Will the Second Generation Rise to the Occasion?

July 15, 2020 – By RUTH SCHWEITZER

Montreal filmmakers Max Beer and Deena Dlusy-Apel have noticed that as the years pass, fewer and fewer Holocaust survivors attend Yom HaShoah commemorations.

Deena Dlusy-Apel
Deena Dlusy-Apel

When the children of survivors are asked to rise at commemorations, their numbers are far greater than those of their parents.

At one commemoration, Paul Herczeg, who survived Auschwitz, asked the second generation to help keep the memory of the Holocaust alive. 

Beer and Dlusy-Apel responded to Herczeg’s appeal by interviewing children of survivors, the subject of their latest documentary, Will the Second Generation Please Rise: Children of Holocaust Survivors. 

The filmmakers interviewed 32 children of survivors, in small groups, during six sessions. Several participants are artists or writers, and one is a filmmaker. The documentary includes visits to their studios, prose and poetry readings, and a film clip. 

Max Beer
Max Beer

Members of the second generation are shown remembering their psychologically scarred parents: A father who wakes the household screaming; having nightmares about being back in the camps; and families at emotional holiday gatherings, wailing because their murdered sisters and brothers are absent.

Participants spoke about their lack of extended family – grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins – or even photographs of family members who perished.

Ruth Dunsky said she was the envy of her friends – mostly other children of Holocaust survivors – because one of her grandmothers had survived. She remembers a lot of tension at home, and attributes some of it to the pain adults in her household were dealing with.

Some of the documentary’s participants said their parents never or rarely talked about the Holocaust, but Dunsky’s father was voluble. “My father spoke a lot about the past. He basically lived in the past,” she says in the documentary.

Zosia Romisher Rosenberg, who was born in Germany and lived there for 23 years, says her friends were other children of Holocaust survivors. Her parents forbade her from bringing home children with German surnames.

Asked to comment on their feelings about modern-day Germany, the consensus among participants seems to be that although they’re satisfied with how it has tried to come to terms with its past, they have a visceral response to the country.

Traumatized survivors sometimes asked their young children to be intermediaries to the outside world for them. Some parents dreaded answering the phone and asked their children to do it for them. 

Michael Rosenberg remembers his father once wanted him to phone someone for him to relay his condolences on a death. After much persuasion, his Dad made the call, but with great reluctance, Rosenberg says in the documentary.

Will the Second Generation Please Rise includes a segment about the work of Rachel Yehuda, a professor of psychiatry and neuroscience who has studied children of Holocaust survivors. Yehuda is director of the traumatic stress studies division at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine. 

The Guardian described her work as the “clearest example in humans of the transmission to a child via what is called epi-genetic inheritance – the idea that environmental influences such as stress can affect the genes of your children and possibly even your grandchildren.”

In the documentary, Sophia Wolkowicz says she believes the experiences of our parents are carried in some parts of our bodies, and we remember them in ways we’re not aware.

One of Wolkowicz’s paintings, based on her first memory, depicts a night-time forest scene. A man hides behind a tree and in the foreground there’s another man with a rifle. His stance is casual, which Wolkowicz says is a comment on the casual stance taken by people who were murdering civilians during the Holocaust.

Dlusy-Apel said that after the interviews for the film were done, it became apparent that many of the participants had addressed what had happened to their parents through their literature, artwork and filmmaking. And it seemed to be an obvious focus for the film, she added.

A sculpture in Mark Prent’s studio, “Sleep of the Phoenix,” of a decayed figure that’s half-human, half-bird, is a reference to a mythological bird that can regenerate itself, as Jews did after the Holocaust, through their children and grandchildren, Prent says in the documentary.

In her studio, Cynthia van Frank shows a mixed media creation depicting herself and family members standing, while underneath them are the bodies of Jews who perished in the Holocaust.

Will the Second Generation Please Rise includes footage from Gina Roitman’s documentary My Mother, the Nazi Midwife and Me, in which she returns to her birthplace, Pocking, Germany, the site of a displaced persons camp after the Second World War. 

Roitman set out to investigate her mother’s claim that after the war, a midwife from the Pocking hospital murdered Jewish babies. She discovered her mother had told her the truth and, chillingly, was led to the graves of 52 Jewish babies.

Will the Second Generation Please Rise is a follow-up to Beer’s and Dlusy-Apel’s 2015 documentary, Nobody Was Interested, Nobody Asked, about the lack of interest in Montreal in Europe during the war years and in the Holocaust in the immediate years after.

Beer, a Montrealer who was born to Holocaust survivors in the Pocking displaced persons camp, devotes a segment in the documentary to how unwelcome survivors felt in Montreal.

Max Beer and his mother at Pocking Displaced Persons camp

“There was no talk about what was going on in Europe during the war, and I realized there was no talk after the war, when the immigrants started to come in. Nobody talked to them about what they had been through,” he said in an interview.

Belsen displaced persons’ camp

Dlusy-Apel’s father, who immigrated to the city in 1930, never spoke to her about the Holocaust. “They left behind brothers and sisters and didn’t talk about it,” she said. 

Some 10 years after the war ended, survivors began holding Holocaust commemorations in Montreal in Yiddish, but no English speakers were involved, Beer said.

As one participant in the film put it, “No one asked us why we were mourning.”

You can watch Will the Second Generation Please Rise here. The password is Deena2.

EDITORIAL: Elections Canada Must Shut Down Neo-Nazi Parties

July 15, 2020 – Trevor Patron is at it again. This obscure Prairie citizen from Redvers, Sask., has doubled down on his antisemitism.

From a low last year, when he railed against the “parasitic tribe” (read: Jews) for all of Canada’s imagined problems, this week, in another outburst of Jew-hatred, Patron is calling for the expulsion of Jews from the country. His screed regurgitates the pattern of all past antisemites who sought the ouster of Jews from their midst.

But this is not news. In fact, Patron would not even be worth a mention if it weren’t for this: He is the leader of a political party officially recognized by Elections Canada.

That’s right. In September 2019, Stephane Perrault, Canada’s Chief Electoral Officer, informed Patron that the Canadian Nationalist Party (CNP) had become a registered political party in Canada.

“Your party now has all the rights, privileges and responsibilities of a registered party under the Canada Elections Act,” Perrault wrote Patron.

This permits Patron’s fledgling band of ne’er-do-wells to run in federal elections and to receive a 75 percent tax return on any donation to the party.

(It might be some consolation to know that the CNP fielded three candidates in the last federal election and received 284 votes in total; statistically, zero percent of ballots cast).

Equally as important, Patron, as a result of a complaint laid by the Canadian Anti-Hate Network (CAHN) on June 26, 2019 (full disclosure: Bernie Farber, publisher of the CJR is chair of CAHN) to the Saskatchewan RCMP, Patron has been under investigation for promotion of hatred against Jews for over a year.

Yes, you read that, too, correctly: Since June of last year.

It seems incredible that the RCMP has been unable since then to reach a conclusion as to whether Patron has breached section 319 of Canada’s Criminal Code, which plainly outlines what public incitement to hatred is.

We would argue that Patron’s unsubtle words and deeds surely warrant quick and deliberate findings.

Following the June 2019 CAHN complaint, B’nai Brith Canada also wrote to the RCMP declaring its outrage, and yet the investigation continues.

Last week, following Patron’s second video, the CAHN sent another letter to the RCMP:

Dear Constable Howe,

Further to my criminal complaint against Travis PATRON filed 26 June 2019, I am writing to bring to your attention further anti-Jewish material that PATRON has published today through his Canadian Nationalist Party Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/pg/NationalistCA/posts/) again repeatedly referring to Jews as parasites, members of the “synagogue of Satan,” that Jews control the central banks, and that they “infect the body politic like a parasite.”

The apparent pamphlet ends with the call, “And what we need to do, perhaps more than anything, is remove these people once-and-for-all from our country.”

I understand that criminal hate propaganda complaints are not commonplace, but the community as a whole and our Jewish brothers and sisters especially have the right to be protected from this corrosive poison and threats in a timely manner.  These are the types of messages that have already been found to meet the test for breaching the Criminal Code.

I urge the RCMP in the strongest possible terms to charge Travis PATRON under s. 319(2) of the Criminal Code for the wilful promotion of hatred against the Jewish community.

I look forward to hearing from you as soon as possible,

Richard Warman
Barrister and Solicitor
Ottawa

This past week both the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) along with Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Centre, have followed the lead of CAHN and laid complaints with Saskatchewan RCMP.

The time has come. Canada should be following the example set by Germany, which has developed law ensuring that anti-democratic groups may not gain official political party status.

While Patron and company have displayed almost no political support, it takes far less for those with hate in their hearts to create havoc. Neo-Nazis ought not to be given any respect in this country, and those who violate Canadian hate law should be charged.

Bombing Changed Argentine Jewish Life ‘Forever,’ Rymberg Recalls

July 15, 2020 – By STEVE ARNOLD

Even 26 years later, Gustavo Rymberg can’t forget the shock of the morning in 1994 when Jewish life in Argentina changed forever.

It was July 18, winter in the southern hemisphere, and Rymberg was working in his Buenos Aires office, meeting with a colleague on a graphic design project.

The telephone rang. It was a friend with the devastating news that a terrorist had just driven a truck full of explosives into the Jewish community headquarters three blocks away.

Gustavo Rymberg
Gustavo Rymberg

“That was something that changed Jewish life in Argentina forever,” Rymberg recalled in an interview with the CJR ahead of a B’nai Brith commemoration of the attack set for tomorrow evening (July 16).

“It was one of the worst chapters in Argentine history,” he said. “It’s something for which the country has never given us answers or justice.

“For some reason, the government will not make an explanation for this or tell us the truth,” he said.

The attack on the seven-storey headquarters of the Asociación Mutual Israelita Argentina (Argentina-Israel Mutual Association, or AMIA) killed 85 people and injured as many as 300 more.

No one was ever arrested in what remains the deadliest antisemitic attack in Argentina’s modern history. It is widely believed to have been carried out by terrorists linked to Iran and Argentina’s then president, Carlos Menem, who is of Syrian descent. One prosecutor who tried to investigate the incident was murdered during his probe.

Beyond the carnage, however, Rymberg and many of the country’s Jews saw it as an attack on the heart of their community.

The AMIA building, he said, housed all of Jewish Argentina’s major organizations, as well as a theatre, library, and job bank. It was where Jews went to arrange a funeral, and it housed the precious records of 100 years of Jewish life in the country.

“Every Jewish person in Argentina had to go to AMIA for something,” Rymberg said. “Suddenly, you started to be very careful about everything. Children going to school now had to go through security like at an airport.”

While Argentine antisemitism had never been openly acknowledged – until the AMIA attack, the worst event was a 1992 bombing of the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires, which killed 29 civilians – the aftermath of the attack brought fundamental changes to Jewish life, starting with a communal obsession with security.

“Suddenly you felt like you were living behind walls,” Rymberg recalled. “For a lot of young families that was the point where they started to think there was nothing for them in Argentina.”

Even a quickly-organized show of solidarity with the Jewish community, dubbed the March of the Umbrellas because it was carried out in the rain, failed to ease that new feeling of fear and uncertainty.

“Hundreds of thousands of people were marching in the rain to remember the victims,” Rymberg recalled. “It was something we never expected to experience.”

The Rymberg family’s own decision to leave the country of its birth, something members had been considering in the face of a poor economy and rampant corruption, was cemented by the event.

One of the final nails was news media coverage of the attack, especially one television story that reported 85 Jews, and many “innocent people,” had died.

“To hear someone saying Jews and ‘innocent people’ is something I will never forget,” he said. “All of those things came together to push us out.”

In 1997 Rymberg, his wife Marisa, and their two young daughters, became one of the first families brought to Canada by the Jewish community of Winnipeg through its Grow Winnipeg initiative.

In a new country, he embarked on a new career as a Jewish community leader, serving in Winnipeg, Ottawa, Toronto, and finally taking over as CEO of the Hamilton Jewish Federation in 2017.

B’nai Brith Canada’s League for Human Rights’ commemoration will be held online Thursday at 7 p.m. To join, go to: https://www.bnaibrith.ca/amia.


Steve Arnold
Steve Arnold

The Nine Pillars of ‘No Silence on Race’

July 14, 2020 – By ALEX ROSE

When conversations about race, oppression and privilege exploded across the world following the May 25 murder of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police, they made Sara Yacobi-Harris wonder to what extent the broader Canadian Jewish community was concretely addressing its own instances of racial discrimination.

In the midst of this “racial reckoning,” Yacobi-Harris, a Black Jewish woman from Toronto, founded the campaign, ​“No Silence on Race​,” which calls on Canadian Jews to “commit to the creation of a truly anti-racist, inclusive and equitable Jewish community.”

Sara Yacobi-Harris

Yacobi-Harris established the effort with two other activists, Daisy Moriyama and Akilah Allen Silverstein.

On June 30, the campaign published ​an open letter​ “from Black Jews, non-Black Jews of colour and our allies, to Jewish organizations in Canada.”

The letter lays out nine pillars to guide organizations in making structural changes to combat racism and actively make mainstream Jewish spaces truly inclusive and equitable for Jews of colour. It also asks them to publish statements of their own outlining how they plan to meet those goals by July 29.

Yacobi-Harris said the campaign was necessary for “many, many, many reasons,” including the lack of representation for Jews of colour in most Jewish institutions.

“It’s about seeing ourselves represented in Jewish spaces, and seeing ourselves represented in Jewish literature and programming and histories that we celebrate,” she said, before quoting the beginning of the letter: “We are Jewish community board members, educators and leaders. We write from a place of love for our Jewish identities and our community, while also grappling with the cultural erasure, exclusion and structural racism that we experience in Jewish spaces. Nevertheless, we are compelled to be in Jewish community because it is who we are.”

Although the campaign is new and specific to the current collective Jewish experience, Yacobi-Harris says Jews of colour have been dealing with these issues for a very long time.

They often avoid mainstream Jewish spaces because they are not always received equally, sometimes even experiencing overt racism. For that reason, there are a number of Jews of colour who have devoted their entire lives to ensuring that Jewish spaces are inclusive and hospitable for Jews of colour.

As important as their work has been, though, Yacobi-Harris says real, comprehensive change isn’t possible without everyone committed to a unified goal.

That’s why the first pillar of “No Silence on Race” ​is “allyship.”

“Allyship is earned through trust, through action and through impact.” Yacobi-Harris explained. “You can implement as many policies and strategies and initiatives as you want. But if the culture doesn’t shift within our community, the conversation doesn’t shift, we don’t talk about our individual responsibility, then eventually the policies and strategies will hold less weight and be less meaningful. That’s why we need people behind it who truly understand their individual role in creating change in our community.”

After allyship, the next pillar is education, which is about engaging with issues at all levels of an organization and systematically implementing policies, strategies and initiatives based on education and training from consultants who are Jews of colour and other people of colour.

The other seven pillars include investing in a leadership strategy for Jews of colour, working with an equity consultant, and committing to more programming and partnerships with a more diverse range of cultural institutions.

So far, Yacobi-Harris says the response has been very positive, with people and organizations reaching out to learn more about continuing the work of anti-racism and equality.

“No Silence on Race” has heard a lot of people thanking them for the work they’re doing, saying the community needs it and people want to do more.

The response to the campaign, combined with the climate of open conversation that precipitated it, has left Yacobi-Harris feeling hopeful about the work Jewish institutions will do to make themselves actively inclusive for Jews of colour. After all, she wouldn’t have put the effort into creating this initiative if she didn’t think it could make a difference.

“People do see this work as extremely important,” she said. “And they do see the gaps that exist in our community and how much work we all have to do. And how beautiful and inspiring and supportive and important this initiative is.

“And so, having received that feedback has made me hopeful that change is coming, that action is coming and that this commitment is important for everyone and for our community,” she said.

Yacobi-Harris also encouraged representatives from Jewish organizations to contact nosilenceonrace@gmail.com to set up a meeting or have a conversation about how to best implement the nine pillars.


The Fight to Change ‘Swastika Trail’: The Gloves Are Off

July 14, 2020 – By STEVE ARNOLD

A new campaign to change the name of Swastika Trail in the township of Puslinch, Ont. will seek to defeat local councillors in the next election who don’t support the effort.

Veteran political operative and anti-hate activist Warren Kinsella has joined the campaign by Township residents who have been trying for years to get the name changed.

This time, however, the gloves are off, Kinsella warned in an interview.

“We are saying to the politicians, ‘if any of you continue to defend this, we will run campaigns to defeat you in the next election. We will make sure that everybody knows you were indifferent to this hateful name being attached to this street,’” Kinsella said.

“It’s not a threat, it’s a promise,” he added. “If you guys are going to let this foul, disgusting name continue to be associated with this street, then we’re going to make sure people know you didn’t do anything about it when you could have.”

Kinsella, a Toronto lawyer, former Liberal Party strategist, founder of the anti-hate group Standing Against Misogyny and Prejudice (STAMP) and head of the Daisy Group consulting firm, joined the latest anti-Swastika Trail campaign at the request of long-time resident, Randy Guzar.

STAMP’s past efforts include helping to bring criminal convictions against the publisher and editor of Your Ward News, a free Toronto newspaper that promoted hatred against Jews and women.

Guzar has lived on Swastika Trail for more than 20 years and has seen at least four previous efforts to get the name changed.

The street was named in the 1920s when the swastika was still widely considered an ancient good luck symbol. The private road, owned by a numbered company, is in a mostly rural corner of Puslinch Township, south of Guelph in Wellington County. About 35 families live on the street.

Swastika Trail
Swastika Trail

The most recent effort to get the name changed started in April 2017 and ended in June 2018, when an Ontario court refused to review a council decision not to change the name.

Guzar and others went to court to challenge how the matter was handled by the council, which had asked the local cottagers association to decide whether to change the name. The association voted 25-20 to keep it, and Puslinch council vote 4-1 against changing it.

The court’s three judge panel, which found that the council had acted correctly, ruled: “There is no doubt that to many people in Canada in the 21st century, the swastika is an abhorrent symbol, reminiscent of the atrocities perpetrated by the Nazis during World War Two. While council’s decision…likely does not accord with the beliefs of many Canadians…there is no basis for finding that council’s decisions were unlawful.”

Since then, however, three of the five township councillors, including the mayor, have changed. More importantly, both Kinsella and Guzar argue there have been major changes in public attitudes about racism and hatred.

At the same time, there has been a spike in incidents of antisemitism around the world – the centuries old hatred that found its fullest modern expression under the Swastika flag of Nazi Germany.

“What has happened is that the murder of (George) Floyd) and the whole the Black Lives Matter movement has really awoken people to the importance of tolerance issues generally,” Kinsella said.

Warren Kinsella
Warren Kinsella

“For the Jewish community, given the massive outbreak in antisemitism and vandalism, this is the least this community can do. We’re not asking them to give us money. We’re not asking them to do anything other than be decent human beings and remove this name.

“There’s no time in human history when I’ve seen a greater popular response to racism and bigotry than there is right now,” he added. “What has happened this spring, in the middle of a pandemic, is extraordinary and that tells us we’re on the right side, that people are with us and we just have to make them aware of what is happening.”

Guzar argues that while the swastika may be an ancient symbol, it is too closely linked to Nazi-era atrocities ever to be rehabilitated and “does not belong in a multicultural, diverse and tolerant Canada.”

“The swastika is the symbol of the most homicidal expression of hatred that ever existed. It is the literal embodiment of racism and anti-Semitism, homophobia and genocide,” he said. “This is a modern Canada and it’s time that this name be retired.”

Despite changes on council, Guzar said he doesn’t sense a change in attitude.

“From the very first when we started our effort to retire this street name we have had no support from the township and that’s the current flavor today,” he said. “I’m very disappointed in council’s indifference to this name and their use of tax dollars to defend it in court. We would expect our council to stand up and condemn hatred and change this street name.”

In an e-mail exchange Puslinch Mayor James Seeley “politely” refused to comment. Paul Wysznski, whose company owns the road, could not be reached for comment.


Steve Arnold
Steve Arnold

Small Acts Fill Big Needs

By ELIZABETH KATCHEN

It is difficult to put into words what we are going through right now. The unthinkable, the unbelievable, the heart-wrenching. We are in the middle of a global pandemic, something rarely conceived of in the past 100 years.

This is our reality, and while it is safe to say that everyone is experiencing a new set of challenges, some populations are harder hit than others.

Currently the United States, Brazil and Russia have staggering numbers of COVID patients, so much so that their citizens have been banned from entering the European Union.

The homeless are particularly vulnerable to the pandemic. Many have pre-existing health conditions, and due to physical distancing measures, fewer beds in shelters are available. Further, the usual resources, such as case managers assisting in the relocation of the homeless and following up with regular support, have decreased.

From another perspective, certain ethnic minorities are at higher risk of contracting the virus, of requiring hospitalization, and even of dying from COVID. While information is constantly updated, according to Statistics Canada, those at greater risk include Indigenous populations, among others.

In addition, Public Health Ontario has announced that sociodemographic and race-based data will be collected and used to plan for public health practices.

Like the rest of the world, the Jewish community has been shaken by the pandemic, both physically and economically. Of note is that the proportion of Jews dying in the Diaspora, as opposed to Jews in Israel, is much higher. Israel was able to contain the virus with extremely strict restrictions in place from the outset, despite a recent spike in infections after much of the country re-opened.

The Jewish community has a well-deserved reputation for philanthropy. Tzedakah (charity) in Judaism states that the giver benefits more than the receiver. In fact, it is a mitzvah (a commandment) to give 10 percent of one’s earnings to charity. Children from a young age are taught to give charity – even dropping a few coins in the tzedakah box can be a meaningful gesture. Maimonides, the great Jewish philosopher, identified eight levels of charity, each greater than the last. Now, during these most challenging times, is a perfect time to review these levels. Beginning with the highest, they are as follows:

Level 1 – Enabling another individual to be self-sufficient.
Level 2 – Giving when one does not know the recipient and the recipient does not know the giver: anonymous giving.
Level 3 – Giving when one knows the recipient, but the recipient is unaware of the giver.
Level 4 – The recipient knows the giver, but the giver is unaware of the recipient. This level allows for less shame to the recipient.
Level 5 – The giver gives directly to the recipient but without being asked.
Level 6 – The giver gives to the recipient after being asked.
Level 7 – The giver gives insufficiently, but still gives with a smile.
Level 8 – Giving in a reluctant manner.

Financial giving is certainly a timely gesture right now, but it is important to address other forms of charity that can also have a huge impact. Volunteering can reduce feelings of loneliness and provide a sense of optimism. Donations of non-perishable items are needed for food banks that are currently under greater demand. Checking on elderly neighbors (at a safe distance or by phone) is surely appreciated at this time. Fostering a pet is another special opportunity if you can safely care for an animal. If you have a special skill, such as website development, writing or marketing, do a web search for volunteer opportunities. The list goes on.

Tzedakah is supposed to be done with a full heart. Performed in a less willing manner, the effect is not quite the same. It is said that even presenting someone with a smile, and nothing else, is a form of tzedakah. Please help if you can. Consider what way would be meaningful to you, and do so with a smile. 


Elizabeth Katchen
Elizabeth Katchen

Elizabeth Katchen was born and raised in Victoria, B.C. and cares deeply about animals, the environment and the Jewish community. She is the former editor of FutureTense magazine, a national Jewish student publication, and a past freelance contributor to the Canadian Jewish News. Elizabeth is executive assistant to the programs department at Toronto’s Schwartz/Reisman Centre and Prosserman JCC.

UPDATED: Adding to the Turmoil, Foodbenders is Sued

By RON CSILLAG

Foodbenders has been served.

The Toronto eatery that’s been at the centre of a firestorm of controversy for its antisemitic and anti-Zionist posts on social media has been slapped with a lawsuit.

The action, served on the Bloor St. W. restaurant on July 10, seeks a total of $750,000 in damages. It was filed by Shai DeLuca, a high-profile Toronto interior designer, who alleges he was defamed in two Instagram posts under Foodbenders’ account.

DeLuca’s lawsuit names both the restaurant and Hawkins.

Shai DeLuca
Shai DeLuca

The lawsuit came on the heels of a complaint against Foodbenders filed at the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal on behalf of GTA resident Elena Aschkenasi, 86, whose parents fled Nazi Germany. She claims Foodbenders owner Kimberly Hawkins discriminated against Jews when Hawkins publicly stated her refusal to serve Zionists in her store.

Another human rights complaint against Foodbenders by the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs is expected to be filed soon. A petition calling for CIJA to file a complaint has to date garnered nearly 1,500 signatures.

DeLuca’s Instagram profile describes him as a “celebrity designer…TV personality, speaker…IDF (Israel Defense Forces) sergeant (Ret) Tel Aviv/Toronto…” It also shows a small Israeli flag.

His lawsuit alleges that on or about July 6, the following message, placed partially over his profile and highlighted in black, stated: “He’s literally gathering his other whining Zionist friends to attack Palestinians and others in support of @foodbenders.”

A second post under Foodbenders’ account, highlighted in purple, said, “This guy is one of the people who was attacking@foodbenders. He’s an IDF SOLDIER (aka terrorist) yet he’s using the BLM (Black Lives Matter) movement for likes. How can you sit here and post about BLM when you have your sniper rifle aimed at Palestinian Children.”

The posts “clearly” refer to DeLuca, as they were marked over his social media profile,which contains his Instagram profile nameand image, his 11-page statement of claim says.

The Instagram posts are defamatory and libelous, DeLuca claims, because they were understood to mean that he is a terrorist or is involved in terrorist and criminal activities;has murdered or is planning to murderPalestinian children; is involved in planning an attack at Foodbenders; is not law-abiding; and other misdeeds, the lawsuit alleges.

“Shai is a proud Jew,” his filing states. “He is both a Canadian and Israeli citizen. He grew up in the State of Israel, where he served his compulsory term of military service as a sergeant in the Israel Defense Forces. Like most Jews in Canada and around the world, Shai is a Zionist – he believes in and supports the State of Israel as the national home and refuge for the Jewish people.”

DeLuca seeks $500,000 in general and special damages, and a further $250,000 in aggravated and/or punitive damages. He also wants the offending posts taken down, and an admission that Foodbenders and Hawkins violated Ontario’s Human Rights Code.

The Toronto restaurant has generated headlines worldwide for the past few weeks over such online statements as “#zionistsnotwelcome,” and “Zionists are Nazis.”

A sandwich board outside the eatery proclaimed “F@ck Mossad, IDF, Bibi.”

Other posts accused Jewish groups of controlling the media and elected officials. One described Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as a “Zionist puppet.”

The statements were denounced by Premier Doug Ford and Mayor John Tory. In their wake, several food delivery services cut ties to Foodbenders, while other businesses said they would no longer carry its products.

Foodbenders and Hawkins have until July 30 to file a defence to DeLuca’s action. The restaurant did not respond to an email seeking comment, and its phone is inoperative.

In an email to the CJR, DeLuca said he, “like the majority of Israelis, support Palestinian rights and are forever hopeful peace will be reached in our lifetime. He said his lawsuit “in no way is an attempt to silence support for Palestinian rights.”

Rather, it’s about the “defamatory post(s), using my photo, accusing me of being a terrorist and a sniper against Palestinian children.”

He said he’s “hopeful this will serve as a moment of clarity for Ms. Hawkins, that libelous claims, based on prejudice and bigotry because of my nationality, masked as political discourse, will not be tolerated.”

The lawsuit was filed by the Toronto law firm RE-LAW LLP together with the U.S.-based Lawfare Project, which provides legal counsel and services to pro-Israel and Jewish communities that have been targeted.


Ron Csillag
Ron Csillag is editor of the CJR

Jewish Summer Camps Go Virtual

July 13, 2020 – By LILA SARICK

There are no canoe trips, lake swims or campfires, but Jewish camps have pivoted to the virtual world to try and give campers a taste of summer.

With residential summer camps cancelled for the season because of COVID, many camps are offering free online programming, hoping to keep campers in touch with their friends and to give parents a break.

“Our big goal is for kids to feel connected while their world is upside down,” said Simon Wolle, executive director of Camp Northland B’nai Brith, (NBB) in Haliburton, Ont.

Camps are trying to change the face of virtual programming, especially for kids who may have found online education frustrating, Wolle said.

Northland, like other camps, offers a mix of activities to appeal to a wide variety of ages. There have been three-day classes led by professionals to teach kids magic or animation, as well as programs to learn the 2020 camp dance, trivia games and scavenger hunts.

Later in the summer, the camp will hold its annual Olympics event, which is “a huge rite of passage,” at camp, Wolle said. This year, alumni will be invited to compete on their childhood teams.

“Thousands of people have said ‘if I could have more chance to go to camp…’ now they have that chance,” Wolle said.

Summer camps which have switched to online programming have proven popular. The online version of Camp NBB, which is open to the entire community not just enrolled campers, had about 250 kids registered by the end of the first week.

Camp Ramah in Canada, which has 580 campers in Ontario’s cottage country, went online early during the pandemic with cooking classes, weekly Havdalah services and other activities.

But once the camp learned that it would not open this summer, staff began planning for a three-week program, with activities for different age groups.

“We had staff who said they wanted to do this. We did a whole separate training for them,” said Aviva Millstone, associate director of Camp Ramah in Canada.

Activities over the three weeks include sports, where campers are invited to go outside with a basketball and their screens and get some tips from counselors; Zumba; and camp-style programs like trivia.

Teenage campers who were supposed to have been in Israel this summer will spend three days a week with educators in Israel, and visit various sites virtually.

While online camp can’t replace an actual summer experience, counsellor Jake Offenheim did the next best thing and recreated Camp Ramah on Minecraft, designing a virtual playground for campers.

Building an exact replica of the camp took him about 150 hours, he said. Campers, accompanied by their counsellors, can visit places in camp, such as the basketball court or the gym and play a variety of games on the site.

Offenheim, who would have been head of canoeing at camp this summer, is now head of E-sports.

“Your kids are going to be playing video games,” he said. “Why not have them in a space with their friends and under supervision? It’s the closest thing to camp that we can do right now.”

Young Judaea camps across the country also moved online at the start of the pandemic, and the organization’s eight camps are continuing to offer programming, said Mark Kachuck, national education director of Canadian Young Judaea.

Each camp takes a turn leading Kabbalat Shabbat services, and a camp-wide flagpole ceremony on July 1 attracted over 200 people online.

Every camp also offers programs for the campers who had registered for the summer, with unit programs for younger campers, and leadership development training for the older ones.

Camp Machane Lev, a one-week program for LGBTQ campers, was also cancelled, delivering a huge blow to campers “who feel they can’t be their true selves at home,” Kachuck said.

The camp is reaching out to them and is exploring running a physically distanced day camp later in the summer.

Young Judaea had been hopeful that its Israel program would run, but in the end, it, too, was cancelled, although parents overwhelmingly supported it.

“Of all summers, it’s a hard one to miss,” Kachuck said. “It’s heart-wrenching. I feel for these kids, they’ve lost a lot.”

Young Judaea, which has 1,800 campers over the summer, is offering online programs over the six weeks that camp would have been in session.

“With our virtual programming we can’t replace camp, but there’s still things we can do that call on that love for camp,” Kachuck said. “A lot of it is bringing that camp spirit and enthusiasm.”

Visit Camp Northland B’nai Brith here.

EDITORIAL: Eschewing Hate and Embracing Harmony

It would seem that as we continue to hover in the eye of the pandemic, everything is magnified – from our anxieties, to our learning; from our health, to our diet; and most notably, from our avowed hatreds and dislikes.

All too often, the expressed hatred takes the form of bigotry, racism, antisemitism, Islamophobia, and more. Prior to the pandemic, we of course saw signs of hate and extremism around us. Given our new fears and concerns, issues of racism remain no longer well-hidden or even camouflaged. Indeed like a rabid, growling dog, it is biting us square on the tuches.

Two incidents this past week in the GTA give us all reason for worry.

The proprietor of a little-known Toronto eatery called Foodbenders has chosen to express herself quite publicly about how she believes the Israeli government has abused and mistreated Palestinians, specifically in the occupied territories.

To be sure, there is much to be concerned with. Their treatment, especially by Israel’s current government, has prompted global condemnation. Surely the owner of a small restaurant in Toronto has the right to her opinions about Israel and its policies.

But in this case, those criticisms moved well beyond the political into hardcore antisemitism and anti-Zionist sentiment, mirroring those on the extremes of the political spectrum who have used the term “Zionist” to mean “Jew,” and have done so simply as an excuse to foment antisemitism. In years past, and to this very day, we have seen white supremacists and their ilk use terms like “Zio-Nazi” to mean “Jews.”

And while she has insisted that she has nothing against Jews, the owner of Foodbenders chose to post “Zionists are not welcome” at her eatery (leaving it unclear how she would discern a Zionist if one walked in).

In other social posts, she raised old anti-Jewish tropes: That Jewish groups control the media and influence the economy. She claimed that “Zionists are Nazis.”

Naturally, this led to harsh but proper reaction from mainstream Jewish organizations some of which are launching complaints with the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal. Toronto police hate crimes officers are also investigating.

Sadly, some of the more extreme anti-Muslim elements within and outside the Jewish community have used this hateful incident to engage in some hate of their own, scrawling anti-Muslim graffiti on the sidewalks and walls in front of the offending restaurant. Once again the Toronto police hate crimes unit is kept busy investigating these offences as well.

But it doesn’t end there. Just a few days ago in Mississauga, Ont., what started as a peaceful pro-Palestinian rally quickly degenerated into an anti-Israel harangue replete with ugly antisemitic epithets including “Jews are our dogs.”

All of this occurs while mainstream Jewish and Muslim groups have been trying to find an avenue to dialogue. Indeed, both the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs and the National Council of Canadian Muslims have been cooperating of late on anti-racist programs, inter-faith dialogue and more. They join groups like JSpace Canada and Salam/Shalom, which have been engaged for years in dialogue and joint programming.

This is the way towards harmony. Canada provides us with a unique platform steeped in its own attempts at reconciliation and multiculturalism. There is still much work to do on these fronts, but we all have the opportunity. Let us not allow a few with hate in their hearts to spoil our efforts to find a path forward.

Antisemitic Content on TikTok: The Clock is Ticking

By MARA BOSLOY

As a card-carrying millennial, I joined TikTok at the beginning of quarantine in March only to alleviate boredom (the social media app was used mainly by Gen Zs before quarantine). Once there, the algorithm eventually led me to Jewish TikTok. This means that a lot of the content that comes up on my feed is Jewish, which I enjoy.

Jewish content on TikTok could be anything from someone posting about their love of bagels and lox, to Jewish celebrities, to old bar/bat-mitzvah photos, to posting a funny story that happened at shul, and so forth.

I was initially shocked, although I shouldn’t have been, to find so many antisemitic comments and so much antisemitic content under various Jewish hashtags. A recurring theme that seems to exist on TikTok is that Jews will post Jewish content (not related to Israel) and immediately, antisemites will step in with comments like “Free Palestine,” “Israel doesn’t exist,” or, most simply, the Palestine flag emoji by itself.

This is where the problem begins. This is why Jews constantly point out that anti-Zionism doesn’t always equal antisemitism, but a lot of the time, it does. Antisemites constantly conflate anti-Zionism and antisemitism. It doesn’t matter to them that Diaspora Jews have nothing to do with the politics of Israel (or even necessarily agree with Israel). What matters to them is that they virtually weaponize themselves against any proud Jew posting on TikTok because, like a red cloth to a bull, they charge at sometimes even the hypothetical sight of Israel’s flag.

A Diaspora Jew who has never been to Israel and posts about the brisket their Bubbie made for Shabbat will get “Free Palestine” comments on their posts.

This is not even to mention all the solely antisemitic comments and posts, without reference to Palestine or Israel to be found on the app. This includes Shylockian stereotypes, and Holocaust denial/”humour.” This is also deeply troubling to young Jews wishing to scroll through wholesome Jewish content and instead finding a gas chamber “joke” because the user has used #Jewish, or related hashtags.

Because this app is dominated by people in their early 20s and below, they are largely influenced by their peers on how to think and what to think. It has gotten to the point where young people (including millennials)  wake up, check their phone for notifications on social media, and read up on the news that has been posted on social media, instead of checking a legitimate news source. This means that the clutter of short videos posted on TikTok provide instant information (whether the information is factual or not) for young people, without them needing to check references.

Non-Jewish teenagers will see a popular account posting antisemitic content, such as @the.juc, who has spoken about how all Jews are “white nationalists” and “colonizers.” Viral TikToks cause a mob mentality to form; if so many people engage in and enjoy the content, why shouldn’t one more person do the same?

Big account followings (or at the very least, an account with a lot of “likes”) tend to make young people feel that since those people have the platform, they must have the intellect to follow (which is damaging and untrue, as accounts can buy “likes”). These kinds of posts further promote antisemitism among young people. It is scary to think about how young people will grow up with easy access to antisemitism on a mindless app, absorbing the information and potentially digesting it as legitimate/news/facts.

Young Jews should not be made to feel uncomfortable on an app that is simply meant for passing the time. 

I am scared that we are going backwards with antisemitism and young people, and that the lack of education and surplus of quick views and likes will be ultimately quite damaging.


Mara Bosloy

Mara Bosloy is a publishing and editing professional currently working at a leading Canadian educational publisher.

Parshat Pinchas: History Has its Eyes on You

July 10, 2020 – By ILANA KRYGIER LAPIDES

In Parshat Pinchas, toward the end of the Book of Numbers, a census has taken place, presumably to assign land rights for when the Hebrews enter the Holy Land. The logistics unfold predictably until the five daughters of Zelofechad arrive at the Tent of Meeting requesting an audience to express their feelings of injustice regarding the culture of inheritance.

“Our father died in the desert…and has left no sons. Let not our father’s name be lost to his clan just because he had no son – Give us a holding among the brothers of our father” (Num 27:3-4).

This is an extraordinary event in the Torah: Not only do these five women summon the courage to come forward; not only do they make a dignified case to inherit in this very male-centric society; not only are their names listed (Mahla, Noa, Chaglah, Milcah, and Tirtzah); and not only is the matter worthy of consideration, it is taken directly to G-d. At this stage, this would have been enough.

Then, without equivocation, Hashem tells Moses, “The plea of Zelofechad’s daughters is a just one… transfer their father’s share to them. Further, speak to the Israelite people as follows: ‘If a man dies without leaving a son, you shall transfer his property to his daughter’” (Num 27:7-8).

To say this passage is unusual is an understatement. Women are mentioned in our Holy Books, but rarely are their names listed, and even more rarely are they seen outside their roles as mothers or wives. More often than not, women in the Torah are noteworthy for the manner in which they assist or challenge men who make up the main narrative than for their own agency.

The women are treated in a respectful manner and the matter progresses seamlessly – no drama, no controversy – just a comforting message: Sometimes, when conditions are right, an injustice can be brought to those in power, considered, and corrected and not just for those in the immediate situation but as a legacy for those who come after. How wonderful!

Another thing that makes this instance remarkable is what doesn’t happen: In order for Zelofechad’s daughters to get their birthright, the men, who would have inherited, don’t dispute the women’s appeal. They just let it happen. Whether gracefully or ungraciously is unknown; there is no mention of anyone challenging the fairness of the request or complaining about G-d’s ultimate ruling.

An occurrence like this gives us faith in right-mindedness. There are times when the right thing to do is so obvious that anyone with a little seykhl (common sense) can see it: Wearing masks in large crowds, helping to change a culture in which Black people are in danger, petitioning for better health conditions in seniors’ residences, speaking out against antisemitism when the tinfoil-hat crowd creates outrageous conspiracy theories, and so on…

As one of our more well-known quotes urges: Tzedek, Tzedek, Tirdof – Justice, Justice, Shalt thou pursue (Deut. 16:20).

I had the pleasure of streaming the Broadway show Hamilton last weekend. Although my knowledge of U.S. history is limited, the George Washington character chants a song that feels very relevant:

“I know that we can win
I know that greatness lies in you
But remember from here on in
History has its eyes on you.”

Chaverim, history has its eyes on us. What will we tell our great-grandchildren about how we conducted ourselves during this complicated time? Will we be gracious and brave even if it means sacrifice? Are we on the right side of history?

At this time of upheaval and adversity, let us have the strength to tap into the greatness that lies in us and may we conduct ourselves with the integrity and dignity that defines the best of our tradition.


Ilana Krygier Lapides
Ilana Krygier Lapides

Ilana Krygier Lapides is a Jewish educator and storyteller. She is currently studying online with the Jewish Studies Learning Institute as a rabbinic student and will be ordained in June 2021.

High-schoolers chant ‘the Jews Are Our Dogs’, Mayor Denounces Rally: B’nai Brith Files Hate Complaint

Mississauga’s mayor has denounced a rally in her city at which Jews were called “dogs.”

In a tweet on July 7, Mayor Bonnie Crombie stated: “I stand with our city’s Jewish community in strongly condemning these hateful and disturbing anti-Semitic comments. Hate has no place in Mississauga. We’re a welcoming city that promotes unity, understanding and acceptance. Those who seek to divide us are not welcome here.”

B’nai Brith Canada has filed a hate crimes complaint with Peel Regional Police after protesters chanted “hateful” antisemitic slogans at the anti-Israel protest in Mississauga on July 4.

Peel Regional Police spokesperson Cst. Bancroft Wright confirmed that a complaint was received from B’nai Brith.

About 100 protesters gathered at Celebration Square in Mississauga last Saturday, ostensibly to condemn Israel’s planned annexation of parts of the West Bank.

A video of the rally shows attendees chanting in Arabic: “Palestine is our country, and the Jews are our dogs!” Later, protesters are heard to promise to “sacrifice our soul and blood for Palestine” and proclaim that “martyrs by the millions march to Jerusalem.”

B’nai Brith said it has independently verified the translation.

The organization said it has discovered that the co-organizers of the rally, and many of its attendees, were high school students. It said it has identified one of the co-organizers but has not named her because she is a minor.

“The display of antisemitism in Canada’s public squares is totally unacceptable,” B’nai Brith CEO Michael Mostyn said in a news release.

“Opposition to Israeli policy can never be used as an excuse to demean Jews as ‘dogs’ or to threaten violence against them.”

Mostyn said B’nai Brith has reached out to the high school attended by one of the rally’s organizers, “and hope to visit at an appropriate time in order to educate students about the dark places to which rhetoric of this sort can lead.”

In response to the Mississauga rally, Barbara Bank of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs stated:

“Enough is enough. It is outrageous that in 2020 people feel comfortable using dehumanizing and exclusionary language targeting the Jewish community. The days of signs stating “No Dogs and No Jews” at establishments in the GTA should be firmly behind us. 

“There is a lot of room for legitimate discussion about the State of Israel and the politics of the Middle East, but our community will not accept the use of Israel as a pretense to call Jews ‘dogs.’”

Bank said it’s time for Ontario lawmakers to finalize the adoption of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of antisemitism, contained in a bill currently before the legislature.

Click here to see a video of the rally:

https://www.bitchute.com/video/gUsmDWXnt72L/?fbclid=IwAR0MXyennnuC-STRgBHBm1LUDWdD-Df8jVukIOb8ajzZq-JRS7qRfcgxsE8

As the World Grapples With Racism, Israel Seeks to Empower Ethiopian Youth

By SHARON GELBACH

The growing protests against racism in the United States have aroused strong feelings worldwide, and Israel is no exception. Ethiopian Israelis have long complained of prejudice and being treated as second-class citizens.

Sheba Medical Center, Israel’s national hospital, enjoys a global reputation for medical innovation, but many are unaware that it is also at the forefront of helping to integrate members of various minority groups in Israel.

In the past several years, Sheba has integrated hundreds of new Ethiopian olim (immigrants) into the hospital workforce, going as far to provide them with free classes to help them navigate Israeli bureaucracy and improve their language skills.

Most recently, Prof. Eldad Katorza, senior physician at Sheba, decided to give youth from the Ethiopian community a head start by folding them into a pilot program within “Project Arrow,” which he directs.

“Project Arrow” (chetz in Hebrew, the initials of chokrim tze’irim, meaning “young researchers”) is an apprenticeship program for medical students designed to pave their way into the world of medical research.

Established in 2006, the initiative matches select medical students with experienced researchers to serve as mentors. During once- or twice-weekly meetings, the student-mentor team works through every stage of medical research, from formulating the initial question, to collecting and analyzing data, to presenting the results at medical conferences.

This year, for the first time, each research duo included a third tier: high school students from the Ethiopian community.

Katorza believes in the importance of encouraging students to pursue research, noting that in medical school, they do not receive sufficient exposure to research thinking or methodology.

“I believe that research makes a doctor more knowledgeable, more curious, more creative,” he said. “A doctor who engages in research is a much better doctor.”

Employing this premise, Katorza now plans to open several slots for nursing school students in the coming year’s program.

“Nursing is also a field that stands to benefit greatly from adding researching to its ranks; it will raise the bar of nursing in Israel,” he said.

Even in the early stages of planning the pilot program for the Ethiopian high school students, it quickly became evident to Katorza just how crucial, timely, and challenging his initiative was.

“I asked my son, then in 11th grade, to look around his own school in Givatayim for students from the Ethiopian community who might be suitable for the program,” said Katorza. “As it turned out, there wasn’t a single Ethiopian student in his school, nor in any of the good schools in the area.”

The reason can be traced to the socioeconomic realities in Israel today. By and large, members of the Ethiopian community tend to dwell in poorer neighborhoods where community services and schools are on a lower level.

These conditions put Ethiopian teens at a disadvantage from the outset, and due to economic necessity, youth are pushed to join the workforce at an early age, perpetuating a cycle of poverty.

“Almost four decades have passed since the first wave of Ethiopian aliyah,” observed Katorza, “yet judging from their rate of participation in academia, their level of affluence and other markers of social mobility, it appears that the government has failed to take the necessary steps to help them bridge the gaps and facilitate their successful absorption into mainstream Israeli society.”

Anxious to change that trend, Katorza decided to include outstanding students from the Ethiopian community in “Project Arrow.”

But it wasn’t simple to locate high school students from the Ethiopian sector who met the criteria for participation in the program: High marks in the sciences, high motivation and interest, and living near enough to the Sheba campus to attend weekly meetings.

Ultimately, Katorza was aided by an organization called Fidel (“alphabet” in Amharic), which promotes the education and social integration of Ethiopian-Israeli youth.

The Fidel staff welcomed the opportunity to incorporate Ethiopian students into the program, and provided 10 candidates, from which the top five were chosen.

Katorza said the pilot was a resounding success and will be repeated in the coming year.

“We found that once they are freed from the limitations of their environment, the students manifested amazing capabilities,” he said. “We endeavored to help build their self-confidence, empower them, and teach them that they can do anything they put their mind to.”

Throughout the year, in addition to their full participation in research, the Ethiopian high-schoolers were also exposed to clinical activity at the hospital.

“At the beginning of the year, the students didn’t have any specific plans for the future,” Katorza said. “Now, they are now seriously considering a medical career.”

One of those is Yair Jalmar, 17, from Beer Yaakov, who participated in a research project with pediatric cardiologist Dr. Shai Tejman.

“This project helped me develop my interest in medicine and learn more about the advanced technologies and devices as well as the various departments in the medical field,” Jalmar said.

Former participants in the Arrow Project have gone on to publish their findings in prestigious medical journals, and several have joined the team at Sheba.


Sharon Gelback
Sharon Gelbach

Sharon Gelbach grew up in Toronto and moved to Israel in 1982. She is a writer, editor and translator and lives with her husband and family in Jerusalem.

Qu’est-ce qu’être Sépharade dans l’Israël d’aujourd’hui?

Par ELIAS LEVY

En 2017, la présentation du documentaire The Ancestral Sin — Le péché ancestral —, réalisé par David Deri, à la télévision israélienne avait suscité un immense tollé. 

En 2019, un autre documentaire sulfureux, Ma’abarot — Camps de transit —, œuvre de la réalisatrice Dina Ziv-Riklis, présenté aussi en début de soirée par une chaîne de télévision israélienne à une heure de forte cote d’écoute, a relancé la polémique houleuse, qui s’était atténuée au fil des années, sur la condition des Sépharades dans l’Israël naissant des années 50 et 60.

Ces deux documentaires-chocs, présentés respectivement dans le cadre des éditions 2019 et 2020 du Festival du cinéma israélien de Montréal (FCIM), évoquent les déboires des immigrants sépharades, majoritairement originaires du Maroc, arrivés en Israël à partir de la fin des années 50. Ces derniers furent victimes d’une discrimination éhontée de la part des bureaucrates de l’Agence juive.

Ce chapitre sombre de l’histoire d’Israël a exhumé des réminiscences que beaucoup de Sépharades avaient enfouies. Les deux documentaires les ont fait rejaillir avec force.

Quel est l’état réel du séphardisme dans la société israélienne d’aujourd’hui ? Y a-t-il toujours une « Question sépharade » dans l’Israël de 2020?

Quatre fins connaisseurs de l’histoire mouvementée des Mizrahim d’Israël nous ont livré leurs vues sur cette question épineuse.

Pour le journaliste israélien Daniel Bensimon, soixante-douze ans après la création de l’État d’Israël, force est de constater que la « Question sépharade », que certains pensaient révolue, est toujours vivace.

Ex-éditorialiste au quotidien de gauche, Haaretz, et ancien député du Parti travailliste à la Knesset, Daniel Bensimon est l’auteur de plusieurs livres remarqués sur la société israélienne et les villes de développement du sud d’Israël. Il est le récipiendaire du plus prestigieux prix de journalisme décerné en Israël, le Sokolov Prize, l’équivalent du prix Pulitzer américain.

« Des documentaires tels que The Ancestral Sin et Ma’abarot sont des œuvres décapantes réalisées par des Sépharades de la troisième génération qui s’escriment à réhabiliter l’honneur bafoué de leurs grands-parents et parents par un establishment ashkénaze arrogant qui les méprisait profondément. Ces derniers étaient considérés comme des êtres illettrés provenant d’un monde arabe moyenâgeux. Ces Mizrahim de la troisième génération sont en colère. Ils se battent pour que la cruelle vérité ayant trait à la condition de leurs aînés dans l’Israël des années 50, 60 et 70 soit enfin dévoilée à la nouvelle génération de Sabras. Au Québec, votre devise est « Je me souviens ». Les Sépharades d’Israël ont fait aussi leur aussi cet a », nous a dit Daniel Bensimon au cours d’une conversation à bâtons rompus sur l’identité sépharade dans l’Israël de la deuxième décade du XXIe siècle.

Pour l’écrivain et éducateur Ami Bouganim, le séphardisme israélien a été instrumentalisé à des fins politiques par des politiciens sépharades et ashkénazes en quête de visibilité ou de légitimité. 

Né dans la ville portuaire marocaine d’Essaouira (Mogador), cet essayiste, romancier et philosophe, qui vit à Netanya depuis 1970, est l’intellectuel sépharade israélien qui a le mieux retracé le déracinement de la communauté juive marocaine d’Israël qui a fait son Aliya dans les années 50 et 60.

« En Israël, le séphardisme ne sait plus ce qu’il est. Il s’est empêtré dans la controverse orientale, où il a gagné en pugnacité politique ce qu’il a perdu en charme littéraire. Je ne connais pas de définition du séphardisme. Les documentaires The Ancestral Sin et Ma’abarot ont secoué les consciences dans la société israélienne. Mais, en réalité, ces deux documentaires ne nous apprennent rien de nouveau. On a gratté de nouveau les blessures, mais sans éclairer lez zones d’ombre qui perdurent. Toutes les archives sur cette question ont déjà été épluchées par des chercheurs. Regrettablement, ces documentaires ont été exploités par des journalistes et des politiciens à des fins politiques ou idéologiques. »

D’après l’historien israélien Michel Abitbol, en Israël, la « Question sépharade » s’est muée au fil des ans en une « Question sociale ».

Professeur émérite de l’Université hébraïque de Jérusalem (UHJ), ex-directeur de l’Institut Ben-Zvi, affilié à l’UHJ — institution de recherche spécialisée dans l’étude de l’histoire des communautés sépharades et orientales — et ancien directeur pédagogique auprès du ministère de l’Éducation d’Israël, Michel Abitbol est un spécialiste reconnu de l’histoire du judaïsme marocain, des Juifs du monde arabe et du conflit israélo-arabe.

« En Israël, les Sépharades reviennent de très loin. Depuis les années 50, ils ont accompli des progrès énormes sur les plans social et politique. Ils se sont frayés une place des plus honorables dans les principaux secteurs de la société israélienne: la politique —un bon nombre de députés de la Knesset sont Sépharades—, les affaires, l’armée — de nombreux hauts gradés de Tsahal, dont plusieurs chefs d’État-major, sont d’origine sépharade —, la culture, les arts, la musique, la gastronomie… Aujourd’hui, l’enjeu majeur n’est plus la séphardité mais les inégalités sociales de plus en plus criantes dans l’Israël de 2020, souligne-t-il. Ces écarts sociaux accentuent la pauvreté et la paupérisation des couches sociales les plus vulnérables, particulièrement dans les villes de développement du Sud d’Israël peuplées majoritairement de Sépharades originaires du Maroc. Il est vrai par contre que des écarts entre Sépharades et Ashkénazes perdurent aux niveaux scolaire et universitaire, par exemple en ce qui a trait au nombre de bacheliers et de diplômés universitaires de deuxième et troisième cycles. Mais, on ne peut plus parler, comme c’était le cas dans les années 50 et 60, d’un racisme systémique institutionnalisé à l’encontre des communautés sépharades. »

Le tiers du nouveau gouvernement d’union nationale dirigé par Benyamin Netanyahou, soit dix ministres, est composé de Sépharades d’origine marocaine.

Selon le célèbre historien israélien Tom Segev, qui consacre dans son dernier livre — A State at Any Cost. The Life of David Ben-Gurion (Farar, Straus and Giroux Publisher, New York, 2019) — des pages passionnantes aux relations tendues qui ont toujours prévalu entre le père fondateur de l’État d’Israël, David Ben Gourion, et les communautés orientales, bien qu’elle soit moins aiguë que dans les années 60, 70 et 80, la « Question sépharade » subsiste toujours en Israël.

« Soixante-douze ans après la fondation d’Israël, la « Question sépharade » n’a pas encore été résolue. Nous le constatons aujourd’hui dans l’attitude raciste adoptée par beaucoup d’Israéliens à l’égard des Juifs éthiopiens, qui sont confrontés à des épreuves aussi ignominieuses, et même pires, que celles que les Juifs originaires du Maroc ont subies lors de leur Aliya dans les années 50, 60. Chose certaine: ce problème, qui date de l’époque de Ben Gourion, n’est pas à la veille d’être dénoué. »


Elias Levy
Elias Levy

Agencies Unite to Provide ‘Kosher on Wheels’

By STEVE ARNOLD

Getting kosher food in Hamilton has always been a challenge for some people, but now, three local agencies are hoping to ease that problem.

With a $60,000 federal grant funneled through the local United Way, Hamilton Jewish Family Services (HJFS), the Hamilton Jewish Federation, and Adas Israel Synagogue have launched Kosher on Wheels to deliver up to 30 free meals a week to needy residents.

The project was conceived by local chef Max Bida as a way of returning some of the kindness shown to him when he arrived in Canada from Israel in 2015.

“When I came here, people helped me, so now I help others,” Bida told the CJR. “It’s not about money, it’s not about making a name for myself but to give back,” he said.

Bida said he brings “whatever tools I’ve got to the table. I have a lot of experience in the kitchen and in managing projects like this. I volunteered in Israel…so I figured I could do the same here.”

With his culinary consulting business sidelined by the COVID crisis, Bida took his idea of kosher food on wheels to the Hamilton Jewish Federation and Adas Israel Rabbi Daniel Green.

The Federation provided money and Adas Israel provided the kosher kitchen. Hamilton Jewish Family Services also provided money, as well as the link to clients, arranged the distribution system and was the lead agency on the United Way grant application.

Menu options include soups, chicken, a side of root vegetables, Italian meatballs and rice or pasta, whole fish, with salad, a pickle or coleslaw, among others.

Bida prepares all the food himself in the Adas Israel kitchen and packages it for delivery. As much as 70 per cent of the food has been donated.

Rabbi Green said Bida has been a volunteer on several Adas Israel projects. Based on that experience, the rabbi said he was happy to support the meals-on-wheels idea.

“There is a real spirit of giving and volunteering with Max,” Rabbi Green said. “He runs the whole food side of the operation.

“I think we’re just scratching the tip of the iceberg in terms of the need,” he added. “The more outreach we can do, the more need we are going to see.”

Coming together as Food4U, the organizations have already been able to provide 210 free kosher meals to families in need and more than 210 meals at-cost to others by delivery or curbside pick-up.

HJFS executive director Alexis Wenzowski said getting kosher food to local residents in need “has been on our radar for a while.”

COVID, however, brought a new urgency by making it unsafe for the elderly and vulnerable people to leave their homes.

“We are targeting a population that is marginalized in the community or feeling hidden in this community,” she said. “Now they are feeling supported and that means a lot.”

The United Way grant, she said, will give the program financial stability until March, allowing Bida to be paid a small wage and help with the cost of kosher products, which can be up to 50 per cent higher than non-kosher items.

Federation executive director Gustavo Rymberg said the program will get support from the Jewish appeal next year because it fills a real need in the community.

“We have always seen a need in the community for more kosher options for those who need it. With this program, we are not only responding to a crisis, we are transforming a crisis into an opportunity,” he said.

Federal support for the project was provided through the Emergency Community Relief Fund, a $350 million initiative to help charities and non-profit organizations serving vulnerable populations affected by COVID.

On the Record: Canadian Jewish Musicians of Note

IDA HAENDEL: Dec. 15, 1928 – July 1, 2020. Violinist, Child Prodigy, Teacher

By DAVID EISENSTADT

Polish-born child prodigy violinist Ida (pronounced Ee-dah) Haendel, who lived in Montreal from 1952 to 1989, died in Miami, Florida on July 1. She was 96.

She was three-and-a-half when she reproduced a song on her sister’s violin. Her portrait painter father, Nathan Hendel, had aspired to become a violinist but was thwarted by his father, a rabbi, and ultimately championed his daughter’s career. The family, originally from Chelm, moved to London, England in 1936 and Ida became a British citizen.

Ida Haendel
Ida Haendel

At the age of seven, she admitted that she could not read music, yet performed the Beethoven Violin Concerto and garnered the Warsaw Conservatory Gold Medal. Two years earlier, she had won the first Huberman Prize in the International Henryk Wieniawski Violin Competition.

Hendael’s exact age was an ongoing question in music circles, one that was never really resolved. Following a Queen’s Hall debut concert in December 1936, the Guardian reported that “to satisfy the London County council that she would be 14 for a Sunday performance of the Brahms concerto with wood in January 1937, her father came up with a certificate showing a birth date of 1923.”

An astounding prodigy whose career spanned seven decades, she was known for her intense lyricism and classical rigour. One feature of her highly characteristic sound was her perfectly judged use of the expressive slide from one note to another (the portamento). She studied with her musical mentors George Enescu in Paris and Carl Flesch in London.

In 1937, she became a frequent soloist at the famous Promenade concerts in London, playing works of Beethoven, Brahms, Mozart, Shostakovich, Saint-Saens, and Stravinsky, among others. The last of her 68 Prom performances was in 1994 with a concerto written by Benjamin Britten. 

Before the Second World War, she toured France, Holland and the United States with successful post-war tours in the Soviet Union and other countries. During the war, she entertained those serving in the conflict, from factory workers to frontline and returning troops.

From 1940 to 1947, she recorded a range of compositions for Decca, with some reissued in 2000 as a companion to a new recording of works by Bartok, her teacher Enescu, and Karol Szymanowski, the celebrated Polish pianist and composer. She had a passion for German and 20th century music, best exemplified by a tribute to Enescu on a Decca recording of his Violin Sonata with Vladimir Ashkenazy, which earned Haendel a Diapason d’Or in 2000.

Haendel accompanied the London Philharmonic to the first Hong Kong Arts Festival in 1973 and the BBC Symphony Orchestra to China in 1981 as the first Western violin soloist to perform after the Cultural Revolution. She even returned to Chelm in 2006 for a CD-recorded concert.

An admirer of movie stars, “she emulated many of them in trimming a few years off her age in her autobiography (Woman With Violin – 1970), but even with a birth year of 1923 rather than 1928, her early achievement was astonishing,” reported the Guardian. “Any later mention of her age saw an affronted Haendel berating enquirers with a certificate giving 1928 as the year of her birth. In much the same spirit, she embellished her family name so that it shared a spelling with that of the Saxon composer born Georg Friedrich Haendel. As she was quick to point out, they could have been related.”

She moved to Montreal in 1952 and remained a resident to 1989. She also resided in Miami from 1979 on, although London, England was her home base.

Haendel’s violin was a Stradivarius from 1699.

The one thing her career lacked, added the Guardian, “was a sustained series of new recordings in the 1960s and 70s, leaving her feeling that she never had the recognition she deserved.”

Yet, her emotive performances inspired a new generation of violinists, including David Garrett, Anne-Sophie Mutter, and Maxim Vengerov – all testament to her enthralling audiences around the globe with a combination of romantic warmth and classical precision.


David Eisenstadt
David Eisenstadt

David Eisenstadt is founding partner of tcgpr and a graduate of Carleton University’s School of Journalism and the University of Calgary.

UPDATED: Mayor Joins Chorus against Foodbenders; Others Cut Ties

Toronto Mayor John Tory has denounced antisemitic and anti-Zionist statements emanating from the Toronto restaurant Foodbenders.

“There is no place for this type of hate or discrimination in our city or anywhere else in Canada,” Tory stated in a tweet on July 8. “I stand with Toronto’s Jewish community in condemning this type of hate and intolerance and commit to continue to build up our city as a place that is inclusive of everyone.”

The day before, Ontario Premier Doug Ford condemned Foodbenders statements. “Language and actions like this are disgusting and will not be tolerated here in Ontario,” Ford stated. “Our government stands with the Jewish community in condemning this kind of behaviour here at home, and across the globe.”

Meantime, another food delivery service has cut ties to Foodbenders. On July 7, DoorDash announced that it severed relations with the business.

In a letter to Jaime Kirzner-Roberts, director of Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Centre’s Campaign Against Antisemitism, David London, who’s listed at LinkedIn as head of U.S. East, U.S. Federal and Canada Government Relations at DoorDash, wrote to say his company investigates reports of “inappropriate behavior as soon as they are brought to our attention and have decided to remove the merchant [Foodbenders] from our platform for failure to follow the community guidelines and our partner code of conduct. This took effect immediately.”

London said DoorDash was founded “to connect people and we strive to make sure everyone in our community feels safe when using the platform. We do not tolerate any form of malicious, discriminatory or hateful behavior, and any violation of this policy is grounds for deactivation.”

Only the day before, Uber curtly informed Foodbenders that its agreement with the eatery “is terminated effective immediately.” On the same day, the food delivery service Ritual also cut ties to Foodbenders.

As well, Ambrosia, a natural foods store with three locations in Toronto and Vaughan, will no longer carry products from Foodbenders.

In an online reply to Daniel Koren, director of Hasbara Fellowships Canada, Ambrosia said it will no longer sell Foodbenders’ products at its three locations. “We believe in love, community, and togetherness,” the business added.

Two Toronto coffee shops, Blue Heaven Café and Café Con Leche, have also cuts ties to Foodbenders.

Located in Toronto’s Bloordale neighbourhood, Foodbenders has come under intense scrutiny for its antisemitic and anti-Zionist pronouncements on social media and on signs outside the store.

It first drew attention for proclaiming “F@ck the Police” on a sandwich board outside the business. But in recent weeks, it turned its ire toward the Jewish community.

One sign said “defund Israel,” while another stated, “F@ck Mossad, IDF, Bibi.

On Instagram, the eatery announced: “#zionistsnotwelcome,” and “Zionists are Nazis.”

On Canada Day, the restaurant put out a sign saying, “Happy KKKanada Day.”

The business also praised Leila Khaled, who hijacked two planes 50 years ago as a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a group designated a terrorist entity in Canada. Alongside a photo of Khaled clutching a rifle, the business proclaimed: “There is only solution: Intifada. Revolution.”

Of Canadian Jewish groups, it said, “These people control your media and elected officials.” On her personal Facebook page, Foodbenders owner Kimberly Hawkins described Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as a “Zionist puppet.”

The statements prompted days of fervid activity on social media and denunciations from Jewish advocacy groups. The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs said it would refer the matter to its Legal Task Force.

“Simply put, the overwhelming majority of Jewish Canadians are Zionists,” CIJA noted.

B’nai Brith suggested contacting 311@toronto.ca to request an investigation of that Foodbenders’ business license.

In a later post on social media, Foodbenders said “criticizing the Israeli zionist state occupation or the police isn’t a hate crime. Nor is it anti-Semitic to say that zionist journalists in Toronto and now Israel have written slander [sic] fake news pieces about me to present me as racist for the sole reason of silencing me on Palestine. They are controlling the narrative of my story and they are lying.

“Jews are very welcome to shop with us, zionists may also shop if they can do so without insisting they’re [sic] right to a homeland justifies killing other people,” the post went on “When a Zionist tells us Palestinians should be murdered, something that happens all day long, we ask them to leave because THAT is hate speech.”

– CJR Staff

Letters to the Editor: July 8, 2020

Responding to Wilkinson

July 8, 2020

Jeffrey Wilkinson (“Zionists not Welcome’ and the Responding Deafness,” CJR, July 7) names three points he says are “unhelpful” and “meant to reduce or silence criticism of Israel.” These are the conflation of the terms “Jewish” and “Zionist;” the definition of Zionism as the national liberation movement of the Jewish people; and the equating of widespread Jewish support for Zionism with a mainstream consensus about Zionism.

Respectfully, these three points are common ideas not because they are “meant to silence” anyone, but because they are largely true. They are arguments not meant to weaponize antisemitism, but to draw attention to the slippery way anti-Zionism and Jew-hatred are frequently intertwined.

It’s not Jews who conflate the term “Zionist” with “Jewish,” it’s anti-Zionists who insinuate, as the owner of Foodbenders did in several social media posts, that “Zionists” have conspiratorial and manipulative control over the media, the government, etc. The fact that someone uses a different word does not mean we can ignore the use of an old-school canard and trope of Jew hatred. 

It’s not unfair to equate widespread Jewish support of Zionism with a mainstream position; that’s what a mainstream position is. When a person says Jews are welcome as long as they aren’t Zionists, as the owner of Foodbenders did in her posts about Zionism and Jews, that’s called tokenizing. It too is a discriminatory practice, meant to insulate the offending person from criticism for their actions.

Lastly, defining Zionism as the national liberation movement of the Jewish people is not a tactic for stifling criticism. It is a basic understanding of Jewish history from the perspective that the Jews are a people who have suffered centuries of oppression culminating in genocide. Of course, none of this excuses rude behavior or harassment on any side, But it takes someone who doesn’t see Jew hatred as a real problem to dismiss the main argument for Zionism as “stifling” or to refuse to allow Jewish people to define the terms of what counts as hate and discrimination against themselves.

That’s the real reason so many of us are bothered by the attitude displayed by Foodbenders, and in Wilkinson’s op-ed. It represents the very resistance to Jewish self-determination, including the right to define our own experiences of discrimination, exclusion, and oppression, that makes Zionism a necessity for Jewish thriving in the modern world. 

Rabbi Jordan Shaner
Toronto


ISIS Fighters Deserve Their Fate

July 8, 2020

It is a little surprising but not unexpected that New-York based Human Rights Watch (HRW) levied an accusation of human rights violations against Canada on June 29. They very baldly stated that our government is neglecting a group of 26 men who suffer in a brutal prisoner of war camp inside Syria, controlled by the Turkish military. The real surprise, however, is that the subjects of the complaint consist entirely of ISIS combatants. 

Truly, Canada is guilty of so many racist actions that it owes many restitution. But for HRW to advocate for followers of a terror organization that beheaded, raped, and slaughtered its way across three nations – stealing unbelievable resources along the way – warrants censure. These individuals do not deserve mercy, and HRW ought to reevaluate its priorities for advocacy. 

ISIS, worse than Al-Qaeda, caused more harm and inspired more attacks than its loathsome predecessor.

The prisoners deserve whatever horrors they incurred for themselves. Their families should never be permitted refugee status in Canada because they could wreak mayhem inside our borders.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is right to evade questioning about repatriating former citizens and ISIS members because they forfeited those rights long ago. Let them remain where they are. 

Christopher-Michael Mansour
Barrie, Ont.

‘Zionists not Welcome’ and the Responding Deafness

By JEFFREY WILKINSON

The phrase “Zionists not welcome” appeared as a hashtag in an Instagram post on or around July 1, 2020 from the owner of Foodbenders in Toronto. Soon after, an avalanche of criticism was directed at the restaurant’s owner, Kimberly Hawkins, led by pro-Israel advocacy groups which saw the post as blatantly racist and called for a boycott of the establishment.

In the past couple of days, Facebook and Instagram have been filled with responses (and responses to the responses) producing little, if any meaningful discourse, but instead, resorting to the usual tribal screaming and insults directed at those with opposing views, on both sides of the argument.

There is no simple right or wrong, as much as we would like to feel that we are completely on the right side, whatever that side is. There was, however, a great deal of propaganda peddled in the responses to the post.

If we take Hawkins literally – that she is banning Zionists from her store, and, by affiliation, banning most Jews – of course, this is highly offensive and totally inappropriate in a civil society. In a response in blogTO, Hawkins said that she, of course, welcomes Zionists and Jews; that she was making a political statement about Palestinian rights and would gladly have a conversation about this with anyone who is interested.

Many who were convinced that the post was, plain and simple, a clear example of antisemitism, immediately dismissed her claim.

There are some common ideas which inflame more than help, pushed by many in the outcry over the owner’s post. First, Zionists and Jews are synonymous, so banning Zionists is equivalent to the days of “No Dogs or Jews.”

Second, as one post stated, “Zionism is the Jewish national movement of rebirth and renewal in the land of Israel – the historical birthplace of the Jewish people. That’s it. It’s not support for a specific Israeli government or any actions of that government.”

Third, as the vast majority of Canadian Jews support Israel, the term “Zionist” equals “Jews.” In other words, if you are anti-Zionist, you are anti the vast majority of Canadian Jews and therefore antisemitic. This conflation has been a focal point of pro-Israel advocacy groups, particularly in light of the general acceptance of the International Holocaust Remembrance Association’s definition of antisemitism by many Canadian governmental and non-governmental organizations, which connects certain types of criticism of Israel with antisemitism.

Each of these points is meant to reduce or silence criticism of Israel, and devalue the concerns of Palestinians and their supporters. A measure of how effective this has been is seen in how assuredly many people responding to Hawkins’ post took “Zionists are not welcome” to mean barring Jews, rather than seeing it as a political statement resisting the consequences of Zionism to Palestinians. In fact, she has an embossed decal on her store window stating “I Love Gaza,” not “I Hate Jews.”

In the many responses back and forth, blanket statements about Zionism are hurled at the other. While one post states; “Zionism is a colonial enterprise” and another fires back; “Zionism is an anti-colonial enterprise, resisting the Arab colonialists, creating freedom for an oppressed people.”

My concern here is to highlight the deafness that is rampant in the Israel-Palestine discourse these responses epitomize. Is there an irrefutable truth in the statements being tossed back and forth? Is anyone interested if there was?

Imagine a response from a Jew that went something like this:

Dear Ms Hawkins:

I am a Jew and I felt quite hurt by your Instagram post, particularly the hashtag “Zionists not welcome.” What do you mean by Zionists? Do you mean all people who have an affinity for Israel? Do you distinguish people who have no interest in what is happening to Palestinians from those, like me, who value Israel but have deep concerns over what Israel has become, particularly its harmful effects on Palestinians? Would you please clarify what you meant and be clearer in the future so that we can all learn and listen to each other with an ear towards healing rather than further division?

Sincerely, a concerned fellow Canadian.

If one were to respond in this manner, it might be possible to learn rather than demonize. We need to be more wary of those who are deepening the divide in the discourse about Israel-Palestine, and the conflict by stoking past traumas and forwarding only a zero-sum, us vs. them paradigm. By responding to a hurtful post with such force, the hurt is only magnified. We can be hurt and still listen. Another can offend us without us dismissing them. We can and must do better.


Jeff Wilkinson
Jeffrey J. Wilkinson, PhD

Jeffrey J. Wilkinson, PhD, is an educator, facilitator and researcher focused on the psycho-social causes of intractable conflicts, researching not only how these conflicts are formed, but also how they may be undone over time. His doctoral dissertation explored the Israel/Palestine conflict through the experiences of Canadian Jews and Palestinians. He is the co-author, with a Palestinian, of an upcoming book addressing the current polarization in Jewish-Palestinian discourse within the two diasporas.