Editorial: Jewish Jurists Serve to Remind Us of Justice

Sept. 23, 2020 – As Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement approaches, we turn our minds to justice – appropriate, given the recent death of the legendary Jewish American Supreme Court Justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Justice Ginsburg was a wisp of a woman but whose heart was Olympian and whose soul burned fiercely on behalf of those less fortunate, especially women who have, for much of the past century, been treated like second class citizens in the United States. Her decisions were wise, pointed, and filled with the juice of needed change and progress.

Justice has always played a central role in Judaism. Great Jewish biblical heroes, prophets, and philosophers have pointed to the key Jewish precept, “Tzedek, tzedek tirdof” (“Justice, justice shall you pursue.” It appears initially in the Book of Deuteronomy and is part of a set of regulations that bestow on the Jewish people a code of moral behaviour.

Why is the word “justice” repeated twice? The Torah is a very precise book. Each word has been measured for meaning and argued over by great rabbis over many centuries. Perhaps the most widely accepted explanation comes from the most broadly respected rabbi of the 11th century, Rashi, who explains that not only must judges make wise decisions, which accounts for the first “tzedek,” but, as importantly, those in a position of choosing judges must also choose wisely, referring to the second “tzedek.” This gives the people comfort knowing that the courts of justice are populated by good and decent people making judicious decisions.

There is another, more modern interpretation. Some believe the second cry of “justice-tzedek” emphasizes the Jewish values of treating the stranger fairly, feeding the poor, and extending love to our neighbours despite our differences.

In North America, Jewish men and women have figured prominently in the choice of judges. To our great fortune and that of society in general, these Jews have embraced their Jewish values of pursuing justice.

Undoubtedly, “Notorious RBG,” as Ginsburg came to be known, was one of many such Jewish jurists who graced courtrooms in the United States and Canada and did so with a Jewish heart. They were perhaps not as well-known, but certainly as deserving.

From Tillie Taylor, Saskatchewan’s first female Jewish magistrate; to Nathaniel Nemetz, former Chief Justice of British Columbia; to Samuel Freedman, Chief Justice of Manitoba. All three played a key role in the jurisprudence of western Canada.

On the east coast, Constance Glube was the first Jewish woman appointed Chief Justice of Nova Scotia.

In Quebec, where antisemitism was more prevalent than elsewhere in Canada, Jews nonetheless held senior judicial positions: Alan Gold was Chief Justice of Quebec’s Superior Court, and Harry Batshaw and Herbert Marx held sway as a Quebec Superior Court justices (Marx had also been Quebec’s justice minister.)

Ontario also saw the appointment of many Jews to the bench, including Charles Dubin as Chief Justice of Ontario; John I. Laskin, a justice of the Court of Appeal for Ontario and a former legal counsel to Canadian Jewish Congress (CJC); and Sydney Harris, a judge of the Ontario Provincial Court and former national president of CJC.

Today’s Ontario bench features another past president and legal counsel of CJC, Edward Morgan; Justice Katherine Feldman; Justice Paul Perell; and recently appointed Justice Edward Prutschi.

And of course, Canada’s Supreme Court has been positively influenced by some of Canada’s most eminent jurists. Bora Laskin also a former chair of CJC’s legal committee was, famously, the first Jewish Canadian to be Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada. Others on the land’s highest court were Rosalie Abella, the first Jewish woman to reach Canada’s high court, as well as Morris Fish, Michael Moldaver, and Marshall Rothstein.

Each of these jurists not only upheld the highest legal ethics, but did so as proud Jews who were raised with the understanding that in the Jewish tradition, justice and atonement are the highest ideals.

We at the Canadian Jewish Record are proud of those in our community who are lights unto the nation. As we encounter a very special, socially-distant Yom Kippur, may we all be judged for our good deeds. And may those we hurt either by deed or word forgive us.

Editorial: May the New Year Bring Healing Stateside

Sept. 16, 2020 – As a New Year begins, it is time to take stock of the year we leave behind and determine what each of us can do to help shape a better world to come. Our tradition tells us that while we need not complete our work to effect change, we must not shirk from trying.

The Jewish year of 5780 has been the most challenging time since the end of the Second World War. Increases in world hunger, further climate damage, war, racial divide, hatred and extremism have all increased in numbers hardly imaginable even a year earlier.

And as this year draws to a close, the world is caught in the grip of a pandemic unseen since the Spanish Flu of 1918. All this happens at a time political leadership in many places seems incapable, unsympathetic, and in some cases, incompetent.

Nowhere is this in sharper relief than with our neighbours to the south. It used to be that no matter which of the two political parties held power, the office of president was revered and respected. With the ascension of Donald Trump, the United States has foundered to a knife’s edge of no return.

Never before have the American people elected a president as singularly unqualified for the job. In the last three and-a-half years, Trump has proven to be a racist and misogynist; an Islamophobe who tried to close the borders of his country to Muslims; has flirted with wild, extreme right-wing conspiracies; and divided his country to such an extent that ultra-conservative militias feel comfortable storming state legislatures with automatic weapons cocked and loaded.

During this presidency, we have seen protests in the streets in the wake of the shootings of numerous people of colour by police, while Republican Party apparatchiks seem oblivious to the fatal harm being caused by Trump.

And all this happens when COVID has taken the U.S. hostage, causing, as of this writing, more than 185,000 deaths, many of which were avoidable had the president acted sooner and had a plan. As we know by his own words in Bob Woodward’s latest book on Trump, Rage, the president was well aware of the dangers posed by the coronavirus, and openly lied to the American people in a hapless effort to avoid panic.

No less a light than Abe Foxman, former CEO of the most significant Jewish organization worldwide fighting antisemitism, the Anti-Defamation League, broke his self-imposed decision not to endorse or be publicly partial to any political candidate. Said Foxman in an opinion piece he wrote this week for the Times of Israel, “When our democracy is weakened, and nativism is stoked, the rights of Jews and other minorities will be diminished too.” He continued, ominously: “It may not happen overnight, but it will happen, and Jews know this from bitter experience.”

Foxman was sharp and critical outlining his fear of Trump and his minions adding that the president has “given succor to bigots, supremacists, and those seeking to divide our society…he and his administration dehumanize immigrants, demonize the most vulnerable, and undermine the civility and enlightened political culture that have allowed Jews to achieve what no Diaspora community outside Israel can claim in two millennia.”

Those in our community who support Trump point to his support of Israel, seen in the moving of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem and peace deals with Arab nations. But it cannot simply be about Israel all the time. The danger Trump poses to the entire world requires us to look well beyond our personal backyard.

Everyone has a role to play in mitigating an American disaster. It’s in our interest as Canadians, as it’s clear that where America goes, so goes Canada. While it may seem there’s little we as individuals can do, we still have a voice. We have collectively many relatives and friends in the United States, and now is the time to speak out and implore them to fix their country before it is too late.

The coming year – 5781 – can be a harbinger of a new and changed society only if we recognize the work that must be done. We don’t have to finish it this coming year, but we all must engage.

Shana Tovah Umetukah to all.

Editorial: Avera Mengistu is Still a Hamas Prisoner. Why?

Sept. 9, 2020 – There is a common myth in Israel that it will never desert one of its own. Israel has cooperated beyond courage to bring back those killed on the battlefield. IDF officials have negotiated in the past with Egypt, Jordan, the PLO, even terrorist groups, often trading hundreds of captive Palestinian terrorists and enemy combatants for the body of one IDF fighter.

Recall Gilad Shalit, the IDF soldier who, in June 2006, was captured by Hamas terrorists entering Israel near the Kerem Shalom crossing through their intricate tunnel system. Shalit was kidnapped and held prisoner for more than five years.

Israel and the Shalit family, which had resources thanks to campaigns in Jewish communities worldwide, kept his name and his plight at the centre of events. In October 2011, following tense and often fractious negotiations through intermediaries, Shalit was finally released in exchange for some 1,000 Arab and Palestinian prisoners held by Israel, 280 of whom were serving life terms for carrying out deadly attacks against Israeli targets.

The treasuring of each Israeli citizen was, and continues to be, the truest test of Israel’s character.

Sadly however, in the case of Avera Mengistu, the credo of “no Israeli left behind if captured by enemy combatants” does not seem to hold true. Some feel racism is to blame.

Mengistu and his large family arrived in Israel from Ethiopia in 1991 when he was five years old. Theirs was not an easy life. His father found it difficult to find work and the only income for the clan came from Avera’s mother, who cleaned homes in Ashkelon, near the Gaza border.

Avera’s life went from bad to worse following the death of his beloved eldest brother. He turned to friends for money, and his mental health became fragile to the point where he underwent psychiatric treatment. In March 2013, the IDF determined that Avera was not fit for military service. During this time, his mental health deteriorated even more.

A few months later, in circumstances that remain vague, Avera was seen near the Zikim beach on the Israeli-Gaza border. An IDF unit thought he was one of many Sudanese refugees who were trying to get into Gaza. He was last spotted near the security fence, and by the time Israeli border guards arrived, he had disappeared into Gaza. He has not been seen since.

There were some minor attempts to have him returned to Israel. All failed. In an interview with Al Jazeera, a senior Hamas official acknowledged that Avera was in Gaza. He claimed the Ethiopian was wearing a uniform, was mentally healthy, and was part of ongoing negotiations relating to the 2014 Gaza-Israel truce talks.

And this is where Avera’s fate has largely stood to this day. Unlike the case of Shalit, there has been little mass public outcry from Israeli authorities for his release. His family, who are among the poverty-stricken Ethiopians in Israel, have no resources to fight for his release.

There is an inescapable feeling that the reason Avera’s case is not being handled with the determination and seriousness of other kidnapped Israelis is because he’s Ethiopian – and Black. Indeed, one of Avera’s brothers, Yalo, noted in an interview with Ha’aretz that “it’s more than racism. I call it ‘anti-Blackism.’ I am one million percent certain that if he were white, we would not have come to a situation like this.”

Hamas has also not lost sight of the fact that Avera’s case has garnered little attention, though there have been sporadic reports of Hamas demands for a prisoner exchange with Israel for his release. Notably, Hamas has used the racial bias issue as a propaganda chip. On its Twitter platform, a Hamas message claimed “obviously the real Israeli motto is ‘leave no Ashkenazi (white Israeli) man behind.’”

This is a sad story of one man suffering from severe mental health problems. It seems sadly clear that both Israel and Hamas view the situation through the colour of his skin. It’s time that both sides see Avera as a man who must be returned to his family. His life matters and we cannot be silent.

Editorial: Findlay Apology Not Good Enough

Sept. 2, 2020 – Who is Kerry Lynne Findlay and what did she do to anger so many Canadian Jews (and others)?

Findlay is the Conservative member of Parliament representing South Surrey—White Rock in the Greater Vancouver area. She’s a one-time parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Justice and served for two years in the Stephen Harper government as Minister of National Revenue.

Today, she is the Conservative environment critic who should have known better.

Last week, Findlay re-tweeted a short video of a 2009 interview then journalist Chrystia Freeland, now the finance minister, conducted with philanthropist and investor George Soros for the Financial Times. That in itself would not have raised many eyebrows, except that Findlay did a deep dive into the wild world of antisemitic conspiracy theories that place Soros at their centre.

About Freedland and Soros, Findlay had this warning: “The closeness of these two should alarm every Canadian.” Fellow Conservative MP and finance critic Pierre Poilievre duly re-tweeted Findlay’s post.

Soros is seen by the underbelly of conspiracists – QAnon currently leading that pack – as nothing short of attempting to control the world, and as the embodiment of evil for donating to progressive causes.

According to the largest organization focused on fighting antisemitism, the Anti-Defamation League, Soros “has become a lightning rod for conservative and right-wing groups who object to his funding of liberal causes.” In far right circles worldwide, the ADL continues, Soros’ philanthropy is “often recast as fodder for outsized conspiracy theories, including claims that he masterminds specific global plots or manipulates particular events to further his goals.”

Many of those conspiracy theories employ longstanding antisemitic tropes, particularly that rich and powerful Jews lurk behind the scenes, plotting to control countries and manipulate global events, the ADL explains.

Soros is Jewish and a child survivor of the Holocaust. It was his survival that drove him to succeed, and he has become one of the wealthiest people in the world. He has also devoted his life and, it’s been estimated, more than $30 billion to following the Jewish dictum to make the world a better place.

Today, at age 90, Soros has become a hero to racial and ethnic minorities and those demanding necessary changes to the human condition.

The good news is that there was strong pushback from all sectors of Canadian society against Findlay’s tweet. Jewish organizations, the Canadian Anti-Hate Network, and many on Twitter criticized Findlay loudly and passionately. To her credit, she did offer an apology – of sorts.

Again using Twitter, Findlay wrote:

“Earlier today, I thoughtlessly shared content from what I am now learning is a source that promotes hateful conspiracy theories. I have removed the tweets and apologize to anyone who thinks I would want to endorse hateful rhetoric.”

Kerry-Anne Findlay

This is a good start, but not nearly enough. Anytime Jews are connected to mindless conspiracy theories emanating from the far right, they are placed at risk. Findlay needs to go further and explain the context, reference the Jewish community, and let Canadians know the danger faced by Jews daily. A good word about the work of Soros helping countless individuals and causes would go a long way.

We must also add that Poilievre, as of this writing, has remained silent, as has newly-minted Conservative leader Erin O’Toole. Both could use this opportunity to speak out forcefully against Jew-hatred, but to date, have not.

Hate crime statistics consistently show that Canadian Jews remain the number one victim of haters and bigots. Surely Findlay’s response should reflect this reality, and both Poilievre and O’Toole would be wise to join the chorus against hate.

There’s always the tired old charge that Jews over-react to every little thing, and maybe this is one of them. Trust us: It’s better than the opposite.

Addendum:

According to a report in the Globe and Mail on Sept. 3, O’Toole said he learned of the issue after Findlay’s tweet had been deleted, adding that he spoke with some Jewish leaders to say that the Conservatives are a strong voice against antisemitism.

Editorial: Let’s Continue to Save Lives

Aug. 27, 2020

In the Jewish tradition, we are taught that“whosoever saves a life, it is as though he had saved the entire world” – surely a beautiful sentiment embraced by other faith traditions.

And yet, we see very much the opposite today, especially in the reaction of a significant minority both here and in the United States to dangerous fiction that “trumps” truth when it comes to Covid-19.

Alarmingly, more than a few people are either ignorant or think they are invincible,or worse, believe religiously-tinged fairy tales from numbskulls in leadership positions.

Take Ohio state representative Nino Vitale, for example. The Republican has urged his fellow Ohioans to refuse to wear face masks. As he rambled to Newsweekrecently, “When we think about the image and likeness of God, that we’re created in the image and likeness of God, when we think of image, do we think of a chest or our legs or our arms? We think of their face. I don’t want to cover people’s faces. That’s the image of God right there. I want to see it in my brothers and sisters.”

Ordinary Americans have also invoked God, claiming masks interfere with His divinely-designed human breathing apparatus. A study released in late June suggested that White American evangelicals’ attitudes toward the coronavirus pandemic are considerably more relaxed than those of other religious groups.

This might go some way to explaining the fact that the United States has the highest number (per 100,000 people) of Covid cases and deaths in the world.

To date, nearly 180,000 Americans have died in the pandemic, a number that scientists and epidemiologists tell us wasavoidable had people followed the simple hygienic rules by now burned into our brains: keep your distance, wash your hands, and wear a mask – simple rules that Donald Trump was reluctant to mandate.

Worse, Trump seems to treat unnecessary deaths with a shrugging normalcy. Asked a couple of weeks ago about the staggering death rate in his country, he responded, “it is what it is.”

One might assume that members of his own party would be horrified at such a reply. Not so much. A recent CBS poll found 57percent of Republicans felt that a death toll of 176,000 Americans (at the time) was “acceptable.” The same survey found that 73 percent of Republicans believe Trump is handling the Coronavirus pandemic well.

Thankfully, saner heads prevail when the same question is asked across the United States, where 62 percent of voters believe the response is “going badly.” Incredibly,however, that means close to 40 percent of Americans (almost 150 million people) are just fine with Trump’s handling of the pandemic.

In Canada, we are faring much better, even though we have our own “Covoidiots.” Take the recent example of 600 patrons packedshoulder-to-shoulder into a downtown Toronto strip club. Naturally, an employee tested positive for the virus. Now all attendees and employees have to isolate and monitor. Consider also pandemic house parties held across the country, just begging for infection?

The good news, however, is that for the most part, our political leaders, no matter where they stand on the spectrum andunlike their American counterparts, have saved lives by listening to science and taking the best possible advice from those in public health charged with looking after our welfare.

This is not to say problems don’t exist. Finding the right balance between opening our schools and preventing huge spikes in the virus remains a real challenge.

So far, with the customary Canadian sense of following established rules (and a little luck), our pandemic numbers have been trending downward. We need to continue down this path with care and thoughtfulness. We need to continue saving entire generations.

Editorial: Justice for Racialized Communities: We All Have Skin in this Game

Aug. 20, 2020 – For a time, we really did feel that things were changing. With the tragic murder of George Floyd, many rose from their complacency to demand change. Indeed, these times have been reminiscent of the heady civil rights era in which Martin Luther King, Rabbi Abraham Heschel and other faith leaders, Black and white, Jews and Christians (other faiths weren’t comfortable with the high visibility at the time) who peacefully but passionately spoke out against racism and discrimination. Reminiscent, but not quite the same.

The civil rights era of the 1960s led at first to a momentous change in the body politic of the United States: The Civil Rights Act signed into law by then President Lyndon Johnson in 1964.

A crowning achievement, it was intended to outlaw discrimination based on race, colour, religion, sex, or national origin. It did not, of course. Words on paper are just words if they are not followed by concrete and meaningful action. Words blur, hate is muscular. Words are simply not enough without boldness of action.

Here in Canada, we like to believe we are better. We told ourselves we didn’t require a Civil Rights Act to understand the evil of bigotry. We fooled ourselves into believing that we held the moral high ground.

Among the evidence to the contrary were Ontario’s so-called restrictive covenants, which prohibited the sale of land to Jews and Blacks.

In one of the better-known examples in the post-war era, a labour organization, the Workers’ Educational Association of Canada (WEA), purchased property on O’Connor Drive to build “ideal” homes for working families and soldiers returning home. The WEA soon discovered the deed prevented the land from being sold to Jews “or persons of objectionable nationality.”

That led, in 1945, to an arrangement between the WEA and the Canadian Jewish Congress. Then WEA director Drummond Wren teamed with CJC’s legal committee chair, Bora Laskin, (later to become the first Jewish Chief Justice of Canada) and other lawyers representing the complainants. Together, their argument succeeded. Justice J. Keiller MacKay of the Supreme Court of Ontario, later an Ontario Lieutenant Governor, struck the offensive legislation from provincial law, declaring it “injurious to the public good.” Stated MacKay in his impassioned ruling:

“Canada is pledged to promote universal respect for and observance of, human rights and fundamental freedoms for all without discrimination as to race, sex, language or religion…”

Justice J. Keiller MacKay

But that didn’t spell the end of bigotry. Appeals and counter-appeals wound up before the Ontario Court of Appeal, which, in a contemptible decision in 1949, sidestepped MacKay’s ruling and claimed that barring those of Jewish, “Negro or coloured race or blood” was only to make sure those owning land were of “a class who will get along together.” There was nothing “criminal or unusual” about any of this, the court assured.

It wasn’t until 1950 that Ontario banned the covenants in a bill that saw unanimous support. “There is no place in Ontario’s way of life for restrictive covenants,” pronounced then Ontario Premier Leslie Frost. Later that year, the Supreme Court of Canada struck down all forms of racial and faith-based restrictive land covenants as invalid.

Flash forward to today. While no barriers by race appear in law, bigotry and systemic racism still exist. This week, the Ontario Human Rights Commission (which arose from the battles undertaken by the WEA and CJC) identified, through its Human Rights Tribunals, that systemic racism continues unchecked, causing much harm.

As noted by Ena Chadha, the new Chief Commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission: This past March, a six-year-old Black girl was racially discriminated against when police restrained and handcuffed her at school.

And: In 2018, Black youths had to prepay their meals at a Toronto restaurant.

These are but two examples of systemic racism which were thankfully dealt with under human rights law. But racism continues unabated. This is not a time to take our eyes off the ball. Much work remains to be done. Justice for racialized communities does matter. We all have skin in this game.

Editorial: Looking Outside Ourselves

Aug. 13, 2020 – For far too long, those outside the Jewish community looking in see a group that, for the most part, seems self-interested. Yes, from time to time, we break out of our bubble, understanding that we live in a society that needs all its parts to work in unison in order to maintain balance. But we all need to shove back the curtain even more these days.

And it’s not only Jewish organizations we speak of. Indeed, the CJR must also lift its own eyes and acknowledge that we are part of a world outside our Jewish experience.

It’s easy for us as Jews to condemn anti-Semitism; to speak out against Nazi enablers like Helmut Oberlander, who is still in Canada despite being stripped of his Canadian citizenship several times; to bemoan swastikas scrawled on synagogue walls; to speak out against neo-Nazis and white supremacists.

However, it’s far more difficult to reach into the souls of other troubled communities and walk in their shoes. For example, what do Jewish organizations have to say about Ontario’s plan to send Jewish children back to school amidst this terrible pandemic?

With the exception of philanthropist Henry Wolfond, who personally undertook to fund a program distributing Visa cash cards, in conjunction with Jewish humanitarian organization Ve’ahavta, have we reached out enough to the homeless, the working poor, and the destitute outside our own sphere?

And what of injustices? Yes, we are taking baby steps in trying to better understand communities of colour and the pain that has accompanied their lives for generations. But have we stood our ground with them?

Take the tragic story of Soleiman (Soli) Faqiri. Soleiman was a young engineering student at the University of Waterloo. He was by all accounts a good man and a good student who cared for his family and community. Following an automobile accident, he was diagnosed with schizophrenia and his world came spiralling down.

Police were often called under the Mental Health Act to intervene. His behaviour became more erratic, leading to assault charges. However, instead of being hospitalized as he should have been, he was sent to solitary confinement for 11 days.

And that was where Soleiman died – or was killed. We simply don’t know the full truth.

There have been two criminal investigations, a probe by the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services, a coroner’s report, and the media have looked into it. Even an eyewitness appears to have claimed fairly conclusively that no authorities protected Soleiman.

We do know that in prison, a fight broke out between Soli and some guards. Soli was beaten, pepper-sprayed, forced into a “spit-hood,” and thrown into an isolation cell, where he died. To date, no one has been held responsible.

In fact, only recently, the Ontario Provincial Police refused to lay charges, claiming they cannot decide which prison guard or guards delivered the fatal blow. If these guards participated in a group beating, they all should be liable for the acts of their accomplices.

Had Soli been a young white Jew in prison who came to this tragic end, would our community remain silent?

We must see people like Soleiman Faqiri as our brother, our friend as part of a community of communities. We must speak up so that next time, it won’t be our brother, our friend, our neighbour.

Editorial: Mark Zuckerberg Doesn’t Care About Holocaust Denial

Aug. 6, 2020 – No less a thinker than Homer Simpson once pronounced: “It’s not that I don’t understand, it’s that I don’t care.” It is difficult not to consider these words when confronted by the actions of Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook.

Facebook is arguably the most important social media platform of our time – maybe the most influential information outlet of all time. It has brought together old friends and lost relatives; it has allowed for the continuation of friendships around the world; it has spawned groups dealing with everything from recipes to physics. But Facebook also has a dark side, which prompts our thoughts today.

In years past, in order for hate groups, neo-Nazis, white supremacists and Holocaust deniers to spread their vile messages, they were mostly forced to stand on busy street corners, handing out their abhorrent messages. If two people walked away with a leaflet, it was considered a good day.

In 2020, all that is required for hatred to seep into our communities is a laptop and internet hookup. Consider numbers that would make legacy media hyperventilate: Worldwide, there are over 2.7 billion monthly active users of Facebook, and 1.8 billion people on average log onto the site every day – a 12 percent increase over just a year ago.

Facebook has been confronted often with requests to take more corporate responsibility by guarding against its use, or misuse, by hatemongers. From time to time, some individuals have been deplatformed. Sadly, the numbers are few and the will from Facebook seems weak.

For the Jewish community, the focus is on the numerous Holocaust deniers who use Facebook as their vehicle of choice to spread their poison. Those of a certain age might remember Toronto-based Ernst Zundel, who was once the largest purveyor of Holocaust denial material in the world. He would salivate today at how Facebook could distribute his lies.

It may seem unbelievable, but Facebook has consistently refused to recognize Holocaust denial as a violation of its “community standards.” Indeed, consider the opening statement of the site’s terms of reference for its standards when it comes to hate speech:

“We do not allow hate speech on Facebook because it creates an environment of intimidation and exclusion and in some cases may promote real-world violence.”

According to the Anti-Defamation League, Zuckerberg explained in a 2018 interview: “I don’t believe that our platform should take that [Holocaust denial] down because I think there are things that different people get wrong,” notably adding, “I don’t think that they’re intentionally getting it wrong…”

News flash for Mark Zuckerberg (who was raised in a Jewish home): Holocaust denial is not just getting historical facts “wrong,” it’s intentional all right, and the most contemptible form of Jew-hatred imaginable.

In recent weeks the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, or Claims Conference, has begun a campaign dubbed #NoDenyingIt!

It’s an online campaign “to ensure the voices of Holocaust survivors are heard by Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg and that is: ‘Holocaust denial posts on Facebook must be removed!’ As one survivor put it, ‘They are calling us liars. We are witnesses,’” the Claims Conference stated.

Holocaust survivors have been sending short videos every day to Zuckerberg demanding he stop this hatred. It’s horrible that in the dusk of their lives, these elderly men and women must ask Facebook to do the right thing. It’s time for Zuckerberg to stop doing a Homer Simpson and to show he understands – and cares.

Editorial: Don’t Let Ignorance Prevail

July 29, 2020 –

John F. Kennedy once noted: “The rights of everyone are diminished when the rights of one are threatened.” It’s hard not to think about Kennedy’s words when dissecting the present leadership run of Annamie Paul to head the federal Green Party of Canada. As reported in the CJR on July 27, Paul is Jewish and Black.

There is little doubt she has the right stuff to run for leader. A Princeton University graduate, lawyer, and the international affairs critic for the party, Paul has been a loyal member of the Greens for years. Sadly, her run for some seems more about her Jewish faith and the colour of her skin than her abilities to hold the position.

According to Paul, she, along with another woman of colour running for the leadership of the federal Conservative party*, Leslyn Lewis, have been the victims of anti-Black racism, and in Paul’s case, this has also been mixed with Jew-hatred. These verbal attacks were hurled anonymously during Zoom leadership debates. The parties are investigating, and if it turns out that the bigot responsible is a Green or Conservative member, he or she will be immediately tossed.

That is very clearly the correct course of action, but why must it come to this in the first place? We are always left aghast at the level of ignorance and intolerance that emerges from time to time in the public sphere. And frankly, it wasn’t always this way.

There have been a number of high-profile politicians, from former federal NDP leader David Lewis; his son, Ontario NDP leader Stephen Lewis; former Ontario PC Leader Larry Grossman; one-time federal Deputy Prime Minister Herb Gray, and others whose Jewishness was rarely, if ever, an issue.

Of course we are not blind to antisemitism in this country. It’s always been with us but it never really seemed to permeate the politics of the nation. So why now?

For one, our technologically advanced era provides a new ease with which racists may transmit their venom – anonymously to boot.

As well, Canada and the rest of the world are facing a pandemic. This is unprecedented. We have been locked down, afraid, anxious and deeply concerned for our future. At such times, we see both the best and the worst of people, and we see it magnified many times over.

This is as true for politics as anything else. As a Jewish community, we must continue to hold our head up high. We are a diverse group of people and perhaps this pandemic and the tumult it has created will help us focus.

People of colour, no matter their faith or place of origin, have most notably on this continent faced bigotry, oppression, and slavery, and have lived in fear of its consequences. We need to stand tall with leaders like Annamie Paul and Leslyn Lewis. Despite their party’s problematic stance on Israel, their presence on the national scene gives us all hope for the future.

*This corrects an earlier version of this editorial, which said Leslyn Lewis was running for the leadership of the Green Party of Canada. The CJR regrets the error.

Editorial: Jewish Leaders Must Act Now

As reported in the Canadian Jewish Record this week, Halton Regional Police released a report this month of a vandalized monument in the St. Volodymyr Ukrainian Cemetery in Oakville. According to the CJR:

“Someone had painted ‘Nazi war monument’ on a stone cenotaph commemorating those who served with the 14th SS Division in the Second World War.

“Formed in 1943, it was part of the Waffen SS, the military branch of the SS. Members of the unit have been accused of killing Polish civilians and Jews during the war.”

The debate surrounding this unit continued long after the end of the war. Apologists have claimed that the unit was formed to fight against the Soviets, and that its being under Nazi command was a historical anomaly.

But beyond doubt is that the 14th Waffen SS Division was under Nazi charge. Indeed, it was considered such a gem within SS paramilitary squads that SS leader Heinrich Himmler personally visited the division in 1944 to laud members’ willingness to rid Galicia of a “dirty blemish…namely the Jews.”

Despite the damage to it, the cenotaph is exactly what the graffiti described: A “Nazi war monument.” Unfortunately, when news of the vandalism was released, Halton police mistakenly claimed that the crime was being investigated under Canada’s anti-hate laws.

Social media erupted, and Halton Police Chief Steven Tanner wisely clarified: “The Nazi Party/SS are by no means a protected group under any hate crime related legislation,” he stated. “The most unfortunate part of all of this is that any such monument would exist in the first place.”

Also unfortunate was the stances of mainstream Jewish advocacy groups. The CJR has been unable to find a single mention of this incident in the news section of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs’ website.

Meantime, it seemed to take prodding from no less an august publication as The Nation for B’nai Brith Canada to issue a statement.

“There is no place for monuments in our society that glorify military units, political organizations or individuals who collaborated with the Nazis in World War II,” the organization told The Nation on July 21. “B’nai Brith Canada calls for such monuments to be removed and for comprehensive education efforts to accurately portray the historical record of those individuals and organizations involved.”

Asked the next day whether B’nai Brith would issue a statement to the CJR, the group sent the following from CEO Michael Mostyn:

“B’nai Brith Canada calls for the removal of any monuments glorifying military units, political organizations or individuals that collaborated with the Nazis in World War II. There is no place for such monuments in Canada.

“Regarding the specific cenotaph in Oakville, Ont., we are in the process of reaching out to other groups affected by this monument in the hopes of achieving real progress on this issue.

“At a bare minimum, comprehensive education efforts are needed to shine the light of historical accuracy on Nazi collaborators and their crimes.”

As of July 22, however, this statement was not on B’nai Brith’s website.

And Friends of Simon Wiesenthal would only go as far as to say the monument was a “blight” and “insults” the memory of Canadian soldiers who fought the Nazis. But FSWC was strangely quiet on removing the monument.

We expect more from our Jewish leadership. Jewish advocacy groups quite rightly spoke out strongly and took decisive legal and human rights actions against the owner of Toronto’s Foodbenders eatery, who recently engaged in ugly antisemitic tropes.

But the glorification of actual Nazis, all of whom, no matter where in Europe they fought, aided in the murder of six million Jews, seems to be a bit of an afterthought.

Complacency (or reluctance to raise voices) in the face of Nazi glorification is not an option, especially for Jews. It’s time for everyone to speak out and demand this and other monuments paying tribute to Nazi collaborators be removed once and for all.

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.

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.

EDITORIAL: Annexation Will Destroy Hopes for Peace

Over the course of the last 50 plus years, the dire need for a two-state solution between Palestinians and Israelis has always occupied the minds of world leaders. When there were breakthroughs, be it former prime minister Ariel Sharon’s recognition of the Palestinian people, the Oslo agreement or former prime minister Ehud Barak’s attempt at a negotiated deal between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, nothing seemed to work.

For those who longed for a settlement, it seemed a stalemate, as inadequate as that was, still left open the possibility of peace.

But, as of this week, Israel’s plans to annex a portion of the occupied territories, though temporarily on hold for reasons unknown, still seem to be careening toward some form of completion. Annexation in any form will destroy the hopes for a Middle East peace. Indeed, if Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s plans for a fuller annexation come to fruition, the chances of Israel’s very survival as a Jewish state may well come into question.

The plans set forth cannot help but render impossible any contemplation of a contiguous Palestinian state. Many Jews in the Diaspora have railed against Netanyahu’s plans. Even the stalwart American Jewish Committee, which has always found ways to defend some of Israel’s harshest policies, warned in a recent article that in annexation, “The price will be borne in the erosion of Israel’s longstanding claims against Palestinian unilateralism, in breach of Oslo Accords promises, and in increasing cynicism in multiple constituencies – including within our own community – about Israel’s commitment to peace.”

Even the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the largest and most successful pro-Israel lobbying group on Capitol Hill, has, according to the Times of Israel,  let it be known that while it will not publicly criticize Israel, it will also not cry foul if others do so, as long as the criticism stops at the issue of annexation.

Here in Canada, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs has been quiet about annexation, but given its usual full-throated support of anything Netanyahu offers, its silence speaks volumes.

Progressive Zionist organizations have rejected any idea of annexation. A recent letter written by New Israel Fund, Jspace Canada and Canadian Friends of Peace Now and signed by many well-known Canadian Jewish writers, thinkers and advocates (including Bernie Farber publisher of the CJR), was adamant in its opposition to annexation. In part, the letter read, “An annexation agenda assails not only Palestinian rights and national aspirations but also Israel’s founding values as outlined in its Declaration of Independence. Illegal under international law, unilateral annexation could provoke a new cycle of violence, lead to the collapse of the Palestinian Authority, jeopardize peace treaties with Jordan and Egypt, undermine Israel’s security and further destabilize the region.”

We continue to dream of a negotiated two-state solution. We fear that without it, Israel as a safe haven for Jews, as a democratic state that embraces the concepts of freedom and human rights will disappear. Jews of good conscience can no longer be silent. 

EDITORIAL: Wear the Mask!


Three short months ago, anyone who entered a bank wearing a mask would have triggered a very serious response. Today, wearing a mask or bandana in a bank or any institution, hardly garners a glance. And that is how it should be.

Coronavirus has changed our way of life. In the last three months of lockdown, we have gone from no masks, to accepting the fact that wearing masks is highly effective in halting the spread of this potentially deadly virus. And yet, for many, this seems not to have sunk in. In stores around Toronto, too many shoppers are still unmasked and many still disregard the rules of physical distancing. Even more astoundingly, store staff have been seen without masks. During the past week, many Torontonians taking advantage of the beautiful weather congregated at Cherry Beach in the hundreds, disregarding all health rules,from masking to physical distancing. What’s the matter with us? Do we want a second wave of COVID, which health professionals warn may be far worse than what we have already suffered? If people refuse to do the right thing to safeguard lives and health,then governments must step in to regulate behaviour and impose heavy fines. This is not the preferred option, but given the ignorance or callousness of too many, it may very well become the only option.

For more on wearing masks, see the first Canadian Jewish Record video, a new feature.


EDITORIAL: Police, Authorities Must Up Their Game in Reporting Hate Crimes

The annual hate crime report has been released in Canada’s largest city by the Toronto Police Service (see the CJR’s news coverage today). And it will come as no real surprise that again, Toronto’s Jewish community which makes up 190,000 of Toronto’s 6 million people, or less than four percent of the total, continues to face the brunt of reported/investigated hate crimes.

Fully 42 percent of the reported crimes of hate targeted Jews in the City of Toronto. In York Region, Jews also led in reported hate crimes, collecting 32 percent of all incidents. Muslim Canadians, LGBTQ and Black Canadians closely followed.

However, we cannot regard these numbers as definitive. Police statistics have always been difficult to totally accept. Most minority groups face serious barriers to reporting alleged hate crime to police. Fear of police and fear of retaliation from hatemongers are very much part of those barriers.

For the most part, according to research from the Canadian Anti-Hate Network (whose board CJR co-founder and publisher Bernie Farber chairs), police do not share the number of reports they receive – only those in which some progress has been made in investigation.

According to the “General Social Survey on Victimization,” a population survey conducted every five years, the real incidence of hate crimes might be up to 20 times higher than reported.

As for collecting information by organizations representing minority communities, the data and the processes for gathering, investigating and reaching conclusions are not always fully realized. Community groups simply do not have the resources to make full assessments, so at best, these reports should be seen more as a snapshot of ongoing trends.

It is absolutely necessary for police and authorities to up their game in monitoring, collecting and analyzing hate crime statistics. This is most especially true when it comes to online hate. There are online tools available to track sentiment and issues around various vital matters including anti-Black racism, antisemitic hate speech, Islamophobic and homophobic sites. We are not currently aware if any groups, including police, are making use of these important tools.

At a time when hateful conspiracies are being freely bandied about on social media, when individuals, especially young people, are being radicalized into hatred, society must begin to devote resources to fight this scourge. Failure to do so will encourage extremist hateful elements to continue down their road of poison.

EDITORIAL: On Spellings, Antisemitism and Free Speech

By BERNIE FARBER

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. 

EDITORIAL: Jews Cannot Fail to Protest

By BERNIE FARBER and ZACK BABINS

The death of George Floyd at the hands of four Minneapolis police officers has become the rallying cry that has once again ignited protest in the United States, across this continent, and in Europe.

We have been down this path before. The United States has a sorry and bloodstained history of race relations, from the Jim Crow laws, which set the tone for racist laws and behaviour in America, to the murder of 14-year-old Emmet Till who was beaten and lynched in 1955 for allegedly flirting with a white woman. America’s violent path continued through the 1960’s, with the murder of four young black girls in a Birmingham, Ala., church bombing and culminated with the assassination of Rev. Martin Luther King.

 There have been points of light in the dark journey. There was the example set by Rosa Parks, who initiated the Montgomery bus boycott when she refused to sit at the back of the bus and the courage of the Little Rock Nine, black high school students who faced down violence and protest to desegregate that city’s schools. But these points of light have not been enough to dispel the darkness. 

And where are we today? Nowhere really.  The ongoing targeting of  black men by both racists and police while driving, jogging, birding, and even “existing while black” has become dangerous to a point where black parents fear for their children’s lives when they simply leave the house.

Jews, of all people, have walked in the shoes of victimization. Many have survived the kingdom of death where they were targeted for annihilation simply because they were Jews. We know better and we cannot be silent. 

Those of us who are not people of colour may claim to understand their pain but that is not enough. We must also recognize the unique struggle of Jews of colour, who face oppression and discrimination on multiple fronts, and often from within our own community. 

Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel marched arm-in-arm with Rev. King in Selma, Ala., protesting hatred and racism. Following the march, Rabbi Heschel proclaimed, “When I marched with Martin Luther King in Selma, I felt my legs were praying.” 

It is time that we Jews take to our legs again and pray alongside our racialized brothers and sisters. In the words of Jewish philosopher Elie Wiesel “there may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.” 

At The CJR, we are committed to amplifying the voices of black Jews and Jews of colour, and diversifying our editorial board. Please contact us at canadianjewishrecord@gmail.com if you are interested in being a part of this initiative.


Zack Babins, co-author
Bernie Farber, co-author

EDITORIAL: We must do better than this

COVID-19 is sucking all the air out of the room. Tragically it also seems to have poisoned our intelligence and turned otherwise smart and decent people into unthinking, unfeeling brutes.

Last week despite multiple warnings, cautions and even demands to engage in social distancing and certainly not to gather in groups of more than five, Trinity-Bellwoods Park in downtown Toronto was filled with summer sun-worshippers as though it were just another day in late May. Gone were the fears of spreading or acquiring this dreaded disease. One would have hoped if people didn’t care about themselves surely they have elderly parents, cousins, aunts and uncles; have we become so callous that causing the potential deaths of those we love has become meaningless?

However, sadly it gets worse. Covid-19 has torn open the ugliness of care in many of our long-term care facilities most especially in Ontario and Quebec. In these provinces by provincial request, 1,650 Canadian military troops were sent to LTC facilities that were worst hit. The report from the military as to what it found boggles the mind:

• “a culture of fear to use supplies because they cost money, expired medication, in some cases military personnel noted aggressive behaviour believed by observers to be abusive”

• “Poor nutritional status due to underfeeding”

• “Cockroaches and flies” were observed as well as residents “left in beds soiled in diapers”

• Inadequate oxygen and inaccessible wound care supplies.

These were just a few observations. There were more including poor staff training, which according to the report led to a “code blue due to choking during feeding while supine — staff unable to dislodge food or revive resident,” read the report.

How does this happen in the 21st century? Our elderly parents and relatives who gave to us so selflessly surely deserve better. How is it possible that Ontario has 175 LTC inspectors for 626 residences yet it took the intervention of the military to discover this unconscionable treatment?

This pandemic has brought out the best and worst of ourselves. Sadly, the worst can lead to fear, disease and even death. Yes, I understand that we have all been locked down for weeks and some  people are more fortunate than others. However, there simply cannot be any excuse for endangering the lives of others and certainly the treatment of our elderly needs to be addressed immediately. We have to do better than this.

A Note from the Founders

Like so many others, we were hit hard by the loss of The Canadian Jewish News. The coronavirus collided with greatly diminished advertising revenue and ever fewer subscribers to kill off Canada’s only national Jewish voice.

How was it possible, we wondered, that Canada, with the world’s fourth-largest Jewish population (going on third largest if trends continue in France) no longer had a Jewish voice?

After all, Jews are generally voracious readers with opinions often loudly and persistently proclaimed. Jewish journalism in Canada has had a long and honourable history but its future no longer seemed tenable (see journalist Andrew Cohen’s article on Canadian Jewish journalism in this, our inaugural issue).

And, it seems, many others were feeling the same way. Through social media, we heard from hundreds of people bemoaning the loss of an official Jewish voice of record.

Thus was born the Canadian Jewish Record.

Journalists, academics, pundits, communal personalities and others have come together and donated their time to develop this online presence. It is a modest effort (for now) but one needed in a time when so many hunger for Jewish information.

We hope to keep the Jewish news engine humming smoothly as we all struggle through strange and unprecedented times.

The Canadian Jewish Record is truly a labour of love. It is akin to an old-style collective, but dressed in twenty-first century digital clothing. We will work toward providing news, views, arts and culture, features, rabbinic perspectives, and all the things you would expect from a quality Jewish publication – and it will all be original content.

Please enjoy … and if any budding writers out there want to contribute, please send pitches or completed work (700 words max) to canadianjewishrecord@gmail.com

Keep well and safe.

Bernie M. Farber and Ron Csillag

Editorial: Hatred is Also a Virus

By BERNIE FARBER

COVID-19 has transported us to a different world. Social niceties, from handshakes to hugs, are now things of the past. New words and concepts like “physical distancing” are fast becoming learned behaviours. Days spent at home can sandpaper your nerves raw and lead to moments, minutes and hours of anxiety and depression.

Yet, we are all going through this strange new world together. We can take strength in numbers. We know that if we follow the rules, we can be safe and keep our family from harm. Nothing is certain but we understand enough that staying home, avoiding crowds, and washing your hands can help not only flatten the curve (another new phrase of the virus language) but keep you away from the virus itself.

It is during crises that we see the best and worst of humanity. Individuals and groups have sprung out of nowhere to shop for their elderly neighbours. Others have started online funding to help secure personal protective equipment. Some have simply made it a point to be in touch with those who are isolated, lonely and afraid. These are our “upstanders.”

On the dark side, we can always count on the ignorant and stupid, including conspiracy theorists who believe that COVID has been drummed up to deprive the U.S. president of another term.

Racists have also sadly emerged. Some have physically attacked neighbours of South Asian descent, as though they were to blame for this crisis.

And of course, let’s not forget the antisemites who very early on postulated the nonsense, according to Alex Friedfeld of the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism that Jews created the virus to trigger the collapse of the stock markets and then take advantage by lining their own pockets.

For Jews, any change in world dynamics produces Jew-hatred. It comes with the territory. And throughout history, antisemitism always found a way to endure. While we battle this pandemic, let’s not lose sight of the haters out there. For them, little has changed, other than they can carry out their evil in the shadow of COVID.