Since October 7th, our community has experienced a dangerous rise in antisemitism. I am writing to update you on what UJA is doing to combat hate at this incredibly challenging time.
UJA exists to mobilize the full strength of our community – our resources, agencies, volunteers, donors, and professionals – in common cause. This is especially crucial when it comes to the fight against antisemitism, which requires a unified strategy across a full spectrum of advocacy, education, security, and other efforts.
There are many Jewish organizations working on this issue in different ways. With UJA as the central convener, we are ensuring a higher level of coordination among Jewish organizations than ever before in our community.
Since October, we have been operating a “command centre”-style hub of staff from multiple organizations, and volunteers with experience in advocacy and politics. Since October, UJA has been operating a “command centre”-style hub of staff from multiple organizations, as well as volunteers with experience in advocacy and politics. This has been key to ensuring a joint strategy and ongoing coordination with our advocacy agent the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), Hillel Ontario, the Canadian Jewish Political Affairs Committee (CJPAC), Friends of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, B’nai Brith Canada, Stand With Us, Honest Reporting Canada, Allied Voices for Israel, and others.
Our strategy is anchored in three critical principles: creating awareness, building allies, and ensuring accountability for those who spread hate. While there’s much more to share than can be covered in a single email, I wanted to offer a brief update on the progress we’ve made.
Creating Awareness. In October, we conducted a new round of public opinion research to understand how Canadians perceive this issue and identify messaging proven to build support for our cause.
Among the many insights, one of the most encouraging findings is that a majority of Canadians now recognize that the anti-Israel protests taking place are tainted by antisemitism. The data confirms that Canadians don’t like hate when they see it, which is why we need to expose acts of antisemitism taking place in our country, using social media and mainstream media as key tools.
Our No Room For Terror social media campaign, which shines a light on antisemitism and extremism here in Canada, has already generated more than 5 million impressions. Building on this work, through UJA Genesis in partnership with social media leader Hen Mazzig, we’ve trained 700 community members – as well as a core group of Jewish social media influencers – on how to become effective online activists.
So too, our media relations team, which we expanded at the beginning of the war, has secured hundreds of media stories. Whether helping the families of hostages to garner media coverage or ensuring a strong Jewish voice against hate crimes in Toronto, this effort has been critical in raising public awareness far beyond our community.
Proactive education is also crucial, which is why educational resources on antisemitism – Unlearn Antisemitism, developed by CIJA, the Toronto Holocaust Museum, and other experts – are being deployed in classrooms to help students identify and stand up against Jew hatred. In addition, between October 7th and the end of 2023, the Toronto Holocaust Museum will have welcomed nearly 5,000 students for educational visits, each of which includes a reflection on the relevance of the Holocaust for today’s world.
Building Allies. With Jews comprising only 1% of Canada’s population, it is essential that we reach out beyond our community to make our voice heard, and encourage our fellow Canadians to stand with us.
Outreach to our elected officials is especially important. Through CIJA’s action alert system, we have mobilized more than 100,000 grassroots emails to elected officials. We have bolstered this effort by enlisting more than 500 volunteers to make phone calls to elected officials, reinforcing the importance of support for Israel and our community.
In addition to CIJA’s ongoing meetings with elected officials, we have facilitated more than 60 meetings between Jewish activists and federal representatives – amplifying the voice of our community. This builds on the Face It, Fight It conference CIJA and Federations across Canada convened in Ottawa in October. Remarkably, that gathering saw more than 800 people participate in 116 meetings with elected officials at the beginning of the war, in what was the largest lobby day ever conducted on Parliament Hill. Through our command centre, we are providing ongoing guidance and messaging to 3,500 Jewish activists and allies via regular Activist Updates.
Accountability for those who spread hate. It’s essential that we leverage the full weight of the law against perpetrators of antisemitism, as well as institutions that fail in their responsibility to protect Jewish community members.
Through CIJA’s research team, we have been documenting and exposing acts of antisemitism. When we have evidence that can enable action from law enforcement, we immediately share this with authorities so they can take steps to keep our community safe. This work has led to 24 arrests, seven regulatory investigations, three intelligence service investigations related to support for terrorism, and over 100 instances in which the Canada Border Services Agency has refused an individual admission to Canada. UJA and CIJA efforts to expose the hatred targeting Jewish businesses, such as Café Landwer and Indigo, have also been a catalyst for “Buycott” campaigns – sending the message that acts of hate will trigger our community to support those very businesses.
Through CIJA’s Legal Task Force, more than 200 of the top lawyers in our community have volunteered to support pro-bono legal action on behalf of victims of antisemitism. Campus is also a top priority, and the Legal Task Force is assisting Jewish students and faculty with legal support at Toronto Metropolitan University, the University of Toronto, York University, Western University, McMaster, Queen’s, and OCAD University (the Ontario College of Art and Design).
Similarly, hate in public schools is a serious and growing concern. Through CIJA, we have been advocating directly to local school boards on behalf of parents and staff to ensure antisemitic incidents are addressed effectively – and that those involved are held accountable for their behaviour. Since parents play a critical role, UJA has conducted virtual programs to equip more than 800 parents of public school students to navigate these issues on behalf of their children.
Another key area of focus is standing up for Jews in the workplace. The Legal Task Force has been working closely with community members to develop lawsuits against institutions that are failing to address antisemitism. Related to this, the Task Force is supporting formal complaints to regulatory bodies against professionals in key industries – such as medical professionals who have publicly expressed antisemitic views. In addition, through UJA Genesis we have helped build and support dozens of employee resource groups within corporations and organizations, creating communities of Jews who can advocate with one strong, effective voice at their place of work.
While there’s much more to share – and more to be done – these are just a few examples of the incredible way our community has stepped up to fight hate.
This month, my term as Chair of UJA’s Countering Antisemitism and Hate Committee comes to a conclusion. I’m honoured to pass the baton to an incredibly capable leader, Henry Wolfond, as he takes on this important role. I’m also proud of our exceptional team of professionals. This work began under the leadership of Steven Farber and has continued under Noah Shack, our VP of Countering Antisemitism and Hate. Together, their talented leadership and expertise has immeasurably strengthened our community.
When we first launched this Committee in the wake of the 2021 Israel-Hamas war, we did so to ensure our community had the tools needed to ensure the strongest possible response in a crisis like this. While we couldn’t have anticipated the events of October 7th, advance preparations enabled us to move quickly and with greater impact than would have otherwise been possible.
Whether conducting a baseline public opinion study last year, training hundreds of activists on social media, developing a social media team focused on countering antisemitism, or bringing together multiple organizations for crisis scenario planning – these and other preparatory efforts confirmed the need to be ready in advance of a crisis. However, this threat is constantly changing, which is why we must be bold in adapting our strategy as needed.
With Henry’s and Noah’s strong leadership, this work will continue long beyond the expected duration of this war. For my part, I will continue to be active in speaking out, championing our community, and playing a role in this fight we can’t afford to lose. These are difficult days for the Jewish people, but they also remind us of the remarkable strength of our community, for which I am constantly in awe.
May the memory of the Maccabees continue to inspire us all.
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