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Coalition of Canadian Jewish orgs send letter NDP supporting IHRA Definition of Antisemitism

Mar 15, 2021 | Publications, The IHRA Definition

March 15, 2021

Mr. Jagmeet Singh
Leader of the New Democratic Party of Canada
Member of Parliament, Burnaby South, British Columbia

CC: New Democratic Caucus, National Executive

Dear Mr. Singh,

All Canadians should be deeply concerned about the disturbing rise of antisemitism. History has shown that what starts with Jews never ends with Jews. Taking a stand against antisemitism helps to insulate all Canadians from the threat of hate.

We write to you today on behalf of many Jewish organizations in Canada – community centres, synagogues, youth groups, social service providers, and educational institutions – who believe that the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism is an important tool in the fight against this worrisome trend. We are concerned about the recent efforts of fringe organizations to delegitimize this definition, distort its intent, and scaremonger about its reach and its impact.

At the upcoming federal NDP policy convention, there will be a motion brought to the floor by some members who seek to overturn the Party Leader’s support for this internationally endorsed definition of antisemitism. A rejection of the IHRA definition of antisemitism is tantamount to telling the Jewish community that we cannot define our own oppression.

In today’s progressive circles, this type of belief is the epitome of hypocrisy. Just as we would not allow non-Queer individuals to define homophobia and transphobia on behalf of the LGBTQ2S+ community, so we should not allow non-Jews to define antisemitism. In 2021, no discussion about hate and oppression should take place without the impacted community. No discussion about anti-Black racism should happen without proper involvement of the Black community. No discussion about anti-Indigenous racism should take place without the Indigenous peoples implicated. As an ally of Canada’s marginalized communities, the NDP should work to amplify, not silence, community voices.

It is as simple as that.

The IHRA was established in 1998 and, today, consists of 34 member countries, each of whom recognizes that international coordination is needed to combat antisemitism and Holocaust denial. In 2016, IHRA member states adopted by consensus a working definition of antisemitism, grounded in decades of collaborative research by global experts on antisemitism and Holocaust denial. With its illustrative examples, the working definition addresses a range of contemporary activities and rhetoric that amount to antisemitism. Today, the IHRA definition serves as a vital tool in the fight against antisemitism. In 2019, the Government of Canada adopted the IHRA definition in its Anti-Racism Strategy, and dozens of jurisdictions in Canada, including the Government of Ontario, have followed their lead.

The IHRA definition is advisory, rather than legally binding. It encourages freedom of expression and welcomes legitimate criticism that is a core attribute of all liberal democracies. While a vocal minority seek to mischaracterize the IHRA definition as stifling debate about Israel, in fact, the text of the definition states explicitly: “… criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as antisemitic.”

Jews are a non-homogenous group who, for generations, due to systemic barriers (verbally expressed or implied), have existed at the margins of the societies they have inhabited. When Jewish people are told they do not experience oppression and when their marginalization is questioned, there is erasure of both historical and contemporary antisemitism and a discounting of our struggles to fit in. It is completely unacceptable when so-called progressive activists, who purport to stand up for all marginalized groups, continuously fail to extend the same support and solidarity to the Jewish community – which is indeed a marginalized group.

Over the past few years, we have witnessed a shocking and terrifying rise of antisemitic attacks internationally. Domestically we are certainly not immune: While Canada’s Jewish community represents only 1% of the national population, we represent almost 20% of the annual reported hate-crimes (Statistics Canada, 2018). That number is staggering. South of our border we have seen the rise of antisemitism entering the mainstream from both the far-right and the far-left. This hate is here now too. We must do all we can to guard against both. While criticism against the government of Israel is allowed through freedom of expression, a core attribute celebrated by every liberal democracy, advocating for the disappearance of the State of Israel, or delegitimizing the Jewish community’s connections to it, is not acceptable.

Today, we extend our hand, and ask for your assistance. Will you please help us and the Jewish communities across Canada fight back against these inappropriate actions and misrepresentations? We do not wish to politicize this issue, and we would prefer that the New Democratic Party not veer down this path of choosing how – or how not – to define antisemitism for Jewish people. We need your help in this effort. Will you commit to ensuring that this motion does not make it into the New Democratic Party policy book and stand up for Canadian marginalized communities, such as the Jewish community, on the convention virtual floor?

Sincerest regards from the following Coalition Organizations:

National

Ameinu Canada
ARZA Canada
Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA)
Reform Rabbis of Canada

British Columbia

Chabad Richmond: Richmond
Congregation Beth HaMidrash: Vancouver
Congregation Schara Tzedeck: Vancouver
Congregation the Bayit: Richmond
Har-El, the North Shore Centre for Jewish Life: West Vancouver
Hillel BC- Serving: UBC, UVic, SFU, Langara, Emily Carr, Kwantlen & Quest: Vancouver
Jewish Community Foundation of Greater Vancouver
Jewish Family Service (JFS): Vancouver
Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver
Jewish Federation of Victoria and Vancouver Island
King David High School (KDHS): Vancouver
Kolot Mayim Reform Temple: Victoria
Louis Brier Home and Hospital: Vancouver
National Council of Jewish Women of Canada, Vancouver Chapter
Orthodox Rabbinical Council of British Columbia: Vancouver
Shalhevet Girls High School: Vancouver
The Jewish Museum and Archives of BC: Vancouver
The Kehila Society of Richmond: Richmond
Tikvah Housing: Vancouver
Vancouver Hebrew Academy School
Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre
Vancouver Talmud Torah

Alberta

Calgary Jewish Federation
Jewish Federation of Edmonton

Saskatchewan

CIJA Local Partnership Council, Regina
CIJA Local Partnership Council, Saskatoon

Manitoba

Jewish Child and Family Service
Jewish Federation of Winnipeg
Jewish Heritage Centre of Western Canada
Shalom Residences
The Saul and Claribel Simkin Centre

Ontario

Am Shalom Congregation: Barrie
Ameinu: Toronto
Bernard Betel: Toronto
Beth Avraham Yoseph of Toronto: Thornhill
Beth Shalom Synagogue: Toronto
Beth Tikvah Foundation Hamilton
Beth Tikvah Synagogue: Toronto
Camp Moshava Ennismore: Toronto
Canadian Friends of Boys Town Jerusalem: Toronto
Circle of Care: Toronto
Claire & Joe Communaute Juive Marocaine de Toronto (CJMT): Toronto
Friends of Yiddish: Toronto
Hamilton Jewish Family Services
Har Tikvah: Brampton
Hillel Lodge: Ottawa
Holy Blossom Temple, Toronto
JACS Toronto: Toronto
Jewish Family & Child: Toronto
Jewish Family Services Ottawa: Ottawa
Jewish Free Loan Toronto
Jewish National Fund of Canada: Toronto
JIAS Toronto
JVS Toronto
Kayla’s Children Centre: Toronto
Kehilla Residential: Toronto
Kehillat Beth Israel: Ottawa
Liberation 75: Toronto
Machzikei Hadas: Ottawa
Maramoresher Society: Toronto
Miles Nadal Jewish Community Centre: Toronto
Ottawa Kosher Food Bank
Prosserman Jewish Community Centre: Toronto
Reena: Toronto
Sarah and Chaim Neuberger Holocaust Education Centre, Toronto
Schwartz / Reisman Centre: Maple
Shaar Hashomayim Synagogue: Sudbury
Shaarei-Beth El (SBE): Oakville
Shalom Village: Hamilton
Solel Congregation: Mississauga
STAT Synagogue Temple Administrators of Toronto: Toronto
Tamir: Ottawa
Temple Israel: Ottawa
Toronto Board of Rabbis
Toronto Workmen’s Circle

Quebec

Adath Israel Synagogue, Montreal
Beth Israel Beth Aaron, Montreal
Beth Ora, Montreal
Beth Tikvah, Montreal
Beth Zion Congregation, Montreal
Communauté Sépharade Unifiée du Québec et toutes ses organisations affiliées, , Montréal
Congregation Shaar Hashomayim, Montreal
Cummings Centre, Montreal
Dorshei Emet, Montreal
Federation CJA, Montreal
JEM workshop, Montreal
Jewish Public Library, Montreal
Montreal Board of Rabbis (MBR), Montreal
Musée de l’holocauste, Montréal
ORT Canada Gen MTL, Montreal
P’nai Or Montreal Community Shul / ALEPH Canada, Montreal
Shaar Hashomayim, Montreal
Shaare Zedek Congregation, Montreal
Shaare Zion Congregation, Montreal
Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue, Montreal
Temple Emanuel-Beth Sholom, Montreal

Atlantic Region

CIJA Local Partner Council, The Atlantic Jewish Council, Halifax
Executive Director, The Atlantic Jewish Council, Halifax

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