Montreal native Gordon Wasserman, a member of the British House of Lords, will return to his home town on May 29, to speak about a violent anti-Semitic incident last year that was perpetrated against his grandson, who lives in Berlin.
Lord Wasserman will be joined by his daughter, Gemma Wasserman-Michalski, as well as German Ambassardor Sabine Sparwasser and Rabbi Adam Scheier, in a panel discussion at Congregation Shaar Hashomayim titled, “Is There a Future for Jews in Germany?”
The boy was the victim of a “mock execution” at the public school that he attended.
“The story received sensational coverage throughout Germany and made the major press around the world,” said Stephen Lipper, an organizer of the event. “The Wassermans will talk about how poorly this terrible episode was handled and what this means for Germany.”
Irwin Cotler, founder and chair of the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights, will moderate the discussion.
Born in Montreal in 1938, Wasserman, a Conservative member of the House of Lords since 2011, won a Rhodes scholarship to Oxford University and joined the British Home Office in 1967. He is currently a government adviser on policing and criminal justice.
The boy’s mother, Gemma Wasserman-Michalski, who was born in Britain, now campaigns to raise awareness of anti-Semitism in Europe. She moved to Germany in 1989 with her German-Jewish husband, Wenzel Michalski, head of the German division of Human Rights Watch.
Their youngest son “Oscar” (not his real name), then 13, became the target of anti-Semitism soon after starting at secondary school. According to his parents, about 80 per cent of the students were Muslim and they enrolled him there because they wanted him to be in a multicultural environment.
On his fifth day at the school, in an ethics class, the teacher asked the students to name houses of worship. When Oscar responded by saying “synagogue” and identified himself as Jewish, his troubles began.
A Muslim boy broke off their friendship because “Jews are murderers,” and some of the other kids began making slurs about Jews and Israel.
His parents requested immediate intervention from school authorities, but say their reaction was tepid. Oscar was increasingly bullied verbally and then physically, but still the school did little.
The “mock execution” involved an older student brandishing an object that looked like a gun and placing Oscar in a headlock until he lost consciousness.
The parents say that no students were punished and that they felt they had no choice but to place their son in another school.
Admission to the panel discussion is free of charge. For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.