We’re all seeing and feeling it. Jew hatred seems to be getting even more brazen and more unrestrained.
With all that’s happened recently, we wanted to provide an update on how UJA is addressing this challenge, with a focus on six key steps we’ve taken since our last report to the community.
1. Social Media Advocacy.
Many community members want to make an impact on social media but don’t feel equipped to speak up. UJA Genesis recently hosted several hundred participants – including grassroots activists and social media influencers – for online advocacy training together with the Tel Aviv Institute. It was incredibly encouraging to see so many activists come together and learn from some of the Jewish world’s top social media minds, emerging more confident and empowered to make their voices heard. This is just the first of various strategic initiatives we are rolling out to mobilize our community to combat Jew hatred online.
2. Engaging Leaders to Speak Out.
When celebrities spread hate, it’s crucial that Jews and allies who are respected leaders use their platforms for good. Last week, we teamed up with Unity Through Sport to convene a special program – Antisemitism Through the Eyes of Sports – providing a space for NHL star Zach Hyman, Elliotte Friedman, and other Jewish figures in the world of sports to share their insights and speak out against Jew hatred. If you missed this impactful program, I encourage you to watch it here.
3. Public Education.
In November, the provincial government announced a historic first: Ontario will be the first province to require Holocaust education at the elementary level. We can all be proud that UJA’s advocacy agent the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) and other Jewish organizations and activists contributed significantly to this groundbreaking policy. Building on this, Ontario is investing in a partnership with our community through CIJA, UJA’s Toronto Holocaust Museum, and other Jewish non-profits to provide teachers with training and tools. This will enable educators to effectively teach about the Holocaust and understand the dangers of modern antisemitism and anti-Zionism – including through Unlearn Antisemitism, a new, high-quality digital resource.
4. Counter-Antisemitism Training for the Workplace.
Our community is also ramping up its education of organizations and corporations working to address rising antisemitism. In recent months, CIJA has conducted training for various key institutions – including one of Canada’s top banks, various social welfare agencies, and the Toronto District School Board – among others. This important work will continue into 2023, recognizing the need to ensure the issue of antisemitism is fully included in diversity-equity-inclusion efforts to counter hate in the workplace.
5. National Activism.
We are pleased to share that, in partnership with CIJA and Federations across Canada, we will be convening a national gathering of Jewish activists in Ottawa on October 16-17, 2023. The program will feature many highlights, including meetings with elected representatives on Parliament Hill, a parliamentary gala with political officials and influencers, advocacy training programs, and networking among Jewish activists and allies from coast-to-coast. Please stay tuned for registration details, save the date, and let us know if you’d like to be a part of this unparalleled experience.
6. Public Opinion Research.
Understanding how Canadians beyond our community view these issues – and messages that will be effective in shifting opinion – is crucial in creating allies who will take action. In partnership with Federation CJA of Montreal and CIJA, we recently conducted an in-depth national poll and focus groups examining how Canadians view Jews, Israel, and antisemitism. I’m pleased to share that we have begun training community activists and leaders in the preliminary research findings, providing practical tips on how this data can be applied to real-world advocacy.
Of the many key findings, perhaps most important is that Canadians who have a close Jewish friend or colleague are more sympathetic to our community, more aware of the reality of Jew hatred, and more opposed to antisemitic ideas. In other words, the most powerful way to open minds and build allies is through the personal connection, the first-person voice, and the experiences of Jewish Canadians they know and trust.
I couldn’t help but reflect on this finding in the context of recent, disturbing stories – be it Kanye West, Kyrie Irving, or a Holocaust-denier at a Parliament Hill reception, to name just a few. With so many Jews and allies asking, “What can be done?”, the research reminds us of an important truth: Those who target Jews begin by dehumanizing Jews – and that’s what we’re fighting against today.
We must debunk lies, expose those who spread them, and ensure antisemites are held accountable. But we must also proactively combat dehumanization by sharing – at a relatable, human level – every aspect of the Jewish experience with our friends and colleagues beyond the Jewish community.
Allies come from authentic, person-to-person relationships. This means doubling down on being openly proud about who we are and what we stand for. Our family histories. Our culture and diversity. Our ethical values and traditions. Our connection to Israel and Jews worldwide.
It also means humanizing the impact of Jew hatred – how it affects us and our children, and the threat it poses to the health of our entire society. This is a moment to both raise our voices as Jews and urge our fellow Canadians to speak out. Because antisemitism thrives when otherwise good people choose to be bystanders.
As difficult as recent events have been, it is incredibly encouraging to see our talented and passionate community rise to the challenge in so many ways. My hope is that this update is a helpful window into some of the areas of progress we’re making as a community, on top of the wide range of security, advocacy, campus, and outreach initiatives supported by UJA, our partner agencies, and organizations throughout Jewish Toronto.
If you would like to be a part of these efforts or any other area of our work to combat antisemitism, there is a role for you to play – and I encourage you to connect with us.
Chair, UJA Federation of Greater Toronto
PS: Tonight, at our Annual Meeting, my term as Chair will conclude as I pass the baton to the very talented and experienced Jeffrey Rosenthal, as he takes on the role of Chair. While my official role is evolving, I’m pleased to share that I will continue to dedicate my time as a volunteer to this important work, including by continuing to serve as Chair of UJA’s Committee to Counter Antisemitism and Hate. I look forward to working with our team of volunteers and professionals – as well as activists throughout our community – as we further strengthen the fight against Jew hatred in 2023.