By Daniel Koren
B’nai Brith Canada
First it was Mayor Brian Bowman.
Disturbed by the antisemitic incident that took place last month in the Wolseley neighbourhood of Winnipeg – when a couple arrived at their home to find a rock painted with the words, “Die Jew Bitch. EinsatzGruppen” and other antisemitic slurs – the Mayor denounced the ugly act of hatred and declared his solidarity with Winnipeg’s Jewish community.
“We’re all one community,” he told B’nai Brith Canada in an interview. “Obviously, I appreciate that this hits home very directly for the affected family and members of the Jewish community, but it also shakes Winnipeggers in a very profound way, myself included. I’m not Jewish but I don’t think you need to be to be disgusted and disturbed by this act of hatred. We are all one community at the end of the day and we have to stand in solidarity here in Winnipeg and across Canada to loudly condemn this type of hatred.”
Mayor Bowman also thanked B’nai Brith for swiftly responding to the incident after the family contacted its 24-7 Anti-Hate Hotline, not before contacting Winnipeg Police.
Now, residents of Wolseley are following Mayor Bowman’s example after embarking on an initiative that demonstrates their support of Canada’s Jewish community.
According to the Winnipeg Jewish Review, neighbours of the Jewish family on Camden Street have produced a poster of a Star of David inside a heart, featuring the words, “We are Camden. We are Wolseley. We are neighbours.” A majority of the homes on one block on Camden Street have reportedly put up the poster in a gesture of solidarity.
One such neighbour, Zev Rumstein, told the Jewish Review that the campaign is a “spontaneous grassroots response” to the antisemitic incident. “A few of us worked collaboratively,” he said. “One woman, who is not Jewish, who lives on a nearby street, designed the poster. We approached two printers, and one of them, Staples, offered to print 50 coloured posters free of charge. About two or three people have gone knocking on doors on our block to see if people would put up the poster. I’ve been going door to door. Most people have put the posters up.
Needless to say, the victims of the incident are overwhelmed by the show of support. “Our neighbours have been fabulous. I really commend them,” one of the victims said. “They have lifted our morale in a difficult period. Since the message was that we should ‘get out of the neighbourhood,’ this response by our neighbours is very important. The poster has helped to diffuse the target. There are three to four other Jewish families on the block, who not surprisingly have also felt targeted by this antisemitism.”
Marty York, B’nai Brith Canada’s Chief Media Officer, commended members of the Wolseley neighbourhood for taking part in this incredibly moving campaign. “We hope that this can serve as an example for other communities when minority groups are subjected to racism and discrimination,” he said. “When incidents such as this occur, it’s important for us to unite and stand together as Canadians.”