A Special Update from the Desk of Linda Frum
While the fight against antisemitism never stops, it feels especially urgent at this time of year.
In the coming days, Jewish students will return to university campuses, where many will face the hatred and lies we’re all too familiar with. This is an issue that hits many of us on a very personal level. As a parent, I’m concerned about what my daughter will experience when she is back on campus – and I know that many parents (and grandparents) reading this message feel the same way.
I’m writing as Chair of UJA – and Chair of UJA’s Committee to Counter Antisemitism and Hate – to update our community on the progress we have made in the fight against antisemitism.
I want to begin by recognizing that there are many great organizations in our community working to address this monumental challenge. Last year, when UJA and our Board reflected on how we could strengthen the fight against antisemitism, we realized the greatest impact we could make would be to elevate a wide range of organizations working to address this challenge in different ways. This means developing new tools, tactics, and initiatives that will help shift our community from defence to offence.
We have since made key investments over-and-above our continued support for the crucial work of our advocacy agent, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA). I’m pleased to report on the progress we’ve made in the following strategic areas.
Campus advocacy. Our students must have the support they need to speak up, defend their rights, and build allies who will join us in creating positive change on campus. Whether encouraging Jewish students to be politically active, building coalitions with other faith and cultural communities, or advocating to university administrations, Hillel Ontario plays an essential role in standing up for Jewish students. In advance of the school year, we have made a special allocation to Hillel Ontario enabling the organization to expand its advocacy work – and make an even bigger impact for the 13,000 Jewish students it serves on nine campuses.
Community Security. Community members must be able to live Jewishly and be active in community life confident in their security. We have significantly strengthened UJA Community Security in recent months, including by hiring Chris Fernandes, former Deputy Police Chief of Durham Region, to lead our work in this vital area. With the return of school and the High Holidays around the corner, the team is currently focused on strengthening security plans, protocols, and measures at day schools and synagogues. This builds on the significant expansion of our training programs in recent months. 749 community members have enrolled in security training to develop skills such as security awareness, emergency protocols, and Krav Maga (self-defence). The combination of professional support from our team and the deployment of trained volunteers will build a culture of healthy vigilance and readiness in our community.
Research. Our community must be able to communicate in ways that resonate among our fellow Canadians. Sophisticated polling and focus group research are essential in identifying messages that are tested and proven to be effective. With this in mind, we recently completed an in-depth national poll of Canadians, in partnership with Federation CJA of Montreal and CIJA. As analysis continues, focus groups will be conducted to refine messaging and develop practical tools for how best to communicate about antisemitism, Israel, and our community. With training and workshops to follow, Jewish organizations and grassroots activists alike will have access to cutting-edge data that will make us all more effective in changing minds and building allies.
Social Media Advocacy. Hate and lies thrive online – and our community must be empowered to push back and change the social media environment. Armed with the latest data and messaging, we will be launching two intensive training programs this fall – one for social media influencers and another for grassroots community activists. These programs will provide tools and tips for how to make an impact on social media. Are you interested in combatting antisemitism online? Stay tuned for an invitation to join us for this important program.
Community Mobilization. Many community members want to make a difference in the fight against hate, but don’t feel they have the knowledge, opportunities, or support to get involved. We’re changing that. This fall, UJA Genesis, our community mobilization arm, will be introducing initiatives that tap into the talent and energy of community members to counter antisemitism in key sectors. Through working groups in the arts and corporate sectors, as well as a new partnerships program to build bridges with rising leaders in other faith and cultural communities, we will build movements of Jewish activists and allies working together to combat hate.
Education. Countering hate must begin in our schools – and that’s true in public schools and Jewish day schools alike. We recently launched two professional development programs to enable educators in both school systems to better understand the changing nature of antisemitism and its connection to anti-Zionism. This is crucial in enabling teachers to ensure Jewish students are protected from bullying and empowered to navigate these difficult issues with confidence. So too, the development of UJA’s Toronto Holocaust Museum is rapidly progressing toward an official opening in the spring. Through technology and a best-in-class approach to education, the Museum will enable thousands of students of all backgrounds to understand the lessons of the Holocaust and the dangers of modern antisemitism.
National Activism. This challenge goes far beyond our city. In partnership with CIJA and Federations across Canada, we will be convening a national gathering of Jewish activists in Ottawa in 2023. This will unite hundreds of Jewish community members and students for an intensive conference of learning and training, as well as a mass advocacy day on Parliament Hill to make our voices heard. A date for this incredible experience will be announced in the near future – stay tuned.
Through it all, we have made a priority of strengthening coordination and sharing knowledge among Jewish organizations active in fighting antisemitism, including organizations that have not previously been affiliated with UJA. We’re pleased that, this fall, we will be convening crisis planning sessions among a diversity of Jewish organizations – recognizing the urgent need for a cohesive, community-wide approach to a hatred that threatens us all.
This work will only be successful if as many people as possible pitch in. Are you interested in getting involved? There is a role for you! Please let us know if we can count you in for any of the above initiatives. We would love to connect, bring you aboard, and hear your ideas.
There is, of course, much more work to be done. This update reflects what we’ve accomplished in the first year of this renewed effort to fight antisemitism, and the progress that we will build upon and expand in year two of this vital work.
Thank you to all who invest in UJA’s mission, our terrific partner organizations throughout the community, and an outstanding team of volunteers and professionals who are working hard to win this battle we can’t afford to lose.
Chair of the Board
UJA Federation of Greater Toronto
We are grateful to all who have given generously to our 2022 Annual Campaign. If you support our mission to combat antisemitism and strengthen Jewish life in Greater Toronto, Israel, and around the world, please consider donating today.