From the Desk of Avi Benlolo: Stay in the Light

April 12, 2019

Editorial

We wish we could take every member of our community with us along for the ride to witness and see our impact. Here is an explanation of why this is necessary.

Community leadership is challenging. We are impacted daily by multiple voices. Some of them enthusiastically positive and appreciative of our effort, others as hostile as the external threats we often receive. We receive the kindest and gentlest thank you letters from students, teachers, law enforcement officials and donors. Positive sentiment such as this is at times juxtaposed with having to defend our institution – an institution built on the bedrock of the Holocaust and the legacy of Simon Wiesenthal himself.

Over time, we have learned to engage ignorance and to stay in the light. That strategy seems to be working, as the organization enjoys its strongest year ever of support from its 30,000 Canadian members and increasing sophistication of caliber of leadership. Armed with government grants, strengthening support from family foundations and a blockbuster Spirit of Hope campaign under the leadership of Paul Bronfman, our programming capacity and potential continues to increase each day.

We pride ourselves on exceptional award-winning programs that are actively supported by corporations like the Tour for Humanity, Speakers Idol, Freedom Day and Compassion to Action. Our passionate professional educators crisscross Ontario each day – teaching and advocating about the Holocaust, universal genocide and human rights. Most days, they awake before the sun rises somewhere in a rural community – in the cold and in the dark days of winter – and prepare for up to six workshops of 200 students each day. They inspire and empower students daily to make the world a better place, to think about the Shoah and the consequence of hate for all.  

With some 150,000 students educated over the last decade alone (and many more before), we have visited nearly 1,000 schools and built a platform that informs and educates about the Holocaust in Ontario and across the country. We have also become a voice for human rights, speaking on multifaceted issues that must concern all Canadians, including the controversial Quebec Secularism Bill 21 – a test to Canada’s endurance on religious freedom. Our social networking platforms and website are accessed by more than 13 million people a year for our rich content, like our Holocaust testimony website, www.neverforgetme.ca.

We struggle with critical issues of the day and speak our mind from a pro-Jewish perspective. This week, we celebrated Israel’s elections because they showcased the nation's vibrant and active democracy in a hostile region; we lauded its impressive space program; we expressed our opinion about the likes of Democratic Representative Ilhan Omar who downplayed the 9/11 attack by Islamic terrorists; and in the same vain – we called on the Conservative Party to denounce one of its senators (it did) for actually wondering in a hearing if white supremacists are a threat in Canada.

There is no shortage of issues we engage with every day. You can find our daily sentiments on our newsroom on our website at www.fswc.ca. Our proudest work is in the educational arena where we change lives every single day. We invite members of the community, especially leaders, to learn more about us by meeting with us directly, by engaging with us collaboratively and experientially – face to face.  

We stay in the light.

Shabbat Shalom,

~Avi

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