Wishing Biden and Harris Well Online? Buckle Up…

Nov. 17, 2020

By RAFI YABLONSKY

My parents were born in Israel. I was born in Israel. All four of my grandparents were Holocaust survivors who immigrated to Israel. All four of my wife’s grandparents are Holocaust survivors who immigrated to Canada. My wife’s grandfather, Bill Glied, with whom I sat at the verdict of Reinhold Hanning, one of the last Nazis to be tried for war crimes, had spent the last two decades of his life pursuing Holocaust education and telling his story to thousands of students. I have spent my adult life working in the Jewish community, raising millions of dollars for Israel and Jewish communal organizations.

And somehow, here was a comment on my Facebook post telling me that I was no longer Jewish, no longer Israeli.

What was my crime? My unforgivable sin, according to too many commenters?

After four years of the bigotry and venom that Donald Trump and his followers unleashed on the world, and after nearly four days of vote counting, Joe Biden had been declared President-elect in the United States. His running mate, Kamala Harris, had made history by becoming the first woman and first person of colour to hold the title of Vice President-elect.

Her election is an inspiration to millions of young girls across the United States. I was elated to see an end to the sexism, misogyny, homophobia, and racism coming from the White House. I didn’t think too much of it. Maybe that would be the end of the happy story. 

I put up a brief post on my Facebook wall – a picture of the VP-elect, and a message of congratulations.

I didn’t expect what was to come. 

I didn’t expect to be bombarded with over 100 comments attacking me. I didn’t expect to be sworn at, to be told that I was anti-Israel, antisemitic, and a Nazi party supporter to boot.

A sampler:

– For a Jew like you to support Biden is like supporting Nazi Germany.

– Congratulations on cheating.

– F**k you Rafi, you’re pathetic.

Paraphrasing, one commenter said I’m not Jewish. I’m not Israeli. I’m a Canadian communist for supporting Biden/Harris.

I founded the Hasbara at York group, a student organization at the university which focuses on Israel education. I’ve been called a fascist and a racist for supporting Israel in the past. I’ve been called an occupier and Nazi for supporting Israel. I’ve never had my Jewishness negated by a fellow Jew.

I didn’t expect to have my Judaism diminished. And I certainly didn’t expect that an old friend I’ve known for almost two decades would like that comment. 

I received a number of messages of support. From friends, from family, from current and former members of Parliament and heads of major Toronto Jewish institutions. But I barely slept that night. This was the first time I’ve blocked people on Facebook. I had to “unfriend” someone in real life. 

The truth is, I cannot remember a time when the Jewish community has been this starkly divided, and never this viscerally. Our community is drenched in sinat chinam, baseless hatred. Donald Trump has divided the Jewish community into two kinds of Jews. There are Jews who, ignore, or worse, laud and emulate his hatred towards women, minorities, immigrants, members of the LGBTQ+ community, and anyone who opposes him. These sentiments stem mainly from his decision to move the American Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, and several other pro-Israel policy shifts. And then there are the rest of us. 

My grandparents who, thank G-d, survived Auschwitz, used to tell me how in the cattle cars, there were Jews of every denomination, from every corner of the political spectrum. Their destination didn’t care if they were secular or Hasidic, right or left wing. They were just Jews destined for the same fate. 

Jews argue. We disagree with each other. It’s a trait that is deep and celebrated in our history and our texts. But the Talmud tells us kol Yisrael arevim zeh bazeh – all of Israel is responsible for one another. We are not the enemy. But there is a part of our community – one that has been growing over the past four years – that treats any Jews who dislike Donald Trump as heretics. 

In the days since Biden and Harris were elected, there’s been a lot of calls for unity. I think that’s great. We are in desperate need of reconciliation, in the Jewish community as much as the rest of society. But reconciliation and unity doesn’t mean we meet in the middle. 

We meet in a place that respects women, Indigenous peoples and people of colour – and we in the Jewish community must dig particularly deep for Jewish women, and Jewish women of colour. We meet in a place that accepts and celebrates the LGBTQ+ community and the Jews who I’ve marched with in the Toronto Pride Parade when Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (QAIA) tried to have us barred from participating.

I replied to that Facebook commenter, saying that while I pitied him, I didn’t think his support for Trump had cost him his Judaism. I still think about all the negative comments I received over the past few days and I hope daughters never see what their fathers wrote. I hope they instead see Harris shatter the glass ceiling and be encouraged to follow their dreams. 

And more than anything else, I hope that those Jews who have taken to dismissing our Jewishness remember that kol Yisrael arevim ze bazeh and that we are all Jews and will always be family.


Rafi Yablonksy
Rafi Yablonksy

Rafi Yablonsky holds a BComm from York University and worked in the hi-tech industry before working at United Jewish Appeal as Manager of Strategic Initiatives. Rafi has worked as the Toronto Director of Chai Lifeline, as campaign director at JNF Toronto, and most recently, at the Baycrest Foundation as Manager of Major Gifts.

99-Year-Old Will Walk One Million Steps for Senior Care

September 16, 2020 – By SUSAN MINUK

Marvin Gord will not only celebrate his 100th birthday on Dec. 31, but plans to gift $1 million to Baycrest Health Sciences Centre – one step at a time.

“Marvin’s Million” was born on July 1, and Gord is determined to walk one million steps by his milestone birthday, raising a dollar for each stride.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Ontario Premier Doug Ford have all joined in cheering Gord on.

With his trusted walker, Gord has, to date, walked nearly 600,000 steps, raising $67,000. He estimates he will complete between 500 and 750 kilometers by his birthday.

Marvin Gord

He was inspired by English war veteran Tom Moore, who raised money this summer by walking around his garden with the aid of a walker for his 100th birthday.

“If he could do that,” said Gord, “I could raise $1 million for Baycrest.”

Gord has a long history with the health care facility. His grandmother, Yenta Maldover, sat on the Ezras Noshem Society committee that founded Baycrest’s predecessor, the Toronto Jewish Old Folks Home on Cecil Street in downtown Toronto.

His mother, Eva Brownstone, volunteered for many years and was later a resident in Baycrest’s Apotex Centre. His wife, Nancy Gord, entered Baycrest’s palliative care and died in 2015. Gord himself volunteered for Baycrest’s Brain Project memory clinic research.

He’s walked for years, averaging 3.5 miles a day since surviving a heart attack in 1980.

“No matter what, I walk 20 miles a week,” he said. “If it’s not a nice day, I’ll go to one of the malls. It doesn’t matter whether I want to or not, I do it.”

It wasn’t until age 97 that he started to use a walker. Gord challenges the community to walk with him. “But you have to keep up,” he said with a laugh.

Many young people have answered the call.

This summer, counselors-in-training at Camp Manitou in Parry Sound, Ont. became “Marvin buddies,” walking virtually with Gord, said Rafi Yablonsky, manager of major gifts and donor development at the Baycrest Foundation.

Students at Upper Canada College have also created a “Marvin page” to help raise awareness and money, Yablonsky noted.

Gord’s life is rich. He has three daughters, nine grandchildren and seven-great-grandchildren, with an eighth on the way in Israel. He’s an avid reader who combs newspapers’ financial pages, and instructed the CJR to “sign me up” if the website ever goes to print.

Marvin Gord
Marvin Gord

Born in Toronto, Gord was a radar specialist during the Second World War, serving with the Royal Canadian Air Force and the Royal Air Force in England, Africa, and Italy.

After the war, he studied at the University of Toronto and became a pharmacist. A dozen or so years later, he returned to U of T for a psychology degree, and then, at age 60, earned a law degree.

On top of that, he became a finance and human resource professor, and at 83, completed the Canadian Securities Course.

Asked the secret to his longevity Gord said, with a straight face, “one shot of Johnnie Walker Black once a day.” He added: “I have no sugar and no salt in my diet and lots of fiber. It’s the way I live.”

About turning 100, Gord asked, “What’s the big deal? When I turn 110, that will be a big deal.”

“Marvin is an incredible man,” said Josh Cooper, president and CEO of the Baycrest Foundation “At 99, he is what we call at Baycrest a super senior.”

Gord’s donation will benefit Baycrest’s Safeguarding Our Seniors campaign, designed to fund protective measures and medical equipment needed for residents, patients and staff, as well as older adults visiting the facility’s doctors.

Donations can be made at marvinsmillion.com.