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A Word from Our Chairs: November 16, 2020

Nov 16, 2020 | A Word From Our Chair, CIJA Publications

Rescuer: “Why did you build two synagogues?” 

Castaway“This is the one where I pray. And this is the one I NEVER SET FOOT IN!” 

We are all familiar with this well-worn joke about divisions in our community. It relies on stereotypes about Jews that, let’s face it, are rooted in truth. We’re diverse. We argue. We’re passionate. We care. Is it really outside the realm of possibility that, if stranded on an island, we might just build two shuls?

In the spirit of the same Jewish tradition behind that joke, however, we’d like to offer a different take recently brought to our attention that shines a light on another Jewish truth. Forget about two synagogues, why, if stranded on a desert island, would you build even one?

Because, as Jews, we crave, depend on, and draw important parts of our Jewish identity from our community. A synagogue is many things, though among its most important functions is to serve as a gathering place where we come together, unified by a set of profound ideas. If this pandemic has served any purpose, it’s been to remind us just how important community is to our Jewish life, identity, and wellbeing.

And here’s where we get to the point.

We are a community and, while we may not agree on everything, we do agree on many things. That is true not only of Jewish Canadians, but also of the organizations that serve them. You may have noticed (we hope you have!), recent collaborations among CIJA, Canadian Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center, and B’nai Brith Canada.

While our organizations take different approaches to tackling the issues of greatest concern – antisemitism…antisemitism masked as anti-Zionism… security… Israel… justice… racism… equality… the list is long – we are united in our view that these issues must be addressed, and we have agreed to be more deliberate about working together to tackle them.

Examples of outcomes we’ve achieved collaboratively on your behalf include:

Calling on Canada to reject toxic resolutions, return to principled voting at the U.N.

Earlier today, all three organizations issued this statement which calls attention to a letter to Prime Minister Trudeau delivered Friday co-signed by leadership at our respective organizations urging Canada to return to its principled and unequivocal opposition to the basket of annual anti-Israel resolutions at the UN General Assembly.  Read the full statement here.

Defining antisemitism in Ontario

Combating antisemitism is our top priority, and we believe that defining it properly, in all its evolving forms, is necessary. We were pleased to work with our partners in coordination with many Jewish groups across the province to advocate for the adoption of the IHRA definition of antisemitism, and we were pleased, at the end of October, when Ontario did just that. Read the full statement here.

Inter-Parliamentary Task Force to Combat Online Antisemitism

On November 10, we contributed to a discussion hosted by the Inter-Parliamentary Task Force to Combat Online Antisemitism. In our testimony, we provided concrete recommendations to legislators to help them understand and address this critical issue.

Antisemite in PCO

David Lange at Israellycool.com discovered that a senior analyst at the Privy Council Office (PCO) had posted dozens of hateful, antisemitic messages on Facebook. Working with FSWC, CIJA alerted our senior contacts at PCO and an investigation is underway.

Remembrance Day

CIJA was honoured to participate in Remembrance Day ceremonies organized by B’nai Brith in collaboration with the Jewish War Veterans of Canada. CIJA Board member Major General Ed Fitch (ret’d.) was invited to offer remarks during this important event honouring the women and men who have served Canada in uniform and the significant contribution by Canadian Jewish war veterans.

This is snapshot of a few issues we’ve worked on together and, while many contributed to these efforts, we would like to thank leadership at B’nai Brith and CFSWC for their collaboration.

Not long ago, these partnerships would have been unlikely, but the evolving nature of the challenges facing us, combined with calls from community members just like you, served as a reminder that much more unifies than divides us.

Thank you for everything you do for our community, and please share your thoughts with us on this or any other topic on your mind.

With warmest regards,

Joel Reitman Jeffrey Rosenthal
Co-Chair, CIJA Board Co-Chair, CIJA Board

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