'Compassion to Action' Trip Inspires Canadian Leaders to Be Strong Allies Against Hate

July 26, 2022


Compassion to Action group recites Kaddish at Auschwitz-Birkenau

This month marked the return of Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center's (FSWC) annual Compassion to Action program, following a two-year hiatus during the pandemic. Nearly two dozen Canadian leaders in law enforcement and education took part in the intensive educational journey through Poland and Israel. Over the span of 10 days, participants acquired a deeper understanding of the Holocaust and the history and importance of the Jewish state.

In Poland, participants learned about the country's rich Jewish history dating back more than 1,000 years. They visited the POLIN Museum, participated in a Jewish Warsaw walking tour, gained insight into Righteous Among the Nations through visits to the Warsaw Zoo Zabinski exhibit and Oskar Schindler's factory, toured Auschwitz-Birkenau to better understand the horrors inflicted on millions of Jews, and visited many other sites in Poland to further their knowledge of the history and lessons of the Holocaust.

The group was joined by Holocaust survivor Andy Réti, a Toronto resident who shared personal readings, including a chapter from his mother’s book about family and friends murdered in the Holocaust, and lit a candle in memory of former Auschwitz inmate Max Eisen z"l, who had joined previous Compassion to Action trips and passed away in Toronto earlier this month.

FSWC's Michael Levitt, Elena Kingsbury and Melissa Mikel lighting candles in memory of Holocaust survivor Max Eisen z"l and Auschwitz victims

FSWC President and CEO Michael Levitt with Holocaust survivor Andy Réti at entrance to Auschwitz

After arriving in Israel, participants visited Yad Vashem, where they learned about the work the Holocaust memorial centre is doing to train educational decision makers and police officers, explored the Old City and Western Wall in Jerusalem, visited the Museum of Tolerance and met with Simon Wiesenthal Center's chief Nazi-hunter, Dr. Efraim Zuroff.

FSWC's Michael Levitt joined former Knesset Member Michal Cotler-Wunsh for a special session on combatting antisemitism and hate presented to Compassion to Action participants

Memorial for Holocaust victims at Yad Vashem

Judging from the response so far from participants, this year's program proved a huge success. Their feedback indicates the program is achieving its ultimate goal of providing inspiration and tools to Canadian professionals who are leaders in their communities so they can be stronger allies in the fight against antisemitism and all forms of hate.

Feedback from some of the participants:

“This was a trip of a lifetime and I believe that the experience will have lasting effects on every decision and aspect of my career going forward. It’s hard to pinpoint the most impactful aspect of this trip as the more I reflect, the more I come to understand the impact that this trip has had on me.”

“I was reminded that when we engage in Holocaust learning at school, it's essential that our students hear the individual stories of the people who were impacted - and that for atrocities like this to occur, it's the decision-making and complicit behaviour of many.”

“This trip has also allowed me to reflect on what we can be doing across the school district to ensure that we cast a wider net when it comes to Holocaust education.”

FSWC's educational programs, such as Compassion to Action, would not be possible without your generous support. Donate today to help fight antisemitism and hate.

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