This weekend begins the holiday of Purim, where we commemorate the miracles performed by G-d through Mordechai and Queen Esther against the Persian minister Haman, who sought to annihilate the Jewish people.
Through faith in G-d and an unyielding commitment to Jewish principles, Mordechai and Queen Esther bravely put their lives on the line to fight for the Jewish people in the face of Haman’s driven and malicious intent to rid the world of Jews.
But to see this wicked hatred of Jews so strongly resonate and so blatantly put on display to this very day, it becomes even more important to celebrate such a happy event in Jewish history.
Thursday evening, the Asper Jewish Community Campus in Winnipeg was evacuated after receiving a bomb threat. Just a day earlier, the Vancouver JCC experienced a similar incident, and a day before that, it happened in Toronto and London. Last week, it befell the Calgary JCC.
Some have sought to blame these brazen attempts at disrupting Jewish life on political developments south of the border, especially since the U.S. election in November.
But that’s a cop-out. Here at B’nai Brith, where we compile data for our Annual Audit of Antisemitic Incidents, we’ve seen elevated levels of antisemitism in Canada for almost a decade. Blaming foreign developments, whether in the Middle East or the United States, is a distraction from our own country’s serious antisemitism problem.
Antisemitism is unique among modern hatreds insofar as it emerges from both the far-left and the far-right. Believe it or not, there are still Canadians who whitewash the Nazis and spread their poison against Jews. During the past year, we’ve taken action against such hatemongers as Arthur Topham, Monika Schaefer,Anthony Hall and Alfred Schaefer.The latter is now facing criminal charges in Germany.
Just this week, pressure from B’nai Brith prompted organizers of an event celebrating female aviators in Quebec to drop their recognition of Hanna Reitsch, a poster girl for Hitler and the Nazi regime.
Almost a month since video emerged of a Montreal imam praying for the annihilation of the Jewish people, no charges have been laid. This is simply unacceptable.
Even more alarming, however, is the rapid growth of antisemitism on Canadian university campuses. In the very same space where discrimination against Muslims, women and other groups is never tolerated, hatred for Jews is allowed to flourish.
Increasingly, the mask is falling off those groups who claim to be “just anti-Israel,” as their true colours begin to show. At Ryerson, members of the local chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine blocked a motion to commemorate the Holocaust, which had nothing to do with Israel. At McGill, a student politician called on his followers to “punch a Zionist today,” prompting intervention from the university administration. At York and McMaster, swastikas were found in classrooms. The list goes on and on.
This coming week, campus bigots will once again sow hatred against Jews, Israelis and their supporters. But the tide is slowly turning. In the United Kingdom, where campuses have long been a hotbed of antisemitic incitement, some administrators are banning this anti-Israel hate-fest. B’nai Brith is working hard to expose this year’s round of hatred, and is advocating for the same outcome in Canada next year.
The joyous holiday of Purim begins Saturday night. Our Sages teach us that during this month of Adar, we should “increase in happiness,” and B’nai Brith has adopted that spirit by delivering gifts to the less fortunate in our community through the kindness of our members and volunteers.
But now is also the time to increase our vigilance. Statements of support from Ottawa and provincial capitals are welcome, but simply not enough.
Rest assured that B’nai Brith will continue to lead the community in demanding real, decisive action against antisemitism in Canadian society.
But to do this, we need your support. This Purim, please make a donation to B’nai Brith!
Michael Mostyn Jay Harris
Chief Executive Officer Chair of the Board
B’nai Brith Canada B’nai Brith Canada