Year in Review
What a year it has been! Despite challenging times, Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center (FSWC) made a major impact in 2021 in the fight against antisemitism and other forms of hate and in defence of human rights. From standing up against Jew-hatred rearing its ugly head in our community to educating tens of thousands of Canadians about the lessons of the Holocaust and how to confront hate, FSWC has been on the front lines every day. This year we have also been incredibly proud to continue the important work of reaching out to other organizations in the Jewish community and beyond to further build partnerships and collaboration. We know we are stronger when we work together.
2021 has been a year of many positive achievements and new initiatives. Read more below, and please consider donating today to support our work in the new year.
In 2021, FSWC educated and inspired more students than ever before through daily virtual workshops and other special programs. More than 29,000 students across Canada learned about the Holocaust, genocide, human rights, online hate, leadership and more, gaining inspiration to be changemakers and stand up against antisemitism and hate in their communities. More than 80 workshops featured testimonies from Holocaust survivors who shared their stories of pain, loss and survival with students. Bookings for virtual workshops are pouring in for the second half of the 2021-2022 school year, with hundreds of schools across the country already registered and three to four workshops being scheduled for each day.
In addition to daily programs, FSWC's annual Freedom Day and Speaker's Idol events proved highly successful. Watched virtually by thousands of students, educators and community members from across the country, the events featured young Canadians sharing their thoughts on the concept of freedom and how to create positive change, inspiring others to stand up for freedom, democracy and human rights. Stay tuned for details on Speaker's Idol and Freedom Day 2022, as planning is already underway!
Another highlight: Tour for Humanity, FSWC's mobile human rights education centre, returned to the road in Ontario following an almost two-year hiatus caused by the pandemic, visiting the Halton Regional Police Service to speak to its PEACE Youth Leadership Program participants and students in Brampton. We are excited to share that a second Tour for Humanity bus is nearing completion and will be on the road in 2022.
Every day, FSWC confronts antisemitism and Holocaust denial and distortion wherever and whenever they rear their ugly heads. From a wave of antisemitic vandalism that occurred in Toronto over the summer to Jew-hatred on university campuses and in schools to baseless comparisons between COVID-19 public health measures and the Holocaust, FSWC speaks out continually on behalf of the Jewish community and takes appropriate actions to ensure antisemitism is never ignored nor allowed to fester. Over the past year, we reported more than 200 hate incidents nationally to police, and we continue to work closely with authorities to ensure the safety of Canadian Jews across the country. More than 100 letters of complaint were sent to various institutions where antisemitism took place, many of which have been followed up with high-level meetings to address the issues at hand.
FSWC's advocacy work has appeared in numerous mainstream media outlets, including CBC, CTV, Canadian Press, Postmedia and Torstar newspapers, reaching hundreds of thousands of Canadians and educating them on important issues.
FSWC remains committed to working hand in hand with other communities and building allyship to combat all forms of hate together. This year, together with B'nai Brith Canada, we launched an Emergency Afghan Refugee Relief campaign to provide humanitarian assistance to newly arrived Afghan refugee families in Canada. Through our partnership with the Afghan Women’s Organization and The Neighbourhood Organization and the incredibly generous donations from members of the Jewish community, we provided essential items such as food, laptops and school supplies to families in need, all while building long-lasting relationships with the Afghan community.
FSWC's bi-weekly In Conversation with a Survivor speaker series, hosted jointly with the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights, welcomed speakers from numerous communities who survived genocide and other human rights atrocities. In addition to Holocaust survivors, Japanese internment camp, Rwandan genocide, residential school and Sixties Scoop survivors shared their experiences with viewers. Earlier this year, we also partnered with Outside Looking In, an Indigenous youth organization, to present a new educational program for classrooms, Facing Forward Together: Youth Perspectives on Diversity and Inclusion in Canada. We have gathered three Indigenous youth and three Jewish youth to discuss issues involving identity, culture and discrimination for this program, which serves as a resource to foster empathy and broaden perspectives, to amplify the voices of young Canadians and to help students engage in contemporary social issues rooted deep in our history.
We were thrilled to also announce the launch of the brand-new Wiesenthal Campus Advocacy Fellowship, an exciting and unique opportunity for university student leaders of all backgrounds, religions and walks of life who are interested in gaining a deeper understanding of human rights, antisemitism, other forms of racism and how to advocate effectively for justice. Whether you are a student or know a student, stay tuned for details on how to apply for the program in early January!
FSWC also reached thousands of parents, educators, law enforcement officials, lawyers, corporate employees and other professionals through educational workshops that focus on Holocaust education and providing tools to combat antisemitism and other forms of hate in the workplace and communities.
In February, we held our first annual Building a Case Against Hate conference for law enforcement personnel in Canada. Some 1,100 members from 50 police services attended, gaining insight and tools to better handle cases involving hate crimes and extremism. Registration is already underway for the 2022 conference! In other exciting education news this year, the Ontario government awarded FSWC a $327,000 grant, which we used to deliver special summer training programs for hundreds of teachers and students.
This past spring, as Israel faced Hamas rocket attacks from Gaza, diaspora Jews faced growing antisemitism, both online and on the ground. Taking action against incidents on numerous occasions, FSWC also issued widely-distributed joint statements with other community organizations - B'nai Brith Canada, CIJA and Jewish Federations of Canada - declaring solidarity with the people of Israel and appealing to Canadians to stand with the Jewish community against rising antisemitism. Signed by hundreds of Jewish organizations and institutions, from coast to coast to coast, the statements were published in the Toronto Star and on social media.
In the summer, FSWC launched the #itsantisemitism campaign, which has served as a tool for Jews to counter anti-Israel falsehoods propagated online. The campaign has reached tens of thousands of Canadians online.
In 2021, FSWC produced numerous inspiring and empowering events - virtually, of course - for the Jewish community. This year's annual State of the Union event welcomed three strong Jewish activists - Bari Weiss, Eve Barlow and Noa Tishby - to the stage for a compelling discussion about their experiences on the front lines combatting Jew-hatred and defending Israel, particularly on social media. Talks featuring activists Ben Freeman and Rudy Rochman further empowered the community to stand tall with Jewish pride and fight antisemitism.
This year, FSWC was thrilled to announce the launch of a new initiative, generationNOW, engaging young professionals. Earlier this month, generationNOW hosted its first-ever event. We are pleased to have three incredible co-chairs on board and look forward to announcing more events and opportunities for young professionals in 2022.
Thank you to everyone whose contributions helped make our work possible this year. As we head into 2022, please consider making a year-end donation to support the important programs and initiatives we have planned for the year ahead. Donations made by December 31 will receive a 2021 charitable tax receipt.