By Rabbi Meyer May and Jaime Kirzner-Roberts
Three weeks ago, when Toronto Police released their latest statistics on hate crimes, Jews came out on top. The report confirmed what we all know, that Jews are the most likely victims of hate crimes in our city. Indeed, nearly 33% of all hate crimes were directed at the Jewish community, which remarkably makes up only 4% of Toronto's total population. We wondered why there was not an outpouring of outrage from government leaders and the media. But this week, we were pleasantly surprised.
It all started with a little eatery on Bloor Street West called Foodbenders. The company stated on social media that “Zionists” were not welcome on its premises; “Zionists are Nazis”; Jewish groups “control your media and elected officials”; Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is a “Zionist puppet” and the only solution to these problems is “intifada” - violent uprising against Jewish civilians and Israel. Lovely!
Foodbenders’ obsessive vitriol for Zionists and its ongoing libels against Israel, promotion of terrorist icons and slogans and, most clearly, reference to Jewish control of media and politicians amounted to full-blown Jew-hatred. The overwhelming majority of Canadian Jews consider themselves Zionists, so when Foodbenders banned Zionists, it was banning Jews, it was banning us. And this was not kosher!
Our community members' first response was to reach out, en masse, to the owner of Foodbenders, in an effort to open up dialogue and express to her the pain her words caused. They sent her messages on social media, wrote letters, called her and visited her establishment in an effort to speak to her. To no avail! She was too committed to her hateful narrative and our words fell on deaf ears.
When a member of FSWC’s Doctors4Wiesenthal, a judicious and gentle physician, went to the eatery with his son to reason with the owner about the painful history of antisemitism in our country, she screamed at him, ordered him off the premises and then threw a bucket of water at him. When called out for her hatred, she doubled down.
We doubled down too. Every major Jewish organization in Canada engaged in isolating this antisemitic eatery. We reached out to our community members for help in contacting the business’s contractors as well as to political leaders at all levels. Overwhelmed by the evidence of Foodbenders’ blatant antisemitism, one by one the eatery’s contractors began to cut ties – UberEats, DoorDash, Square and others publicly announced that they would no longer do business with such an establishment of hate.
And this time, our political leaders were not far behind. Politicians at all levels of government spoke out in condemnation. Led by Ontario Premier Doug Ford, Toronto Mayor John Tory as well as numerous MPs, MPPs and city councillors were unequivocal in their condemnation. And yesterday the prime minister, responding to an outraged tweet by MP Michael Levitt, joined to express his outrage, too, tweeting, “There is no place in our country for hate or antisemitism, and we must be on constant guard against this behaviour. Whether they occur here at home or around the world, Canada will always stand against these unacceptable acts and stand with the Jewish community.”
The week is now almost over and the writing is on the wall for antisemitic Foodbenders. And unlike three weeks ago when the sound of silence in the face of the horrible statistic of hate directed at our community was deafening, this week the sound of great corporate citizenship, undeterred grassroots strength and real political courage carried the day. This week, voices were raised and justice was served. Thank you all!