From the Desk of Avi Benlolo: Education Is Our Response to Antisemitism

October 12, 2018

Editorial

Today we learned about a local Jewish community centre that was desecrated with hateful graffiti. The Winchevsky Centre is a small building that serves the Jewish community.

Hate mongers took the time to spray paint the words “Jews Beware” on the building in addition to drawing a swastika - the symbol representing Nazi ideology and the murder of six million Jewish people.  

Earlier in the week, a well-known local Toronto Jewish Hebrew day school, Leo Baeck, was also targeted by hatemongers. Young Jewish kids were met with the following words on signs just outside the school: “Free Palestine” and “Long Life to the Hamas.”

The targeting of the Jewish community did not stop there. In one grocery store in a Toronto Jewish neighbourhood, anti-Jewish campaigners slapped stickers on Israeli-made products encouraging shoppers to boycott them.

And finally, a Jewish politician, Councillor James Pasternak, was targeted with a smear campaign accusing him of dual loyalty - because he holds strong pro-Israel beliefs. His beliefs are consistent with Canadian policy and human rights in general.

These incidents and others that frequently go unreported demonstrate an increased rate of antisemitism. In fact, in a recent study, FSWC found rates hovering around 15% of the population or 5 million Canadians having antisemitic views. That number increases to 27% in Quebec.

And this week, a report published that right-wing extremism is on the rise, including in the military. According to one researcher at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology, the number of right-wing extremist groups active in Canada has jumped 20-25%, bringing the total number of extremist groups operating in the country to between 100 and 125.

Every day we at FSWC are educating some 250 kids about the Holocaust and antisemitism on average. They are coming into our centre and we are going to them with our bus - the Tour for Humanity.

Recently, we also released a video - as if on cue predicting these occurrences - which targets adolescents and educates about hate crime, especially graffiti. This video is shown in all our workshops and on our social networking sites.

The task at hand is large and oftentimes we are finding the demand outstripping our ability to keep up. To put things in perspective, there are 2 million students and 5000 schools in Ontario - not to mention the rest of the country. This is why our plan is to expand our programs, which are in high demand.

With education and further programming, we can push back against this vicious tide of antisemitism. Antisemites are racists whose hate expands beyond the Jewish community. The sooner we make this understood, the sooner everyone will come together to combat racism together.

Shabbat Shalom,

~Avi

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