Celebrate Black Jewish History
While last month was the nationally designated month for celebrating Black History, Canadian Jews have much to celebrate and it need not be limited to a particular month. We can all celebrate the multi-racial and ethnically diverse composition of both Canada and the Jewish people, and the contributions made by Jews of colour. General ignorance of the diversity of the Jewish people must be overcome with greater education in both Jewish and public schools.
Jews have lived in every country in the world, and come in every colour, but antisemites propagate a lie that Jews are White and that White People are “oppressors” and “colonialists.” All Jews should take steps to learn about Jews of Colour, their diverse ethno-cultural backgrounds, history and contributions, and acknowledge the beauty and breadth of the Jewish people.
There are many avenues to accessing information about our multi-racial Jewish people. Organizations like Kulanu Canada, Kulanu (US), Be'chol Lashon, and the Jewish Multi-Racial Network provide community information and personal stories, and support dispersed Jewish communities across the diaspora.
CAEF is urging that Jewish texts and teaching materials show this diversity and teach a fulsome history of Jews from Asia, Africa, South and Central America, and the Middle East as well as from all parts of Europe. Below is an explanation about the establishment of Black History Month in Canada, written by Rabbi Corey Margolese for theJ.ca in February 2021, followed by some information that features just a few notable Black Jews making significant contributions to the Jewish and wider Canadian community, in many fields of endeavour.
“This month in Canada we celebrate Black History Month. We recognize and honour the many contributions made by Black Canadians to their communities and to our nation. According to the Canadian Heritage website, we can trace the arrival of Black people in Canada to the arrival of Mathieu de Costa, a navigator, and interpreter, in the early 1600s.
In 1979, at the urging of the Ontario Black History Society, the City of Toronto proclaimed February as Black History Month. In 1993, again at the request of the OBHS, Black History Month was adopted by the province of Ontario. What followed in 1995, through the Honourable Jean Augustine, the first Black woman elected to Parliament, was the introduction and recognition of Black History Month by the House of Commons. Subsequent to that was the adoption of the motion made in 2008 to accept February as Black History Month by the Canadian Senate as introduced by Senator Donald Oliver, the first Black man appointed to the Canadian Senate.”
Read about Black Jewish Canadians making a difference, as acknowledged in a variety of sources:
For an interesting interview with Drake on being a Canadian black Jewish rapper watch here.
To learn more about Jews of Colour Canada, click here.
Advocacy and Action
CAEF took steps to draw attention to an ahistorical, blatantly anti-Israel presentation at a recent professional development day held by the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation in Toronto. While not approved by the Toronto District School Board, teachers will receive full pay for choosing to attend any of the dozen optional programs offered on Friday, February 7th, 2023. One offering, for which CAEF was able to access the full content, delivered false and defamatory information about Israel and Jewish history under the latest misguided claim of Anti-Palestinian Racism. Essentially, telling the truth about Jewish history, Jewish rights, the legality of Israel, the ancient heritage of Jews which is tied to Israel, results in the ludicrous claim that it APR, ie anti-Palestinian Racism, erasure of Palestine, silencing of Palestinians.
Since no country called Palestine has ever existed, nor does it exist today, and the term Israel-Palestine is inaccurate, CAEF has been designated a racist organization by those who wish to deny Jewish history.
CAEF noted that on February 25th, 2023, in response to call for a Day of Hate, targeting synagogues, Firas Al Najim, a notorious local antisemite, held his personal protest outside the Village Shule in Toronto. CAEF sent this letter to all elected Members of Federal Parliament, all Members of Provincial and Territorial Parliaments, and all Senators, advising them to be alert to Al Najim’s attempts to associate with sitting politicians.
CAEF released a preliminary report on its qualitative research into antisemitism in Social Work Education in Canada. Entitled "Exclusion, Isolation, and Rejection: Emerging Anecdotal Reports of Jews Studying Social Work, Preliminary Findings, produced in partnership with Hasbara Fellowships, StandwithUs Canada, Doctors Against Racism and Antisemitism, and the Alpha Omega Dental Society, the report affirms that Jewish students often hide their identity as they face bias and antisemitism in a discipline that focuses on assisting marginalized groups. Antisemitism is most often missing from the list of offenses that constitute "oppression", and Jews, who are the most targeted religious group in Canada for hate crimes, have been exposed to hatred in the classroom. Read press release, and read the published project report.
CAEF sent a letter to the Ottawa Carleton District School Board, calling out the antisemitism of one of the approved delegators to the February 28th meeting, and challenging the board to consider the inappropriateness of a proposed definition of what is called "anti-Palestinian racism" which is essentially intended to shut down the truth about Israel, Zionism, and Jewish indigeneity.