December 8, 2023
Mayor Joyti Gondek,
City of Calgary
Dear Mayor Joyti Gondek,
Your absence from the Menorah lighting festival is deeply troubling, especially considering the alarming rise of antisemitism across Canada. In these critical times, leaders must base decisions on facts and history, and on supporting Canadian values and building a safe, united future for all Canadians.
The Menorah lighting is a cherished Jewish tradition that has become a tradition shared with other Canadians, telling the story of our people who were persecuted and our religious temple desecrated, and how a few strong and righteous men, greatly outnumbered, defeated their enemies and restored the Temple for Jewish religious observance after a 3 year battle.
This year, like no other, the story has even more pertinence and meaning as Hamas terrorists attacked vulnerable, unarmed civilians-children, babies, women, girls and boys, and elderly people--with their goal of eliminating the Jewish people, and the state of Israel. Lighting the Menorah is a symbol of freedom, courage, renewal, and the steadfastness of the Jewish people in preserving their heritage, one that is rooted in the land of Israel.
A commitment to religious tolerance, and support for Israel is a Canadian value, and is integral in supporting democracy and diversity, all values which Hamas does not support.
While you mentioned concerns about “both sides” in this Hamas initiated war, you ought to be more concerned about the pro-Palestinian rallies in Calgary, as witnessed, that often devolve into hate fests with rhetoric and lies promoting violence. Your absence from the Menorah lighting, justified as keeping politics away from interfaith events, inadvertently takes a stance and potentially supports those who seek to undermine Canadian traditions. Will you also be absent from the Christmas tree lighting or from a celebration of Diwhali or do you see it as important to show interest and support for different faith communities — except the Jews?
As a politician, your words hold sway over constituents. You need encourage and demonstrate moral clarity and interfaith tolerance, and that Canada and Israel share these values. Antisemitism is on the rise, and your decision may inadvertently contribute to this troubling trend. The candle lighting of the Menorah, reminds Jews and non-Jews alike that the forces of good will triumph over the forces of evil.
Finally, I think this entry in the Canadian Encyclopedia makes an important point for your consideration:
“In Canada, Chanukah has been celebrated since 1760 when the first Jews were allowed to immigrate. Chanukah in Canada is a celebration for friends and families to gather, socialize, eat, and exchange gifts. It is arguably the first non-Christian settler holiday that was widely and publicly celebrated in Canada.”
Thus, your decision to abstain from the candle lighting ceremony sends a message, intentional or not, that is grievously in error.
Canadian Antisemitism Education Foundation