Gratz College, Carleton University to Partner on Holocaust Studies

Dec. 14, 2020

By STEVE ARNOLD

North America’s oldest Jewish studies college and a major Canadian university are teaming up to advance Holocaust studies.

The presidents of both schools signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on Dec. 6 that opens the Holocaust archive at Gratz College in Melrose Park, just outside Philadelphia, to Carleton University in Ottawa, just as the Canadian school launches a strategic plan to seek out partnerships that provide diverse experiences for staff and students.

Possible ventures under the five year agreement include exchanges of faculty, staff and students and joint research projects.

“We are honored and excited to develop a partnership with one of the great universities in Canada,” Gratz College president Paul Finkelman said in a news release. “The collaboration will make Gratz and Carleton stronger institutions by complimenting each other’s programs and strengthening international cooperation in higher education.”

Paul Finkelman

Carleton President Benoit-Antoine Bacon said the new deal will boost his institution’s international plans and its brand-new equity, diversity and inclusion action plan.

Benoit-Antoine Bacon

“This international partnership focused on Holocaust Studies will greatly benefit students and researchers at both Carleton University and Gratz College,” Bacon said. “As the world awaits the return of international travel and cross-border co-operation, we look forward to further engaging with the remarkable team at Gratz College.”

Under the deal, Gratz will work directly with Carleton’s Max and Tessie Zelikovitz Centre for Jewish Studies. Gratz faculty and students will have access to Carleton’s libraries and archives, as well as opportunities to join the Zelikovitz Centre as research affiliates.

In exchange, Carleton faculty and students will have access to Gratz’s Holocaust Oral History Archive. It houses one of the largest collections of audiotaped testimony in the U.S. and is a contributing organization to both the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. and Yad Vashem in Israel.

“As a small institution, Gratz values academic partnerships that can enrich our students’ learning opportunities in significant ways,” said Ruth Sandberg, director of Gratz’s Jewish-Christian Studies Program.

“We are eager to take advantage of what Carleton has to offer us, including ways in which our students can interact with each other, ways in which our faculty members could partner with each other, and ways in which Gratz can become regular participants in the many notable lectures and discussions offered through the Zelikovitz Centre.”

The virtual signing ceremony set the tone for the partnership, said Karen Schwartz, associate vice president of research at Carleton and the university’s international liaison officer.

Ahead of the ceremony, faculty members and administrators from both institutions began collaborating by joining each other’s online lectures and discussions.

“Due to the COVID pandemic, it has become even more important – regardless of how challenging – to not only keep in touch with our pre-existing international partners, but to continue establishing new ones as well,” Schwartz said. “Holding a virtual MOU signing is certainly not the same as an in-person event on campus, but it is the next best thing. And so, in this spirit, we are excited to make official our partnership with Gratz College. It will allow students and faculty from both institutions to share academic resources and conduct joint research to advance Holocaust education.”

Gratz College, a private, non-profit institution, was founded in 1895. It’s the oldest independent college for Jewish studies in North America.

It offers blended and fully online degrees, including the world’s only online Doctorate in Holocaust and Genocide Studies and a Doctorate in Education Leadership.

The matriarch of the family, Rebecca Gratz (1781-1869), created the Hebrew Sunday School Society in Philadelphia in 1838, which launched all Jewish congregational education in North America.

She was also instrumental in the creation of the Female Hebrew Benevolent Society, a Jewish foster home; the Sewing Society; and more.

According to the school, she was also rumored to have been the model for Rebecca, the heroine in Sir Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe. Gratz College was founded by Rebecca’s brother Hyman, who joined with the Hebrew Education Society of Philadelphia to fund a teachers’ college of Jewish education in 1856 that eventually grew into the college.

Carleton University educates more than 30,000 students from every province and more than 100 countries around the world in programs including public affairs, journalism, engineering, high technology and international studies.

Federal Official Faces Probe Over Antisemitic Posts

Nov. 12, 2020

By STEVE ARNOLD

A senior government official in Ottawa is under investigation for social media posts accusing Israel of the “ethnic cleansing” of Palestinians, “leeching” off American taxpayers, and harbouring pedophiles.

Nizam Siddiqui is described in a government employee directory as a senior analyst in the Privy Council Office, which supports the prime minister and cabinet in policy making for the country.

The posts were first uncovered by Israeli blogger David Lange. Acting on a tip from a reader, he said he matched the person in a Facebook profile to a YouTube video in which Siddiqui was interviewed following a terrorist event on Parliament Hill.

Lange said he deployed “due diligence” in concluding that the man on the Facebook page and in the YouTube video are the same person.

The postings can be seen on Lange’s site, israellycool.com, one of the largest English-language blogs in Israel.

After Lange brought the posts to light, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) and Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Centre (FSWC) called for government action.

Paul Duchesne, the PCO’s director of media relations, told CIJA, FSWC and the CJR that the Privy Council Office “takes this matter very seriously and expects all of its employees to adhere to the Values and Ethics Code of the Public Service. We are shocked and disappointed with this content and we are following due diligence processes to determine the facts surrounding the involvement of this employee to enable us to respond quickly and appropriately.”

His statement did not address whether Siddiqui is still at work or what sanctions he may face if the allegations are found to be true.

The Jewish organizations said they were pleased with the PCO’s response.

“We were gratified to receive assurances from the PCO that they regard the allegations as seriously as we do, and that an investigation and immediate action will be pursued to address the issue,” they said in a joint statement. “In their response, the PCO officials re-affirmed that there is no place for such appalling attitudes amongst members of the public service.

They said they expect that the individual in question “will be dealt with in a manner that reflects the seriousness of his hateful actions and breach of public trust.”

The statement from the two Jewish groups said the Facebook page also includes “a multitude of libels against Israel, referring to it as a ‘parasitic, racist, apartheid state,’ and indicates ‘likes’ for over a hundred extremist anti-Israel groups around the world.”

In an interview, Lange said he uses his blog to uncover antisemitic actions wherever he can.

“A reader sent me an email saying, ‘check this guy out,’” he said. “I looked it, and [Siddiqui’s] Facebook page, and the Youtube video, where he says he works for the government.”

In that video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZpsJJuSM9XE), Siddiqui is interviewed by the Ottawa Citizen about being in the area of a terrorist attack on Parliament Hill. He expressed the hope the incident would not lead to an increase in Islamophobia.

“This has been bothering me for a long time,” he told the interviewer. “It was very hard to see a young man lose his life like that.”

Siddiqui was likely referring to the 2014 attack in which Nathan Cirillo, a Canadian soldier and reservist on sentry duty at the National War Memorial, was fatally shot by Michael Zehaf-Bibeau. 

Siddiqui did not respond to a telephone call for comment.

The Facebook posts also allege that European Jews are a counterfeit people and that Palestinians are the true descendants of the Hebrews of the Bible.

Lange said the views expressed in the posts are especially troubling because they came from someone in a position of public trust.

“It’s always troubling to me when someone has these views,” he said. “I wouldn’t say it is particularly troubling to me that he is close to the prime minister, but it would be extremely troubling to me that now that they know about his views, they were to cover for him.”

E-Petition Call for Expanded Holocaust Education, Awareness in Fight Against Antisemitism

Aug. 24, 2020 – By SHEILA HURTIG ROBERTSON

Dr. Art Leader, the son of Holocaust survivors and a long-time member of the Centre for Holocaust Education and Scholarship (CHES) in Ottawa, was alarmed. In 2019, statistics reported by B’nai Brith Canada revealed that for the fourth year in a row, antisemitic incidents in Canada rose to more than 2,000 annually. And in 2020, the National Holocaust Monument in Ottawa was vandalized only two days after International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Also of concern to him was that because of the COVID pandemic, many Holocaust remembrance events were virtual and, with schools closed across the country, Holocaust educational activities were halted. He further noted that for working youth, Holocaust education is non-existent.

And with the passing of time, ever fewer eyewitnesses to the Holocaust are able to share their knowledge and relate their experiences, resulting in minimal awareness of the atrocities they witnessed and endured.

“Canada has demonstrated a commitment to remembrance and Holocaust education and to fighting the antisemitism and racism that threaten and erode the multicultural and pluralistic nature of our society,” Leader says. “Holocaust education sensitizes Canadians to the role racist ideology and government propaganda played in the systematic murder of millions of Jews and other persecuted groups and helps youth to understand the dangers of indifference to the oppression of others.”

Convinced that the time was right to develop a comprehensive inventory of best practices in Holocaust education and teachings and relevant resources offered in Canadian schools and communities, Leader, working with CHES and author and lawyer Maureen McTeer, created a House of Commons petition (e-2740) urging Parliament to address the pressing challenges presented by growing antisemitism, Holocaust deniers, and those who distort the true nature of the Holocaust.

Anita Vandenbeld, Liberal MP for Ottawa West-Nepean, enthusiastically supported the petition and is its sponsor in Parliament.

The petition urges the government to build upon its previous investments in Holocaust education, research, and remembrance initiatives; determine the current availability of Holocaust education across Canada; identify new strategies to reach those who are targeted by racist and hate propaganda online; and urgently fund community organizations to preserve the testimonies of Holocaust survivors, thereby educating Canadians about the destructive impact of hate and intolerance on our Charter freedoms, to the detriment of current and future generations.

Signatories include former Prime Ministers Paul Martin and Joe Clark; members of the Carleton University community, including President Benoit-Antoine Bacon; Rabbi Reuven Bulka and Rabbi Idan Scher of Ottawa; Holocaust survivors; prominent Ottawa lawyer Lawrence Greenspan; and local members of Parliament,

CHES, which is affiliated with Carleton University in Ottawa, and the Zelikovitz Centre for Jewish Studies at Carleton, support this initiative and urge readers to read the petition (see below), sign it, and share the link with family and friends. The petition is open for signatures until Nov. 19, 2020. Supporters’ identities are protected by Canada’s privacy laws.

To sign House of Commons Petition e-2740, click here:

House of Commons Petition e-2740

The number of anti-Semitic incidents in Canada rose in 2019 to more than six incidents each day.

Canada has demonstrated a commitment to remembrance and Holocaust education through bilateral relationships and engagement in international organizations.

Holocaust education sensitizes Canadians to the role racist ideology and government propaganda played in the systematic murder of millions of Jews, and other persecuted groups.

Holocaust education will help young Canadians to understand the dangers of indifference to the oppression of others and to those sowing destructive messages of hate and racism.

Holocaust deniers and those who distort the true nature of the Holocaust use the Internet and online forums to spread hate and to dishonour those who were persecuted and murdered by the Nazis.

Fewer Holocaust survivors are able to share their knowledge and individual experience, while fewer youth are aware of the atrocities survivors witnessed and endured;

We, the undersigned citizens of Canada, call upon the Parliament of Canada to address this national challenge that threatens and erodes the multicultural and pluralistic nature of Canadian society, and to:

  1. Build upon its previous investments in Holocaust education, research, and remembrance initiatives;
  2. Determine the current availability of Holocaust education, including content and best pedagogical practices as identified by Holocaust educators across Canada.
  3. Identify strategies to reach youth, especially those not in the education system, who are targeted by racist and hate propaganda online.
  4. Urgently provide funds to Canadian community organizations to preserve the testimonies of Holocaust survivors thereby educating Canadians about the destructive impact of hate and intolerance on the Charter freedoms to the detriment of current and future generations.

Sheila Hurtig Robertson is a committee member of the Centre for Holocaust Education and Scholarship and the founding editor of several sport-related magazines, including the Canadian Journal for Women in Coaching. She is the author of Shattered Hopes: Canada’s Boycott of the 1980 Olympic Games. Sheila worked in communications for Team Canada at three Olympic Games. Her grandfather, who left Romania in 1903 to escape the military draft, brought survivors to Canada after 1945, which kindled her lifelong interest in the Holocaust.

Canadians Opposed to Annexation, Poll Suggests

By RON CSILLAG

A new survey suggests that three out of four Canadians want their government to oppose Israel’s proposed annexation of large parts of the West Bank.

Apart from suggesting that 74 percent of Canadians want Ottawa to express opposition to Israel’s annexation proposal “in some form,” the survey also found that 42 percent want Canada to impose economic and/or diplomatic sanctions against Israel should the annexation plan proceed.

“There is very little support for Israeli annexation among the Canadian public,” the survey noted, adding that the poll “confirms” that Canada’s foreign policy “is out of touch with the preferences of Canadians.”

EKOS Research Associates conducted the national online survey of 1,009 Canadians from June 5 to 10 on behalf of three groups that oppose the annexation and support the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel: Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East, Independent Jewish Voices Canada, and the United Network for Justice and Peace in Palestine-Israel.

The poll found that only 11 percent of respondents said Canada should support Israel’s annexation plans, and 15 percent said Canada should do nothing.

Among Liberal Party supporters, 42 percent favour sanctions, while 45 percent thought Canada should express opposition but take no further action. Only five percent of Liberals want Canada to support Israel’s plan, and eight percent would prefer Canada do nothing.

Conservatives were found to be most supportive of Israel’s annexation plan. Half of Conservative supporters think that Canada should either support the plan (27 percent) or do nothing (25 percent). Another 32 percent of Conservatives said Canada should express opposition, and 16 percent said Canada should impose sanctions.

Among Canadians aged 18 to 35, an “overwhelming majority” want Canada to oppose Israel’s plans, the poll suggested: 59 percent of respondents in that age group said Canada should impose sanctions on Israel, and 24 percent said Canada should express opposition but take no other action.

Imposing sanctions on Israel was the “clear preference” for a majority of those who support the NDP (68 percent); Green Party (59 percent), and Bloc Quebecois (54 percent).

Supporting sanctions on Israel was most popular with Canadians who have higher levels of education, but Canadians of all education levels favoured sanctions over the other options, the survey found.

The poll results “demonstrate that the Trudeau government would have strong majority support if it opposed the annexations, and considerable public support to go further and impose sanctions on Israel. In fact, from a political standpoint, it would be risky for the Trudeau government to stay quiet in the face of this violation of international law planned by Israel.”

Listed as investigators and authors of the survey are Michael Bueckert, Thomas Woodley, and Grafton Ross of Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East; Sheryl Nestel and Stanislav Birko of Independent Jewish Voices Canada; and Ken McEvoy of United Network for Justice and Peace in Palestine-Israel.

As with at least one other past survey conducted by pro-BDS groups, this latest one was dismissed by the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs as weighted to arrive at certain conclusions.

“Predictably,” questions were “intentionally biased to skew the answer,” Shimon Koffler Fogel, president and CEO of CIJA, told the CJR.

By “prejudicially” characterizing the lands in question as “Palestinian,” and stating that Israel plans to “formally incorporate” them, the poll’s questions “telegraph to the respondent that the territory is incontrovertibly Palestinian [and is] being stolen by Israel, and [is] not disputed.”

In doing so, “the poll seeks to exploit a generic tendency on the part of Canadians to express support for the perceived underdog,” Fogel noted.

Notwithstanding the “serious deficiencies” in the survey questions and the “dubious” motivations of the report’s sponsors, “a majority” of Canadians have indicated their opposition to any changes to Canada-Israel relations, Fogel said.

An extensive Environics survey conducted last year found a plurality of respondents endorsed Canada’s level of support for Israel, but a “significant” minority said it was not supportive enough.

However, that was before Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced plans to unilaterally annex about 30 percent of the West Bank by July 1.

The latest poll comes as more than 100 prominent Canadians – former diplomats and cabinet ministers, as well as rabbis, academics, authors, and human rights advocates – signed letters asking the government to forcefully oppose Israel’s proposed annexation.


Ron Csillag
Ron Csillag

Ron Csillag is editor of the Canadian Jewish Record