Ontario Honours Holocaust Survivors

Nov. 10, 2020 

By LILA SARICK

Ten Holocaust survivors who have made it their mission to educate younger generations about the dangers of antisemitism and racism were honoured by the Ontario government in a virtual ceremony on Nov. 5.

The annual ceremony, usually held at Queen’s Park, was scheduled for last spring but postponed due to COVID. This year’s virtual event was held during Holocaust Education Week, Nov. 2-9.

The theme of this year’s event was “passing the torch” – fitting, given that the honourees were all speakers at the Neuberger Holocaust Education Centre and had dedicated hours to talking to students about their experiences, said Fran Sonshine national chair of the Canadian Society for Yad Vashem, in remarks that were recorded earlier at the Holocaust memorial in Toronto’s Earl Bales Park.

This year’s honorees were Hedy Bohm, Esther Fairbloom, Pola Goldhar, Denise (Fikman) Hans, Mark Lane, Faigie (Schmidt) Libman, Rose Lipszyc (née Handelsman), Captain Martin Maxwell, Andy Réti and Gershon Israel Willinger.

Each honoree had received a certificate, often surrounded by their children and grandchildren, in outdoor ceremonies recorded earlier.

The survivors spoke briefly, often thanking Canada for taking them in after the Second World War, and giving them a second chance to build a life – and about the importance of teaching young people about the Holocaust.

“I hope in the future to continue Holocaust education,” said Bohm. “My goal has been and always was to make young people feel empowered to stand up and speak against any type of prejudice.”

Debbie Estrin of the Canadian Society for Yad Vashem presents a tribute from the government of Ontario to Capt. Martin Maxwell. Looking on is Maxwell’s wife, Eleanor. (Photo courtesy Canadian Society for Yad Vashem)

MPPs Roman Baber, Will Bouma, Rima Berns-McGown, Gila Martow, and Steven Del Duca, leader of the Liberal Party of Ontario, introduced each honoree.

Premier Doug Ford praised the honourees’ “unbelievable bravery,” saying their “resilience and strength continue to inspire me.”

Galit Baram, consul general of Israel in Toronto and Western Canada, and a descendant of Holocaust survivors, spoke about the “alarming rise” of antisemitism, assaults and Holocaust denial, even in democratic, western societies.

“What I have to come to realize is that the Sisyphean task of combating antisemitism necessitates continuous activity on three levels: legislation, prosecution and education,” Baram said in her remarks.

“Every time elected officials speak up against antisemitism and draw the line between what is acceptable and what is not, every time a Holocaust survivor provides testimony, every time a story of the Righteous Among the Nations is told in public, every step brings us closer to developing an antidote to hatred and racism,” Baram said.

To watch the ceremony, visit yadvashem.ca

Vulnerable Communities Get Boost to Combat Hate Crimes

July 24, 2020 – By STEVE ARNOLD

Programs aimed at combating hate crimes are getting a $1.7 million boost from the provincial government.

That’s what Premier Doug Ford’s government is making available in the latest distribution under the Safer and Vital Communities program.

Over the next two years, non-profit community agencies and First Nation band councils with a focus on hate crime will be able to apply for money in conjunction with local police departments and other community agencies.

In a news release announcing the fund, Sylvia Jones, Solicitor General and Minister Responsible for Anti-Racism, said the funds are an effort to find creative ways of dealing with the problem.

“Our government has zero tolerance for hate, racism and discrimination in all forms,” Jones said. “Effective solutions cannot come from government alone and the Safer and Vital Communities grant will allow community-based organizations to be full partners in the fight against hate in Ontario.”

To be eligible, groups must address hate-motivated crime in their community through programs and strategies. Applications could include recreational programs that positively affect the development of children and youth, raising awareness of hate-motivated crimes, as well as the improvement of security infrastructure. Successful applicants and projects will be announced in the winter of 2021.

Applications are open until Sept. 16.

The Safer Communities program operates on a two-year cycle. The last time grants were made to agencies such as Agincourt Community Services Association, Canadian Mental Association in Peel-Dufferin, Community Living Essex County, London Abused Women’s Centre and others.

The program was launched in 2004.

In a news release, Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs Toronto chair Barbara Bank welcomed the money as an “investment which will make a meaningful difference in the lives of all Ontarians who visit their local houses of worship or community centres which collectively spend millions of dollars every year on security costs.

“It is vital that all levels of government recognize that safety and security should not be a burden on vulnerable groups alone,” stated Bank. “As Canadians, we must ensure that all communities – no matter their race, religion, sex, or orientation – can carry out their communal activities without fear for their safety.”

The funding announcement “follows sustained [Jewish] community advocacy on the issue of community security.”

CIJA reminded that in 2018, Jewish Canadians formed one percent of Canada’s population but were the target of nearly 20 percent of all hate crimes in the country.