From the Desk of Avi Benlolo: Can the World Put Two and Two Together?

January 11, 2019


This week marked the 4th anniversary of the killing of Jewish shoppers at a kosher market in Paris. In January, an Islamic terrorist entered the store, shot and murdered four innocent people and held the others captive for hours in a globally televised standoff.  

A few months later, one of the shoppers gave a heartfelt description at Spirit of Hope about the plight of French Jewry and the rising tide of violent antisemitism. Soon after, and like thousands of French Jews before and after her, she moved with her husband and daughters (to Boston) to escape the trauma that is France today.

We said we were “Not Afraid.” We rallied. We remembered. But the world went on after that.

Four years later, there would be a violent attack on a synagogue in Pittsburgh – the Tree of Life. Eleven mostly elderly and fragile worshippers were murdered by a white supremacist. It shocked us back to the reality that antisemitism is lethal.

Once again, we marched and held memorials. We said we were not afraid. People of all faiths came together to stand with us in solidarity.

But how easily does the world forget. Can it not put two and two together? Can it not understand that antisemitism is a compounding effect of occurrences that impact the social fabric, if not the mental health of ordinary people?

We find it shocking when a medical doctor in Cleveland who worked for a clinic was found to have called for “violence against Jews, defended Hamas and trivialized the Holocaust.” In one tweet she said, "I’ll purposely give all the yahood the wrong meds...." Yahood is an Arabic term for Jewish people. Other tweets made reference to "Jewish dogs" and said in Arabic, "Allah will take the Jews."

We find it shocking when we hear reports of a young orthodox Jewish family allegedly harassed on Spirit Air by crew as witnesses report they were targeted and treated unfairly. The family was further humiliated when the parents and their young children were escorted off the plane by police – but not charged for any crime.

And we still find it shocking when local universities like OISE of the University of Toronto hold book launches on campus for groups who label Jews colonialists and wrongfully accuse Israel of apartheid, while promoting a boycott campaign. Indeed, tonight OISE is hosting a book launch for an author who is accused of using this platform to “repeatedly call for violence against Jews (as a people), not just politics of, and BDS against Israel.”

The attacks on Jewish people – violent, institutional and personal – emerge in the workplace and in the social and academic sphere. They will continue unabated so long as the culture of acceptance on university campuses, in the media, by states (e.g., Iran) and by unions and international bodies like the United Nations continues to promote lies, conspiracy theories and innuendos against the Jewish people.

Shabbat Shalom,


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