From the Desk of Avi Benlolo: Just Do It!

November 2, 2018

Editorial

Before it was Nike's incredible slogan, Simon Wiesenthal believed it in his heart.

Eleven women and men were murdered in Pittsburgh in cold blood because they were Jewish. If anyone in North America still needed convincing that antisemitism is lethal, this was a wake-up call.

But what do we do about it? We Just Do It.

The FSWC model is based on Simon Wiesenthal’s legacy of justice and advocacy. After the Shoah, Simon Wiesenthal and his wife Cyla stayed behind in Vienna – in the Lion's Den – to go after the Nazis who weaponized antisemitism. His life was not easy, and the choice to leave the fight for greener pastures was tantalizing. But Simon taught us that we must roll up our sleeves and get to work on the front lines.

This direct advocacy has guided this organization from its beginnings. Its leaders travel the globe meeting leaders, change makers and even sitting in the “Lion's Den” like UNESCO or the UN. Together we travelled to Amman meeting with King Abdullah to discuss terrorism, and this was followed with a meeting at the Elysee Palace to have a frank discussion about antisemitism with President Francois Hollande.

As activists, we are often threatened – but we continue with obsessive vigour to carry out Simon Wiesenthal’s Never Again mandate. My colleagues in Paris, Argentina, New York, Los Angeles, Miami, Chicago and Jerusalem (to name a few) are vigorously working day and night with incredible Jewish passion to fight back the darkness. They are changing the course of history, like colleagues who were involved in creating the internationally accepted definition of antisemitism – yes, the same one Jeremy Corbyn tried to reject.

And I will never forget sitting across the boardroom table from a union president demanding that his union pass a resolution condemning antisemitism, Israel defamation and boycotts. Not only did he agree, he invited me to give the keynote address at his union's convention. That took chutzpah – but that’s what's needed to counter antisemitism and discrimination these days.

Those who banded around us 18 years ago in Canada post 9/11 saw the winds of change coming and preparation is necessary. It was the infamous "Durbin Conference" in 2001 that kicked off the radical agenda of defaming Israel by falsely labelling it an "apartheid state" and setting the wheels in motion for antisemitic infiltration on university campuses, unions and even church groups.

The naysayers refused to believe – calling us alarmists.

We persevered. In Canada, we built tolerance training workshops and educational programs like Freedom Day and Speakers Idol, which have now educated well over 100,000 students and teachers about the Holocaust and antisemitism. We created a dynamic police and educator in-the-field educational program – taking them to visit the camps in Poland and to Israel. Compassion to Action alumna today number in the hundreds and stretch from coast to coast. When the commissioner of the OPP tells you  "you were right," you know you made a difference.

Our launching of the Tour for Humanity was integral to raising the standard in Holocaust education – but more importantly, to taking proactive initiative. We go out into the field every single day and we proactively work with students and teachers to teach and educate. For this we have won the Best Practices Award from the Canadian Race Relations Foundation and have been supported by the Trillium Foundation, the Government of Canada and private donors.

Our big-tent mentality at FSWC is to bring as many friends and allies as possible into the fight against antisemitism and discrimination. Over 36 school boards representing 1.6 million students have formally joined our organization, while our social networking educational vehicles and websites are accessed by over 12 million people annually – including our Holocaust testimonial website called www.neverforgetme.ca.

We are obsessed with inspiring and empowering more and more people. We want every single household in Canada to become a member of this incredible work. Simon Wiesenthal taught us that action speaks louder than words. Won't you join our fight? If you are not a member of Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center, visit our website now and make a gift of any kind to make your voice count. Be part of our family. Join us at www.fswc.ca.

Shabbat Shalom,

~Avi

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