than before. The entire Talmud is filled with arguments around how to make Judaism and the world better.

As Rabbi Jonathan Saks says, “Judaism is a faith for those who seek to change the world… (it)is a protest against the world that is in the name of the world that ought to be…to make a difference, to change lives for the better, to heal some of the scars of our fractured world.”

The most baffling part of the parsha is not the complaining, but that, as justification for wanting to have a more diverse diet, the Hebrews hark back to when they were slaves: “We remember the fish that we ate in Egypt free of charge…” (11:5). Are the Israelites really saying that they would trade their freedom for fish?

We have to remember that for centuries, these people were slaves. Being a slave is a little like being a child: You don’t have much power but the basics are provided for you. In contrast, being a free adult is accompanied by great responsibility. It can be scary and exhausting. As adults we often yearn for the simplicity of childhood. We refer to years past as the “good old days.” We forget that childhood is chock full of its own difficulties, anxiety and fears.

All the more so when we speak of society. It may seem that 50 years ago, things were better. We remember a simpler, sweeter, more wholesome time. We forget it was also a time of bitter turmoil: Wars, racism, crime, sexism. For some, just being who they were was a criminal offence. Our memories are precious but sometimes they fool us and paint the past with sentimentality.

In our world today, there are some systems that are still not working and we struggle to come to terms with that. It is tempting to stay in innocence, to live, as they say, with the devil you know. But that is not a full life. A life stuck in nostalgia is stunted, cowardly, and ultimately will rot. The solution is not just to yearn for times past, but to face forward with a brave heart; to strive for justice, have faith, and continue our difficult journey toward the Promised Land.


Ilana Krygier Lapides
Ilana Krygier Lapides

Ilana Krygier Lapides is a Jewish educator and storyteller. She is currently attending rabbinic school at the Jewish Spiritual Leaders Institute and will be ordained in June 2021.

Annamie Paul Seeks to Make History as Green Party Leader

By STEVE ARNOLD

Annamie Paul wants to make Canadian political history as the first Black Jewish woman to lead a federal political party.

The Toronto lawyer and international affairs expert has joined six other candidates in the race to succeed Elizabeth May as leader of the federal Green Party.

Paul, 47, told the CJR that she joined the Green Party because she feels its core values – ecological awareness, non-violence, social justice, sustainability, participatory democracy and respect for diversity – best reflect her Jewish beliefs.

Annamie Paul

“I’ve spent a lot of time over the years thinking about what makes good public policy,” she said in an interview. “When I think about my life as a Jewish woman, these are the ideas that have guided me.”

Paul finds particular reflections of Jewish values in the party’s commitment to social and economic justice and environmental sustainability.

“It is a very Jewish idea that when you save a life, you save an entire world,” she said. “These are values that show a profound respect for human life.”

The Green Party’s relationship with Canada’s Jewish community was strained in August 2016, when the party passed a resolution supporting “Palestinian self-determination and the movement for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS).” As a result, May said she was seriously considering resigning as party leader.

Later that year, the party revised the policy to support “only non-violent responses to violence and oppression, including economic measures such as government sanctions, consumer boycotts, institutional divestment, economic sanctions and arms embargoes.” It also supported a ban on importing products from “illegal Israeli settlements.”

Paul would not say whether she endorses that position, only that she continues to advocate for dialogue “as the preferred means for the resolution of the conflict.”

She said she supports a two-state solution in the Israel-Palestine conflict, opposes Israel’s plan to annex parts of the West Bank, and feels dialogue is the only solution to the strife that has marked that part of the world.

Underlying all of her positions is her feeling, based on years of international relations work, that open dialogue is the only way to settle deep-seated conflicts. These would include the 50-year struggle in Colombia, the genocide in Rwanda, and the decades-long Troubles between Roman Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland.

“All the evidence is clear that lasting peace anywhere is most likely to be achieved through dialogue than through open conflict,” she said. “The conflict in Colombia was the longest conflict in the Americas and no one ever thought it would end, but they have a peace deal today.”

For Paul, the same idea applies to the question of Middle Eastern terrorism. Acts of violence, she said, have been committed by both sides.

“There has been violence in both directions. This is not a one-sided conflict,” she added. “Around the world bitter, bitter enemies have eventually sat down around the table to discuss their differences. Israel must do everything it can to support those opportunities for dialogue.

“It is not easy and can take a lot of time, but it is what works most of the time,” she continued. “We have to just keep working and working and leave as many doors open as possible.”

Israel’s current annexation proposal, she added, is especially troubling because she sees it as a violation of international law that will only inflame passions.

“This is wrong if we believe in a rule-based international order,” she said. “It would be an illegal annexation and counter-productive to efforts to move toward a peaceful solution, in that region.”

Paul said she sees signs of change in Canada’s political landscape that may indicate the country is ready for new ideas – the kind that could come from a Black, Jewish prime minister.

“I think this country has been ready for some time to elect more diverse politicians,” she said. “I think minorities are as electable today as white men when they run for the right parties and the right areas.”

In addition to her law degree from the University of Ottawa, Paul has a Master of Public Affairs from Princeton University. Her professional experience includes working in global conflict prevention, the International Criminal Court, and Canada’s mission to the European Union. She speaks English, French, Catalan and Spanish.

Her mother and grandmother both worked as live-in domestics – “the main job Black women could get at the time” – until they could reclaim their professions of teaching and nursing.

Paul’s husband is Jewish and she underwent an Orthodox conversion 20 years ago after deciding they wanted a Jewish life. The couple have two teenaged sons.

The new Green Party leader will be chosen through on-line and mail-in voting Sept. 26-Oct. 3. The winner will be announced Oct. 4 at a party convention in Charlottetown.

There has not been a Jewish leader of a federal political party since David Lewis led the NDP from 1971 to 1975.

Food Celebrities Showcase Delis, Israeli Fare at Jewish Food Fest

By BARBARA SILVERSTEIN

The Great Big Jewish Food Fest, a 10-day virtual lineup of free programming celebrating Jewish cuisine, ran May 19-May 28. Jewish chefs and food personalities led a variety of cooking classes and hosted discussions on Jewish food and culinary traditions.

Two of the events featured Canadian food personalities: Toronto-based writer David Sax, author of Save-the-Deli, and television cooking show host Gail Simmons.

Sax’s event kicked off the festival. He interviewed delicatessen owners from New York City, Chicago, Houston, San Francisco and Portland, Ore. about the impact of COVID on their restaurants.

The owners were all candid. Business is definitely down, but take-out orders and catering, they said, are sustaining them.

Toronto-born Simmons, a trained culinary expert, is best known for her role as a judge on Bravo’s Emmy-winning series, Top Chef. In addition, she was the host of Iron Chef Canada this year. She lives in New York City, where she is also a food columnist and cookbook author.

For the food fest, she hosted a Shabbat dinner event with cookbook author Adeena Sussman, and chefs and restaurateurs Michael Solomonov and Einat Admony. The presenters prepared different courses for a Shabbat dinner.

Within the last year or two, Solomonov, Admony, and Sussman, have all released cookbooks featuring Israeli cuisine.

Simmons introduced Solomonov, a James Beard Award-winning chef, author and restaurateur, as the “Hummus King.” His recipe for 5-Minute Hummus comes from his latest cookbook, Israeli Soul.

The recipe for hummus pitryot, a hummus and mushroom dish, is from his award-winning cookbook Zahav: A World of Israeli Cooking.

Admony, the owner of several New York City restaurants, prepared Braised Chicken with Olives and Citrus. This recipe can be found in Shuk: From Market to Table, The Heart of Israeli Home Cooking.

The recipes for Sussman’s side dishes, Jeweled Rice and Tahini-Glazed Carrots, are from Sababa: Fresh Sunny Flavors from My Israeli Kitchen.

The festival uploaded the recipes of many of the presenters on the event page at https://www.jewishfoodfest.org/recipes so that participants could buy the ingredients in advance, and cook along at the various events.

CJR readers can directly download Solomonov’s, Admony’s and Sussman’s recipes at http://canadianjewishrecord.ca/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/90997-friday_1pm_great_shabbat_cook_along.pdf

Copyright restrictions prevent Sussman’s and Admony’s recipes from being reproduced here. However, the publisher of Shuk sent me another one of Admony’s chicken recipes, Dorot Wot: Ethiopian Chicken, which we are authorized to publish.

Shuk Doro Wot
Shuk Doro Wot (Photo: Quentin Bacon)

Solomonov has garnered six James Beard Awards, the most prestigious culinary honour in the United States.

Last year, his Israeli-style restaurant Zahav, in Philadelphia, was named best American restaurant.

Solomonov was in Toronto about a year ago to do a culinary event for the Jerusalem Foundation of Canada. At the time he generously gave me permission to reprint any of his recipes.

With COVID, however, Zahav and the other 15 restaurants he co-owns with Cook have all been operating at a limited capacity.

5-MINUTE HUMMUS WITH QUICK TEHINA SAUCE (Israeli Soul)

Tehina Sauce

1 garlic clove 
1-16-ounce (500 g) jar tahini
Juice of 1 lemon 
1 tsp (5 ml) ground cumin
1 tbsp (15 ml) kosher salt
1–1½ cups (250 – 375 ml) ice water

Hummus 

2 19-ounce (540 ml) cans chickpeas

Basic Tehina Sauce: Nick off a piece of the garlic (about a quarter of the clove) and drop it into the bowl of a food processor. Squeeze the lemon juice into the bowl. Pour the tehina on top, making sure to scrape it all out of the container, and add the cumin and salt.

Process until the mixture looks peanut buttery, about one minute, then stream in the ice water a little at a time with the motor running. Process until the mixture is smooth and creamy and lightens to the colour of dry sand. 

Hummus: Add the chickpeas to the tehina sauce and process for about 3 minutes, scraping the sides of the bowl as you go, until the chickpeas are completely processed and the hummus is smooth and uniform in colour.

HUMMUS PITRYOT (Zahav) 

1½ cups (375 ml) Hen-of-the-Woods mushrooms
2 slivered garlic cloves
2 tbsp (30 ml) canola oil
1 tbsp (15 ml) fresh dill 
Olive oil for serving
Chopped parsley for garnish

Break up the mushrooms into 1– 2-inch pieces. Place the oil on the bottom of a large skillet and heat over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms along with the garlic. 

Cook, stirring until the mushrooms are brown and crisp, about 8 minutes. Add the dill and toss. 

Serve over Hummus-Tehina and top with chopped fresh parsley, paprika and olive oil.

DOROT WOT: ETHIOPIAN CHICKEN (Shuk)

2 tbsp (30 ml) kosher salt, divided
6 bone-in, skin-on chicken legs, separated into thighs and drumsticks 
1 tbsp (15 ml) lemon juice
¼ cup (60 ml) canola oil 
2 large onions, finely diced or chopped
3 garlic cloves, smashed
1 tsp (5ml) ground cumin
1 tsp (5ml) ground ginger
1 tsp (5ml) ground cardamom
1 tsp (5ml) ground turmeric
1 tsp (5ml) paprika
1 tsp (5ml) ground fenugreek seed or leaf
1 tsp (5ml) freshly ground black pepper, plus more as needed
6 hard-boiled eggs, peeled
2¼ cups (560 ml) homemade or low-sodium store-bought chicken stock or water
Additional salt to taste for seasoning
Pepper to taste for seasoning

Rub the chicken with the lemon juice and 1 tbsp salt and let it sit for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the oil over medium heat in a heavy-based wide skillet or Dutch oven (large enough to hold the chicken in one snug layer). Add the onions and the remaining tbsp of salt, and sauté gently until fragrant, golden brown, and sweet, about 20 minutes. Do not let the onions brown. 

Add the garlic, cumin, ginger, cardamom, turmeric, paprika, fenugreek, and pepper and stir for a minute so the spices bloom in the oil. Nestle the chicken pieces and the eggs into the pan and pour in the broth. 

Cover the pan and adjust the heat to a solid simmer. Cook for about 30 minutes. Then remove the lid so the sauce will reduce and thicken a bit and continue to simmer another 45 – 60 minutes, until the chicken is very tender when poked with a knife and the juices run clear, or until the thickest part of the thigh or drumstick reaches 165°F (74°C) on an instant-read thermometer. 

Taste and adjust with more salt or pepper. Serve with flat bread or rice to mop up the sauce. Makes 6–8 servings.

Ontario Synagogues in No Hurry to Reopen

By STEVE ARNOLD

Synagogues around Ontario are not rushing to reopen their sanctuaries despite a provincial action to loosen COVID restrictions.

On Monday, Queen’s Park announced that effective Friday (June 12), places of worship would be permitted to hold services in their sanctuaries for up to 30 per cent of the hall’s capacity.

In addition, the limit on the number of people at social gatherings has been increased from five to 10.

Illustration by Irv Osterer

In a news release, the multi-denominational Toronto Board of Rabbis said it’s too soon to throw open the doors of temples and synagogues.

“We have seen remarkable innovation, creativity, and loving kindness from the individuals and institutions of the Toronto Jewish community, which have risen to meet this moment,” the TBR said. “The time has not yet arrived when we can welcome each and every person back into our communal spaces.”

The board added “(W)e reaffirm the need for patience and caution as we each consider plans for reopening our in-person synagogue and communal functions. As we begin to reopen and return to our holy spaces, we must be guided by the recommendations of public health officials.

“We do not advocate to expedite the reopening of congregations, religious schools, and other Jewish community gathering places beyond what is recommended,” the group went on. “Our gatherings, once allowed, will continue to be subject to public health restrictions, and we commit to abide by those conditions for as long as they are in force.”

In an email exchange, Rabbi Asher Vale of the Vaad Harabonim, said the group is happy with the provincial decision to ease restrictions. He said individual rabbis and congregations will now decide how best to implement the new rules.

In Hamilton, rabbis of the city’s Reform and Conservative congregations said they have no plans to hold services in their sanctuaries despite the loosened restrictions.

“We have no plans to reopen at the moment,” said Rabbi Hillel Lavery-Yisraeli of the Conservative Beth Jacob congregation. “We were very surprised by Ford’s announcement and worry that it is way too premature. We are not comfortable reopening until we are absolutely convinced that it’s safe to do so.”

Rabbi Jordan Cohen of Temple Anshe Sholom, Canada’s first and oldest Reform congregation, said any reopening there will be based on the Jewish imperative to preserve life and health above all.

For him, the bigger issue is not when can sanctuaries reopen, but what are services going to look like when that happens.

Most likely, he said, congregants would have to be met at the doors of the temple by attendants dispensing hand sanitizer and face masks, along with instructions to stay six feet apart. There would be no oneg Shabbat social gathering or time to chat after services. The temple’s choir would also remain silenced.

“The entire service would be me talking from behind a mask and everyone else offering their own private prayers from behind their own masks,” Rabbi Cohen said. “For our congregation, that would be a grossly unsatisfying experience.”

Rather than rushing to restart in-person services, Rabbi Cohen said rabbis are grappling with what to do for the High Holidays this autumn.

The working assumption, he said, is that most COVID restrictions will not be lifted by September, so plans are being developed now for online services with, possibly, such in-person elements as tashlich (the prayer ceremony recited during the Days of Awe alongside a body of running water) and “drive-by or drive-up” shofar blowing.

“We are really having to rebuild services from the ground up and think outside the box,” said Rabbi Cohen. “We have to balance the health of the community and the integrity of our traditions. It’s a day-by-day thing right now.”

More enthusiasm for the easing of restrictions was expressed by B’nai Brith Canada, which has argued, along with a group of Orthodox rabbis, that restrictions infringed on religious freedom.

“Full Jewish prayer services require the presence of at least 10 people, and traditional Jews cannot use drive-ins, Zoom or other electronic platforms to facilitate services on the Sabbath or holidays,” B’nai Brith said in a news release.

“We are pleased and relieved that Ontario’s leaders have listened to the reasonable concerns of their constituents, including the requests of the province’s grassroots Jewish community,” B’nai Brith chief executive officer Michael Mostyn stated.

 “While caution is still warranted given the current health threats, there is no reason to prevent small, carefully organized prayer services from taking place — especially when much larger gatherings were already permitted for non-religious purposes.”

Book Provides Prescription For Israeli-Palestinian Peace

The War of Return, How Western Indulgence of the Palestinian Dream has Obstructed the Path to Peace
Written by Adi Schwartz and Einat Wilf
Translated into English by Eylon Levi
English translation published in 2020 by St. Martin’s Publishing Group, New York, NY

By DAVID ROYTENBERG

Why doesn’t Israel have peace?  The War of Return, written by two veterans of the failed Oslo peace process, offers an unorthodox answer.  It is an important book about a question constantly discussed in the media, in international fora, in universities and around many Jewish dinner tables.  Acrimony over this question bedevils North American Jewish communities. 

The book identifies a fundamental problem which has thwarted all progress toward peace and provides a prescription for beginning to address it.

 “The Palestinian demand to ‘return’ to what became the sovereign State of Israel in 1948 stands as a testament to the Palestinian rejection of the legitimacy of a state for the Jews in any part of their ancestral homeland,” the authors, Adi Schwartz and Einat Wilf, write. “Practically nothing could be understood about the Palestinian position in the peace process and the conflict itself – and no effective steps could be taken towards its resolution – without delving deeply into this issue.”

In short, the belief in a Palestinian “right of return” is the key obstacle to resolving the conflict.

To make their case, the authors look at the 1948 war, in which Palestinian Arabs and the neighbouring states tried to prevent the establishment of Israel by force of arms.  They look at the aftermath of the war, in which 750,000 Arabs lost their homes, and how the Palestinian refugees were treated by the international community and by their countries of refuge.  

The authors compare the Palestinians with a similar group who lost their homes as a result of war, the 10 million ethnic Germans expelled from Czechoslovakia and the former German territories annexed to Poland.  They compare a successful strategy, which solved the German refugee problem, with the failed strategy which perpetuated and exacerbated the Palestinian refugee problem.

This failure is the story of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), created as a temporary agency to resolve the refugee problem, and modeled on similar agencies that resolved refugee problems in other parts of the world.  

Unlike other temporary refugee rehabilitation agencies, UNRWA was systematically prevented from fulfilling its mandate by the Arab countries where it operated.  In 10 years almost no Palestinian refugee was resettled.  This was part of a strategy to perpetuate the 1948 conflict by other means.  Western nations shied away from taking a firm stand for fear of alienating the governments of the Arab states.  

After 10 years of futility, UNRWA ceased even to pretend to fulfil its mandate, and instead turned to providing health and educational services to registered Palestinian refugees.  Moreover, UNRWA extended refugee status to the children of Palestinian refugees, ensuring that rather than solving the refugee problem, it would only grow larger.

In throwing in the towel on UNRWA’s mandate while continuing to fund it, the western powers convinced themselves that funding UNRWA and providing social support to the growing number of Palestinian refugees was better than winding it up and leaving them to be supported by the countries of refuge.  

The authors make a compelling case that this was a serious mistake.  The UN-sponsored and western -funded UNRWA schools became the crucible of a Palestinian identity rooted in the belief that the existence of the State of Israel was an intolerable injustice which they were duty bound to correct.  In due course the children brought up in this system became the foot soldiers and leaders in a terrorist campaign to reverse the results of the 1948 war and undo the existence of Israel.  Thus UNRWA, a UN- sponsored entity, became a strong factor in perpetuating the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Turning to the present, the authors describe an UNRWA which is controlled by the Palestinian refugees and which continues to promote both the “right of return” and the inevitable liberation of all of Palestine.  This is an ideology which is incompatible with the UN charter and with the two-state solution, the express policy of the western states which still provide most UNRWA funding.  They make a compelling case that putting an end to UNRWA is a necessary first step to opening up the possibility of peace.

The final section of the book offers a sector-by-sector examination of UNRWA’s present activities and proposes a strategy in which UNRWA can be abolished without harming the Palestinian Arabs who still depend on it for health, education and welfare.  

A problem whose causes are unrecognized is unlikely to be solved.   A problem for which the cause is incorrectly identified is as likely as not to be tackled with inappropriate strategies, which may exacerbate it rather than fix it.  The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is an example of a conflict in which decades of diplomacy have failed to correctly address the cause of the problem.  It is not surprising then that we are no closer to solving it than we were in 1949.  

The authors of this book have made a compelling argument which points us in the right direction, so that future efforts may have a greater chance of success than the efforts of the past 70 years.  I heartily recommend it to any reader concerned about the future well-being of Israel and the Palestinians.


David Roytenberg
David Roytenberg

David Roytenberg is a computer consultant living in Ottawa.  He is secretary of MERCAZ Canada and chair of adult education at Kehillat Beth Israel congregation.

BLOCK: Questioning Our Own Attitudes, Whether at York or Concordia

By STEPHEN BLOCK

An independent report by Justice Thomas Cromwell on a violent confrontation that took place at York University on Nov. 20, 2019 was well described in the CJR edition of June 2. On that date last autumn, Students Against Israeli Apartheid (SAIA) disrupted an event organized by Herut Canada in which Herut had invited Israel Defense Forces reservists to speak. Both clubs were sanctioned by York. The altercation was indeed very violent, with both sides expressing concern for physical safety.

Cromwell noted that “especially in the United States, universities have been exploited by controversial speakers who see the schools as prestigious and inexpensive venues.”

This is not a new phenomenon. Concordia University faced a seemingly similar situation when Benjamin Netanyahu was to deliver a speech sponsored by Hillel Concordia on Sept. 9, 2002. I was present at that event and can offer some context.

I was also in Israel in March 1996, a few months after Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated. It was common knowledge then that Netanyahu had done what he could to incite people to oppose the accord that Rabin was to sign with Yasser Arafat. Netanyahu and right-wing conservatives saw the Oslo Accords as a giveaway to Israel’s enemies. Netanyahu himself said that Rabin’s government was “removed from Jewish tradition…and values.”

In plain language, they were not real Jews.

The anti-Rabin, anti-peace rallies were ubiquitous throughout Israel. Labour was compared to Nazis; Rabin portrayed in the crosshairs of a gun, in a coffin, or a hangman’s noose, was compared to Hitler.

If we are to openly discuss hate speech directed at Jews, can we put such events on the table as well?

Hillel’s invitation to Netanyahu seemed like tacit support – a political statement. Clearly, it was seen as – let’s say – provocative. To be fair to Hillel, the group subsequently seemed to have changed its views and adopted a more inclusive approach.

The situation at York was quite different. Held some 17 years after the Concordia incident, there isn’t much question about Herut’s position here. Herut, or the “freedom” party, is not devoid of controversy. Founded in 1948 as a right-wing nationalist political party, it was denounced at the time by prominent Jews, mainly on the left, as “fascist,” even “terrorist.” Herut was mainstreamed when it merged with the Likud party in 1988.

And what of the Jewish Defence League, which was asked by Herut to provide “security” at the York event? The JDL has been characterized as a violent, anti-Arab Jewish nationalist organization. Following an internal review, York banned the Canadian director of the JDL from its campuses.

Defending Herut’s right to hold such an event should pose a special problem for Jews, not just for York. The question of religious-based campus organizations itself requires some focus. We are living in a world where we see the rise of religious nationalism, be it Muslim, Christian or Jewish, and now Hindu. Encouraging students to congregate among their own exclusively may be at the heart of the question, the result of which we only see when it breaks out into open conflict.

Where I work, we have an annual Trip for Tolerance, where students of any persuasion or background make a trip to a Holocaust memorial museum. But it is never meant to be “weaponized,” as Americans would say, merely to call out antisemitism. 

On the matter of the IDF, I found my own family in Israel divided, post-1967. One cousin spoke only of the need for security, and of anti-war proponents as “naive.” On the other side, my kibbutznik relatives decried the militarization of Israel, and that they were told to spy on their Arab neighbours with whom they used to share the tilling of the soil.

We are not in Israel. We can afford a broader perspective, one that examines our own attitudes and questions the behaviour of those who claim to represent us, or speak on our behalf.

We as Jews know all too well that right-wing extremist organizations invoke “freedom” as their primary interest and decry the limiting of their speech or behavior, or both. As Jews, we need to apply that same test to our own.


Stephen Block
Stephen Block

Stephen Block teaches political philosophy and Propaganda Studies at Vanier College in Montreal. Brought up in a Zionist tradition, he has turned his attention to Middle East peace advocacy.

Synagogue Vandalism Likely Not Antisemitic, Groups Say

What was first described as a desecration of a Montreal-area synagogue was likely not motivated by anti-Semitism, Jewish groups now say.

Just before the Shavuot holiday, B’nai Brith Canada decried the discovery of prayers shawls and torn Torah scrolls strewn on the floor of Sepharade Kol Yehouda, a small Sephardi synagogue in Cote Saint-Luc,Que., as one of the worst shul desecrations in memory. The vandalism generated headlines worldwide.

B’nai Brith said religious items had been “stuffed into toilets,” and it called the act “one of the worst such incidents to take place in Canada in years.”

Sepharade Kol Yehouda synagogue, Cote Saint-Luc, Quebec. Photo credit: B’nai Brith

David Birnbaum, the Liberal MNA for the D’Arcy-McGee riding that includes CoteSaint-Luc, called the incident “a disgusting, cowardly and hurtful act of vandalism. Iexpect that police will make every effort to catch the hateful jerk who perpetrated this act.”

After consulting with police, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs issued a statement on June 5 saying that “preliminary reports”indicate the synagogue “was not specifically targeted as a Jewish institution.”

CIJA noted that the congregation, located in a private home, is not visibly identified from the exterior as a synagogue and is a few doors away from one of Cote Saint-Luc’s largest synagogues.

“While it is painful and unacceptable to experience any sort of vandalism to a synagogue and to sacred objects, this criminal act appears to be case of breaking and entering. We have every confidence that [police] are doing their utmost to find those behind this incident,” said Federation CJA CEO Yair Szlak.

“To date, there are no indications or telltale signs of a crime motivated by anti-Semitism,” Szlak said.

Damage was reportedly limited to the kitchen, with none in the synagogue’s sanctuary. Initial reports said the synagogue had been ransacked.

Sepharade Kol Yehouda synagogue, Cote Saint-Luc, Quebec. Photo credit: B’nai Brith

Graffiti scrawled on the walls in the congregation were found to be meaningless.

“Damage inside a place of worship and to ritual items always tugs at our heartstrings, but we must be guided by the facts. To date there are no indications or tell-tale signs of a crime or act of vandalism motivated by antisemitism. We will continue to work with [police] and our partners at Federation CJA to ensure that the truth comes to light,” added Eta Yudin, Quebec CIJA vice-president.

“Our little synagogue is very dear to our congregation and we were heartbroken to discover this damage,” said Daniel Amar of the Kol Yehouda synagogue.

“Thanks to the investigation of [police] and the support of Federation CJA, we now understand that the incident was likely a case of opportunistic breaking and entering.”

It is still not known when the break-in occurred since the synagogue has been closed for months due to COVID.

– CJR Staff

BREAKING: Ontario Lifts Restrictions on Houses of Worship

Ontario has announced it is easing restrictions on group prayer.

As of Friday, Ontarians will be allowed to gather in groups of 10 – up from the five – and places of worship will be allowed to reopen. However, with physical distancing measures in place, houses of worship will be limited to no more than 30 per cent capacity.

Other provinces, such as British Columbia and Alberta, have allowed religious gatherings of up to 50 people so long as physical distancing is maintained.

The CJR is following this development in Ontario and will expand its coverage as details and reactions emerge.

Obese Sex Worker Subject of Poetry Collection by Ruth Panofsky

By RUTH SCHWEITZER

Ruth Panofsky’s latest poems revisit the world of Hoda, an obese Jewish sex worker and the protagonist of Canadian author Adele Wiseman’s 1974 novel Crackpot.

Panofsky, a Wiseman scholar, has produced a powerful first-person account of Hoda’s story in Radiant Shards: Hoda’s North End Poems, based on the Wiseman novel set in Winnipeg’s North End from 1910 until after World War II. Panofsky’s book includes historical photographs of the North End.

Radiant Shards panofsky

Hoda is earthy, bawdy, vulnerable and big-hearted, and stands out because of her big, bold personality. “Hoda demands that her voice get heard. That’s why I felt so compelled to write in the voice that I imagined for her,” Panofsky told the CJR.

The language of Radiant Shards (Inanna Publications) is contemporary, bringing Hoda’s story forward into the present. In the novel, Wiseman’s use of English is archaic, influenced by Yiddish, her first language. 

As someone who’s struggled with her own body image, Panofsky said she admired Hoda for the easy way she inhabits her gargantuan body.

“I was heartened by Hoda in that her body was a source of pleasure,” said Panofsky, an English professor at Toronto’s Ryerson University. “She also took pleasure in her work, which is a radical revisioning of how the sex worker usually is presented.”

Hoda’s parents are poor Russian-Jewish immigrants living in a shack in the North End, a haven for Russian Jews who escaped pogroms.

Hoda’s mother, Rokhl, is humpbacked, and her father, Danile, is blind. Rokhl cleans houses to support her family, taking the infant Hoda with her to work. She feeds Hoda to keep her quiet, and Hoda becomes an overweight youngster other children torment.

Along with putting up with the young bullies in her neighbourhood, Hoda is faced with antisemitism at school.

“Wiseman’s story builds on stories I heard from my own parents growing up, about how teachers in the public school system would humiliate their Jewish students,” Panofsky related. “She (Hoda) was bullied by teachers because they were so dismissive of her as the ‘other.’”

When Hoda’s mother dies of cancer, the family’s source of income disappears. Her father’s Uncle Nate wants to leave Hoda at the Jewish orphanage and put Danile into the old folks’ home, but Hoda and Danile refuse to be separated. To support her father, Hoda becomes a sex worker, servicing the boys and men in her community.

Hoda and another sex worker offer their services in downtown Winnipeg, where they think the money will be better, but after being badly beaten, Hoda returns to the safety of the North End, never to leave. 

“Hoda’s community eventually comes to accept her and embrace her. She provides a need for the community, but the community also protects her. They have a complicated relationship with Hoda,” Panofsky said.

Unaware she’s pregnant, Hoda gives birth to a son, David, who’s raised in an orphanage without knowing his mother. The first time David meets his mother is as one of her clients.

Wiseman’s Crackpot was rejected by publishers at least 27 times.

“That’s because of the profoundly difficult subject of incest that is at the core of it,” Panofsky said. “She is protecting him by not revealing herself to be his mother, and then continues having him as a client because she understands if she is to turn him away, she’ll destroy him. So she decides to take that trauma onto herself and protect the boy.”

Panofsky said she finds Hoda’s capacity to remain loving and kind in the face of the most profound traumas uplifting.

“I was heartened by the fact that she could go through what she went through and still survive,” she added.

Ruth Panofsky
Ruth Panofsky

Panofsky won the Helen and Stan Vine Canadian Jewish Book Award for her 2007 book, Laike and Nahum: A Poem in Two Voices. Radiant Shards won a Hadassah-Brandeis Institute Research Award in 2018 under the working title Flesh and Bones: Hoda’s North End Poems.

To see and hear Ruth Panofsky read from Radiant Shards, visit:

www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y5n9cLs1pig&list=PL6I2JU-W6PEcWN92pTB3NLcP5Kz1YGFlu&index=2&t=0s&fbclid=IwAR1Qn6rTObJdE6BO_l4YjObrW6jmEvi5nwL_IKWPL-9Ad8-R8jT1yiUpbKQ