Jewish Heritage Month is a time to reflect on, and celebrate the many contributions Jews have made to our society, and to appreciate the rich history and achievements of the Jewish community in this country. It is a time for the Jewish community to feel embraced and cherished, and to be proud of our history, our traditions, our nationhood, while always being proud Canadians. But today it is also a time to reflect on the challenges we collectively face due to rising antisemitism.
Firstly, it’s important to understand what it means to have the whole of government recognize Jewish Heritage Month. Here are the precepts that were adopted by Ontario in 2018:
Whereas the Jewish population in Canada is approximately 400,000 people, making it the fourth-largest Jewish population in the world;
Whereas the Canadian Jewish community has made significant contributions to the growth and prosperity of Canada while overcoming tremendous obstacles;
Whereas the month of May is meaningful for the Jewish community around the world;
Whereas, by designating the month of May as Canadian Jewish Heritage Month, the Parliament of Canada recognizes the important contributions that Jewish Canadians have made to Canada’s social, economic, political and cultural fabric;
And whereas Canadian Jewish Heritage Month would provide an opportunity to remember, celebrate and educate future generations about the inspirational role that Jewish Canadians have played and continue to play in communities across the country;
The government adopted the Canadian Jewish Heritage Month Act.
Secondly, Canada has adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of antisemitism, but has not yet taken many steps to combat the tide of antisemitism, so let’s consider what we need, how we might achieve it and collectively act to combat this monster. Let’s consider a few words from Elan Carr, the US Special Envoy for Monitoring and Combating Antisemitism as quoted in the Jewish Telegraph Agency on May 4th, 2020 and repeated in the Times of Israel on May 5th, 2020.
“The opposite of anti-Semitism is not tolerance,” Carr said. (emphasis CAEF) “The opposite of anti-Semitism is Philo-Semitism, the appreciation, respect, and affection for Jewish values and the Jewish community. Jewish American Heritage Month, (and of course also Jewish Canadian Heritage Month), is an important vehicle for driving that critical Philo-Semitic narrative.”
Carr went on to list Jewish American luminaries to remember and promote. This suggested a close look at Canadian Jewish personages to remember, to celebrate and promote. Here is a very short list of recognizable and memorable people: Sam Bronfman, Mordechai Richler, Leonard Cohen, Rabbi Gunther Plaut, Maureen Forester, Eugene Karsh, William Shatner, Judge Rosalie Abella, Aubrey Drake Graham, Henry Morgentaler, Gabor Mate, Mark Wainberg, Jack Granatstein, Louis Nirenberg, Harold Troper, John Polanyi, Louis Slotin, Sylvia Ostry, Leo Panitch, Bernard Shapiro, Judy Feld Carr, Hillel Neuer, Frank Gehry, John Wayne, Frank Shuster, Moshe Safdie, Joe Shuster, Regina Seiden, Louis Rosminsky, Gerald Schwartz, Israel Asper, Jacques Bensimon, Moses Znaimer, Jay Switzer, Simcha Jacobovici.
This random list is our invitation to all Jewish and non Jewish educators, historians, Judeophiles to learn more about these folks, whether past or present, as well as hundreds of Canadian Jews who have made major contributions to life in Canada.
Carr also addressed the spike in anti-Semitic narratives that blame Jews for the coronavirus pandemic. He states: “We’ve actually brought together various authorities that work in this area, in governments, ours and others, and in the private sector or for-profit, but also NGOs that specifically address internet hate speech,” he said. “And we’re bringing together these authorities specifically for the purpose of producing a framework to address this.”
CAEF urges the Canadian government to appoint our own Special Envoy to Combat and Monitor Antisemitism.
In celebrating Jewish Heritage Month, we also celebrate the State of Israel, another grand accomplishment of the Jewish People. As we recently commemorated the 100th anniversary of the San Remo Resolution, and its importance as a step towards the re-establishment of the Jewish homeland in Israel, here is an important message from our friends in the European Coalition for Israel as broadcast on the Christian Broadcasting Network:
CAEF is exploring the virus of antisemitism. For our latest Web Talk Video, “Spreading the Antisemitism Virus in Turkey” with Dr. Aykan Erdemir, click here.