On November 6th, 2022, 700 Jews, of all ages, in the Ottawa Jewish community attended Rise Up Ottawa, an event focused on learning about antisemitism in the Ottawa-Carlton District School Board, and how to address it. Organized by public school teacher, Lisa Levitan, a large number of Jewish organizations contributed as sponsors, funders, speakers, and promoters of the event. The primary partners were Ottawa Against Antisemitism, Canadian Antisemitism Education Foundation, End Jew Hatred and The Lawfare Project.
A major highlight of the event was the opening presentation by five (5) Ottawa area students who described explicitly, the nature and extent of antisemitism they had experienced in their schools, from either or both students and teachers. Brooke Goldstein, founder of The Lawfare Project and End Jew Hatred, spoke via video on the imperative to stand up as proud Jews and proud Zionists, and to take direct action and join the End Jew Hatred movement. Lisa Levitan, the event initiator, coordinator, moderator and energy behind Rise Up Ottawa, provided a full overview of the problem in schools, and gave credence to all that the youth presented, bringing home the reality, demanding parents and community organizations do more to support the kids.
Hon. Irwin Cotler, Canada’s Special Envoy on Holocaust Remembrance and Combating Antisemitism, participated by video and stressed the imperative to combat Jew hatred, acknowledging the rising danger that cannot be ignored.
The students generated enormous concern, empathy and tears, with responses coming from many speakers and panelists throughout the day’s program. One of the major goals stated in the summary call to action at the end of the day is to have the Ontario Ministry of Education implement the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance working definition of antisemitism across all schools in Ontario. The IHRA has been adopted by the Ontario government but it isn’t recognized or understood by all in the educational system. Teachers must be educated about antisemitism, and action taken when it occurs. Also recommended is the appointment of an Equity Coordinator to investigate issues of antisemitism and help to educate teachers and students.
Major speakers included: Gerard Filitti, Senior Counsel for The Lawfare Project/End Jew Hatred; Shimon Fogel, CEO, the Center for Israel and Jewish Affairs; Sam Goldstein, National Director of the Matas Law Society, B’nai Brith Canada; Melissa Lantsman, Conservative Deputy Leader and MP for Thornhill; Anita Vandenbeld, Liberal MP Ottawa West-Napean, Yasir Naqvi, Liberal MP of Ottawa Centre; Michael Teper, Board Member for CAEF: Andrea Freedman, CEO, Jewish Federation of Ottawa, and Shira Waldman, an Ottawa parent. Workshops on responding to antisemitism were held for three age groups of students, offered by leaders in StandwithUs, Hasbara Fellowships and JTeach.
Contributing to the energetic and inspiring atmosphere were two special productions, one delivered virtually was a song written for Rise Up, and performed by rapper, Kosha Dillz, and the other delivered in person by Koolulam, an Israeli musical sensation.
Sponsors delivered goodies to the participants, and all attendees left with the message that Silence is not an answer, Jews must stand up against all forms of antisemitism and the entire community must support the students and take action against Jew hatred in the public schools of Ottawa Carlton.
The Canadian Antisemitism Education Foundation is following up with community advocacy to demand the Minister of Education, Stephen Lecce, require all school boards to implement IHRA and all of its principles, noting the Ontario government adopted IHRA in 2021.