So here’s the conceit: A sturdy band of Welshmen, the progeny of intrepid pioneers, have established themselves in an isolated village in the south of France. They eschew any contact with the locals, and live as if they have never left Wales.
What happens when a stranger, injured in a car accident, is brought to the village to recover? Of course, he becomes an instant curiosity, and turns the village inside out and upside down, especially when the town elders have to determine what to do with him when he recovers.
And let me tell you, the ending is a total surprise.
So what’s the Jewish connection, you may ask? Well, that’s part of the surprise. Author Alan Simons has a Jewish affairs website read worldwide. And he has a long record of Jewish organizational activism and leadership in the Toronto community. He’s also the author of several books, for all ages.
But more to the point, what does a nice Jewish lad like Simons, born and bred in London, know about Welsh village life or the jaw-breaking Welsh language for that matter? It turns out he had relatives who were shopkeepers in just such places, and he used to visit when he was a kid. Obviously, something stuck.
Simons’ characters are delightfully loopy, the product no doubt of generations of inbreeding. They are not so loopy that we can’t identify with them, and Simons spends a good part of the book elaborating on their peculiar ways.
Like one of the town councillors, who is accompanied everywhere he goes by a blown-up balloon of a blowsy partner attached to his ankle and waist, but of course is a real person to him. And would you believe nobody in the village bats an eyelash at such behavior? He turns out to be another interloper. How did he integrate so well? That’s what we find out…at the end.
Speaking of the town council, it meets frequently at the local pub-restaurant for a full Welsh breakfast, described in detail. It takes up so much of their meeting that not much in the way of town business is ever accomplished. But what a breakfast!
The book is less than 100 pages and in that small space, we have hived off to another world, like the intruding stranger in the story, and like him, with our heads swirling. We’re more than engaged. We come away imagining the story as a staged farce, or an animated Disney version, vying for which part we’d like to play ourselves.
It just sends our imaginations spinning, and I mean for any age level. After all, the characters are all adults – kind of. And in fact, Simons has promised us a sequel, if the book finds its audience, and lets him know they want more.
Ralph Wintrob is a former journalist, teacher-librarian, longtime instructor at The Life Institute (the senior studies program at Ryerson University) and presenter at seniors groups in Toronto. With his wife Kitty, author of I’m Not Going Back, Wartime Memoir of a Child Evacuee, and a proper Cockney, he has seen Wales in all its natural beauty and human charm.
Two women, Gila Martow and Melissa Lantsman, both Jewish and both with deep roots in the Conservative party, have announced they are seeking the federal Tory nomination in Thornhill riding.
Last month, Conservative MP Peter Kent, who has represented the riding since 2008, said he would not run again.
Martow, 59, and currently the MPP for the riding, says she was “inundated with messages” from Thornhill residents who urged her to seek the nomination when Kent announced he was retiring from politics.
“My team thinks that we need effective local representation to hold the riding blue (Conservative) in the next federal election,” she told the CJR.
Martow, an optometrist, was first elected in 2014. Recently, she was credited with proposing legislation that eased the rules on patio seating for restaurants during the COVID pandemic. She is currently parliamentary assistant to Minister of Francophone Affairs Caroline Mulroney.
In 2016, Martow introduced a motion making Ontario the first province to reject the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel.
Thornhill, which has the highest concentration of Jews of any riding, estimated at 37 percent, cannot be considered a safe Conservative seat, she said. Although Kent held the seat for 12 years, he worked very hard every election to keep it a Tory stronghold, she said.
The nomination meeting will be held early in the new year. Martow said it’s unlikely the Conservative party would appoint a candidate, as the federal Liberal party did recently in two high-profile Toronto byelections. The public “wants to see strong candidates and the way that you get those candidates is by having those nomination meetings,” she said.
Interest in the race is high, and party memberships “are flying out the door.”
A few weeks ago, Martow said that she and Lantsman agreed that Lantsman would seek the provincial seat in Thornhill and that the two candidates had agreed to support each other.
However, Lantsman said she is attracted to federal politics.
“It’s where my interest is, it’s where I spent most of my time in politics. I think I would bring a new fresh voice to the Conservative party under [leader] Erin O’Toole and to the constituents in Thornhill.”
Lantsman, 36, was chief spokesperson for Ontario Premier Doug Ford during his 2018 election campaign. From 2007 to 2015, she served as communications director for federal ministers of finance, foreign affairs, trade and environment.
“I think it’s important to bring a new generation under the Conservative banner. We’ve lost many, particularly around the last election, that didn’t see themselves in the party,” she said.
“I’ve spent the better part of my life speaking on issues that I just don’t think we speak about enough.” Among the issues Lanstman wants to raise are gender and racial equality, and the environment.
A federal election could be called anytime, depending on the fortunes of the minority Liberal government, Martow said. “We need to be ready for a spring election.”
In the meantime, the competitive nomination race is a good sign for the party, Lantsman said.
“Having strong women with a history of activism and community involvement in the Conservative party speaks volumes to what this party is going to attract in the next election.”
An Ajax councillor has apologized for citing Israeli “oppression” of Palestinians as justification for naming a local street after a Nazi warship commander.
“I would like to apologize for any comments I made that were hurtful to yourself and the Jewish Community,” Coun. Ashmeed Khan (Ward 2) said in an email exchange with Ajax resident Adam Wiseman. “That was not my intention.”
Khan made the controversial statement Monday in a lengthy debate over a motion to change the name Langsdorff Drive to that of an Allied veteran of the Second World War. The motion to change the name passed four to three.
During that discussion, Khan declared: “One word I have heard repeated consistently today is reconciliation, reconciliation, reconciliation. I’ve been having calls from people in [his ward] who are Palestinian and have no hope of reconciliation, as they are currently being oppressed by the Jewish State of Israel and they are concerned about how we will address this today.”
The next day, Wiseman, who started a petition calling for the street’s name change, asked that Khan apologize.
“I understood your comment about the ‘Jewish state of Israel currently oppressing Palestinians’ as justification for not changing the street name as though you are implying that yourself and the Palestinian community believe Jews deserve this sort of affront,” Wiseman wrote. “(I)f that was your intention then I am requesting an on the record apology to the Jewish community in Ajax.”
At the heart of the debate is a residential street named in 2004, and dedicated in 2007, for Captain Hans Langsdorff, a career officer of Nazi Germany’s navy and commander of the warship Admiral Graf Spee.
An attempt to name one street in Ajax for Langsdorff’s ship was reversed earlier this year.
In addition to challenging Khan’s statement, Wiseman also had a testy email exchange with Ajax Mayor Shaun Collier, who opposed the renaming motion.
Wiseman wanted the mayor to condemn antisemitism but Collier replied that Langsdorff was an honourable man who deserved to be remembered.
Collier noted a passage from a book titled Command Decisions: Langsdorff and the Battle of the River Plate: “All Langsdorff’s actions as captain of the Graf Spee show that he was a decent, honourable and compassionate man.”
Wiseman responded that in his message to Collier, he had used Langsdorff’s own words from his suicide note, in which he praised Adolf Hitler as a “prophet,” not the “conjecture” of an author writing decades after the events.
Holding Langsdorff up as anything other than a loyal officer of the German navy cheapened the memory of Germans who actively opposed the Nazi regime, Wiseman added.
Wiseman said he was “absolutely disappointed about this email both in tone and content.”
In a later email to the CJR, he added the mayor should have called out an antisemitic statement the moment it happened.
“I am definitely not pleased with the mayor,” he wrote. “It is after all his council and I feel the comment should have been addressed in the moment. The best way to fight antisemitism is to call it out immediately and without apology.”
Growing up in the Philippines, I always celebrated the powerful connection between the Jewish and Filipino diasporas, whose strong ties date to the decision of Manuel Quezon, the Second World War-era president of the Philippines, to issue 1,300 visas to Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi-occupied Europe in 1937-41.
Not only did Quezon welcome as many Jews as he could get visas for, he also offered them his private land to grow food and develop a kind of kibbutz.
The Philippines was thereafter the only Asian nation to vote for the United Nations Partition plan of 1947, which led to the independence of the State of Israel, and paved the way for strong relations between the two countries through to the present day.
Quezon’s heroism is celebrated by both Filipino and Jewish people, including at the “Philippine-Israel Friendship Park” in Quezon City, the Philippines, and at “Balai Quezon” multipurpose centre in Tel Aviv.
In 2015, the board of the International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation approved a posthumous bestowal of the Wallenberg Medal upon President Quezon and to the people of the Philippines for having reached out, between 1937 and 1941, to the persecuted Jews of Europe.
I believe that Canada, too, should celebrate this great relationship with gratitude, with a monument in York Centre.
I am deeply committed to rebuilding Canada’s relationships with its most reliable allies, especially the State of Israel. Like our party’s leader, Erin O’Toole, I support recognizing Jerusalem as the eternal capital of Israel and moving the Embassy of Canada to Jerusalem. Israel, like every sovereign nation, has the right to choose its own capital as a domestic decision; and the people of Israel have chosen to restore their ancient capital in Jerusalem.
Mr. O’Toole and I will stand by our ally Israel, the only true democracy in the Middle East. Our party’s position on Israel is inspired by our last Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, who famously promised the Knesset, Israel’s Parliament, that “through fire and water, Canada will stand with you.”
I agree with his argument that it is in Canada’s long-term interest to back a country where freedom, democracy and the rule of law are threatened by “those who scorn modernity, who loathe the liberty of others and who hold the differences of peoples and cultures in contempt.”
Under Prime Minister Harper, Canada was a loyal ally to Israel at the United Nations. Unlike the current government, which has infamously abandoned Israel on UN resolution votes, the Harper government consistently stood against the abuse of Israel by a body which values dictatorships as much as democracies, and elevates countries like Communist China and Cuba to its Human Rights Council.
I celebrate the Middle East’s only democracy, a multiethnic country, much like our own, made up of recent immigrants from around the globe; and the only country in the region to provide full rights and democratic participation to religious and ethnic minorities.
The vibrant free press and right to dissent available to all Israelis, including religious minorities and members of the LGBTQ+ communities, are the envy of the region. Israel is also an environmental trailblazer as the only country in the world to have more trees at the end of the 20th century than at the beginning.
I also recognize the tremendous progress that Israel has made towards a regional agreement with the Abraham Accords, through which it has made peace with two of its Arab neighbors, the United Arab Emirates and the Kingdom of Bahrain. As Prime Minister Harper rightly noted in a recent article, these agreements “are truly transformative and will pave the way for historic realignments across the Middle East.” They occurred because the world has changed – not only has the strong support of its allies proved to regional nations that Israel is a lasting part of the Middle East, but increasingly, a partner with leading Arab nations against the aggression of Iran.
I also stand with the Jewish community in embracing the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s working definition of antisemitism, which recognizes that antisemitism “might include the targeting of the state of Israel, conceived as a Jewish collectivity” which is different from criticism leveled against any other country.
According to Statistics Canada, year over year, there are more hateful attacks against Jews than upon any other group. I will always fight the terrible scourge of the world’s oldest hatred.
I call upon all Canadians who support Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East and Canada’s most reliable ally in the region, to join this campaign, because I want to represent you.
For a statement on Israel from York Centre’s Liberal candidate, Ya’ara Saks, click here.
My name is Ya’ara Saks and I’m the Liberal candidate in the riding of York Centre in the upcoming federal by-election. Let me tell you a little bit about myself. I’m a dedicated mother of two teenage daughters. I’m a small business owner in York Centre and I’m an active community advocate, in particular for better access to mental health services.
Like so many of us in Canada, I cherish my roots and where my family comes from. I’m the daughter of a Sabra. My father was born in Israel after my grandparents settled in what was then British Mandate Palestine. They fought in the War of Independence. I went to school in Israel; lived there, worked there. It was in Israel, working in the government of the City of Jerusalem, that I lived through the Second Intifada and found my love of public service, working for the Mayor. My family and I contributed to the building of the State of Israel, and we have done so out of a deep love, one that I share with so many of you.
I am a proud Canadian, and I am also an unapologetic Zionist who believes passionately in the State of Israel. I oppose and condemn BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel) and every other form of antisemitism. I have the privilege of being a dual citizen of Canada and of Israel, and having spent many years living in Jerusalem and around Israel, I know firsthand the serious threats that face Israel and Jewish communities around the world.
I believe in a Jewish and democratic Israel, with safe and secure borders, founded on the promise of the rule of law and equal rights enshrined in its Declaration of Independence. I believe that a secure peace is a moral and political imperative and that the only solution to the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians is a two-state solution reached through direct negotiation between the two parties. I believe that the Abraham Accords are an important shift in diplomacy and I am excited for the prospects of Israel’s neighbours finally recognizing its right to exist in peace and security, with the opportunities that it creates.
In Canada, we do not shy away from diversity of thought or of opinion. We embrace it. Our Canadian Jewish community is all the richer for that diversity. Disagreement and debate are rooted in our history, in our culture, in the way we practice our shared faith, and in our politics. It is a defining characteristic of who we are as a people, and it has served us well through the millennia.
This is just as true in Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East. From Jerusalem to Tel Aviv, from Eilat to Rosh Ha’Nikra, Israelis often disagree with their government and with each other. I will not pretend that I agree with every initiative and policy made by Israel’s current political leadership.
But let me be clear: there is a difference between criticism of government policy and questioning the state’s existence. And let me be equally clear: I will never compromise on Israel’s right to exist, on its right to self-defence, or on its right to fair and equal treatment internationally. I oppose BDS and every other form of antisemitism at every turn. I was proud when the Liberal government condemned the BDS movement. I was pleased when the Liberal government formally adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) definition of antisemitism. I was thrilled to see the Canadian government strengthening bilateral relations with Israel, including signing the updated Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement and standing strong against threats of violence and intimidation against our Jewish communities and institutions here in Canada. I will always work with anyone who shares those values and supports Israel and the Jewish community, even when we disagree on the best way to do so.
I have dedicated my entire career to building communities based on two pillars of common understanding. The first is that compassion is our greatest currency as human beings, and the other is that ?? ????? ????? ??? ?? – all of Israel is responsible for one another. As your Member of Parliament, as a proud Canadian and as a Zionist, I will stand by these principles.
In seeking your support as your Member of Parliament in the face of the COVID-19 crisis, in a world that is changing as rapidly as it ever has, the ideas of compassion and mutual responsibility guide me more than ever. These are the values that will inform everything I do representing the people of York Centre. From mental health support to the environment, from the economy to health care, and from striving for fair and equal treatment of all Canadians to supporting a safe and secure Israel, I will be there. For you. For our children. For all of us.
For a statement on Israel from York Centre’s Conservative candidate, Juilus Tiangson, click here.
Mainstream Jewish and Muslim organizations join human rights groups, anti-hate communities, and peace and labour organizations, all working toward one goal. Impossible?
The joining of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) with the National Council of Canadian Muslims and two dozen other faith-based and ethno-cultural groups might have once seemed a lofty goal, perhaps even unattainable.
And then came a maelstrom: Nazis and white supremacists openly rallying in the United States; murders at mosques and synagogues; right-wing extremist attacks in Canadian cities; reports by experts of hundreds of new hate groups in Canada; and, of course, COVID.
The world changed in the blink of an eye. It became a much more dangerous place, especially if you are Muslim, Jewish, Asian, LGBTQ+, or a person of colour.
Police, of course, investigate crime, but still seem to find it difficult to wrap their heads around hate crime. While anti-hate laws exist, they are rarely invoked, and when they are, investigations can take an incredibly long time. For example, the conviction of those behind Your Ward News, a hateful, antisemitic, misogynistic publication, took five years from the date of the first complaint against it. This was unacceptable for targeted groups.
No amount of group advocacy moved the needle. Indeed, things got worse. Reports began to circulate that the Canadian military harboured numerous recruits who were members of well-known hate groups or had been recently radicalized online. A new political party, the Canadian National Party – racist, deeply antisemitic, and parroting Nazi rhetoric of emptying Canada of Jews – was accorded official party status, allowing it to issue tax receipts for charitable deductions.
Then, just a few weeks ago, Mohamed-Aslim Zafis, a caretaker at a downtown Toronto mosque, was brutally murdered while monitoring those entering the building. The Canadian Anti-Hate Network (chaired by CJR publisher Bernie Farber) revealed that the alleged killer has ties to a satanic neo-Nazi organization.
And still no action from any level of government.
Mustafa Farooq, the newly minted executive director of the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM), decided to do something. Farooq called upon civil society players, through their organizations, to come together and demand better, demand protection, demand change.
As a result, a “Call to Action” was organized by Mustafa through the offices of NCCM. A myriad of human rights groups and faith communities have now signed on to a public letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (found here).
The World Sikh Organization, the Canadian Anti-Hate Network, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, Amnesty International, the Canadian Labour Congress, the Canadian Federation of Students, the Baha’i community of Canada, and the African Canadian National Council, are just some of the 26 signatories. Individually, some of these groups don’t play well together in the sandbox, but here, all have recognized the danger by speaking in one loud voice.
These Canadians are demanding from their government that the hundreds of white supremacist, alt right, and neo-Nazi groups be disbanded; for better legal tools, including improved use of anti-terrorism laws for domestic hate groups; better enforcement of laws for social media sites to ensure heavy fines against platforms like Facebook, Twitter, TikTok for disseminating hate, and much more. Civil society, now joined in all its facets, has had enough.
Annamie Paul has made history by becoming the first Black and female Jewish leader of a political party in Canada.
Over the weekend, Paul captured the leadership of the Green Party of Canada after a nearly year-long race to replace Elizabeth May.
Paul, 47, defeated seven other candidates for the leadership. She polled 12,090 votes against her closest competitor, Dimitri Lascaris, who received 10,081 votes after eight rounds of voting.
“You have matched a leader to the challenges of this time,” Paul said in her victory speech. “We need to match the party to the needs of this moment. That party is the Green Party of Canada. We are the party for this moment.”
Other political parties “are simply out of ideas. They are intellectually exhausted. This is a moment that demands daring, courageous leadership and this is something that we simply didn’t see in the last speech from the throne,” Paul said. “I only heard empty words.”
Born in Toronto to Caribbean immigrant parents, Paul underwent an Orthodox Jewish conversion 20 years ago. Her husband is Jewish and they have twoteenage sons.
There has not been a Jewish leader of a federal political party since David Lewis led the NDP from 1971 to 1975.
“I think this country has been ready for some time to elect more diverse politicians,” Paul told the CJR in June. “I think minorities are as electable today as white men when they run for the right parties and the right areas.”
Paul will run in the Oct. 26 byelection in the riding of Toronto Centre, which was vacated after the abrupt resignation of former finance minister Bill Morneau. She lost to Morneau in the same riding in the last election.
In addition to a law degree from the University of Ottawa, Paul earned a masters degree in public affairs from Princeton University.
She told the CJR last summer that she joined the Green Party because she feels its core values – ecological awareness, non-violence, social justice, sustainability, participatory democracy and respect for diversity – best reflect her Jewish beliefs.
“I’ve spent a lot of time over the years thinking about what makes good public policy,” she said. “When I think about my life as a Jewish woman, these are the ideas that have guided me.”
Paul said she found particular reflections of Jewish values in the party’s commitment to social and economic justice and environmental sustainability.
“It is a very Jewish idea that when you save a life, you save an entire world,” she said. “These are values that show a profound respect for human life.”
She was the subject of racist and antisemitic attacks during the leadership campaign. At a virtual town hall, commenters used the ‘N’ word several times and referred to her and another candidate as a ‘f-ing Jew’ in a live chat.
“Most of the attacks, most of the online hate that I’ve received has really been targeted at my Jewish identity,” Paul told Global News prior to the leadership vote. The attacks were “an unrelenting onslaught of comments and commentary and trolling online.
“And so as a Jewish person and as a Black woman, that kind of prejudice isn’t surprising….It still takes you aback — you never really quite get used to it.”
The Green Party’s relationship with Canada’s Jewish community was strained in August 2016, when the party passed a resolution supporting the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel. As a result, May said she was seriously considering resigning asleader.
Four months later, the party said it “explicitly rejects the notion of boycotting the state of Israel. The Green Party does not endorse the formal BDS movement, as it does not include supporting the right of the State of Israel to exist.”
At the same time, however, the party said it supports “only non-violent responses to violence and oppression, including economic measures such as government sanctions, consumer boycotts, institutional divestment, economic sanctions and arms embargoes.” It also condemned “illegal Israeli settlements.”
Paul would not tell the CJR whether she endorses that position, only that she continues to advocate for dialogue “as the preferred means for the resolution of the conflict.”
She said she supports a two-state solution in the Israel-Palestine conflict and feels dialogue is the only solution to the strife that has marked that part of the world.
“There has been violence in both directions,” she said “This is not a one-sided conflict. Around the world bitter, bitter enemies have eventually sat down around the table to discuss their differences. Israel must do everything it can to support those opportunities for dialogue.”
Paul favours a national ban on fracking and protecting 50 percent of Canada’s natural landscapes by 2050. She has said she wants to tackle systemic racism in the RCMP, and implement a guaranteed livable income and a universal pharmacare program, among other progressive initiatives.
Before jumping into federal politics, Paul worked as an advisor at the International Criminal Court in The Hague and as a political officer in Canada’s mission to the European Union in Brussels.
She has served as the Green Party’s international affairs critic.
Second-place finisher Lascaris has achieved a certain notoriety in Jewish circles. An activist and lawyer, he has represented several pro-Palestinian causes, including the annual al-Quds Day rally in Toronto and efforts to abolish labeling of products from Jewish settlements as “Made in Israel.”
In 2018, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau lambasted Lascaris for “vile antisemitic smears” after Lascaris accused two Jewish members of Parliament, Michael Levitt and Anthony Housefather, of being “more devoted” to Israel than to Trudeau and the Liberal caucus.
In 2016 Lascaris was turfed as the party’s justice critic for publicly criticizing the leader of the British Columbia Greens, who had been critical of his party for considering the BDS resolution earlier that year (which Lascaris had enthusiastically endorsed).
Reportedly, Lascaris was endorsed for the Green Party’s leadership by Pink Floyd co-founder Roger Waters and Rabbi David Mivasair of Hamilton, Ont.
Aug. 7, 2020 – B’nai Brith Canada has filed a criminal complaint with Toronto Police after a local Polish-language newspaper twice suggested the COVID pandemic is a creation of “organized Jewry.”
The “hateful” article, entitled “Coronavirus, or the Fake Pandemic,” was the front page story in the March 25 edition of G?os Polski, and was published again in the April 22 edition. G?os Polski is edited by Wies?aw Magiera and affiliated with the Polish National Union of Canada, according to the Union’s website.
Aside from blaming COVID on Jews, the article also asserts that “ISIS/ISIL terrorists [were] brought into evil existence by organized Jewry and completely controlled by it,” and said Soviet dictator Vladimir Lenin, Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdo?an were or are all secretly Jewish, B’nai Brith said in an Aug. 6 news release.
The piece also describes Israel as “the cause of all the world’s woes” and “an emanation of the Devil himself,” while alleging that Jews intend to take over Poland and create “Judeo-Polonia,” B’nai Brith alleged.
“Propagating the lie that Jews are responsible for COVID must be met with criminal charges, especially when someone does so repeatedly,” said Michael Mostyn, CEO of B’nai Brith Canada. “This horrifying pandemic has killed thousands of Canadians, ravaged our economy and turned our lives upside down. Blaming it all on an already disproportionately targeted minority group is loathsome, not to mention a recipe for disaster.”
An Aug. 7 report in the National Post revealed that the Polish National Union of Canada received $146,000 in 2018-19 from the provincial Trillium Foundation to help renovate a community space, and $130,000 in 2012-2013 to replace a roof on a community centre and buy new energy-efficient kitchen appliances.
In June, Andrzej Kumor, the publisher of Goniec, another Polish-language news outlet based in Peel Region, was arrested, warned and released without charge after publishing a string of antisemitic articles.
Magiera, G?os Polski’s editor-in-chief, joined Kumor as an unsuccessful candidate for the far-right Konfederacja party in Poland’s October 2019 parliamentary elections, B’nai Brith pointed out.
The National Post also noted that the website polishcanadians.ca describes the newspaper as one that “searches for the Truth, protects the good name of Poles and reminds us of the Polish culture and history.” The same page says G?os Polski’ is “edited by” the Polish National Union of Canada.
As a card-carrying millennial, I joined TikTok at the beginning of quarantine in March only to alleviate boredom (the social media app was used mainly by Gen Zs before quarantine). Once there, the algorithm eventually led me to Jewish TikTok. This means that a lot of the content that comes up on my feed is Jewish, which I enjoy.
Jewish content on TikTok could be anything from someone posting about their love of bagels and lox, to Jewish celebrities, to old bar/bat-mitzvah photos, to posting a funny story that happened at shul, and so forth.
I was initially shocked, although I shouldn’t have been, to find so many antisemitic comments and so much antisemitic content under various Jewish hashtags. A recurring theme that seems to exist on TikTok is that Jews will post Jewish content (not related to Israel) and immediately, antisemites will step in with comments like “Free Palestine,” “Israel doesn’t exist,” or, most simply, the Palestine flag emoji by itself.
This is where the problem begins. This is why Jews constantly point out that anti-Zionism doesn’t always equal antisemitism, but a lot of the time, it does. Antisemites constantly conflate anti-Zionism and antisemitism. It doesn’t matter to them that Diaspora Jews have nothing to do with the politics of Israel (or even necessarily agree with Israel). What matters to them is that they virtually weaponize themselves against any proud Jew posting on TikTok because, like a red cloth to a bull, they charge at sometimes even the hypothetical sight of Israel’s flag.
A Diaspora Jew who has never been to Israel and posts about the brisket their Bubbie made for Shabbat will get “Free Palestine” comments on their posts.
This is not even to mention all the solely antisemitic comments and posts, without reference to Palestine or Israel to be found on the app. This includes Shylockian stereotypes, and Holocaust denial/”humour.” This is also deeply troubling to young Jews wishing to scroll through wholesome Jewish content and instead finding a gas chamber “joke” because the user has used #Jewish, or related hashtags.
Because this app is dominated by people in their early 20s and below, they are largely influenced by their peers on how to think and what to think. It has gotten to the point where young people (including millennials) wake up, check their phone for notifications on social media, and read up on the news that has been posted on social media, instead of checking a legitimate news source. This means that the clutter of short videos posted on TikTok provide instant information (whether the information is factual or not) for young people, without them needing to check references.
Non-Jewish teenagers will see a popular account posting antisemitic content, such as @the.juc, who has spoken about how all Jews are “white nationalists” and “colonizers.” Viral TikToks cause a mob mentality to form; if so many people engage in and enjoy the content, why shouldn’t one more person do the same?
Big account followings (or at the very least, an account with a lot of “likes”) tend to make young people feel that since those people have the platform, they must have the intellect to follow (which is damaging and untrue, as accounts can buy “likes”). These kinds of posts further promote antisemitism among young people. It is scary to think about how young people will grow up with easy access to antisemitism on a mindless app, absorbing the information and potentially digesting it as legitimate/news/facts.
Young Jews should not be made to feel uncomfortable on an app that is simply meant for passing the time.
I am scared that we are going backwards with antisemitism and young people, and that the lack of education and surplus of quick views and likes will be ultimately quite damaging.
Mara Bosloy is a publishing and editing professional currently working at a leading Canadian educational publisher.