With the trauma of the Pittsburgh synagogue killings still fresh in our minds, we have seen a renewed focus on anti-Semitism. Let’s hope that focus lasts.
Not long ago, the federal government passed M-103, a motion that focuses on Islamophobia and the generic term “racism,” while excluding anti-Semitism, despite the fact that on a per capita basis, Jews experience significantly more incidents of hate than any other group.
While we have the attention of the media, our fellow citizens and our political leaders, we must encourage an appreciation and understanding of the cancerous evil that is anti-Semitism.
Over the past decade, the fight against anti-Semitism has become more challenging because it has metastasized to include the treatment of the Jewish state in ways that are distinctly different than other states, and the new anti-Semitism has made supporters of Israel into legitimate targets for anti-Semitic attacks, especially on campus.
In response, a broadened definition of anti-Semitism, which includes the application of different standards to Israel, has been developed by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA). That definition has been adopted by the European Union Parliament, at least 31 countries and many sub-national governments. Canada has adopted the definition for the purposes of its foreign policy, but has yet to adopt it in dealing with the increasing levels of anti-Semitism here at home.
The recent apology by the government of Canada for turning away the MS St. Louis was appreciated by many, but only the complete adoption of the definition by the federal government, as well as our provincial governments, will provide the foundation for a proper response to anti-Semitism. The apology was historic, but we live in the present.
It is noteworthy that, in reference to the Canadian Jewish community, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that, “The scope of their impact should not only be recognized, but celebrated.” These are important words, and they raise the question: how often are the achievements of Jewish Canadians recognized?
Within our community, we do a decent job of recognizing our achievements. But outside of it, we avoid “tooting our own horn.” This is, at least in part, because we Jews avoid the spotlight, due to the fact that past attacks on the Jewish people have often been a response to great achievements on the part of a country’s Jews. We Jews have learned to achieve, but we have also learned to keep our heads down and avoid being noticed, because doing so in the past has often come with huge penalties. Yet maybe the new anti-Semitism requires a more assertive approach.
The prime minister also said that Jews should be “celebrated.” Whether it is the achievement of Jews within Canada, or of Jews in other parts of the Diaspora or Israel, there is much to celebrate. All one needs to do is visit israel21c.org, which provides hundreds of examples of major Jewish discoveries and advances, or review the list of Nobel laureates, who are disproportionately Jewish, to understand the impact Jews have had on science, technology and other advances. Major philanthropic organizations focus on the Jewish community as a strategic priority, because our giving is generally greater than the average.
Further evidence of the impact Jews have on the world comes from examining the positive impact of the movement of Jews throughout the centuries, and the negative outcomes that ensue when Jews are expelled or eliminated. And today, whether it is societal initiatives, political parties, science, universities or virtually any other profession, Jews have made Canada better.
Some will be jealous of our successes. But, as our prime minister stated, our achievements should be celebrated. And in that celebration, we need to hold our heads high and respond to those who may hate us with pride and the knowledge that we have made our country and the world better through our efforts. Let’s not hide our achievements. Let’s put them out there. And let’s call on our governments to make being an anti-Semite under the IHRA definition anti-Canadian, as well.