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