Letter to the Editor: Dec. 22, 2020

Agrees on CIJA

Andrew Cohen’s excellent analysis and critique of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) is most welcome and long past due. (“Unelected, unaccountable, untroubled: CIJA says what it wants and then says it speaks for us” – Dec. 16)  In the eyes of the non-Jewish community and of legislators in Canada, the high profile and well-funded CIJA appears to be the voice of Canadian Jews. But it is not that voice, as Mr. Cohen points out, but rather an advocacy group with a single agenda and a single point of view.

It was a sad day when CIJA replaced the Canadian Jewish Congress under a cloak of mystery. Canadian Jews had a representative and accountable body to speak for us. We need one again; CIJA is not that body.

Donnie Friedman

Letter to the Editor: Dec. 16, 2020

Re: “Reservist Should be Tossed for Racist Ties, Navy Agrees,” Dec. 15, 2020

The simple truth remains that, if asked, most minorities would likely say they do not think the Canadian military has their safety in mind when performing its duties. My home city is a short drive from Base Borden and I cannot ever recall seeing multicultural or ethnic soldiers that were not visiting foreign personnel or officials.

The Armed Forces needs to do a better job of weeding out hateful individuals from its ranks if they are to shed any misconceptions about their agenda and prevent dangerous weaponry and training from falling into the wrong hands.

The former soldier claims his time in the military helped him “shed” his evil views, but that is a debatable point best answered by investigators and psychiatrists. He did offer weapons to hate groups and willfully promoted hatred, both of which are criminal offences. The ongoing “reformation” of the military ought to be something parliament takes very seriously as well as finding ways to boost multicultural recruitment. 

Christopher-Michael Mansour
Barrie, Ont.

Letter to the Editor: Bill 21 Mocks Canada’s Democracy

November 9, 2020

Dear Editor:

Re: “Quebec’s Secularism Law Finally Goes to Court, Nov. 4, 2020”

Quebec’s trouble with Bill 21—the “Secularism Law”—provides an ample demonstration about why ‘Notwithstanding’ clauses are overtly dangerous to parliamentary democracies. For one thing, the clauses ultimately cater to selfish provincial Premiers looking to steamroll unpopular legislation for purely selfish motives in contravention of human and Charter rights. Consider Quebec Premier Francois Legault’s justification for the law: it prevents feuding over “reasonable accommodation practices” in the public arena. Perhaps the apparent discomfort over religious accommodations has to do with the fact that Quebec, a largely Roman Catholic Christian society, is uncomfortable with providing accommodation for neighboring religions. If this is true, it bears stating that the Church hosts many races, cultures, and ethnicities, laity and ordained.

Quebeckers remember the power the Church once held in previous centuries. But the atheistic practices of Mr. Legault and his government should not be used to silence religious expression in the public arena, hence the Constitutional quandaries. The unpopular notwithstanding clauses prove that democracy, even in Canada, is a relative term.

Christopher-Michael Mansour
Barrie, ON 

Letter to the Editor, November 2, 2020

Dear Editor:

It is nice that Erin O’Toole pledges close ties to the Jewish community (New Tory Leader Pledges Close Ties to Jewish Community, CJR, Oct. 30)

Unfortunately, his pledge does not apply to the Jewish community in Quebec. In Quebec, he says and does nothing about the fact the Quebec government practices discrimination against all minorities in the province, which includes the Jewish community.

If you would like, I can send you specifics on how the Quebec government practices discrimination against all minorities in the province.

Hy London

Letter to the Editor – October 13, 2020

Kudos to Babins

I applaud Zach Babins for his article, “What do we mean when we talk about free speech?” (CJR, Oct. 9). What happened at the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Law is an embarrassment to the Jewish community, and no good will come of it. I’m reminded of Groucho Marx’s profound observation that I believe applies in this case: “Those are my principles; and if you don’t like them, well, I have others.”

Jerry Friedman

Letter to the Editor – July 27, 2020

The Two-State Solution: What Now?

Thank you Joseph M. Steiner for getting to the most important issue in Peter Beinart’s articles (Peter Beinart’s “Yavne” and its Critics, July 24). You write publicly what many of us have already known. The two-state solution is a mirage. The question becomes, “what now?”

Charlie Lior


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

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.


CJR ‘Flogs a Dead Horse’

I have no problem with people championing the “two states solution,” but I do believe that your publication is flogging a dead horse (CJR editorial, “Annexation Will Destroy Hopes for Peace,” July 3).

How many times must Israel show up for these pathetic summits that appear to be preordained to fail? How many times must Israel sweeten the pie, only to have the offer rejected? How many times must Israel’s prime minister smile sheepishly while someone with a “freedom fighter’s gun” stuck in his belt refuses to approach the signing table?

You may blame Israel for not “pursuing peace,” but that is not at all the way I see it,for the country bled profusely, urged on – not always – by friends to give it another try.

It’s been 40 years of blood, toil and tears, while making friends and forging a nation. And all the while Israel goes on with building the national state of the Jews, while the other side, having forgotten its promise to build a democratic society, keeps on calling for “days of rage.”

Well, they may rage on, but Israel has work to do. 

Nathan Shuster
North York, Ont.

‘We are accountable’

It is despicable that the Toronto restaurant Foodbenders promotes hate and praises terrorism against Jews. Free speech is one thing, but when one promotes hate and terrorism, it is quite another.

Let us never forget that it was these same type of hate and words that led to the Holocaust. Our leaders and politicians should show zero tolerance to Foodbenders and people like them. Enough of political correctness!

Let us teach each other that there is a G-d that watches what we say and do.

We are accountable for our actions. 

We need to teach that every human is created in the image of G-d. 

We can use our G-d-given talents to build or to destroy.

A girl once asked a rabbi, “is atomic energy good or bad?” The rabbi asked, “is the knife in your kitchen good or bad?”

The girl replied, “it depends on what it’s used for.” If it is used to cut food, then it’s good. If it’s used to hurt someone, then it’s bad. The same is for atomic energy and for any technology.

May we all use our G-d-given talents for good things!

Rabbi Yirmi Cohen 
Toronto, Ont.

Letters to the Editor: Friday, June 26, 2020

In his recent editorial “On Spellings, Antisemitism and Free Speech” (June 12, 2020), Bernie Farber defends the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance Working Definition of Antisemitism by arguing that 1) it is not a threat to free speech because it states that “criticism of Israel similar to that levelled against any other country cannot be regarded as antisemitic”, and that 2) the vast majority of Jewish groups fully support it.

Regarding point one: This proviso has in no way prevented the IHRA definition from being utilized to shut down Israel-critical speech. Donald Trump’s 2019 executive order incorporating the IHRA definition into U.S. law has increasingly been used to prosecute allegations of antisemitism related to criticism of Israel on university campuses. High-profile cases investigating student activism in particular have arisen at UCLA Berkeley, Columbia, UC Irvine, UMass, Duke and UNC. The message these investigations send to students, faculty and administrators is this: Harshly criticize Israeli human rights violations and you risk prosecution and/or withdrawal of funding.  

Farber’s second argument, that there is essentially global consensus on the definition, is clearly debatable. Kenneth Stern, the definition’s co-author, has stated that it “was never intended to be a campus hate speech code. [Trump’s] executive order is an attack on academic freedom and free speech, and will harm not only pro-Palestinian advocates, but also Jewish students and faculty, and the academy itself.” Moreover, many Jewish organizations oppose adopting the definition, including  J Street, Independent Jewish Voices and dozens of others. Others may oppose it as well, but are afraid of the potential impacts of speaking out.

Recently, Independent Jewish Voices published an open letter from over 400 Canadian academics (including many Jews) who oppose adoption of the IHRA definition on their campuses. The signatories fear that the definition’s adoption will imperil academic freedom. We need to heed their voices and protect the right to research, teach and yes, protest violations of Palestinian human rights. 

As Holocaust scholars Amos Goldberg and Raz Segal have argued, proponents of the IHRA definition have managed to change the discourse, diverting attention away from Israel’s human rights violations and focusing instead on what is allowed and what is prohibited when criticizing Israel. In conducting this campaign, proponents of the IHRA definition risk not only stifling legitimate speech; they also divert attention from the rise of real Jew-hatred worldwide.

Sheryl Nestel, PhD
Member, Independent Jewish Voices Canada Steering Committee

Letters to the Editor: Friday June 26, 2020

Regarding Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s attempt to secure a seat on the United Nations Security Council:

I honestly believe that Trudeau communicates well with the world. I commend him for his strong and effective leadership in this time of COVID crisis.

But I wonder if all the tax dollars and time spent to win a UN Security Council seat was really worth it.

As dictators and murderers in Venezuela, Iran, North Korea, and Syria literally get away with murdering their own people, I ask myself, “why?” Why not use our tax dollars and time to stand up to these bully countries, and condemn those countries that vilify Israel?

In Israel, one can be gay and live freely. Not in Iran and the others. Let’s stand up to Iran on behalf of our fellow 57 Canadians who were killed when Iran shot down flight 752 in January.

Canada knows the truth: That Mahmoud Abbas heads the Palestinians’ “pay for slay” policy, in which he rewards terrorists’ families with salaries. Keep Abbas accountable!

I ask Trudeau respectfully: Let’s invest our tax dollars and time in the most constructive way.

Rabbi Yirmi Cohen 

Letters to the Editor – May 25, 2020

Congratulations on the launch of the Canadian Jewish Record. I immediately had the link posted on our society mailing list and I am sure it will be shared countless times.

We have all wondered what the next voice of the Canadian Jewish community might be, who would step up to lead the way, and what form might a publication take. Of course, I am sure I am not the only one wishing you success.

Stanley Diamond
President, Jewish Genealogical Society of Montreal

?I’m writing to congratulate you for creating the Canadian Jewish Record. Best wishes for good luck, good journalism and prosperity to maintain reputable standards. 

Toby Saltzman, Toronto

Loved that you are offering a forum for a Jewish voice. What you are doing is so amazing! It will surely gather momentum. Wishing you and your families and this fabulous endeavour all the best.

Gloria Clamen, Toronto

Thank you so much for filling the huge gap left by the CJN. I hope word about this gets around very quickly. I would like to suggest that you perhaps add a classified section for services and merchandise.

Diane Sidenberg, Toronto

The demise of the CJN definitely has left a void in our Jewish community.  It served as a social, political and religious link, and I for one was wondering what would we do now.  How would we be kept informed of social events, organizational happenings, topics that were important to us as Jews? Then, the Canadian Jewish Record popped up on Facebook. Kol Hakavod to all of you for taking this step in creating a liason for Canadian Jewry.

Wishing you much success,

Sue Shillow
Thornhill, Ontario