Our phones have been ringing off the hook lately with more people supporting us than ever before. The climate around us has turned dark once again - some say reminiscent of 1933. But for more than sixteen years, Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center has been preparing its counter campaign against antisemitism, hate and intolerance. Canadians realize that our educational and advocacy programs are cutting edge, and we are proud of it. When we take stock of our work on a daily basis, our impact is directly changing lives - not by press releases - but through direct person to person engagement and social action. This week alone, our Tour for Humanity program educated 2,000 students in Markham, Trenton and Keswick.
We have some very simple rules for all of our education programs, 1) every student and teacher must understand the significance of the Holocaust; 2) they must understand antisemitism and how it relates to contemporary antisemitism; 3) they must become engaged in the universal fight against hate and intolerance and 4) they must leave the experience wanting to contribute positively to Tikkun Olam (repair of the world).
This week, FSWC also presented at Beaumonde Heights Public School where we gave a presentation to approximately 300 students about the experiences of women during the Holocaust. This included survivor testimony given by Faigie Libman. We were in Milton on Thursday to give a special presentation to 160 students about the lessons and legacy of the Holocaust - with another survivor, Gershon Willinger giving an incredible presentation.
More and more people are joining us because silence is not an option and we are an organization on the move. This week, I had the pleasure of participating on a high level panel discussion at the Lt. Governor General's residence for the Canadian Race Relations Foundation. The panel, comprised of high level and distinguished thought leaders from differing backgrounds. There was wide agreement that youth engagement was the answer to curtailing hate (indeed the person arrested in Ottawa for hate graffiti was an adolescent). Even while some panel members argued that the top down approach is more impactful, I argued that both are necessary - education and empowerment of our youth at the grass roots community level - about antisemitism, racism and intolerance was essential - and this is exactly what we do with the Tour for Humanity, Freedom Day, Speakers Idol and our regular in house workshops. I spoke passionately about the problems we are having on university campuses; the rising tide of hate groups and the desecration of synagogues, churches, mosques and community facilities.
The strength of involvement from donors and community leaders we are seeing is a result of the seeds we have been planting. How wonderful it is to see the fruits of our labour. The results of Compassion to Action have been momentous. This week, Commissioner Vince Hawkes welcomed our organization at the Ontario Provincial Police Headquarters in
commanders, recruits, civilian personnel and regular uniform officers. They learned about the Holocaust from Max Eisen, one of our distinguished Holocaust survivors and they met Dr. Fred Leitner, our Campaign Chair and York Region District School Board Trustee Pete Luchowski and Daryl Crowley, who also participated on the mission. Across the country, we have been receiving reports from other delegates of Compassion to Action - in policing and education - they are providing their constituents and communities with power point presentations about the Holocaust. How incredible is that?
We are an organization on the move. We are proud that noted community leader, philanthropist and businessman Fred Waks joined the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center board of directors this week - a show of continued strength and solidarity with the mission and goals of this growing organization. With his involvement, alongside our incredible board and amazing leadership of our Chairman, Gerry Schwartz, we are strengthening and gearing up to tackle 2017 with passion and compassion.
For those committed to Holocaust education, to combating antisemitism in all its forms, fighting against the delegitimization of Israel, and to pushing the outer limits and going beyond our comfort zones - to achieve our best - Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center is your home. Join us as a member at whatever level. We cannot be complacent and action speaks louder than words.
Join us before the year end as a donor and as a member at www.fswc.ca.
Sincerely Avi Benlolo