A teacher walked into our classroom with a group of students the other day and told them this would be a day they would never forget. True, on this day, they would be learning about the Holocaust and meeting a Holocaust survivor.
For us, every day is special. Since early fall, our Tour for Humanity has visited 52 schools in 23 communities, reaching more than 8,000 students. An additional 50 workshops were held at our center and externally for 2,000+ students, while our Freedom Day included more than 2,000 students from dozens of schools. We have conducted workshops in Quebec, Alberta, Edmonton, Calgary, North Bay and many communities in between.
The work is not easy. But we have a dedicated team of professionals who are on the ground representing our community on the front lines each and every day. The stories they tell are amazing about the students, teachers and law enforcement officials they meet each day. It is becoming clearer that antisemitism is on the rise. Over the summer, our Nanos Research study revealed that 15% of Canadians hold antisemitic attitudes.
Last month, Statistics Canada reported finding that antisemitism increased by a whopping 63% in 2017. The Jewish community is still the most targeted religious community in the country. The warning signs were uploaded years ago – but the attack in Pittsburgh at Tree of Life really brought home the message: antisemitism is real and it's lethal. It is also hitting people privately at work, at school and in their neighborhoods.
We are no longer shocked (or are we) when a group of Jewish teenagers are harassed in Toronto by an antisemitic mob; or when a university student finds a swastika drawn on his dormitory or carved into his pumpkin on his front steps; or when a park in a quiet Jewish neighborhood is desecrated with swastikas. We live in one of the safest countries in the world – especially in comparison to our European brethren – but let us not take our safety and security for granted.
Recently, we have held interfaith meetings with representatives from Muslim, Christian, Buddhist, Sikh and other communities to discuss the rising tide of antisemitism. We have also held educational sessions for diplomats on antisemitism to inform, advise and move them to action in their own countries. In the fall, we held receptions at Queen's Park and Parliament Hill to increase awareness about these issues with our political leaders – and we continue to educate and inform our own community members about ongoing issues.
Our organization is part of a complex network of highly skilled professionals who represent us far and wide in major cities like Paris, New York, Los Angeles, Jerusalem, Buenos Aires and further. We travel the globe, shaping opinion, speaking on behalf of our constituents and making sure that the voice of the six million murdered Jews is never forgotten; that we will never stand down from supporting Israel and that we will counter antisemitism and all forms of intolerance obsessively.
This is what we do at Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center – and this is why your financial support keeps our organization going. We are here for you and for humanity to be an advocate, an educator and an early warning system on your behalf. If you are not already a member, please join us by making a donation today and help us say Never Again.
To make your 2018 donation, visit www.fswc.ca and click donate now. Thank you.