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Week of Feb. 11, 2016

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Letters to the Editor THE CJN PHOTO
Letters to the Editor THE CJN PHOTO

Speaking out on campus

We are two Hasbara Fellows representing dozens of others. Pro-Israel students like us across Canada are getting a lot of attention these days, after philanthropist Paul Bronfman delivered an ultimatum to York University, saying that his donations to the school would be cut unless it removed an anti-Israel mural in the university student centre (“York University’s mural conundrum”).

Now, more so than in a long time, the wider pro-Israel community is taking notice of the real situation on campus for pro-Israel and Jewish students.

Pro-Israel community members are having a serious discussion about the extent and influence of anti-Israel forces on university campuses, whether it be their wide access to student government, intimidation, frequent anti-Israel articles in student newspapers, leadership in student clubs, and more.

On many campuses across the country, pro-Israel students face a well-financed juggernaut of anti-Israel groups whose sole focus is to demonize Israel. On other campuses the situation is quieter, but many students, after years of conflict, are simply apathetic.

But we haven’t been silent or reactive. Hasbara Fellows have built pro-Israel social media campaigns, engaged with student governments, reached out to campus newspapers, built sustainable relationships with non-Jewish students, and run highly successful events on campus to counteract both the hate speech and the apathy rampant on campuses, and more importantly, to set a positive, proactive tone for the wider student body.

For a long time, this was all behind the scenes. But thanks to a public statement from Bronfman, more attention is being paid to what’s really happening on campus, and for that, we are grateful.

Ariella Daniels, Hasbara Fellow, York University

Tamar Lyons, Hasbara Fellow,
Ryerson University

Toronto


Compromise at the Kotel

Shortly after Israel reunified Jerusalem in 1967, control over the Kotel was given to the Orthodox. Since then, the Kotel has been part of the ongoing struggle for religious pluralism in Israel.

Recently, an accommodation was reached by all parties (“Wall prayer fight ends with a historic compromise”). With government participation and approval, the Kotel will be divided and any Jew, male or female, will now be able to find a place at Judaism’s holiest site to pray in peace.

It has not been easy for the ultra-Orthodox to recognize other religious streams as legitimate, but this compromise is a most visible recognition indeed. The accommodation at the Wall ought to have a strong ripple effect in Israel and the Diaspora as Jews of different stripes come to terms with a new era of religious co-operation. Let us hope that with one less issue to quarrel over, we will grow even stronger together.

Ron Hoffman, president Canadian Foundation for Masorti Judaism

Toronto


The politics of the Shoah

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Jew-free news release on International Holocaust Remembrance Day is not just some careless goof by a rookie. I’m not buying the Trudeau walk-back, not when it’s so plainly part of a growing effort in liberal circles worldwide to gradually de-Judaize the Shoah.

The Holocaust is slipping from living Jewish memory into historical memory.  But will it be a Jewish historical memory?  Prepare for challenge. In the decades to come, we will see more erasing of Jewish ownership of the Shoah in favour of a renovation of the Holocaust as a purely “human” tragedy.

Jews seek to retain the Shoah in the catalogue of our oppression. Secular liberals, mainline Christian churches and, of course, all those further to the left, need to denationalize the Holocaust to successfully universalize it. Delisting the Holocaust from the Jewish national estate is just one more attack on Jewish exclusivity and self-definition.

We are an inconvenient people, it seems, and whether it’s through rank incompetence or some malicious sense of universalism, Canada’s new prime minister has just made his own contribution to the process of erasure.

S. E. Woolley

Columbia, S.C.