September 16, 2020
At a special press conference today, representatives from both groups gathered together to speak about the initiative and sign the historic document. B’nai Brith was represented by its Chair of the Board, Franklin Switzer, its CEO, Michael Mostyn, and the Chair of its Special Advisory Council to the League for Human Rights, Dr. Aubrey Zidenberg. The CBCC was represented by its president, Andria Barrett, its Chair, Michael Forrest, and one of its board members, David Betty.
The MOU establishes a collaborative effort to use our respective resources to share strategy and best practices in common cause against the forces of racism and antisemitism in Canada. We will also seek to increase positive relationships between our diverse communities and create an aspirational motivation to continually improve the economic circumstances of marginalized and diverse communities in Canada.
“This is a game-changer for both of our communities,” said Andria Barrett, President of the CBCC. “Today’s development will make a big difference for years to come.”
“This momentous occasion is exciting for everyone involved,” said Michael Mostyn, Chief Executive Officer of B’nai Brith Canada. “With this historic event, we are advancing the close, decades-old partnership between the Black and Jewish communities in this country.”
B’nai Brith has advocated for Canadian Jewry and championed the cause of human rights since 1875. It is the grassroots voice of the Jewish community and the country’s oldest independent, self-funded national Jewish organization. Its support comes from tens of thousands of Canadian families with diverse backgrounds and interests who empower the organization to speak to government, media and the public at large on issues of concern to the Jewish community as a recognized leader in combating antisemitism and racism.
The CBCC, which started in 2018, is a non-profit, bilingual, national organization dedicated to empowering and supporting Black-owned businesses and entrepreneurs. It aims to become the hub of the Canadian Black business ecosystem by creating value and collaborative opportunities between all the players in this emerging ecosystem. Together, the parties enter this Memorandum of Understanding to promote each other’s efforts in the areas of anti-racism and economic empowerment issues.
Both organizations are thankful to Mr. Courtney Betty, a prominent Black lawyer who is also a longstanding member of the SAC-LHR for his diligence in bringing together the Jewish community through B’nai Brith and leadership within diverse Black communities.
It is a tragic fact of history that both Jewish people and Black people, as minorities, have been victimized by bigotry and racism. Our two communities have often stood together to fight this scourge and advance each other’s struggle for equal rights, justice and dignity. During the defining moments of the American Civil Rights Movement, Jews, though only a tiny percentage of the American population, stood out disproportionately, marching arm-in-arm with their Black fellow citizens to help secure equal protection under the law.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. acknowledged the Jewish contribution and sacrifice in pursuit of this cause. In his address on May 14, 1958 to the National Biennial Convention of the American Jewish Congress, Dr. King said: “My people were brought to America in chains. Your people were driven here to escape the chains fashioned for them in Europe.”
On December 11, 1966, Dr. King addressed the plight of Jews suffering oppression in the Soviet Union: “We cannot sit complacently by the wayside while our Jewish brothers in the Soviet Union face the possible extinction of their cultural and spiritual life. Those that sit at rest, while others take pains, are tender turtles and buy their quiet with disgrace.”
Dr. King added words that remain eternal: “The denial of human rights anywhere is a threat to the affirmation of human rights everywhere.”
“Today, we reflect on the special history of Black-Jewish relations and the special path being forged for the future with this new MOU. We are very proud of this agreement and what it means for the future of our two communities,” Barrett said. “We see our relationship with B’nai Brith as a strategic and important partnership that will amplify the efforts of both organizations. Antisemitism and anti-Black racism are issues affecting our communities. We see B’nai Brith as our ally.”
“Our two communities have a proud history of cooperation and joint efforts, and today we have taken a major step to ensure that this important special relationship will continue into the future,” Mostyn said. “The only way to ensure a bright future for all of us is to ensure both economic stability and justice. As civil society organizations, we need to do our part to protect the communities we care so deeply about.”
In the aftermath of the horrific killing of George Floyd, B’nai Brith Canada’s Special Advisory Council to the League for Human Rights (SAC-LHR) expressed its solidarity with those mourning his killing and determined to counter anti-Black racism in the United States, Canada and around the world. The SAC-LHR, chaired by Dr. Aubrey Zidenberg, has worked together for more than 14 years and consists of over 35 representatives from the GTA’s diverse minority communities. The Council has dedicated itself to building bridges towards a better country at the civil society level.
Thus, as B’nai Brith and the CBCC strive to enhance inter-communal relations between the Black and Jewish communities in Canada, we also aim to improve relations between all the diverse minority communities, under our respective organizational banners.