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A Message from the President and CEO, Canada
Happy New Year!
We are thrilled to report FSWC has experienced our most successful year to date as the iconic Spirit of Hope Benefit surpassed all expectations, raising $2.5 million in support of our efforts to promote tolerance, justice and human rights.
The event featured a panel debate between Democratic pundits James Carville and Donna Brazile vs. Republican strategists Karl Rove and Governor Mike Huckabee in a no holds barred debate on the topic ‘Be it resolved: The world is safer under President Obama’. In a unique initiative, the Major Gifts Dinner portion of the event featured a presentation and Award Ceremony in honour of the Commander of NATO’S recent Libya campaign, L.Gen Charles Bouchard (Ret’d), recipient of the Order of Canada, on behalf of the Canadian Forces.
Highlights of the year included FSWC’s presentation of the one-man play “Nazi Hunter-Simon Wiesenthal” in honour of Yom HaShoah, a ‘Speakers Idol’ educational initiative for middle and high school students to present their ideas to celebrity judges on how to make the world a better place, and a new program called ‘Radicalization 101: Roots of Hate and Strategies for Change’ launched in response to the increasing challenges faced by Canada's law enforcement community as it deals with growing radicalization and hate motivated crimes across the country.
FSWC’s educational programs remain widely sought after and appreciated by school boards across the province, and have earned special recognition by one of the high schools that participated in the ‘Genocide and the Power of Action’ workshop. At a gala End-of-Year celebration several students spoke about the important issues discussed during the workshop and how the program had changed their lives, while teaching staff at the school said they are looking forward to participating in future FSWC workshops and events.
Our signature Freedom Day program for middle and high school students continues to grow, with more than 4,000 students and educators from the Greater Toronto Area and beyond participating in 2012. This year’s event included keynote speaker Dr. Samantha Nutt, an award winning humanitarian, acclaimed public speaker and author and, as the founder of War Child Canada, a leading authority on the impact of war on civilians. She will be joined by Dr. Frank Chalk, the Director of the Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights. In addition, a fourth ‘Compassion to Action’ mission to Poland and Israel is planned for this fall.
FSWC continues to provide a variety of opportunities for our supporters to meet guests of the highest caliber at a variety of luncheons, receptions, parlour meetings and film screenings. In the past few months we have had the privilege of hosting both David Jacobson and Rafet Akgunay, the American and Turkish ambassadors to Canada as well as Andre Azoulay, Senior Advisor to King Mohammed VI of Morocco, (one of the only Jews to hold such a position in the Muslim world) and Franco Perlasca, son of Giorgio Perlasca, recognized by Yad Vashem as Righteous Among the Nations. Giorgio Perlasca was an Italian citizen on a business trip to Hungary during WWII who saved more than 5,000 Hungarian Jews by posing as the Spanish ambassador and providing Spanish citizenship to the community. Smaller community events including screenings of films such as ‘Sarah’s Key’ and ‘In the Land of Blood and Honey’ and presentations by community leaders like Sergeant Debbi Bodkin, Member of the UN Commission of Inquiry in Darfur continue throughout the year.
FSWC was also extremely excited to have been one of the earliest supporters of the tri-partisan political initiative to proclaim May as ‘Jewish Heritage Month’ in Ontario, and we look forward to supporting this enterprise as the activities and events of Jewish Heritage Month grow in breadth and stature.
Our advocacy work remains focused on combating a growing antisemitism and anti-Zionism in Canadian society, particularly in academic institutions, in the Toronto Gay Pride parade, within the United Church and in public spaces like Queen’s Park (the seat of the Ontario legislature). Through the media and advocacy efforts, we continue to raise awareness of issues relating to antisemitism, whether in the curriculum of Islamic Sunday Schools or the continued presence of Nazi war criminals in Canada.
Finally, we are delighted to report that the work of FSWC has been honoured by Lieutenant Governor David Onley at a reception at the Lieutenant Governor’s Suite in September, just prior to the High Holidays. It was a wonderful tribute to the work we do to promote a more just and tolerant society and a fitting celebration to begin the New Year.
With your continued support we will continue our best efforts to promote tolerance, justice and human rights through advocacy and education, and to ensure the rights and freedoms of all Canadians.
To join us and receive our weekly e - newsletter, visit www.fswc.ca or call 1-866-864-9735.
President & CEO
Meet The President
Avi Benlolo is a prominent Canadian human rights activist dedicated to promoting tolerance, justice and human rights. His academic focus included in-depth research on the Holocaust, antisemitism and racism. Through his work on genocide studies he documented survivor testimony from multiple genocide events around the world. In 2012, the Government of Canada appointed him to the Task Force for International Cooperation on Holocaust Education.
Mr. Benlolo is the guiding force behind the annual Spirit of Hope Benefit, Freedom Day, the Resource and Leadership Training Center, “Compassion to Action” Holocaust education missions and many other unique and innovative Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center (FSWC) programs and events. As President and CEO of FSWC he has published opinion pieces in the Toronto Star, Huffington Post, National Post, Montreal Gazette, Calgary Herald and other publications. He regularly gives interviews on radio and television.
His opinions are regularly sought after by the media, politicians at all levels and by leaders in both the Jewish and non-Jewish communities. He has developed one of the top Boards of Directors and Governors in the field of human rights and has successfully elevated the profile of the organization and revitalized its presence across Canada. His vast network of influential individuals, ranging from world leaders to grassroots community organizers, has helped propel FSWC to the forefront of tolerance, social justice and human rights advocacy across the country.
Board of Directors|
Sam Belzberg, OC, OBC
Gerald W. Schwartz, OC
Lawrence Bloomberg, C.M.,
Gordon R. Diamond, LLD,
Rabbi Marvin Hier
Rabbi Meyer May
Board of Governors
Dr. Rose Rahmani and Harry Silverberg, Co-Chairs
Dr. Andrew Braude
Dr. Fred Leitner
Justin S. Linden
Dr. Janice Weiss